Since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, about 300,000 of its people have died and about 3.5 million have become refugees. Over a quarter of a million are living in Bidi Bidi in north-west Uganda, the largest refugee settlement in the world. A large number of South Sudanese are in refugee camps in Kenya. They “just want to go home”.
Aballa Ojulu’s youngest brother, Rev’d Samuel Otwel Ojulu, and his cousins, Rev’d Joshua Ojulu and Rev’d Buba Aballa, are living in Kalobeyei Refugee Camp in north-west Kenya which has a population of 38,600, of which 74% are South Sudanese. Samuel and his cousins went to Nairobi, about 1,000km south of Kalobeyei and met the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Jackson Ole Sapit, who agreed to setting up an Anglican church at Kalobeyei. The three cousins were made Ministers, led by Samuel. As some members of St Philips Cottesloe (SPC) had supported Samuel’s high school education and training at the Bible College of East Africa and provided financial assistance to the new church, Samuel asked that the church be called ST PHILIPS, to which Archbishop Sapit agreed.
In April 2018, an appeal to SPC for funds to help St Philips, Kalobeyei (SPK) build a shelter for protection from weather, raised $10,400 in three weeks. The roof structure consists of on-site-fabricated timber trusses and the roof and walls are clad with corrugated steel. It has four steel corner poles and local acacia tree trunks and branches to support the roof and sides. It has been well built as shown by the straight roof ridge capping and straight bottom of the roof. Graham has sent diagrams showing where bracing is needed to ensure that the building withstands the strong winds experienced there.
The largest age cohort among the South Sudanese are 5-11 year olds. Currently no schooling is available. Christian education and general education is so important for the children. Archbishop Sapit told Donna Shepherd that he would not have been given an education as a child without being supported by World Vision. We have retained sufficient funds to enable the church to appoint a school teacher for one year. The church leaders have appointed 36-year-old Okumo Oboya Owitti, who was a teacher in South Sudan and is an experienced Sunday School teacher. Funds have also been provided to purchase materials for both teaching and learning.
In April, a group of women at SPC kindly sewed flowers for the women at SPK. The Kalobeyei women were deeply touched on receiving the sewn gifts. They want to reciprocate and are keen to start sewing and learning English, to strengthen the ties between our congregations.
So it is very appropriate that, at the start of REFUGEE WEEK in Australia, SPK is having a celebratory service on Sunday 17th June. They will be welcoming church visitors from Lodwar, the nearest Anglican Mission, about 200km south-west, and from Kakuma, the nearest town and refugee settlement, about 80 km east of Kalobeyei. They will conduct a baptism, Holy Communion and prayers for the new church shelter.
Let’s join them in giving thanks to God for His grace and faithfulness. And please keep upholding SPK by your prayers.
Graham Whitley and John Pearman