July 9, 2021 marked the tenth anniversary of the independence of South Sudan, the world's youngest nation. These years have been marked by war, drought, cultural violence, and an economy in free fall.
Gabe Hurrish, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, has lived in the midst of it for the last four years. When presented with the question, "What can be said about a country that is called a 'failed state'?'', Gabe talks about the richness of the faith of the South Sudanese people.
"My perspective is and has always been shaped by the good people who are surviving at the lowest levels of society. How they keep going day after day against so many obstacles and challenges is often beyond me," Gabe wrote in his blog.
He continues, "It deepens my faith to see how the average South Sudanese trust in God and simply do whatever it takes to support their families. Parents will give up meals so their children are not hungry. Adults will work 80-hour weeks to pay for education and health for their little ones. Those with paying jobs will share it with extended family members who are unemployed."
What always strikes Gabe is the faith of the people with whom he lives. Despite all the bad things happening in their country, their faith in God is solid. They turn to the Lord with all their problems and challenges.
Gabe writes, "I seldom provide monetary support. However, I have been told many times that my presence alone gives people hope.
After 10 years, is there hope? Most South Sudanese will tell me they have given up on the regime and the leaders. However, they have deepened their hope in God's promises. They read their Bibles, attend their services, provide social assistance to those around them, and do what they can to improve the lives of their families. Ten years is nothing in the eyes of God. Time will pass, and there will be better futures.
Gabe concludes, "This is why I am here. I am not here to build anything. I am not here to hide from suffering. I am here to listen, to enter into the world of others, to taste the experience of just being present. I think many forget this lesson when they live in another country. But I am sure this is why I am in this mission. I just want to be with these poor South Sudanese. It is all a mystery to me, but I continue in faith. Praise God."
The faithful of the Blue Hills Collaborative and Blessed Andrew Phu Yen Parish will learn more about Maryknoll Lay Missioners during Mission Appeals this fall.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.