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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Vision 2020: S4J at water-points

This forms part of a series of articles on the S4J. This is article 2 of the series.

One of the key aspects of the S4J is the heartfelt service we extend to athletes through S4J water-points.  S4J ladies’ athletes captain Annelize Hietbrink wrote a fascinating article, published at this link on the S4J blog, about the work of a helper at a water-point.

Helpers at S4J water-points has handed hundreds of thousands of water saches to athletes at various water-points during the past few years. As Annelize wrote in her article:

“Put up tables, stack cups, pour cold drink into said cups; break big blocks of ice into plastic containers; cut open countless boxes of water sachets and throw them into the container. Ensure that all helpers know what to do, where to stand (out of athletes’ way!) etc.

Get to table, grab some water sachets (or 2 or 4, or on some cases 8!), maybe drink some Coke. Thank or don’t thank the WPH. May complain about water not being cold enough. Drop sachets in bin, next to bin, or in the vicinity of the water table. Carry on with race.”

To organize a water-point even requires far more organizing than for helpers on the day. Some of these tasks come to mind:

In pre-preparation:

  1. Recruit a team of helpers for the day.
  2. Sort out all branded items like t-shirts, flags, gazebos.
  3. If you’re going to play music, equipment and music must be ready and fully charged.
  4. Hospitality arrangements for your team of helpers sorted: tea, coffee, milk, sugar, facility to boil water, rusks and so on.
  5. All needed hardware ready like hammers, cable ties, and side cutters to name a few.
  6. At S4J water-points, we always do a photo-shoot. This requires batteries fully loaded, lens cleaners, and momo-pod packed in.

On race-day:

  1. Wake up as early as 2:40. Be at the water-point at about 04:00 to receive among other, loads of water, Coke or similar drinks, tables, buckets, and ice packs.
  2. Set-up the hospitality area for your team of helpers.
  3. Start receiving athletes as they arrive. Ensure the team is well organized to serve athletes during the race. Clean up after the race.
  4. Pack up and go.
  5. Ensure equipment is sorted after the race. If it for example rain during the race

This is the team that helped at the recent S4J water-point at the PWC George Claassen Memorial Race. Here are some of the feedback received afterward:

  • Pierre Engelbrecht: Great water point! Thanks everyone involved!
  • Annemarie Breytenbach: Beste en vriendelike waterpunt. Julle is awesome. Dankie liewe Norman, altyd n glimlag en tyd vir n vinnig geselsie en Dan natuurlik die kameraman. What a boykie. Lovies 💕
  • Belinda Hope: Awesome water point … thank you
  • Thérèse Marie Jarvel Doman: Norman the waterpoint was awesome, thank you!!!
  • Willem En Mari Malan: Dankie!!! Julle was die beste en vriendelikste en vrolikste waterpunt!!!!
  • Phillip Du Toit: Julle was great, baie dankie. Eks trots om n S4J atleed te wees….
  • Dokka Le Grange: Dankie julle almal waardeer julle. Dit was baie lekker Run gewees.
  • Rosemary Brink Tonkin: Awesome support, thank you
  • Cisca Louwrens: Pragtig, soos altyd!
  • Dorothy Viviers: Baie mooi
  • Hendrik Schoeman: Baie dankie vir die lekker water en gees
  • Joubert Krugel: Thank you for your support. It’s much appreciated.
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Vision 2020: S4J Projects

This forms part of a series of articles on the S4J. This is article 1 of the series.

The S4J team is super excited about what 2020 might hold. We aim at the start of this year to share a vision on a couple of aspects through which we trust that both the S4J family of athletes and supporters and those in the Sudans that we partner with, would be blessed.

S4J vision 2020 (1): Projects

We’re continuing with the FOUR projects established during the S4J 2019 year. Below these are just briefly mentioned to refresh our collective memory thereof. All of these projects are done in partnership with quality field partners. Working with and through them greatly increases the S4J team’s capacity to deliver support to where it’s really most needed. On our own, this work would simply NOT happen. The S4J STRONGLY believes in the value of partnering.

The Beja Peoples Project

In this, we focus on corrective eye surgeries among the Beja people.

The Bibles for the Sudans Project

We aim to fund at least 20000 Bibles during this year.

S4J Bibles Project

The S4J Children’s projects

This is focussed on children’s education in both South Sudan and Sudan.

From our partner at the New Life Ministry children Centre – South Sudan, we’ve received the following e-mail on Monday this week:

“Good morning. I hope you are both doing well. I’m thankful for this news. It’s my hope that this would be a new way for these vulnerable children to continue with their education and good living in the center without so much worry because the small blessing you are both giving it does really make so much difference again with hope for their future.

I’m so very much appreciating the funds you are giving, it’s not easy but it’s through your hard-working with love in you wanting to bring the change in these children’s lives. 

 I’m also looking forward to doing this work with you and to be giving you all the stories you might want to make this possible, with also hoping to receive you and share with you in the compound later in the future to see how God has blessed those orphans’ children in all these many years, and I will make sure the report you needed it’s also done and send to you in every time you want I promised.”

In the North, from Port Sudan, we’ve received this and much more. We’ve been heavily involved in supporting Christian education at Port Sudan before and would love to take up this challenge again. The school with which we partnered is under new management. That is very encouraging.

Water for THE Sudans Project

On the pic below is Eddie at the borehole sponsored by the S4J in Nimule. Sorry to mention that Eddie is no longer a full-time member at S4J. He still volunteers at the S4J with a grateful heart. We’re for now still connected with partners International Aid Services and still at Nimule in South Sudan through water filters.

Let’s take hands in making this vision a reality.

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It’s going to be a HOT summer! How to run in the “HOT”

I am sitting here in the SSNET offices looking out of the window and thinking: “How do you train in this weather? How do you breathe?”

Since I have not run for a while I would not know! ha ha

Here are some tips that I thought would assist all our brave S4J family runners when running in the Gauteng heat (Courtesy Runner’s World):

  • Even when it’s cool enough that you’re barely sweating, your muscles are getting less oxygen and therefore are less efficient—an important factor in longer races.
  • Instead of avoiding heat during training, help your body adapt to it. Within a short time your system will become more efficient, as it learns to anticipate the rise in core temperature.
  • When heat and humidity start to creep higher, it’s best to slow down. Your performance relative to the competition will often be better (though slower) if you remain conservative.
  • If you are working on acclimating to warm temperatures expected on race day, remember to back off two days prior to the competition to make sure you’re not overstressing your body.
  • Hydrate wisely and don’t create dangerous imbalances by not using the right electrolyte supplements. Train to consume more liquids to build resistance to dehydration.

Now that we have you running, for those of you who have joined the S4J fundraising initiative for the 2020 Comrades, good luck with your fundraising efforts. Remember, if you do not ask, the answer will always be NO!

Blessings, Eddie

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