GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT NZARA

        Nzara Diocese is one of six new Dioceses of the four million member Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS).  It was formally created in 2009-10.  It is one of 31 such ecclesiastical units.  Nzara Diocese constitutes approximatly one half of what was Yambio Diocese (other portions of Yambio had previously been separated off from this "Mother Diocese").  The boundries of the Diocese are for the most part, but not always, contiguous with Nzara County which is one of the ten counties in Western Equatoria State (WES) the capital of which is in nearby Ymbio (27 K or 15 miles to the East).  Nzara is in the extreme southwestern section of South Sudan that is bordered by the Republic of the Congo on the South. Nzara town is about 300 miles north of the Equator and about 100 miles from the Central African Republic's border to the west. The diocese is approximatedly 158 miles or 256 Kilometers long and 50 miles or 86 K. wide.  Typically bad but passable roads make traveling any distance difficult and time consuming.  Nzara County is relatively lightly populated with 65,712 citizens of whom 30,754 are adults.  It was estimated in 2011 that there were 10,000 refugees from the Congo living in WES and about 11,000 internally displaced persons (IDP"s). 

       The diocese's baptized membership in good standing is estimated to be about 8000 based on average attendance figures for Sunday services.  On Chritmas an actual "nose count" would indicate that about 15,000 persons see themselves to be ECS members.  This means that one in every four persons in Nzara Cpounty considers themselves to be ECS members.  There are currently four functioning Arch Deaneries, eighteen active parishes, two sub parishes and 142 chapels for a total of 164 congregations.  The diocese is awaiting the formal transfer from Yambio Diocese of an Arch Deanery centered in the town of Nadiagare in the rextreme north of the dicoese.  It has three parishes and seven chapels and would thus bring the total number of functioning congregations to 166.  Five parishes and 10 chapels for a total of 15 congregations are not currently functioning due to the fact that the people of those areas have fled their homes because of LRA attacks some two years ago.  They are now living near Nzara, nearby Ymbio or in a large village or camp for IDP's that is located near Sakure.  Sakure is south of Nzara on the border of the Congo Republic .

      The spiritual and ttemporal life of the parishes is lively.  Each parish has a youth, evangelism, mothers union head and at least one pastor/priest.  Services are conducted using the Zande Bible, and a Zande Prayer Book/Hymnal.  Sometimes there is an Arabic translator for the sermon and announcements.  There is one Moro speaking ECS congregation located a half block from the Cathedral. Most congregations have a main service late in the morning of what might be labeled Morning Prayer.  The Eucharist or Holy Communion is either celebrated at an earlier hour than the main service or on specially designated Sundays.  Colored stoles for the various liturgical seasons are a relatively new innovation.  The clergy typically wear black cassocks and white surpluses.  Sometimes parishioners are asked to publically repent of their sins which they do at one of the services.  After a short period of time they are readmitted into the congreation's life after kneeling for a pastoral prayer of forgivness.  Marriages are rarely done inside the church or by a clergy person. Couples are married in the wifes home compound using traditonal customs and after the exhange of a bride price.  Funerals are done at the grave sites and not in church. The announcements are much much longer than in the churches of the West.  This is due to a variety of reasons.  Visiting dignataries are asked to speak and often do at great length.  Those giving the announcements can not, of course, refer to written bulletins,  In a society where there are no newspapers, where  many people are illiterate and because congregations can not afford to print bulletins everything of importance to the church and community must be spoken and then frequently translated. Announcemetns typically take 20 minutes and have been known to exceed an hour. 

         Enthusiastic, and sometimes very colorfully dressed, choirs often sing dance and make hand and feet motions as they present various Zande hymns or originally composed music.  Songs are frequently of a traditional Africacall and response type.  Virtually all parishes have a youth choir and a church school choir.   In the cathedral there are four different choirs each of which typically sings three different songs.  The 11:00 service there rarely finishes before 2:00 and often goes to 3:00.  On major feast days it can much longer.  Music is typically accompanied by drums, hand rung noise makers,  and well made native harps. The use of electric guitars, loudspeakers and drum sets is,  however,  spreading.  The powerful preaching that is at the center of a typical worship service is a shared responsibility of either clergy or lay readers,  A strong committment to the pastoral needs of the people of God is evident.  The youth, for instance, frequently visit and sing for a family through the entire night before the grave of a member who has died is dedicated. The parish evangelists carry on a very active healing, teaching and wittness ministry.  The Mother's Union is at the very center of all parish activities.  Their members wear white dresses and head scarfs on Sunday and blue dresses during the week.  They are made up of very carefully selected members and perform all kinds of services for the congregations of which they are a part.    

