In October last year, MAF flew iron sheets and roofing nails to Ayod for a new Cathedral being built by the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. A year later, the building is complete and the faithful are gathering to worship, as Bishop Thomas Tut explains.
The new church is a symbol of hope in a town that was destroyed during the war. Ayod changed hands several times in 2014 and again in 2017 when it was fought over by opposition and government forces. People scattered into the countryside and refugee camps as they fled the fighting.
The support that MAF supporters are giving is changing lives and bringing the Gospel closer to the people. Because of you, MAF has become a beacon of hope for the people of South Sudan.
The process of healing and reuniting the community began shortly after the peace agreement was signed in 2021. At that time the communities surrounding Ayod convoyed to the town to spend three months in prayer.
’We held prayers in the night with 9,000 people, increasing 12,000 in the morning. The message that we gave was marvellous. From that time people are coming back to Ayod to settle in their former homes to reconstruct their lives and their houses. The people are coming together again. They are confident because the church is here, and hope has been restored.
Iron sheets and roofing nails were flown to Ayod for the new ECSS Cathedral
The Bishop took his message right out into the rural villages where people had fled. ‘In the whole of the area for which I am the bishop, we have 36 parishes, 18 deaneries and 8 arch-deaneries. We have around 60,000 Anglicans, and the church is growing every year. We are seeing a growth of more than 10% per year,’ the Bishop says.
‘In May 2021, I moved around the whole of Ayod from the north up to the south, touring the area. We moved with a huge team of people, five hundred of us, all singing songs. And in that moment, people were interested to see what we were doing. Later they came back and heard the word of God. Many people returned to Christ or received Him for the first time. We even managed to convert a local prophet, who claimed to be a seer who could perform miracles. That is why the church is growing. I saw that people are very eager to receive the Word of God.’
The iron sheets will serve as temporary roofing and walls for a temporary building where people can gather until it can be replaced by a permanent brick building.
’We feel that it is the Lord entrusted onto us the responsibility to help and serve our people,’ the Bishop continues sharing some of the challenges including widespread flooding that hit the area in 2021. ‘Flooding hit western Ayod displacing people onto a narrow strip of higher land in the east. There was no clean water or schools because all of these areas were submerged. In the east, people had to start from scratch, in a makeshift camp without food, medicine and education.’
The church played an important role in activating the humanitarian response. They incentivised teachers to continue teaching and equipped eight primary schools with supplies received from UNICEF and supported children at weekends through their network of Sunday Schools.
The church supported 26 health facilities in Pagil, Ayod and Fangak with backing from the World Bank, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, receiving and praying with the patients as well as treating them. They enabled malnourished children and lactating mother to receive help at 13 nutrition sites with support from the World Food Programme and UNICEF. To aid long-term development the church initiated livelihood programmes to encourage farming with partners including Corus International and IMA World Health.
Two years later, Bishop Tut report that the flood water has dispersed the situation has improved. The church is planning to return to Ayod for its annual Christmas celebrations. They plan to gather at the airstrip, the only venue big enough to host the throng of people that gather to worship and pray. The Bishop is looking forward to spending time in his community and flying in with MAF.
‘The Diocese of Ayod has been a partner with MAF and we have been doing great things together with MAF. I want to just say thank you MAF for the support that has been given. We are happy with the subsidised costs that MAF give us which really help us to save lives and also bring the gospel closer to the people. We have done so many things because of MAF. Thank you so much! I look forward to working with MAF to serve the community of Ayod and Panyagor.
He has a special word of thanks to the supporters that enable MAF's ministry in South Sudan. 'To MAF supporters, I want to say that the support that they are giving to the MAF Team in South Sudan is changing life. It is bringing the Gospel closer to the people. Because of you, MAF has become a beacon of hope for the people of South Sudan. It is the safest and most well-managed airline in South Sudan.'
We held prayers in the night with 9,000 people, increasing 12,000 in the morning. The message that we gave was marvellous. From that time people are coming back to Ayod to settle in their former homes to reconstruct their lives and their houses.