A missionary says: “father, why did God allow me to be born in South Sudan?”
“I arrived in South Sudan in Juba in January 2015, where we have the only home of the Friars Minor of the country. At the beginning we were 5 friars, two from Italy, one from Slovakia, Australia and the United States. Together we manage a fairly large parish that includes villages distant up to 75 km from the capital”. This is how the story of Father Federico Gandolfi, a missionary of the Friars Minor of Juba begins.
Speaking of the country’s precariousness, Fr. Federico says “almost everything is lacking here, there are things to do and people to serve everywhere. Millions of people are closed in refugee camps because of the civil war that has been dividing the country since 2013. One of these camps, which houses more than 20 thousand people, is located within the territory of our parish. We friars go to give every kind of support that our small forces allow us every week. Here the conditions of life are even worse, continues Fr. Federico, but we find people capable of incredible resilience even if the effects of their serious psychological trauma are very evident. We are often called to go to refugee camps for the anointing of the sick. I remember a 9-year-old girl. She was lying on a worn out and dirty blanket in terrible health conditions. Two eyes that looked at me as I prayed with the catechists and the family. I hoped the Lord would call her to Him as soon as possible. The week after when I went to the family the girl was in great shape … if it is a miracle I do not know, but the faith of these people is certainly capable of shaking paradise”.
“Among our activities we are committed to offering an open, peaceful, non-violent space where those who come to us have the opportunity to find a corner of serenity within such a difficult life. The biggest drama of these people is the lack of a future, unfortunately there are not many hopes and this situation is slowly stopping a new generation of young people who would give anything to leave the country but who are too poor to become refugees and migrants. Someone also asked me: ‘father, why did God allow me to be born in South Sudan?’ This is a question which has no answer.
In the mission toward the little ones the friars also offer a first aid service. “The children – says Fr. Federico – run all day and hurt themselves easily. Unfortunately, lack of hygiene transforms small wounds in severe cases. Once a week I also assist street children to treat their sometimes very serious injuries that would require medical and hospital treatment, services that are not always there”, concludes the missionary.