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Turning Heartache into Hope

Growing up, family time for Nyanpal wasn’t something that had to be scheduled on a calendar. It was a way of life.

The bond Nyanpal had with her mother and grandmother left an imprint on her heart to always think of others, “My mom would not do anything without praying first. My grandma was a big role model to us—a very hard-working lady, very rich with cattle. We had a big bowl that everyone would eat from together and sometimes my grandma would pretend the food was not enough, just testing us to see if we could share. It brought us close together.”

But then, at age 15, Nyanpal entered into a long-distance arranged marriage. Nyanpal didn’t meet her husband until four years later when he was finally able to help her immigrate to Canada. At 19, Nyanpal arrived in Toronto, thousands of miles away from home and with a husband she barely knew.

Nyanpal faced many struggles as she navigated a new way of life. Sadly, her marriage fell apart. Nyanpal found work to support her family, and did all she could to care for her children as a single mom. Through it all, she never forgot the lessons from her mother and grandmother.

Eventually Nyanpal arrived at our congregation here in Vancouver. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to send South Sudanese members from our church to Gambella, Ethiopia, as volunteers with Kingdom Workers. Over the past few years, Kingdom Workers has sent several teams to refugee settlements in Gambella to help lead WASH trainings alongside our local volunteers. In 2019, we started menstrual health education for women and young girls. Nyanpal was excited to see current and former refugees working together in this way.

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Former South Sudanese refugees leading a WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) training for current South Sudanese refugees in 2019.

 

Before 2020, we had hoped to send Nyanpal to Gambella as one of our volunteers. But then travel became unsafe and we had to adjust our usual ways of working. Around this time, Nyanpal heard that her mother’s declining health was getting worse. She didn’t want her kids to miss the chance to meet their family.

Nyanpal made plans to travel with her two adult children and young four-year-old daughter to Gambella. When she mentioned to my husband, the pastor at our church, her plans to travel, he asked if she would also like to help Kingdom Workers on her trip. She said yes, she would volunteer to help.

I arranged for her to take two hockey bags filled with kits of reusable menstrual hygiene supplies from Days for Girls, a nonprofit organization focused on providing access to menstrual care and education to women and girls throughout the world.

When Nyanpal landed in Gambella, she passed along the kits to the local volunteers. From there, the kits were provided to more than 100 young women and girls. Nyanpal was thrilled to hear that these young ladies would be able to attend school confidently now thanks to the kits. But she was even more excited to see her mother for the first time in 27 years and to introduce her children to the family members who had helped shape Nyanpal into the woman she had become.

 

A group of girls who received mensural health kits thanks to Nyanpal and the local lead team. 

 

When Nyanpal returned from her trip I could tell she wished she could have stayed much longer. As I talked with Nyanpal she reflected, “Everything I went through here in Canada, all of the struggle, looking at that I just say, ‘Thank you God, that it happened to me.’ Without that, I wouldn’t know God the way I know him now. And without God, my trip would be empty.”

She hopes to instill trust in God and hope for the future in her children and other youth the way earlier generations did for her. Connecting her children to their family members and volunteering to help our local lead team provide menstrual health kits to over 100 girls is a wonderful start.


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