State Center-based clean water group resolute to supply South Sudan

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO  
A Wellsprings Mission delegation visited U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in her Washington, D.C. office earlier this month to convey concerns about the civil war in South Sudan. From left are Matt Streeter of State Center, James Maluit Ruach of Omaha, Neb., Sen. Ernst, and Greg Brown of Marshalltown.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO A Wellsprings Mission delegation visited U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in her Washington, D.C. office earlier this month to convey concerns about the civil war in South Sudan. From left are Matt Streeter of State Center, James Maluit Ruach of Omaha, Neb., Sen. Ernst, and Greg Brown of Marshalltown.

Under normal circumstances, three Marshall County residents and a South Sudanese native from Omaha, Neb., would have been preparing for a Nov. 4 departure to South Sudan, Africa.

Their mission: Under the auspices of the State Center-based Wellsprings Mission, teach villagers in Old Fangak, South Sudan, estimated population of 46,000, to drill clean water wells and maintain them.

Despite an estimated seven hand-pumped wells providing clean water, some villagers still draw disease-laden water from the Zaref River, a tributary of the Nile, which flows by the village, or from nearby swamps.

But the situation in South Sudan is far from normal.

Recently-imposed government travel restrictions, evolving from a deadly civil war which started late 2013, made the trip too expensive, and presented other challenges too steep to overcome.

The trip was postponed.

Greg Brown of Marshalltown, Dennis Drager of Marshalltown, James Maluit Ruach of Omaha and Matt Streeter of State Center had purchased airline tickets and were fired up and ready to go.

Waiting for them were three water-drilling rigs delivered to Old Fangak earlier this year through the efforts WSM Executive Director Ruach.

Water is critical to Old Fangak, as it is also home to a medical clinic, originally established years ago by Doctors Without Borders, during the height of another civil war.

Some South Sudanese walk 50 miles or more to receive medical attention.

In 2012, Brown and Streeter were two of seven Central Iowans who traveled to the village.

In 10 days, they installed one new well and repaired another used extensively by the clinic.

Also helping then were three Alaskans, affiliated with the Alaska-Sudan Medical Project.

In addition to travel restrictions, safety concerns would have been another factor as evidenced last week — the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was evacuated from a U.N. camp for displaced people in Juba, South Sudan’s capitol, because of a demonstration against President Salva Kiir.

Haley, in the middle of a three-country African visit, met with Kiir about the civil war. Speaking later to a U.N. radio station, Haley said she warned Kiir the U.S. no longer trusted South Sudan’s government and was no longer prepared to wait for change. She did not give details.

Frustration has been growing inside and outside South Sudan over the conflict that has killed tens of thousands and created Africa’s largest displacement of civilians since the Rwanda genocide in 1994,

An estimated 2 million people have evacuated the country.

Those issues and other motivated Brown, Ruach and Streeter to sched visit with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst last month.

“We had a productive meeting with the senator,” said Brown. “We conveyed our concerns to Sen. Ernst. She expressed regret about the situation and told us of U.S efforts, and those of our allies, to supply humanitarian aid.”

More good news came recently when Ruach was able to make significant progress about drilling wells in Old Fangak County and neighboring counties, with help from the United Nations International Children’s Fund.

A total of 400 wells are planned, said Ruach.

Consequently, Brown asked WSM board members to be thinking of completing the wells within a two year period pending meetings between Ruach and UNICEF officials.

WSM is a 501 (c) 3 organization with offices in State Center.

It has been supported by a wide-variety of Central Iowa churches.

The mission of WSM is, “To serve Christ and our neighbors by fostering partnerships, working with, and training others in skills essential to growth and sustainability.

For more information visit wellspringmssions.org.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com