13 May 2009
Journalism student reporting from Southern Sudan
I found myself on a mountaintop with the border of Uganda on the horizon, the Congo behind me and the vast canvas of Sudan to my right. The land was green and lush, satisfied with the evening rain. In the distance I could see the tin roof of the “Christ Ambassadors' School”, a school that has become a glimmer of hope to many young children. I knew this was a very strategic place, and to be able to be there was special in a unique way.
The mountain is known as the 'Prayer Mountain' and is owned by a former YWAMer who, together with his wife, had the vision to start a school there in the midst of war. Their heart is to educate children, teaching them biblical principles so that their generation can be transformed. This is the only Christian school in the district and has become well known for the excellent standard of education on offer. This has come at a cost for Tijwog and his wife Bedpiny, for this is not just a ministry but a lifestyle of service; they have invested time, money and their lives fully to see this work established. The school started out small when they began taking in children to stay in their own home. Some of the children are orphans; some of them are Muslim; they decided all are welcome. This ministry - that started from such a simple vision – is now giving 243 students, including 43 boarders, a Christian education.
Times are hard. Many rejoiced when the war ended in Southern Sudan in 2005, but this has resulted in donations from international aid organisations to the school stopping. Ironically it is harder to run the school in peace than in war. Tijwog and Bedpiny are unable to shoulder the costs of running the school themselves. In order to survive they have started charging school fees, thus limiting access to good education to those who can pay, preventing destitute children from attending school. And what future is there without an education in the world today? Tijwog and Bedpiny admit that if a child is sent away from school twice for lack of funds and still returns, compassion overwhelms them and they allow the child to return to school for free.
Alongside the chatter of happy children, another voice can be heard on this mountain of prayer. Tijwog had the idea to start a radio station, one that is able to broadcast beyond the borders of Sudan because of the elevation of the transmitter. Tijwog hopes that this solar-powered radio station will reach people from the district with the gospel, and with local news. He also hopes to use some of the finances raised through advertising to support the school. It is a good partnership, although there is a need for radio broadcasters with formal training, and equipment.
I felt privileged to get a glimpse into this unique work in Sudan, to see what can be accomplished when people persevere despite the odds. People like Tijwog and Bedpiny are the precious jewels of the Kingdom of God, whose worth and work cannot be measured.
By Lydia Smit