Handshakes and hugs were in abundance at Marshalltown's Trinity Lutheran Church as parishioners welcomed a number of their South Sudanese brothers and sisters for a special event Sunday morning.
Featured were a church service, fellowship and brunch.
Special greetings by the Honorable James Maluit Ruach, Commissioner of Fangak County, South Sudan were an event highlight.
T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY
The Honorable James Maluit Ruach, center, commissioner of Fangok County South Sudan, is shown taking communion at Marshalltown’s Trinity Lutheran Church Sunday. Holding chalice is communion assistant Tim Madsen. In background right, Trinity assisting minister Kent Loney blesses one of Ruach’s children while Ruach’s wife looks on. Ruach and family were joined by approximately 25 other South Sudanese attending worship services.
Accompanying Ruach were his wife, children and approximately 25 South Sudanese residing in Iowa and Nebraska.
Many of the South Sudanese are former church members or had received aid from the church.
Parishioner Greg Brown introduced Ruach.
"Commissioner Ruach organized a formal welcoming ... an official government welcoming for our mission team when we arrived in February," Brown said. "The whole village turned out ... there was music, singing and prayer. The commissioner then presented us with a goat, which is a significant gift in the eyes of that community."
In his remarks, Ruach thanked the congregation for donating money for the construction of two water wells and sending a mission team of seven to repair a well and install a new one.
The village of 5,000 in northeast South Sudan has four water wells.
"We became a new country in 2011 and will celebrate our first year of independence in July," Ruach said. "Because we are a new country we do not have the resources to provide many of the things our countrymen need, like clean water. That is why we are grateful for the Alaskans and Iowans who came to Old Fangak and dug the wells."
Joing the Trinity team were three members of the Alaska-Sudan Medical Project of the Anchorage area.
Trinity's connection with South Sudan and Fangak County were developed almost 14 years ago, when Brown, his family and others became acquainted with Dual Gony of Sudan, who had immigrated to the United States and resided in Central Iowa.
Gony and family joined the church and several Trinity families took them under their wing. Other Sudanese joined and Trinity obliged by holding services in that country's language.
Gony and fellow countryman Andrew Chuol of Ames, who was born and raised in Old Fangak, alerted the congregation to the village's need for clean water.
Fundraising began in earnest.
St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Ames joined as a partner in the effort which continues.
A Trinity committee is evaluating how best to conduct other fundraising initiatives and most effective way to expend resources.
Long-time Trinity member Dorothy Williams commented on the service.
"I was pleased we had a good turn out and it was exciting to hear that our funds were put to good use," she said.
"The service and greetings from commissioner Ruach was exciting," said Chuol. "The gift of water from Trinity and others is a gift of life."