More heat ... and more light - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Graduates of adult education holding posters protesting child marriage and advocating for education and girls’ and women’s rights

Give instruction to a wise person, and they will be yet wiser;
teach a just one, and they will increase in learning
(Proverbs 9:9).

Graduates hold their adult education certificates.

Somehow South Sudan totters, wobbles and shakes but by the grace of God hasn’t fallen yet. There are many indications that all is not well. Criticism of the top leadership is becoming louder and more frequent. Those speaking out are highly educated, well known and respected. There was a rumor of a coup attempt back in December, which was quickly squelched. Calls for the president to step down have been heard in social media.

The only real source of foreign currency, the oil pipeline, is closed due to force majeure (consequences beyond one’s control). This means the greatest source of national income is compromised. The South Sudanese pound has devalued to such a degree that many shop owners are only taking U.S. dollars now. Gas stations have closed across the country as there is a shortage of petrol. Food has tripled in the past month. Many store owners are closing shops due to a fear that rioting may break out and their supplies may be looted. How these poor South Sudanese people survive is beyond me.

On March 18, the government of South Sudan ordered all schools closed in the face of an excessive heat wave that was due to hit this country over the next two weeks. The irony is that the order came from the Ministry of Weather (which I never knew existed).

Things became further convoluted when the Ministry of Health put out their own orders, which were somewhat ambiguous to the previous warning, causing confusion. The Ministry of Education remained quiet for several days until late Monday afternoon when they declared all schools to close. In the end, students went home with strong suggestions to stay indoors and drink lots of fluids. I was in the local marketplace yesterday, and dozens of the students from the parish schools were out playing football and walking around. So much for heat wave precautions.

Regina speaks to the assembled audience.

I have to admit the heat is overwhelming. I has been above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (39 Celsius) for weeks now. The ground crinkles when we walk on it. The east winds blow all day, and dust covers everything. I drink and drink and still feel thirsty. I am constantly boiling water on my little gas burner. It is hard to sleep at night, as it only cools to 90 degrees or so.

I attended a graduation for adult education ceremony in our local area. Picture a flat tin roof with over 200 people jammed underneath in 110 degree heat, with wind and dust swirling all around. We sat there for five and a half hours, as it started two hours late! The non-government organizations (NGO) community had a full program. There were the usual boring speeches but also singing and dancing.

I really got a kick out of these people who never went to formal school. The education they received over this past year was rudimentary but it certainly raises their self-esteem. They were all greeting me in English….. “How are you?” Many of them can write their name for the first time. They performed role plays, dances and presented “posters” they made themselves.

Subsequently I met an NGO lady named Suzan, who was forced into early marriage at 16. Her man left her, and she put herself through school all the way to college. She is now the director of a large national NGO called Women Advancement Organization. They are helping women in all areas and are especially working to stop this childhood marriage. It is quite the program with more than 100 staff countrywide. Suzan is one of the individuals I admire and resonate with more than any others because they use their pain and suffering to help others — the path of Jesus.

Love and prayers,

Gabe Hurrish
Gabe Hurrish works in parish ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto in the South Sudanese state of Eastern Equatoria. He has served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in South Sudan since 2018.