Sparta pastor does relief work in South Sudan War-torn country aided by Samaritan's Purse
Children born at a Samaritan's Purse hospital in South Sudan
By Megan Gieske SPARTA — For five years, Sparta Evangelical Free Church has been collecting donations for refugees in South Sudan during their Christmas Eve service. Church members are encouraged to match dollar for dollar what they spend on gifts with what they give to South Sudan relief. In 2017, they raised $14,986, which was enough to provide a year of meals for 137 children. This year, their pastor visited South Sudan with humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. In South Sudan, children are forced out of their villages by rebels. Tribal wars have chased them from their homes. They might walk miles just to wait hours in a line for clean water. Just one hospital can serve over a million people, and some villages can see the arrival of thousands of refugees a day. These are the stories we could tell, when we talk about the refugee crisis. In each story, everyone is in a place they have never been before. All are refugees, isolated by borders of grief and violence. One family swam across towards safety, when confronted with the Nile. They swam with their children in their arms, only to realize at the other side that one of their children had been lost to the water. “There was such a burden put on my heart,” Doug Thuen, pastor of Sparta Evangelical Free Church, said, that when he was invited by Samaritan’s Purse to visit South Sudan, he could not say no. He had heard about the needs of the refuges there with no food or clean water. "They’re starving. They’re dying,” he said. The relief efforts of Samaritan’s Purse in South Sudan ask, “How can we bring these people home? How can we unite them?” During the months of February and March, Thuen traveled through Nairobi, Kenya, to the South Sudanese capital of Juba and the villages of Maban, Akuem, Eldoret, and Kwale in South Sudan. In these areas, Samaritan’s Purse workers are often called “the angels of God.” United by a love for these people, Thuen joined them to visit their refugee relief efforts, along with distribution centers for Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child allows families to send a Christmas gift to in-need children around the world, and it is another outreach Sparta Evangelical Free Church has been a part of for over ten years. One relief effort by Samaritan’s Purse stood out. Standing on the edge of a plowed field, where refugees in the background pulled weeds, Dennis, a man from Uganda, was also there to aid refugees. He pointed out that the very seeds planted in that ground came from Samaritan’s Purse and from the donations of churches just like Sparta’s. “The worlds came together,” Thuen said of the realization, “It is exciting to see the results of your gifts.” Five years after Sparta Evangelical Free church began contributing to refugees in South Sudan, and the trip marks more of a beginning than an end. “It was not a mission trip. It was a vision trip,” Thuen explained. Their purpose remains the same, that all would “understand the joy to live comfortably and to have what they need.” There is no border too wide that love cannot cross through.