History files: Meningitis outbreak Kajo-Keji in the 1940s

I finally took some time yesterday to do some more digging in the documents that I gathered about the history of the early Anglican missionaries in Kajo-Keji, South Sudan (1929-1945). I came across a short article by CMS missionary Dermott Kerr who lived in Kajo-Keji from 1940-1945. It talks about an outbreak of ‘Cerebro-spinal meningitis’ and it has some moving passages. It seems to speak more to us now I would think with the current Corona crisis. Of course there are many differences between then and now but our faith and trust in our caring God is (or should be) the same! I hope the following quotes will be an encouragement for you today.

Fear
“It was a Sunday morning last November. A tired group of young schoolboys, with fear written on their faces, sit outside their dormitory hut. They have been all night there, afraid to sleep inside because of the swift death of two of their fellows… [-]. Cerebro-spinal meningitis has broken out again, in the school this time, after a year’s respite.”

Prayer
“Is it any use to hold the usual early morning Prayers with these lads as they sit there? We try. The hard blank faces of the past night slowly change as the favourite hymn: ‘In the sweet bye and bye‘ gives out it poignant message. Not for the first time has the good news of an Almighty Father and a Saviour who has prepared a place after death for all who trust Him, transformed the cheerless scene, and diffused a warmth and growing light like the dawn over our eastern hills.”

Overcoming fear
“Such a time has its bright spots. When a grave had to be prepared hurriedly, and workmen were afraid to dig it, fearing they might be asked to bury the body, the [Sudanese] Station teachers got down to it and spent the whole Sunday afternoon… [at the burial place]”.

Teachers at the school in Kajo-Keji

Those words of Jesus kept ringing in my ears
“Just before Christmas when we thought it had left the Station, a Houseboy caught it badly, but recovered. On his return this was his testimony: ‘When I was being carried off that night to the quarantine place I could not think clearly; but the words that I had come across earlier in the day from St. John stuck in my head, Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. I go to prepare a place for you. And when the pain was very strong I thought, If God wants to take me, it is well; if He want to let me live longer, it is well also, and those words of Jesus kept ringing in my ears.”

That the Church may be awakened
“Dawn has broken, and with the New Year, new hope has come. [-] But prayer is still needed that the same Guide who led the school trough its dark night, will lead the district through the famine that it is again facing now, and that the Church may be awakened to fresh repentance and renewal through its suffering.”