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Professor Partners with Operation Blessing in South Sudan

By Brett Wilson | August 7, 2013

Children living in South Sudan.
Photo courtesy of Tyson Sadler.

Dr. Benjamin Keyes, assistant professor in Regent University's School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC), is a man who keeps his promises.

When Keyes discovered the state of the nation during his travels to South Sudan in December of 2012, he vowed to return. This summer, he did—bringing $13,000 of food supplies along with him.

Keyes, in partnership with Operation Blessing and Abuklui—an organization dedicated to building high schools in the nation—reached out to the women and children living in the desert-land of the Langcok Military Camp, about five kilometers outside the city of Rumbek.

"Families are starving to death," said Keyes. "I saw a lot of distended bellies on small children—they were really at the serious end-stages of starvation," said Keyes, who also serves as director of Regent's Center for Trauma Studies.

Keyes explained that those left behind at the camp, some 400 people, were families of the nation's military personnel. As the nation of South Sudan struggles economically, politically and socially, the members of its military have only been compensated for two months' wages throughout the past six months.

They live—quite literally—one day at a time. And though the crops are growing well in soil surrounding the camp due to a season of abundant rain, Keyes explained that harvest time is still months away, and there is no source of food to keep its inhabitants alive in the meantime.

"South Sudan is a country that is still walking wounded—still dealing with the atrocities of war," said Keyes.

With the funds provided by Operation Blessing, corn flour, rice, beans, soap, biscuits, tea, sugar and other staples were delivered to the left-behind women and children of the camp.

"You would have thought that the heavens opened up and God poured manna from the sky," said Keyes, recalling the first day of food distribution at the camp. "They sang, they praised God, they danced, they beat drums, they hugged, they kissed—it was quite amazing."

This was a part of a three-day journey Keyes took around the country with the members of the Catholic diocese where he stayed, visiting leper colonies and prisons, offering prayer, counsel and food whenever possible.

Despite the history of the new nation's suffering and its economic hardships, Keyes explained that the South Sudanese are a people who hold onto their faith. This is what inspires him to offer aid, and his goal is to return to South Sudan along with other members of the Trauma Team.

"I love the faith that they have and that they believe they can create a better life for their children even though they have nothing," said Keyes. "Nothing except that belief, that hope that they firmly place in God."

Learn more about Regent University's School of Psychology & Counseling and the Center for Trauma Studies.


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