Sioux Falls pastor Jenina Gatnoor has been in the United States since 1994. He fled his home in South Sudan to escape the violence of its civil war. Though he’s safer here, the violence at home still weighs heavily on his heart.
“Always it’s kind of very disturbing, when I can see, having a better life here, and see my people are suffering,” Gatnoor said.
Gatnoor says South Sudan had problems before the war, and the situation there has only gotten worse. When talking with people from South Sudan who live in KELOLAND, Gatnoor has learned that pain there affects life here.
“Even though they feel they are in a comfortable area, indirectly that suffering also affects their life severely here, ’cause they feel helpless also, they want to help, they want to share the message, but they don’t know how we can help,” Gatnoor said.
Avera Counselor Lana Smith works with people dealing with similar situations.
“It is a very real issue here with a lot of the folks that have people back home in harm’s way,” she said.
People, Smith says, respond in different ways.
“I see some people doing fairly well, and other people have dramatic responses to what’s happening over there,” Smith said.
Dan Santella: “What are some of those responses?”
Lana Smith: “Some people get very angry, some people are very sad, some become suicidal, some have drinking problems, so there’s quite a variety of things that happen.”
One man she worked with was doing well – until news came from home.
“I had one gentleman who came to me because his sister was shot,” Smith said. “He was weeping, he said that he had been sober for a good year or so, and he started drinking again.”
No matter where we come from, the willingness to listen can go a long way.
“They want to talk about it,” Smith said. “I think most of us find healing in talking about a grief, talking about trauma, it allows that to get out of our head, instead of going around and around.”
Gatnoor helps people from South Sudan deal with their frustrations.
“It’s not easy, but we have to understand that this is a part of life, the only way also is, let us put our effort to support those causes over there, to help them out,” Gatnoor said.
He’s making that effort.
“I started to have a program, for the children, that I collect like, antibiotics, simple things like that, pencils, and balls, just to help them,” Gatnoor said.
Gatnoor is collecting school supplies, first aid kits, mosquito nets, basketball and soccer balls, and big plastic tubs to send items in.
“They are children like here, even though they live in that desperate situation, they still also want to enjoy, they’re still having hope, that something good also could happen to help them,” Gatnoor said.
If you would like to donate items, you can contact Gatnoor’s church here.