July marked South Sudan's second anniversary as an independent country.
The new nation has faced Herculean challenges over the last two years, from internal security problems to financial scandals. Everyone knew the transition from a war-time, aid-based economy to a peacetime, capitalist system would be difficult. The last two years have not disappointed on that score.
The bad news is that US relations with South Sudan have cooled. The US government certainly considers itself a friend to South Sudan. But unlike his predecessor, President Obama has spent less time and energy in helping the South develop its independence and more time encouraging the country to remain economically dependent on their former Islamist masters in the north.
The US government's continued support for Dictator Omar al-Bashir and opposition to regime change efforts means north and south are treated on a morally equivalent basis. This weak position has emboldened Khartoum to regularly violate the territorial integrity of the South and to refuse to abide by any of its agreements. It also means the people of the north living in the border regions will continue to suffer from the present war in the country-- with no end in sight.
South Sudan has a number of challenges of its own without having to focus attention on its northern neighbor. The country is still severely underdeveloped. Billions of dollars have been squandered or simply stolen. Corruption is rampant. Many government officials prey on foreign investors and workers, squeezing them for whatever they can take. Political dissent is often times harshly persecuted. Political hit squads have claimed many lives in 2012 and 2013.
These challenges and growing pains are tough. But they are not insurmountable.
Building a nation first requires building people. Most people in South Sudan grew up with war. Most had no educational opportunities. Most had no work opportunities, save for the few NGO jobs available. Now to suddenly transition from this to the world's newest country, and a big one at that, is proving to be very hard.
The difference in a nation and a rabble of various tribes existing within a certain geographical area is a change of heart. People have to look past their village, their tribe, even themselves. This doesn't mean they have to lose their identity or separate cultural heritages and become a part of some collectivist ant colony. But people do have to act in a way that considers a wider communal benefit, not just a local one, and that requires not just education-- but a heart inclined to use that education to help others.
That is why PPF founded the Jebel Lopit Training Center (JLTC) in Eastern Equatoria State. JLTC provides a platform for the ministry of building leaders and nation-builders-- one heart at a time.
JLTC is PPF's contribution towards building a new nation. But first we must ramp up the JLTC!
Right now, preparations are being made for our first large campus building. The cost is approximately $100,000, and will provide accommodation for staff and those instructing students at the training center. The community is excited and the local elders met with PPF directors and offered their full support, including additional land and labor if needed.
The continued faithful support of PPF donors will be required for the training center to reach its full potential. Thank you for all you've done to assist us in getting this far already in this important project.
South Sudan has a tough road ahead. In fact, the road is still being built! But we are committed to blazing the trail together. The JLTC offers PPF supporters a unique opportunity for short-term mission trips. If you want to get involved, or get your church involved in supporting the JLTC or even to schedule a training program, contact Ed Lyons at HQ at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-829-5353.