For the past six Christmas seasons, Pastor Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio, has been calling attendees of his church to spend only half as much as they would normally spend on their own family’s Christmas and to bring the rest in for a Christmas Miracle Offering to serve the people in Sudan’s Darfur region, which has been in a state of war and humanitarian emergency since 2003.
Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes since the conflict in Darfur began in 2003. Overall, the U.N. estimates that roughly 4.7 million people in Darfur are still affected by the conflict. In the fall of 2004, after reading one of the few news stories in the press that year about the crisis, which had been largely ignored by the world, Mike felt compelled to act. In Advent 2004, he reminded the Ginghamsburg congregation that “Christmas is not your birthday! It’s Jesus’ birthday.” That first year’s offering collected $317,000, which Ginghamsburg used in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to start a sustainable agricultural program that put 5209 people back into the farming business. Through reseeding, that program has now fed approximately 80,000 people. The call, however, didn’t stop there. Ginghamsburg’s Sudan Project, with 118 partner churches, schools and businesses, has now invested a total of $4.4 million into sustainable humanitarian projects in Darfur. In addition to agriculture, a child development and protection program has built and equipped 179 schools that have cumulatively enrolled nearly 22,000 students and a safe water and sanitation program has built or rehabilitiated15 water yards that are providing safe water, the greatest health need, to tens of thousand of Sudanese. The water yards are built near the schools so that children are safely being educated and given new life pictures instead of walking up to 8 miles one way each day through unsafe territory to retrieve water for the family.
Mike firmly believes that there is no “better way to celebrate Christmas than to demonstrate the sacrificial mission of Jesus on Planet Earth to those without hope, the children, women and men of Darfur.” In a season that is usually marked by rampant consumerism and greed, the Ginghamsburg congregation continues to recognize that Jesus followers are designed to be producers of God’s blessings in the lives of others, not consumers of “stuff.” Christmas 2010 will be the seventh year of sacrificial giving on behalf of Sudanese children, women and men. Those funds will be used in South Darfur to expand water and education opportunities, as well as to implement new humanitarian projects and develop a church plant in the northern part of South Sudan devastated by its own 20 year war with the North that ended in 2005. View stories about The Sudan Project at www.thesudanproject.org.
SUDAN PROJECT CUMULATIVE TOTALS: As of August 2010
§ 21,666 students enrolled cumulatively over life of the Education program
§ 11 Parent-Teacher Councils formed within IDP camps (123 people total)
§ 179 schools total built/rehabbed (includes both permanent & temporary)
§ 140 schools 44,132 students provided with education materials
§ 194 teachers trained
§ 3 life skill centers implemented with 528 enrollees served cumulatively
§ 4 kindergartens implemented/908 students enrolled cumulatively
§ 1410 special needs children provided additional care/support (brick-making machine is designed to fund this on an ongoing basis)
§ 15 water-sanitation committees formed/trained
§ 11 boreholes rehabbed and equipped
§ 1 new borehole drilled at Deriga
§ 15 water yards provided (with improved drainage systems)
§ Averaging 19 liters per person per day where boreholes now available (was less than 3 per day; 15 per day is minimum standard) serving 75,000 people
§ 110 hygiene promotion sessions conducted
§ 1436 latrines constructed in IDP camps
§ 2 institutional/permanent latrines constructed
§ 4 peace building initiative conducted
§ 7069 households are direct beneficiaries of agriculture program (approx. 35,000 people); additional 8905 (approx. 44,525 people) are indirect beneficiaries through re-seeding
§ 11 agriculture committees have been formed
§ One town “revived’—investment of $119,000 (water—including drilling of new borehole, schools, agriculture) to rebirth town of 20,000 people (investment of <$6 per person)