Under The Mango Trees

Children called out, ‘How are you’, running up to shake our hands, extending our walk from Guest- house to Cathedral. It was Monday morning, the first day of the Mundri Diocese Youth Leaders Conference. It did not take long to see where delegates were gathering: under the mango trees, in the Cathedral compound. Not many were there by 9.30, but the choir certainly was, reinforced by 4 large loudspeakers defining the meeting area.

We (SOMA team; 5 UK, 1 S. Sudanese, 1 Kenyan) sat down. Lenin was on video camera, a tall, very dark and serious looking man. He also had a warm smile, faithfully remaining at his station throughout. The Rev’d Repent Abraham, the Diocesan Secretary, (called Abraham; what might a child make hearing yet again, Repent!?) stood in for Bishop Bismark, who could only be there briefly, on 2 days.

Each day began with worship – with strong PA help. The computerised backings took some getting used to. We shared around the teaching (translated into Juba Arabic.) We each spoke a bit about own Christian experience. We gave opportunity for the delegates to do the same and we prayed for them. Oliver had injured his ankle playing football, under- estimating the seriousness. By the end of the week, he had more movement,

There were tea breaks (with yummy doughnuts one day) and a hot lunch for 70, appearing effortlessly, it seemed, all done on a charcoal fire.

After lunch, there were groups to discuss key issues facing their Youth. There may now be peace, but this is not an easy time. The family, traditionally central, is under great strain. Youth unemployment is high. The church, rather than seeming out of touch, could hold the key of hope for the future.

TOM GILLUM