MAF South Sudan pilot Wim Hobo drives to the airport almost every day. On his journey is a large open field. In the past it has always been empty and unused, except for when local kids gather for a game of football.
Since the crisis in July 2016, this field has become an unofficial refugee camp. Over one thousand men, women and children sit there, day after day. They have fled their own villages due to insecurity. They had no food, no water and no way to survive in their home areas any longer. They come from all over South Sudan, displaced because of civil war.
Some have walked over 200 kilometres (124 miles) to flee violence. Others were evacuated by air and now are just waiting to go back home. They sit at the outskirts of the country’s international airport, just hoping for a flight somewhere, anywhere. Picture small huts made of plastic and bamboo hastily slapped together. Children in tattered clothing crowd under the shade of the lone tree. Every week this new refugee camp sadly grows a little more.
Wim drove past this tragic sight everyday. He saw these people and wondered what he could do to help.
‘I asked Moses Swangin, one of our MAF South Sudan dispatchers, to ask the people if they have any specific needs that we could help with,’ Wim said.
Of course, they had many. They told Moses they needed medicine and food but most importantly, most desperately, they needed water to survive. The only water they had access to was a small dirty stream on the other side of the airport. And so the plan came together!
‘At least we could help them for a couple of weeks. I had no idea if any other humanitarian organisation would step in to help.’
Water for the thirsty
Quickly yet passionately Wim and Moses worked together to buy and deliver four water tanks, with a capacity of 1,500 litres of water.
Then Wim had to source the water to fill the tanks, and ensure that the water was refilled daily.
‘The water truck didn’t want to come, I don’t know why,’ he smiles. ‘I assume they are a bit fearful of the refugees as they can often become quite aggressive when they need something so desperately.’
The water truck Wim first ordered never arrived, so he went onto the main road and stopped the next water truck he saw pass by.
‘When we filled up the large drums, people were so very happy; they came from everywhere with their own jerry cans and buckets,’ said Wim. ‘After we filled the four big tanks, everybody had the opportunity to have their own pails filled as well.’
Wim paid for this water out of his own pocket.
He asked the water truck to continue to come every day to refill the water tanks and the peoples’ jerry cans and buckets, promising to continue to pay the bill.
That night, one of the water tanks was stolen outside the camp. The next morning, the water truck never came. So Wim went onto the main road again, and waved down yet another water truck.
Eventually Wim and Moses got things working smoothly and for two weeks water was delivered to the people on a daily basis.
Help from the Red Cross
The situation in the camp naturally worsened. More and more people continued to arrive and the group were struggling without access to food and toilets. Praise God the Red Cross stepped in and began a program in the camp. They built showers and basic toilets, then brought in a larger water tank to meet the needs of the growing camp.
Wim explains, ‘At least we could help them for a couple of weeks. I had no idea if any other humanitarian organisation would step in to help. I am happy that we could at least help them at the beginning when no one else was doing so.
‘With MAF we bring food and aid to far away villages with our airplanes. But we aren’t usually doing anything in Juba itself. I drove past these people every day and just knew I had to do something to help them too.’
Wim is quite humble about it all. ‘I didn’t do anything special, I just brought a few water drums full of water to people.’
Yet we know he did so much more. Matthew 25:35 and 40 says, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcome me…Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
MAF is honoured to have staff such as Wim Hobo and Moses Swangin serving in the mission field. Thank you Wim for being more than just a pilot. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus, for giving water to those who need it the most.
And thanks to you, our donors for your support. You make it possible for our MAF staff to serve in South Sudan – both in the air and on the ground.
Written by Karyn Ball