The lay of the land

Anton Beukes and Dan Wilson are mulling over Sudan. At a time when many foreigners are leaving the country, the pair are deciding whether it’s worth it for Red Deer’s CrossRoads Church to set up shop there.

Advocate reporter Paige Aarhus is in Africa with members of the Lacombe-based charity A Better World. She is filing stories about the people she meets and the issues they face. Today she examines the possibility that Red Deer’s CrossRoads Church will begin a mission in Sudan.

KHARTOUM — Anton Beukes and Dan Wilson are mulling over Sudan. At a time when many foreigners are leaving the country, the pair are deciding whether it’s worth it for Red Deer’s CrossRoads Church to set up shop there.

They’ve come with local charity A Better World to examine water projects in the central city of Kosti in Sudan’s White Nile State. But current events are interfering with their plans.

Sitting in the City Flats apartment building near the airport in Khartoum, Wilson described the conundrum he, Beukes and CrossRoads’ Global Compassion Committee face.

“Countries that are the most dangerous are oftentimes the place where the need is greatest. We believe this is going to be an area of great need, but we’re very concerned about the president’s statements,” he said.

Wilson is talking about President Omar Al-Bashir’s threat to expel all foreign aid agencies within a year. He made the announcement days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges, and after 13 international agencies had already been expelled from the Darfur region in Western Sudan.

“That’s the single greatest hurdle between us and funding this project, is those statements. It doesn’t change the need, but we’re looking for a long-term partnership with the people in Kosti,” said Wilson, an international lawyer who has lived in Red Deer for seven years.

Beukes has a little more experience on this continent. He was born and raised in South Africa and moved to Red Deer only three months ago to work as pastor of outreach missions at CrossRoads.

Both men have crossed the globe several times over and both said they’re prepared to face any challenges that might arise during their visit to Sudan.

“My biggest concern is always getting the visas to come into the country. Coming from Africa, you get used to the danger,” said Beukes.

“We felt that the need here was sufficient enough to continue,” added Wilson.

They know that people in Kosti, including tens of thousands of refugees displaced after two decades of violent civil war, are in desperate need of clean water and food. But the church, which has allocated $500,000 for international relief projects each year over six years, is looking for a long-term investment.

CrossRoads already has two projects going in Haiti and Uganda, and plans to send teams of tradesmen and volunteers to each country to lend a hand. If the Kosti project is deemed feasible, they’ll send volunteers to Sudan as well.

“We want to remain active and on the ground. If it was just a case of ‘build a water treatment plant and leave,’ we probably wouldn’t be here. But we are not going to put our people in harm’s way,” said Wilson.

“It’s an enormous undertaking on our part, it represents significant commitment. We’re hoping things will settle down and we’ll be able to move ahead.”

paarhus@bprda.wpengine.com

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