So last night’s post was positively depressing and, like I said, incredibly selfish. I still stand by it and I think that this website is, in part, a public outlet for my catharsis, but I can’t let the only thing I post this week be the most selfish thing I’ve posted since I was in high school.
The one good thing I did do in that post was to link to SSEM (South Sudan Education Mission). What I didn’t do, though, was talk about what it is. All that ranting and whining and all I could do is use this great vision as an excuse for my laziness. Like I said, selfish…………
Anyway, this is about SSEM, not about me. SSEM is a great little NGO that my friend Paul Both started. That name means nothing to the wider world – yet – but to those who work with him, it means a man whose faith is so strong and desire to help is so great that it is contagious. I’m on his Board of Directors, others have hosted events to raise money for various other things.
A little about Paul. He immigrated to the United States from South Sudan in 1995 as a refugee. From there he resided in New York, Minnesota, and most recently in Dubuque, where the organization is currently located. He will have his Master’s in Divinity in May, currently has an Associates, Bachelors, and Masters in Social Work, worked for and headed multiple non-profits, and had already done a bunch of amazing work the Sudanese that were displaced and relocated to the United States.
In seminary, he felt God calling him to return to South Sudan. While there, a seed to help his brother and sisters that are rebuilding the new nation of The Republic of South Sudan was planted.
I still remember the conversation we had sitting on my couch when he got back. I had a bottle of headache pills sitting on the coffee tabled and he grabs them and says to me, “Do you know how many lives this could save in Africa?”
That really was the starting point for me. I wasn’t fully on board yet but that planted the seed in me that we could do some actual good. And like I said before, Paul’s enthusiasm and faith are highly contagious. He needed someone who could do computer stuff for what he was thinking, I am quite capable on the computer, and a relationship was born.
He returned to South Sudan the next summer, taking medicines with him and other donations. I still wasn’t fully on board yet but I could see that great things where happening. Other people where getting on board, even more were donating and praying for the success of the mission, and Paul was doing actual, tangible good.
When he returned, the unrefined flamed of just needing to help was more refined, a goal more set, and a path more clear.
Since he got back in 2012, the organization has been gaining steam. The members of GracePoint Presbyterian Church donated funds to build a new church in Pinythar, South Sudan, which Paul oversaw the building of in 2013. Seminary students Sarah Gengler, Duane Mullen, and Adam Penn (with Doxology in Motion) put together a coffee and music worship night to raise funds to purchase medicines to send with Paul. Generous donors in Minnesota have donated choir and deaconess robes to send over. People have donated to purchase chairs for the church that was built.
Now we are an official non-profit, we have a website and an online presence, and Paul is returning this summer (and maybe longer, depending on funding) to continue helping the rebuilding efforts and showing Christ’s love in a real, tangible way.
And I promise, I will review a beer or cook something fabulous by the end of the day.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” – Matthew 25:40 NIV