"They support what we're doing and they realize we have not abandoned them. Holston has not abandoned them." -- Libby Dearing
By Annette Spence - Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church
ALCOA, Tenn. -- Missionaries Fred and Libby Dearing have postponed their return to South Sudan after deciding they could do more to help their ministry partners while in the U.S. than in Africa.
“Even if we dearly wish we were there, it’s not about us,” the Rev. Dearing said on Jan. 9, while working in the Holston Conference office in Alcoa. “We will return as soon as our presence on the ground is advantageous.”
The Dearings were scheduled to depart the U.S. on Jan. 9, arriving in Yei, South Sudan, on Jan. 11. They were visiting their native east Tennessee for the holidays when fighting broke out in South Sudan on Dec. 15.
On Jan. 8, the General Board of Global Ministries suspended United Methodist mission travel to South Sudan “for security purposes … until the situation has been assessed and determined to be safe,” said Melissa Hinnen, director of content and public information.
The region where Holston has partnered with the East Africa Conference to build schools and churches and dig wells is currently peaceful, Dearing said. However, conflict and violence 100 miles or more north of Yei is causing food and money challenges for the entire nation.
Dearing said he has made arrangements for staff in South Sudan to buy food and pay salaries. “We call them every day,” he said. “They send love, and they are praying for us.”
“It’s very humbling to sit in my nice, comfortable place and know they’re praying for us,” said Libby Dearing from the Holston Alcoa office.
"But they support what we're doing and they realize we have not abandoned them. Holston has not abandoned them," she said.
The 21 children living at Grace Home for Children are safe, Libby Dearing said. The orphanage was built by Holston Conference and opened in September 2013.
“The children are aware something is happening. They’ve been instructed on emergency procedures. But they’re secure. They’re happy and they’re playing.”