Witnessing the Birth of a Nation

By   •   July 7, 2011

“This day is joyous,” said Franklin Graham, at the South Sudan Independence Day ceremony this weekend. “It is wonderful to be a small part of this great occasion. This is something that the people of the South have been praying for for many, many years. After 2 million people died, this is an answer to prayer. We thank God for the support, we thank God for answered prayer, and we thank God that He’s given the South an opportunity to rise up from the ashes and to build a new nation.”

The CEO and President of both Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was on hand to celebrate South Sudan’s first weekend of Independence from Sudan.

July 9 marked South Sudan’s official Independence Day.

“Americans just celebrated the birth of the United States, so it is with special appreciation that we now turn to another nation preparing to start its own journey of independence,” Franklin Graham said in a statement last week. “Saturday, July 9, will be the day that South Sudan will officially become the youngest country on earth.”

Marking this historic event, Graham met with the presidents of both countries, first with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Saturday, before departing for Khartoum to meet with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

A military parade and other celebrations were planned and dozens of world leaders witnessed Saturday’s festivities.

“For the past few decades, the world has watched this part of Africa suffer through one of the deadliest civil wars in history,” Graham said. “As I look back over the years that Samaritan’s Purse has been providing relief and aid across a war-torn Sudan, it now brings me great joy and honor to attend the celebration of South Sudan’s Independence Day.”

Accompanying Graham in Juba, the new capital of South Sudan, was Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs for Samaritan’s Purse, who has been working in this country for nearly 20 years.

“I hope that believers all over the world will keep praying for South Sudan to become a prosperous country and a beacon of freedom in the Horn of Africa,” Isaacs said. “I also hope you will join me in praising God for this new nation.”

On Isaacs’ first trip almost two decades ago, “Civil war was raging and the people in the south were living in the most miserable circumstances imaginable.”

Juba and the rest of South Sudan is still recovering from the civil war that killed over two million people from 1983 to 2005, but with its new-found freedom and the help of Samaritan’s Purse, Africa’s 54th country has reason for hope.

Isaacs remembers January 9, 2005, the day the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, vividly: “I had spent so many years watching the people in southern Sudan fight to survive and praying with them that peace would come.”

But Isaacs also knows the South Sudan situation is still an uphill climb, with only 15 percent of this new country literate and a shortage of basic necessities.

“Most of the south has little or no infrastructure,” he said. “Most people there have no access to basics like clean water and education.”

Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has invested around $100 million to help the people of Sudan, rebuilding 425 churches since 2005, many in remote villages.

In 1997, Samaritan’s Purse began restoring the Lui Hospital, the only primary care facility for hundreds of thousands, and operated it during the civil war.

The Kurmuk Hospital, which Samaritan’s Purse rehabilitated in 2002 and continues to operate, is the only secondary facility in the southern half of Blue Nile State where patients can receive specialized treatment.

Samaritan’s Purse has also rehabbed three primary healthcare units, a hospital ward and a TB ward in eastern Sudan, where severely malnourished children and nursing mothers are being served.

“There is still much that needs to be done to help the people of both countries,” Graham said, “and I pray that God will give these leaders wisdom and courage to lead their people, uniting their hearts toward the goal of reconciliation and peace.”

Watch a rehearsal for the new South Sudan anthem: