Posts by Blaine

South Sudan ceasefire must hold to avert famine: U.N. – REUTERS

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Featured, the "Better Together" blog | 0 comments

South Sudan ceasefire must hold to avert famine: U.N. – REUTERS

JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan can only avoid famine if a shaky ceasefire holds and people displaced by more than five months of fighting are able to return home in the next few weeks to plant crops before the rains, a senior U.N. official said. Donors pledged more than $600 million in May to help avert a crisis which aid agencies said could be the biggest since the 1984 Ethiopian famine, with 3.5 million people already suffering from acute or emergency-level food shortages, including a million unable to meet basic needs, the United Nations says. This already meant the situation was desperate even if it did not meet the formal definition of famine, the South Sudan’s U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization head Sue Lautze said. “If you were a non-technical person and going to the community, you’d say, ‘Wow, this looks to me like a famine,’” she told Reuters. Read Complete...

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Peace: South Sudan’s Way Forward and Hope for a Shared Future

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in the "Better Together" blog | 0 comments

Our Beloved Community, We’re so thankful for you and your shared comments and prayers for South Sudan these past weeks! What amazing and precious sisters and brothers we serve alongside of. Please know how grateful we are for you. Know, also, you can expect further updates and ways you can help via our website in the days ahead with regard to what’s transitioned from isolated clashing in parts of South Sudan to more widespread violence and renewed warfare throughout many regions in this new nation. The saying ‘it’s complicated’ reigns true in so many contexts, and it’s very much the case with regard to South Sudan and the greater Sudan to which it was connected until 2011. South Sudan is a country that has lived in a state of sustained crisis and war for decades. The reasons for this are legion: resisting greater Sudan’s militant government and its hardline policies that led to southern-targeted mass violence and systematic destruction campaigns; the quest for vast southern natural resources; extreme poverty and its lack of opportunity; ethnic and religious differences. The list could continue but the bottom line is this: the 2005 peace agreement ending decades of civil war between Sudan’s north and south, the same agreement that paved the way for South Sudan’s cessation from greater Sudan in 2011, has not ended the clashings. The strife – some still between the two nations, and now the civil violence occurring along ethnic lines within South Sudan, continues. So does the suffering and consequences accompanying such violent cycles. With other friends and organizations serving in South Sudan, Sister Effect is evaluating paths forward to continue our female-centric development work in areas of clean water, better health, economic opportunity and care of orphans. These are important as each area meets human needs as we share the hope of the gospel. We are committed to such efforts. But just as importantly, we’re working to come alongside our sisters in this nation in the area of peace education. This sounds more complex and elusive than it is – and here’s why it’s really not either: We often surmise peace as the absence of direct violence. We tend to hail agreements ending wars as inaugurators of harmony and goodwill among a nation’s people. But ending violence is only peace’s beginning. Put simply, we often don’t remember real peace is holistic and positive. It’s constructive-dynamic. It gives-breathes life, offers hope of a shared future and carves paths toward forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. And this kind of peace, this “shalom” God speaks of, is what allows us to see others as ourselves. It transforms us so our shared humanity is common ground enough to live and work alongside one another in life-giving and sustainable ways. For those who try and follow the ways of Jesus, we know His peace in us causes us to love others (albeit imperfectly) in ways where we long for unity and work wholeheartedly to constructively transform conflict so violence isn’t given an opportunity. We also strive to address inequities in social, economic, and political structures that can eventually give way to more direct hostilities. So then, peace is a life force. It’s possibility-turned-way-of- life that encompasses addressing conflict and trauma and wrongdoing in ways that leave open the potential for forgiveness, restored relationships and a kind of boldness declaring hope of a new and different life together. The people of South Sudan are war-weary. They want peace. But years and relentless cycles of violence make it hard to grasp the constructs and reality of peace. Peace takes time and the understanding of it...

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South Sudan: A Prayer for Peace

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in the "Better Together" blog | 0 comments

Our Beloved Community, First, thank you for the outpouring of concern you’ve shown regarding the current conflict in South Sudan. Your inquiring emails, calls and messages have been beautiful reminders that we really are a human family – and God’s love in us moves us to deeply care for the suffering of others. I’m so grateful for this. As I write, South Sudan is, in fact, conflicted and aspects of the clashings have escalated in some of the nation’s states. Unfortunately, shifts in this region have long-occurred, especially prior to the formal end of civil war in 2005 between Sudan and what became South Sudan in 2011. The violence you’re hearing about has deep history and context – and it’s our heartfelt prayer that a holistic solution and formal steps toward a more comprehensive peace will soon make a lasting end to the conflict. Meanwhile, we grieve with and for those impacted by this situation. The current clashing began less than two weeks ago when what is speculated as an attempted coup occurred in South Sudan’s capital city of Juba. Thought to be fueled by existing and unaddressed ethnic tensions, and further intensified by deteriorating economic conditions, violence erupted and has continued to spread, in particular, along the nation’s two major tribes. Casualties have occurred and thousands of civilians have been displaced, many being sheltered by U.N. presence in the country. The South Sudan regions where Sister Effect serves by way of local partnerships have, fortunately, not been affected, and work in these areas continue. As we prepare this week to celebrate the birth and life of God’s greatest gift to mankind, let us join in praying for the lasting peace and reconciliation Christ offers – both to us and to those we love in South Sudan. Please pray wisdom and guidance for those leading peace efforts. Pray for conflicting parties’ hearts and minds to be receptive to transcendent ways of transforming conflict. Pray for ceasing of violence throughout the country and for national healing along ethnic lines. Pray for stability in South Sudan and protection of the nation’s people. Again, thank you again for caring and for being on this journey with us. It’s a privilege to partner with you as we together come alongside of those we dearly love in South...

