‘God looks for a giving heart’
by BETH ALTENA
When Sandy Bowman saw big box stores offering vegetable and flower seed packets at spring prices of four for a dollar and eleven for ninety nine cents, she knew where they could make an incredible difference. She purchased as many as she could, a whopping 1,600 packets, and they are now on a journey to South Sudan where they will grow food for starving masses.
Bowman is the daughter of Rockford resident Dave Bowman who the Squire wrote about in 2009 after we learned that he, with the help of God and lots of other people, built a hospital in South Sudan (see: Rockford man’s ‘humanly impossible’ task saving lives). Eight years later, a chance encounter with Bowman and the Squire editor at Mennard’s on Alpine show that some projects never end and anyone, anywhere can make a drastic difference in the lives of those less fortunate if they put their mind and energy into it.
Sandy refreshed our memory on the story of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan that made world news in the mid 1980s. When Osama Bin Laden had his training camp in North Sudan, those terrorists went to South Sudan and killed many of the adult population, Sandy explained. She said a generation of orphans were left to fend for themselves, as young as three and four years old. The girls were mostly abducted and trafficked and their fate remains unknown. The boys ran into the jungle.
Over the next years the “Lost Boys” wandered the continent, from country to country: Congo, Chad, Ethiopia, without finding a place they were welcome. According to Sandy, those who survived ended up in a northern Kenya refugee camp called Kakum in about 2000.
She said President Bush (the son) heard about them and brought 200,000 Sudanese refugees to the United States. They had to be claimed by a family in order to come here and her father took in five of the then teenage boys. Quite a few of them are in this area of Michigan. The following year was 911 and the doors from the Sudan were slammed shut. Sandy said she sees a similarity to today, and that the refugees from Syria will soon also be barred from escaping their unbearable homeland situations.
It was from those five boys Dave Bowman learned many Sudanese had no access to medical care, dental care or other health professionals. He told the Squire he prayed about what to do and felt God told him he would have to do it himself. The story of the hospital in Sudan is now nearly a decade old and thousands of Sudanese people a day now go to the hospital for care.
Sandy said she will never be able to visit Sudan because of a health issue, although her family has remained involved in the lifesaving project since they decided to make it become a reality. She believes God is working through her to help in other ways.
“Dad has more of an administrative mindset,” she said. “For him, it’s medicine, medicine, medicine. I tell him, ‘Dad, food is medicine for people who are starving.’”
When she saw the great deals on seeds the big box stores were offering, she knew what she would do. She bought out dollar store seed packets at four for a dollar, and took nearly all she found at stores offering the packets even less expensively. She passed on the lettuce varieties because they are nutrient neutral. Some flower packets have properties other than producing beautiful blooms, and she purchased such seeds as Bachelor Buttons, which put sugars into the soil, improving the next crop of edible plants.
She bought tomatoes, collards, spinach, radishes, which are good for kidney healing, beans, all things that will grow in South Sudan. They will provide iron, protein, Vitamin C. For some reason, corn won’t grow because of soil conditions. Most everything else will, and provide desperately needed nutrition. She hope more can come of this effort. Can someone provide canning supplies so foods can be put up Could someone else provide a loom or a kiln to allow locals to create goods to buy and sell. The possibilities are endless, and the seeds just one avenue to pursue. But it is another good start on a project of good starts.
She said an American trained Master in Agriculture is married to a Sudanese teacher at the school associated with the hospital. She found a way to get the seed packets to him, and he can distribute them to nearby villagers and also grow a garden at the hospital.
“He can teach them how to grow them, when to plant the seeds how to water them,” she described. It is what she can do for the family effort. Her brother, she explained, recently brought a drone into South Sudan to take aerial photos of the hospital which can be seen at the website, PCCSudan.org. PCC stands for Partners in Compassionate Care. The hospital does have many partners, although the recruiting effort is ongoing.
“One of my cousins gave me $200 to help, and I thought, what am I going to do?” She decided to send vitamins to the hospital and found the cheapest large containers she could, and bought as many as she could. Vitamins can be a life saving item. Many of the people who come to the hospital are living on next to nothing, and even the staff there basically live on millet and rice and beans. The wife of the Agricultural master was pregnant, but lost her baby, perhaps a byproduct of poor nutrition.
The seeds will help, Sandy believes. She can send a suitcase with a traveler as an extra piece of luggage that can weigh up to fifty pounds for fifty dollars. Two hundred seed packets weigh a pound. Her goal was to max out that weight in seeds. At the last minute, the person who was going to visit the Sudan and take the package had a change of itinerary and ended up headed to another country. Sandy put out the word: Does anyone know anyone who is headed to the Sudan
She found someone who was about to fly there, but they are several states away and ready to go. The price of overnighting the suitcase was nearly a hundred dollars, so she decided to drive it. She knew another person who was headed in that way at the halfway point, so the package was destined Saturday to be delivered to Ohio by Sandy, passed off to the next driver and then go with the traveler to Sudan.
It sounds like a longshot way to get things done, but that has been the way with the hospital in Sudan. There is a well there that needs repairs that will cost $800. There aren’t roads, there’s no mail service where Sandy could mail over the package. Airstrips need to be maintained. Someone from Utah contacted the Bowman family and arranged to have an earthmover taken to Sudan. Rotary donated the funds for a water tower.
“It’s neverending,” Sandy said. She believes God’s hand is in all things,
“He is so powerful on their side. I could give you over 300 Bible verses about serving the underserved.”
As far as this story, a chance encounter in a store on a Saturday afternoon God’s work. “He knew you were going to walk in here right now. I could have gone to another store first.”
“How does a family make a difference How much does a packet of seeds cost. It’s really not our hospital, it’s God’s. It’s God’s work.”