Written by Judy Marnin and Beverly Nolte
One of the ways in which Africans in South Sudan find their identity is through their tribes. It’s instructive to know the names and locations of some of the tribes, though there are too many to examine. The largest tribe is the Dinka, 35.8% of the South Sudan population. President Salva Kiir is a Dinka, who are said to control 42% of the area of South Sudan, with 12 of the 28 states of South Sudan under Dinka control.
Next largest in the Nuer people, 15.6% of the population. In addition, there are many additional major tribes, including the Luo, Shilluk, Fur, Zaghawa, Misseriya, Beja, Massalit, and Baggara tribes, just to name a few. South Sudan has over 60 indigenous languages, some of which are related, while others are incomprehensible to outsiders. Religions include Islam, Christianity, and traditional religions. While modern day life is beginning to see a mixing of tribes, especially in the metropolitan areas, one’s birth tribe remains very important to one’s identity.
The pastor of the new South Sudanese Congregation in Des Moines is Aaron Ciimban Limmo and his family is from the Maaban tribe, a very small tribe living mainly along the banks of the White Nile River close to Sudan and Ethiopia in Eastern Nile State. Population is estimated at 72,000, about 20% of whom are Christian, according to the Joshua Project, a part of the organization Frontier Ventures, whose mission is to reach unreached peoples of the world with Christianity.
Aaron was born in a small village called Ban Chongo but now renamed Banma Yiena(n). He doesn’t know the date of his birth because his village is small, he was born at home, and there was no registration of birth in this area of the Sudan. So Aaron takes Jan. 1 as his birthday and thinks that he was born in 1970 based on the war years and cultivation/harvest times. There were no schools, hospitals, clean water or good roads…no infrastructure at all and no assistance from the Sudanese government to provide human services for the people.
There were nine in his family, 3 girls and 3 boys with three who died before Aaron was born. Many babies die before their first birthday due to poor health conditions. He and his siblings helped their parents in the fields as the family were cultivators or farmers. Their crops were mainly maize, sorghum, yams but they kept lots of cattle, pigs, goats and sheep on the large farm. Since many of these tribe’s measure livestock as their primary wealth, fighting often begins because of cattle raids. In fact, tribal feudalism and land disputes, particularly over oil, fuel most of the problems in South Sudan.
With no school in his village, his friends, walked four hours one way to a community that had a school. Much of their time was spent walking to/from and being in school. Being younger, Aaron was sent to live with his uncle in Khartoum, the capital of northern Sudan. From the age of 11 through Grade Eight he studied there and then attended Gideon Theological College (like a high school) where he received a certificate. The war broke out in 1983 and lasted two years which impacted his education.
The story will continue as we learn about the Mabaan people who are starting a new community of faith at Epworth UMC, 412 Euclid Ave., in Des Moines. Come to worship with them at 12:30 PM!
The Gray UMC is collecting items for the Mabaan Sunday School program. Grimes UMC offers prepared Sunday School lessons for 6 different age groups. Several Des Moines area churches will alternate teaching Sunday School. Sheridan Park hosted the Mabaans at their worship service on March 6.
How can you/your group or church be involved with this new congregation of faith?
Consider offering a campership for their children! Plan ahead to let your VBS offering support them. Their Advance Special number is #267 for monetary gifts.