The S4J and the man with a panga

You might wonder what does the S4J and a man with a panga have in common. It would be a library full of stories to share how the S4J’s current involvement with children in South Sudan started. James Lual Atak just got connected to the S4J for our children’s project in Nymlal, South Sudan. Here is an introduction to that story.

James Lual Atak

In 2013, the S4J wanted to produce a video to create awareness on South Sudan. Apart from the main video script, a friend and colleague, Arrie Preller, enthusiastically shared an additional possibility for whoever wants to make a movie on the story about A Man with a Panga. It was the story of James Lual Atak.

James Lual with some of the children he cares for in South Sudan.

Arrie shared how James, who grew up as one of the so-called Lost Boys of South Sudan, was mentored and cared for by a former colleague of his known as George William. George was a missionary living and working in South Sudan.

At some stage, James got the opportunity to resettle in Virginia, USA. Everything was arranged for him to move to America and enjoy a better life. But on the other hand, he had a vision to start a centre that would care for vulnerable children like he was cared for as one as a boy.

During that time, James shared his calling from God to care for vulnerable children in South Sudan with George. James wanted some financial support for that. George said, “if you have a panga, you can make a start!” So James started his journey, and eventually set up base in Nymlal with a small tent George William gave him. He started by clearing the bush to make space for a school to be built someday.

James started by inviting children to come and learn. He started with a group of 153 children. He divided them in three groups. He would have each group of 51 children sit under a tree. The three trees were close to one another. He moved between the three groups, just starting to teach the children the most basic parts of education.

He had NO materials, no assistance other than his voice and the will to succeed. He just started teaching the most basic education through singing. People in the community told him: “You are crazy! What are you trying to do here?”

James says: “I prayed; I believed, that people somewhere around this world, will support what I’m doing. I don’t know when and I don’t know where I will find that person, but God will bring that someone”.

James’ told his life story in this video.

To hear the story on James in far greater detail, here is a link to a video. The original video was produced by the West Point Center for Oral History (COH). James also tell the amazing story of how he, with others, established a school for orphans and other vulnerable children.

The school is situated in Nymlal, South Sudan. “Nymlal (also spelled Nyamlell) is a populated place in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state in South Sudan, north-west of the town of Aweil on the banks of the Lol River.” Link to information.

The spot on the map of South Sudan where the S4J is involved with vulnerable children through James Lual.
Learners in the science lab of the school.

Today, New Life Ministry (NLM) is home to Darfur Muslim orphans and Southern Sudanese Christian and Animist orphans. James does not discriminate among those who need his help, and his compassion does not end with children.

The S4J team is excited to be involved with James and the school. James has on behalf of the school expressed sincere appreciation for support received from the S4J. To God be the glory! More to follow on this story.

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Vision 2020: S4J photo-shoots

This forms part of a series of articles on the S4J. This is article 3 of the series.

At the S4J we were blessed by a multitude of athletes during the past few years. The LOVE, FRIENDSHIP and even SUPPORT from athletes are amazing. One of the ways through which we connect with athletes is S4J photo-shoots. This simply means that we take photos of athletes and post them afterward on social media platforms like Facebook.

The positive feedback from athletes indicates to the S4J team the perceived value of how we serve athletes through our photo-shoots. The S4J team takes pics of athletes at between 15 to 20 races per year. We then sort this later and for example, post it on Facebook.

Most of these pics can be found on the Facebook page of Norman Johnson.  Norman has journeyed with a vision for the people of Sudan and South Sudan for the almost past 22 years. He also journeyed with many athletes since the start of the S4J in 2010. From time to time other photographers like Eddie Howden and Allie van Niekerk have also taken pics on behalf of the S4J.

To do a photo-shoot requires rising early morning, with equipment ready, positioning yourself at good spots for taking pics, connecting with many athletes as they run past. After the photoshoot comes many hours of checking every photo, selecting most of them for posting on Facebook. The whole process can literally take days. Between 2000 and 4000 (sometimes almost double that number) photos are taken at a race.

After all the photos are scanned and prepared to post, they have to be sorted into albums. Every album is allocated information like e catchy title that would make it easy for athletes to identify and even find the pics. Other information is added like some information on the various S4J projects with an invitation for athletes to connect with that. A request is also stated that, when the person KNOW an athlete, they tag such a person. In that way, as many as possible athletes could be made aware of the availability of their photo(s). Facial recognition technology is often very helpful on Facebook. Sometimes though, the wrong person could be tagged that may upset sensitive viewers.  For many athletes, the S4J photo-shoots have been helpful though. It remains a privilege to serve in this way.


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