Susan Smith, Ph.D., is an ELCA Missionary serving as the Education Advisor for the Village Education Project which is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Central African Republic (EELRCA). The Western North Dakota Synod serves as one of 3 Companion Synod Partners working with the EELRCA to support ministry in this country which has been the topic of international news due to civil unrest that has overtaken the country over the past 2 years. Susan recently visited the synod to share an update on our work together in the C.A.R. during the Mission Fest Gala Dinner and Auction and at Synod Assembly, May 29-30.
In March 2013, the rebel group known as Séléka overthrew the government in the CAR. Security still remains a major issue, as armed fighting and looting continues. According to a May 1, 2014, report from the United Nations, there are approximately 584,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR and more than 2.5 million people who are in great need of assistance. The UN Security Council mandated a mission in CAR to protect civilians and restore state authority.
While the situation in the C.A.R. continues to be difficult, there are bright spots of hope even in the midst of great challenge. Susan shared that the all 20 of the Village Education project schools which provide education for primary school children continue to operate. In fact, they are currently the only schools continuing to operate in the country. While ELCA missionaries were evacuated, Susan has been able to continue her work with leadership from the EELRCA from across the border in Cameroon. The EELRCA is committed to serving as the church even though they are living in the midst of this crisis, and Lutheran Disaster Response is working with local leadership to provide assistance to those who need it most. Together they have partnered to provide humanitarian assistance such as distribution of food, seeds and farming implements. The EELRCA is committed to an inter-faith reconciliation and is also working with Muslim leadership as well to work toward restoring peace.
Through the Mission Fest Gala Live and Silent Auction and the funds that have come in so far for the Sweet Deal for C.A.R. project, individuals and congregations have worked together to raise $38,296 for our work together in the C.A.R. These funds will be used to assist the EELRCA in humanitarian response and recovery as they work for peace and stability to return in their country. When added to the amount of funds previously raised over the past 4 years for ministry to the C.A.R., this means that together the congregations of our synod have raised and shared over $166,000 with ministries of the EELRCA since 2011.
Our work together matters, and it is making a big difference in numerous ways for our brothers and sisters in the C.A.R. We ask that you continue to keep our ELCA missionaries, EELRCA leadership, government officials, U.N. peacekeeping forces and the people of the C.A.R. in your prayers as we continue to pray for peace and reconciliation in the homes and communities of our companion synod partners.