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With a Grateful Heart…

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in the "Better Together" blog | 0 comments

With a Grateful Heart…

As this holiday season begins, I’m so grateful it does so with Thanksgiving. Not only is Thanksgiving my favorite holiday, it reminds me just how powerful is the heart overflowing with appreciation and gratitude. “In everything, give thanks…,” God prompts us. In all circumstances, all life seasons. In times of light and laughter and wonder. In stretches where the music of our worlds grinds to a halt and everything around us fades to black. And in those infinite moments in between. Being grateful matters. Choosing the way of thanksgiving sets us up to enjoy lives of contentment, lives focused on the abundance of God’s always-present goodness and grace. Because when we’re truly thankful, our perspectives change. We see all we we’ve been given, all we have within us to give. We realize the things of this life are passing. But people and relationships are lasting treasures. Before long, the thankful heart sees obstacles as God-opportunities. It celebrates the beauty and uniqueness of others. It overlooks imperfections. And it registers human suffering in our midst as a call to personal action because such a heart realizes God’s love for this world makes us a human family – and when one of us hurts or has unmet needs, coming alongside to help and empower is just and transformational for all. I want to live a life like this, a life that stretches wide and deep to love wholly – both in local and global communities. I long to be full of thanks regardless of circumstances and seasons. And this Thanksgiving season reminds me of this and, among countless other blessings, how grateful I am to be serving alongside of incredible sisters and brothers like you as we work for peace and lasting change in South Sudan. On a similar note, I want to be sure to invite you to our upcoming Give a Well, a time of thanksgiving and celebration on December 19th. Amid the holiday hustle and bustle, come rest in the company of friends – old and new, sample tasty treats, listen to live music, hear stories and even browse a little market for meaningful, last-minute gifts. Finally, remember with us the meaning of Christmas as we share the empowering gift of clean water with sisters across the world! Download the invitation card or click the image above, and plan to join us! 100% of Give a Well proceeds will be donated to bring clean water to a South Sudan village. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Our team couldn’t be more thankful for the privilege of serving our great God and loving others with you. Without doubt, our lives are far richer, more complete for being on this journey with you. With love, Elizabeth Hankins Executive Director, Sister...

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Jillian

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013 in the "Better Together" blog | 0 comments

Jillian

Meet Jillian. Still a couple inches shy of five feet, this eleven year-old dynamo is one of our greatest champions for female life change in South Sudan. The busy fifth grader totes around a notebook of ideas, which she regularly tries out. From saving up her allowance to advocating the story of women and girls at her school (and then in after-school group) to putting together weekend garage sales with her mom, Jilli has embraced “doing her thing” in ways that keep bringing change to South Sudan – and to the community of people who know and love her! More than five years ago, Jilli’s mom began sharing with her about the people of South Sudan. She explained just how much the people there were like the people Jillian knew. These friends lived far away, but the children there liked to play and have fun like Jilli did. They liked to eat when they were hungry, sleep when they grew tired – and they loved to learn new things. But Jilli’s mom explained some other things to her, some things that evoked a passion for both justice and deep compassion. When Jillian learned that girls like her often spent days helping collect water instead of going to school if one was available, she felt sad. But when she learned the water they collected was often dirty and caused children and families to get sick, Jilli wasn’t just sad. She was inspired to help. And she also wanted to help bring better health to communities without access to medical care and small business opportunities to women in local villages. So she got busy. And she’s stayed busy, continually coming up with imaginative ventures that share the story of female life in South Sudan and benefit the work of developing communities. Jilli explains it’s something she and her mom like to do together, and a glance at her frayed-about-the-edges notebook suggests she’s got more plans in the works – all kinds of ideas, she says, that are fun and hopefully helpful to women and girls in South Sudan. We’re so thankful, Jilli! You’re an amazing girl with an enormous heart and dazzling mind – both of which you’re always using to share God’s love and grace with others. We love you and thank God for the treasure of your life and...

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