When violence broke out in Yida, South Sudan, a Samartian’s Purse refugee employee was able to comfort and encourage the other staff members.
Ross Wood is the area coordinator in Yida. He oversees and manages Samaritan’s Purse staff and programs being implemented in the area.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NKJV).
Christ often chooses to reveal Himself in strange ways.
In June 2013 I nervously shivered and tested the integrity of my seatbelt as the Samaritan’s Purse DC-3 rattled and hummed on its way toward Yida. I am by nature a nervous flier.
I had spent the weeks prior to this momentous flight trying to prepare myself to be adaptable to the rampant chaos that I was sure to find while working in a refugee camp. Instead, the smoothness of the camp’s routines struck me immediately upon my arrival.
After the DC-3 touched down and I disembarked, I stared dumbly as eager porters leapt aboard the plane and expertly emptied it of its cargo within minutes.
As Conor Lucas-Roberts, then the area coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse in Unity State, hefted a massive box of auto repair parts into the back of a Land Cruiser, he grinned at my uselessness and said, “You’ve got to get in there quick, or there’s nothing left for you to do.”
In my first weeks and months in Yida, other routines further shed me of my expectation of chaos. Our food program staff meticulously received, stored, and distributed food for 68,000 refugees. Our water program staff seamlessly fueled 14 water-point generators twice daily to ensure continuous water production in the camp. Samaritan’s Purse nutritionists systematically revived starving children to health.
It was clear that Christ’s influence was present within these carefully crafted systems.
On December 19, the smoothness of Yida’s routines vanished and the chaos that I first expected arrived in force. We received reports from security experts that an outbreak of tribal violence and looting was imminent within Yida.
Out of concern for staff safety, the compound in Yida was reduced to a skeleton crew. A nutrition program coordinator named Dan, an electrician named T.B., a few unarmed security guards, and I were the only people left on the compound. After making what meager preparations we could in anticipation of the coming violence, Dan, T.B., and I sat together in angst as darkness settled over the camp.
Unexpectedly, a young man who works with Samaritan’s Purse in Yida named Yasser came and sat next to us. Yasser is a member of the refugee community, and he lives half an hour’s walk from the Samaritan’s Purse compound.
He should have, like the rest of our 245 refugee employees, been avoiding looters by staying at home, safely cloaked in anonymity and poverty. When I asked Yasser why he had come to the compound, he said, “I know there is nothing I can do, but I thought maybe only being here is something.”
Christ revealed Himself in Yasser’s words, and Yasser’s presence was one of the greatest comforts that I had ever received.
We said nothing else. We sat together and took in the tense nighttime air—four men hoping that we were where God meant for us to be.
Yasser is the kind of Christian that I want to be. I want to have the willingness to go where I am called, regardless of what I expect or think I have to offer.