Faces for Our Prayers


 By Cynthia Laird, Senatobia District 
Communications Coordinator 


Cynthia Laird, the communications coordinator for the

Cynthia Laird, Senatobia district communications coordinator 

Senatobia District of the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, joins several United Methodists making pleas for prayer to see the violence in South Sudan end. The fighting has reportedly claimed roughly 1,000 lives. Laird expressed her concerns for the children in this area by sharing details from correspondence with fellow Methodist and Mississippi native, Ellen Wicker Cummings. Cummings works tirelessly promoting missions in South Sudan and is retired from being director of Adult Discipleship and Missions at Baylake UMC in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Laird's message continues:


Reports of increasing violence and human rights abuses in South Sudan threaten to tear apart the world's newest country with destruction and turmoil that could break out into a full-fledged civil war.  The nation was formed from many years of war and the culture of violence continues. 


Ellen Wicker Cummings, an advocate for education and capacity building in South Sudan, recently sent me an email with information she received from Bill Andress, another advocate for the people of South Sudan.  Bill told of young people who fled to other countries during the previous war.  They acquired habits of youth in the other countries, enjoying rap music, baggy jeans, trousers and short skirts for the teenage girls, and long hair for some of the boys.  Authorities have forcibly stripped girls naked in public for wearing trousers, beaten young men and cut off hair that they considered too long. These young people are trying to be young people. They want to have the chance to be kids and to forget for a time the culture around them of slavery, bombings, mass graves, beatings and heinous attacks on women and young girls. Cummings said that there are strong advocates for education, care for orphans, release of the enslaved and improved health conditions.  She pleads for someone to take up leadership to organize advocacy for women in South Sudan and Sudan so that there will be an opportunity for them to provide daily necessities for themselves and their families.  Far too many of these women live in poverty and fear not knowing where the next meal is coming from or if they will be attacked while trying to make provisions for their families.


When I pray for the people of South Sudan, the prayers are linked to faces of children that I have learned about through Cummings' emails and her book, "Journey of Joy."  These faces and the stories about their daily lives, make the prayers more personal.  Some of the children are mentioned frequently in her updates.  Bota and his sister Peddy have worked hard to take care of "Mama Ellen."  If they thought she needed something, they tried their best to help her out.  She calls Bota her "main man."  He has removed spiders, chased a frog away from her door and carried things so that she would not have to carry them.  There is little Maneno who craves attention and love so much that it is almost like she is trying to get her share of affection on the front end for fear it will all go away.


Then there is Pitia, a little boy with a ventricular septal defect--a hole in his heart.  Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia is ready to accept him as a patient free of charge and a pediatric cardiologist has volunteered his services. Cummings and her husband, Ned are willing to keep Pitia in their home and be present for his surgery and for follow-up visits to the doctor.   The challenge now is to receive permission from the South Sudan government and the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya to leave.  Although his heart condition threatens his life, Cummings said that, "he is all boy--into everything and spends more time than most in time out." It is almost like Pitia, much like Maneno, believes he must get the most out of each moment now in case there is not another chance.


As we pray for peace in South Sudan, we should be mindful of the children and young people who have lived through the horrors of war that no one should have to experience. They need safety, education and hope for a future that is not filled with pain and fear.  Let us pray that 2014 will be the year that peace becomes a reality for the children of South Sudan!

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