My years in Mongolia had rushed by, and I’d grown content with the long, cold winters and the short, cool summers. So, despite the frigid temperatures that day, I broke out into a sweat as I read, “We have given it careful thought and prayer and believe that Sudan will be a good fit for your strengths.”
Did they not know that I was just an old farmer? They were putting me in charge of 640 employees! There would be almost 100 vehicles to care for! And the temperature could rise as high as 50°C (122°F) when I was used to it going down to –50°C (–58°F)! I finally remembered, however, that all things are possible with God, so I trusted His leading and accepted the reassignment to Sudan.
My wife, Renee, and I arrived in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, with feelings of fear and trepidation. We soon adjusted well to our new home, however, and very early each morning we now awake to the beautiful Muslim call to prayer we hear drifting from area mosques. These calls to prayer throughout the day remind us of our need for grace while serving God in Sudan—the largest country in Africa and a land of deserts, wars, and soaring temperatures.
The Work Begins
Darfur comprises three provinces on Sudan’s western border. ADRA is working in West Darfur, where the capital city is El Geneina. This is often the least-stable province on the border with Chad.
On my first trip to the ADRA field office there I noted several signs of war, such as the camouflage military uniforms worn by soldiers on the airport runway’s perimeter. The ADRA office building is situated behind tall walls with wire and broken glass cemented into the wall tops. The metal gate is closed at all times. Guards are always on duty.
ADRA’s program in Darfur involves the help of the rural communities in solving health, food, water, and sanitation challenges. In order to drill wells a drilling rig mounted on the back of a truck is coupled with a compressor mounted on its own truck. The drill rods, casings, and other equipment are carried on yet another vehicle.
We’re also active in drilling and restoring wells in areas where IDPs (internally displaced persons) live in makeshift homes. ADRA then trains well managers in the community to maintain the wells. What joy there is with every completed well! Water is indeed life in this harsh environment.
Contending With Violence
Carjackings are the order of the day, and ADRA Sudan has not been exempt. A truck carrying a compressor was stolen, then found several months later—minus the engine. The compressor was safe, because it had been welded onto the truck bed. Another time the Land Cruiser driver came face-to-face with a group of AK-47-wielding men who stole the vehicle. The military was called in. They found the Land Cruiser and retrieved it—amid gunfire—on the Chadian border. Sadly, the Land Cruiser again was taken and has never been found. Often these stolen trucks are turned into combat vehicles.
At night in the small ADRA compound, staff members gather under the thatched-roof shelter to share the evening meal. Sometimes rapid-fire gunshots can be heard in the neighborhood as violence breaks out. In these tense times we gain immense comfort from the story of Elisha praying for the opening of his attendant’s eyes to see the army of God on the hills surrounding them. To his attendant’s question, “What shall we do?” Elisha answered, “Don’t be afraid. . . . Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:15, 16).*
Desert Farming in the Sahara
The little-known 30,000-strong Hawawir tribe, living in the dry Sahara region of the northern state of Sudan at Um Jawasir, was seriously affected by the drought of 1980. Most of the tribespeople’s wells had dried up, and many herders had lost all their animals. The government brought the pitiful condition of these herders to the attention of ADRA. With the assistance of ADRA Norway and Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation), ADRA Sudan first drilled four wells. Twelve more wells—drilled into a large underground aquifer—have since followed.
Desertification during the drought years decimated the natural indigenous grasses of the desert surrounding the members of the Hawawir tribe living along the Mugaddam Wadi (a dry riverbed). That region has an average annual rainfall of 45 millimeters (1.8 inches). The nights are cold (–5°C, or 23°F), but in summer the days are unbearably hot (48°C, or 118°F). Shifting sands blown by desert winds keep moving across the dry, barren area where the project is implemented. But with 16 wells pumping water to 336 hectares (830 acres) of irrigated land, an amazing transformation has taken place. Because the fields are now irrigated, crops of wheat, broad beans, fenugreek, onions, and okra flourish.
I recently visited the project site, located 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Khartoum, to see the changes this project has brought. Eighteen years ago, I’m told, herders walked up to a shiny ADRA vehicle and stroked it with awe. Today the once-timid herders are able to overhaul engines, repair wells, and weld their own implements. Soon, when a new government hydroelectric scheme is completed on the Nile River, a transformer will be set up to step down power from the passing power lines, so these herders can use electric pumps to lift water to the surface for irrigation. This will cut the major costs of running the 16 diesel engines that currently operate the massive pumps.
With every project ADRA employs, a host of other interven-tions are also needed. Education is essential for the children living in the isolated sand dunes, so ADRA has established a school. Traditionally, girls marry at an early age, and only boys are educated. This mind-set is slowly changing, though, and girls are now attending school. Other programs implemented are literacy training and adult education, which go hand in hand with learning to operate small businesses. Coupled with this are health and hygiene training and a women’s forum in which issues pertinent to quality of life can be discussed. ADRA also campaigns against the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and discourages early marriage.
A Success Story
I met Ali during one of my visits to the project. He had begun farming in the area, but within a few months of working his piece of land he became discouraged and quit. He then began herding goats and camels. One evening, Alex the ADRA project manager, visited Ali and noticed that he had bought two bags of alfalfa from the irrigation farmers to feed his animals. When Alex explained how much money Ali could save by growing his own alfalfa, Ali decided to go back to the project with Alex and farm alfalfa. Recently I spoke to Ali and asked him whether, after a few successful years of growing his own crops, he was there to stay. He said, “Even if you offer me a whole herd of animals, I will never give up my irrigation land.”
In Psalm 78:19 the question is asked, “Can God spread a table in the desert?”. The answer follows in the next verse: “He struck the rock, water gushed out, and streams flowed abundantly” (verse 20).
*Bible verses are quoted from the New International Version.
Llewellyn Juby is country director for ADRA Sudan.
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