Home » South Sudan » ‘Where is the peace and joy?’

Advent 2023 newsletter


Gabe Hurrish, South Sudan

Church congregation praising the Lord

Praising the Lord during worship services

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people with whom God is pleased”
(Luke 2:14).

Christmas is a good time to slow down and be thankful for all we have. After six years in South Sudan, I am amazed at where the Holy Spirit has led me and how blessed I have been to have all these experiences.

Students praying together

St. Mary Primary students praying together

I often meditate on this situation I find myself in. Instead of asking: Why is this happening to me? I try to think instead: What am I learning from this? I just want to find the good in difficult settings. One of my spiritual mentors mentioned to me that life is about recovering and sustaining peace and joy.

South Sudan is a country that ranks in the bottom 10 countries of almost any measurement you can think of. Last year South Sudan was voted the most corrupt country in the world (after being the second worst the previous year). I remember years ago reading about failed states, unjust structures, corrupt governments, unethical maneuverings and diverse traditional practices. Now I am living in those very environments. Everyday there are reports about this or that issue which disturbs the peace and displaces the joy. I ask myself, Where is the peace and joy?

If leaders are weak and lead dubious lives filled with hypocrisy and deceit, then that will filter down to the average citizen. I have seen this in South Sudan: from a moment of euphoria in 2011 at the time of independence to currently, where violence and death are daily incidences that assail the sensitivities.

It is at the grassroots level where I find redemption. I observe these good people, and I wonder how they keep going. What inner strength do they have to struggle day after day when the system is stacked against them in every way? Many have a deep faith in the Lord and are not shy about professing their belief. They trust implicitly and humbly. I want to be like that.

Singing and Dancing at Mass

Singing and dancing during Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Parish

Christmas brings out the peaceful side of people. In the small parishes, simple people come to celebrate this most wondrous event. The Christmas vigil is a true vigil beginning at 9 p.m. and ending with the rising sun at 5:30 am. The mystery of Jesus’ birth is celebrated with song, dance, prayer and worship. After the celebrations there is food, drink and lots of talking and chatting. Laughter fills the air. Gift giving is not part of the culture, but children will receive a piece of candy or a handful of peanuts, which they cherish as a special reminder of this Christmas. After that long vigil night, everyone is tired, but there is a smile on every face.

I thank all of you for the wonderful support and prayers all these years. If you would like to continue or start to support my mission, please follow the instructions to donate below.

Merry Christmas! Alleluia!

Please consider supporting my mission work at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto, South Sudan, with a donation via the button below.

If you are able, I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 

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.