Ahoghill and Portglenone Parishes plan summer visit to South Sudan

Wednesday February 21st 2024

Jenny Smyth, CMSI Director, left; and Linda Abwa, CMSI Parish Coordinator, right, with the Ahoghill team -Stephen McCallion, the Rev Dennis Christie, Niall Campbell and supporters.

A small team from the Grouped Parishes of Ahoghill and Portglenone will visit the Diocese of Ibba in South Sudan later this year.

This is a new partnership for the parishes, but the rector, the Rev Dennis Christie, has an established connection with Ibba. “I was part of a short-term mission trip in 2012 as a parishioner of St John’s in Moira,” Dennis said. “That trip kicked off a mission partnership between St John’s Parish and Ibba Diocese that is now over 12 years old.”

Dennis will be accompanied by parishioners Stephen McCallion and Niall Campbell. The two-week stay in early August will be Stephen and Niall’s first time in Ibba.

The main purpose of the visit will be to help build the relationship between the communities in Ahoghill and Portglenone and Ibba, and to help establish a long-term mission partnership between both.

“In partnership with Bishop Wilson Kamani, who oversees Ibba Diocese, and with the help of CMSI (Church Mission Society Ireland), we will hope to support future key projects in the area,” Dennis said.

“Our itinerary for this trip is not yet established, but a key element will be visiting the local community including churches, schools, local health clinic, local vocational training centre etc, building relationships and establishing the needs. 

“Given the makeup of our team, with Stephen and Niall both skilled engineers, there may be opportunities to do some practical training while we are there, for example at the local Vocational Training College doing carpentry, electrical, mechanical and welding.”

The team is hoping to take items with them, depending on the needs and what would be most efficient to travel with, but this is likely to include some medical equipment, clothing, tools, sporting equipment etc that would bless the community. 

Dennis said some parishioners with sewing skills are currently working with ‘Days for Girls.’ This is a charity that works to eliminate the stigma and limitations associated with menstruation so that women and girls have improved health, education and livelihoods. Those who are doing the sewing are working to produce effective life-changing menstrual health packs with sanitary products, which the team will bring to Ibba in August.

Mission trips like this can be expensive as they include the need for both international and internal MAF flights, and bring high insurance costs. 

And so the parishes have planned a number of fundraisers which aim to include different groups across both churches: These are:

  • Big Breakfast Fundraiser (Portglenone) – Saturday March 9
  • Tractor Run (St Colmanell’s) – Saturday March 16
  • Kidzone ‘Steps to Ibba’ Challenge (St Colmanell’s Sunday School) – the children will collectively walk distance from Ahoghill and Portglenone to Ibba in South Sudan.
  • PGKidz Smarties tube coin collection (Portglenone Sunday School)
  • Quiz and Desserts night (St Colmanell’s) – Friday April 19 
  • LIFT (Ladies fellowship in St Colmanell’s) – fundraiser event April – date TBC 
  • ‘Couch to 10k’ for the rector – Dennis will be running at the Glenarm Castle Challenge Run – Saturday May 18

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