Everyone rose early. It’s likely the women never slept as they worked from predawn hours cooking food for the celebration.  Next the children woke with the sun and began to prepare themselves and the area under the grove of trees for the ceremony.

 It was the first of it’s kind. 

 An advancement ceremony for all the students advancing to the next grade – from nursery level all the way to sophomore year in high school.  Every child was honored for their hard work that year.  It was the first time the entire community was invited to witness what was happening and see the tremendous transformation taking place in nearly 300 little lives at Hope For South Sudan.

 It was also the first time in a long time that it was safe to gather. 

When war erupted this past year, many of the villagers fled to neighboring nations and the children and staff hunkered down in the compound.  Unable to move about freely they were often regulated to stay on the floor in their rooms when the fighting was fiercest.  When peace returned a few months ago, so did the community.

 However, this day signified a returning of something even more significant:  a returning of Hope.

 Over two hundred members of the community came to participate in the ceremony and unite in support of the children and staff.  Pastors, government representatives, military officials, elders, widows, aunts, and uncles who wanted to see if transformation was possible and if love was real.

 The children sang and danced.  Skits were performed.  Speeches were given.  Awards announced for the top students of each class.  The adult literacy classes had their moment to shine too.  A feast was prepared and served freely to all.

When it was my turn to speak about Lift Up the Vulnerable’s commitment to Hope For South Sudan and the community I found myself totally in awe of the movement of Love taking place in our midst.  When I finally had the words I named what we all witnessed:  We often talk about these children and how peace will come through them in the future…  Today what we all are experiencing is that peace is here now.  Hope is here now.  Christ is with us in this place.  Love has come and it is the only power that transforms the world.  

 As the children sang, the community sang with them.  As the children danced, elders encircled them with their praise and encouragement.   And that outpouring was the very unseen power of Love made manifest in our midst.  Hope had returned to Hope For South Sudan.

Local community support is always key for the success of any of the safe homes in this dynamic anti-trafficking network.  The community and the staff have a tremendous and tireless role to play as they provide the daily loving care and protection of the most vulnerable.

Global community support is another key component. You and I have the privilege of joining and equipping the movement of Christ’s Love in warzones.  Because of you we surpassed our goal of raising $100,000 in just one month and that generosity was doubled through a committed family partner’s tremendous challenge grant.

The act of lifting requires strength, courage, and a determination to hold on to hope.  We are strongest when we work together.  Thank you for your global embrace of LUV which equips us to lift up the vulnerable.  Each of us are needed, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

May this New Year be rich with Hope and Love!