Monday, May 25, 2009

Missionary ambushed in South Sudan

This information arrived in an e-mail May 15 from Father Michael Barton
St. Theresa Parish, Nyamlell, Sudan

A missionary was ambushed and robbed along the Rumbek-Yirol road, in Lakes State, on Tuesday while traveling by motorbike.

Fr. Titus Makokha, 33, a Comboni Missionary from Kenya, told Bakhita FM he was ambushed by three armed young men from the Dinka Agaar community half an hour-drive away from Rumbek.

Fr. Makokha had arrived in Rumbek in a flight from Juba and was motorcycling along the all-weather road to his mission in Yirol, some 100 miles away. The journey should have taken about four hours.

The gangsters stopped Fr. Mokokha at gunpoint and took him into the bush nearby, stripping him off of all his belongings.

The missionary said he was made to kneel down as for execution. However, the robbers went back to the road and escaped with the motorbike and the goods they stole leaving him on foot in the middle of nowhere.

Meanwhile, a young girl found Fr. Mokokha stranded on the road after she saw and recognized the robbers getting away with the stolen motorbike and alerted the authorities.

Three women came with the paramount chief’s son and brought Fr. Makokha to the village.

After a four-hour search, the authorities managed to recover the motorbike but not the helmet, money, the cellular and other belongings.

This was the second time Fr. Makokha had a close encounter with bandits that roam about more or less freely in Lakes State. He said he kept calm during the horrific ordeal that lasted some 10 minutes.

Fr. Makokha was ordained in 2007 and has served the mission of Yirol in Dinka land since one year ago.

Greetings at Eastertide, 2009

Saint Teresa Parish Nyamlell P.O. Box 21102 Nairobi, Kenya 00505
May 4, 2009.

One and All,
I join with the Risen Lord in wishing you his peace in this Eastertide of 2009.
Let me tell you a little bit about the last four months which corresponds to the first quarter of the already 25% gone year. By the first of the year we had closed the four schools and given the last of the certificates and did the last celebration of the Pauline year in the centers.

I started to visit the chapels up to January 4th and on the fifth flew to Juba and the Indonesian Sisters to Nairobi and one of them was going on to Jakarta for home leave. When I got off in Juba I was told the retreat that I was coming for had been canceled and I became more than a little upset. I stayed only four days and did no retreat but did visit my old mission where I had been parish priest for nine years from '78 to '87 and met many people who knew me and had forgotten the arguments and remembered the good times and I was very happy to see so much time started in my time still standing. Only what surprised me was that so many of the then youth now had the bodies and even some of them the faces of their then fathers.

I went in the evening hours to the Leper colony which is now surrounded by a big military complex. I spent many hours there with the now quite old catechist who cried for happiness in my arms and it was very emotional for me too. I did not leave until it was very dark. I saw and became even more convinced of the importance of education in formal schools as the right arm of evangelization, which lasts, and I know this view is not shared by everyone, not even my confreres. Yet I saw it clearly to continue in these efforts. I was visited by many young priests who I had gotten them into the Seminary. Some are doing very well and others not that well. NGOs and high paying government jobs are strong temptations to leave the priesthood plus all the usual problems with conflicts with bishops and parish communities and women an alcohol and what not.

I got back to Nyamlell of the 9th and three stores were broken into that night but I woke up and the thieves got away emptied handed but I spent the whole of Saturday fixing doors and getting a new watchman and new locks. The rest of January and February and March I was out visiting chapel baptizing and the rest to the Catholic communities that make up our parish.

A tropical ulcer decided to settle on my right leg and set off high fever and took me for a loop for a day or two. I got medical help and had to nurse the leg for six weeks but I recovered and didn’t miss a day of work or visits.

This year our grade eights had to sit for the South Sudan PRIMARY STATE EXAMINATION for the first time ever and I was not sure things would be done in an honest way but the diocese of Rumbek said it had to done like that. So they sat and I was not around. The results came out in late March. Our school got the highest marks of all the schools in our county and in all the five counties of the State and of the whole state of Northern Bahr el Gazhal. Out of 1,569 who sat for the exam numbers one, four, and eight and ten were our pupils of Comboni School Nyamlell. The second rank school in all the state was our DOR School in Gordhim which is run by three Apostles of Jesus priests and four Sacred Heart Sisters all of whom are African religious. I am glad the government was honest enough about it. Our worst pupil came in 99th out the 1,569 candidates. He would have had to repeat class 8 from our internal exams and so he went to sit for the test to become a policeman in Aweil and got a hundred per cent and topped all the others and so the worst became the best.

I am happy with the good results and I hope no one expects this to happen every year. All I can do is to work hard and try our best and let everything fall where it will.

I did go to visit Raga where there is another Comboni community who do all their work in Arabic. I got some work done on the car and had some long conversations and after three days came back to visit more chapels.

We had two visits of the bishop of Wau who is also the President of the Sudan Bishops conference during the month of April. He just came for a few hours each time.

I came back to the mission of the 30th of March so I could be here for the first anniversary of Father Raymond Pax’s birthday into eternal life. We had all our prayers on his graveside on the last day of March , I also had meetings with the Sisters and then with the catechists the entire day.

On April First we started a new school year in all of the Comboni schools and have good enrollments in all of them with still few girls. We had one of our girls join the Loreto Girls High School in Rumbek . One boy went as a third year student in the seminary section of Mapourdit. We have another who has gone to Khartoum to study Philosophy in the national seminary.

I was here in the parish center for Palm Sunday and again for Easter. On Good Friday the Governor of the state came and with us and his entourage for the Stations of the Cross and I told him that this was the second mission established in all Dinka Land and the first in his state. He gave a good donation for the anniversary celebration in October.

I got the last of the High school buildings roofed and finished in the rough way that I do things here in the South Sudan and was given money to buy some lab equipment for the Science Lab.

My big project is the Saint Catherine Activities Center which will be a Church in honor of Saint Joseph in Marial Baai and almost has its roof on it but still… has a lot to do to get it all finished maybe two more months or so. Most of the construction workers we have working are women. I t will be the first Catholic chapel in any center in any of the three parishes in the entire state. Even the parish church in Gordhim is in very bad shape but ours and that of Aweil look good but are small for big occasions. Next year there are plans to do another in Gok Macar…..if God willing!

I still have problems of land grabbers and no one helping to solve the problem.

A lot of thought is in the planning stages for the Diamond Jubilee of the Parish which is 75 years in October 1, 2009 (1934-2009). Thanks for all your help of every type and species. Blessings and Peace to one and all!

Michael D. Barton, MCCJ.