        Perhaps at this point a word needs to be said about the Lord's Resistance Army or the LRA. There were incursions by this terorrist group in 2009 in whch many people were murdered, kidnapped and raped. Property was looted and homes damaged or destroyed.  The LRA, which originated in NE Uganda many years ago, does not at the present have any particular ethnic, religious or political agenda.  They simply create havoc for the sake of the sense of power it gives them and out of self interest in what they can loot and steal from others.  Many believe that they have been supplied by the government of Sudan in the North to help destablize the region.  The United Nations have a peace keeping force of mostly Ugandan troops in the Nzare area that appears to have gained control of this elusive enemy.  The LRA no longer seems to be functioning as a comba force but rather as small commando groups that make rapid hit and run attacks in th Congo or CAR.  The real or perceived insecurity of the area South of Nzara town has caused many to flee their homes and farm fields.  The good news is that, as of mid-2012, there have been no reports of major incursions In Nzara Co. by the LRA for almost two years.  The Diocese in 2012 reopened two parishes in the area affected and the Roman Catholics have taken similar actions. 

        All  Saint's Cathedral, the Diocesan Offices, the Training Center, The Computer Center, St. Timothy's School and the Good Samaritian Health Clinic are all located in Nzara town. which is in the far southern part of the diocese.  Nzara Town is where the Nzara Co. Commissioner's office is located.  Historically Nzara town was the location of a large industrial complex and agricultural plantation and experimentation station during British colonial days and in the first years of the old Sudan's political existance.  This complex was home to a textile plant tht made two different grades of cloth, canvas and rope.  There was also a cotton seed oil extraction plant, a grinding mill, a saw mill and a coffee packaging operation.  The colonial government subsidized this operation for many years but the Khartoum based Sudanese government closed the facility in the early 1990's.  They took the cotton seed plant, all the trucks, every motor that could be carried off and punched holes in one of the four huge generators that once supplied electricity to the plant and city.  Nzara was once refered to as the London of Sudan.  Its streets were lined with trees, it had running water, homes made of stone, electricity and even a Rotary Club.  The remnants of all of this development (there are huge buildings filled with all kinds of equipment) that can still be seen but much of it is in disarray and ruin. 

        Like most communities in South Sudan Nzara town consists of a market area, a few government buildings, some  cell towers, a few churches and schools and numerous family compounds each of which is made up of three or four small huts or tukals.  These tukals are typically 4 X 4 meters, square or regtangle in shape and made of mud bricks that have been cemented together by mud and then plastered with still more mud.  The roofs are usually round in shape and made of poles that are covered with thatch or dry grasses. A compound typically consists of a tukal where the parents and babies sleep, a tukal for the older children and then perhaps a Piote which is a tukal with very large windows and some chairs.  The Piote is where the family can gather or where guests can be entertained,  There might also be a boma which is a raised platform for the storage of food and perhaps an open walled kitchen tukal.  A  latrine and bath house and maybe a chiken roost complete the compound.   Compounds may have a fence around them but typically do not.  Any open patch of ground near the compound is usually turned into a place to grow one or another farm product.  Nzara is unique in that amidst all these compounds are the stone and metal roofed buildings with three or four rooms that used to house the Industrial Complexes workers and boses.  Goats, chickens and ducks wander in and out of all the compounds. 

       Nzara's market area has numerous burnt brick buildings with small shops or stalls behind a narrow porch.  Sandwiched between these more permanent buildings or in open areas near by are a variety of small shacks made of metal sheets or scraps of wood.  In the center of the market are two large open areas where the local residents sell their excess garden produce or this and that from mats spread on the ground or on small tables.  Market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays but some shops and sellers are there every day.  One can buy time for your cell phone, soap, salt, sugar, hard candy, cookies, meat, transistor radios, cheap watches, building or household items, fruits, greens, vegitables that are in season, soda pop, beer and liquor.  There are fabrics for sale and tailors that can make up a dress on their sewing machines.  Bundles of clothes made up of T shirts that didn't sell in the US (losing sides of super bowl games or the imprint of a rock star' or president's picture) are for sale along side little used garments that the Salvation Army or Goodwill couldn't get rid of in any other way.

       Nzara town has no electricity except that provided by generators, no sewage system, no post office, no gas station and no bank.  It does have a hospital run by a Roman Catholic Order of nuns which serves leporsy, taberculois and AID's victims as well a general hospital ward.  The hospital does not have the staff or facilities to perform surgeries of any type.  Nzara has three cell phone towers and numerous TV satalite dishes.  Yambio, 15 miles away, has gas stations, a branch bank, is putting in an electrical grid and has better shopping. 

       Most of this Zandeland Diocese's (one of five) citizens are subsistance farmers.  The land is very rich and fertile and the rain more than adequate.  Local residents frequently refer to their area as a Garden of Eden because they can take a sprig off a bush, put it in the ground and see it grow into a full size plant.  The farmers here grow ground nuts, maize, sorgum, cassava, millet, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, egg plant and all kinds of fruits including pineapples, mangoes, papiyas, bananas, oranges and all kinds of greens.  The area's topography is rather flat and covered with all kinds of trees (teak, mahogny, mango, palms of various sorts, etc.) as well as various grasses and bushes.  It is a very lush landscape.  The climate is generally hot and wet except in the dry season (usually about three months long and lasting  anywhere from early December to late March)  During this season it is still very hot but not as humid.  The nights often bring cooler temperatures and there is frequently a nice breeze during the day.