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Helping Children in War-Torn South Sudan

In 1999, Dennis and Lillian were an ordinary couple serving the Lord in their church in Wisconsin.  Dennis had his own construction company and Lillian worked as a school administrator.  She had prayed to God to do more with their lives.  “I felt like we weren’t reaching anyone beyond the four walls of the church,” she says.  She began to pray and fast.  One day she attended a women’s convention and a speaker shared about the atrocities of the orphans and widows in war-torn countries.  Lillian went forward for prayers, asking God what she should do.  She felt the Lord tell her, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” Lillian shared the experience with Dennis who wondered if the message was from the Lord.  She prayed, Lord if it’s not You, take it out of my heart. If it is You, then speak to Dennis.  

Convinced she heard from the Lord, Lillian contacted a missionary in Uganda and visited for the first time.  She stayed three weeks.  It was during the civil war and there were no roads, electricity or infrastructure.  One military man on the side of the road asked her, “What are you doing here?”  Lillian replied, “I really feel God has called us to come and build an orphanage.”  The man’s eyes filled with tears and told her, “My sister will preach the light to my people.”  Everyone started calling Lillian “Mama Lily,” an affectionate name and sign of respect.  After her trip, she went home but Dennis still wasn’t sure.  “I started acting on it even though he didn’t know,” she says.  Then one day in 2001, Dennis said, “If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right!” He sold his construction company and formed Harvesters Reaching the Nations.  Dennis and Lillian moved to South Sudan and built their first orphanage in Yei.  

Since then, they have expanded to three campuses (two in South Sudan and one in Uganda), two orphanages, three primary schools, one vocational school, two clinics, one hospital and one church.  As of last month, they were caring for 172 orphans between the South Sudan campuses.  There are many orphans who are now living off-campus or in other countries attending school.  In addition, 22 orphans left with extended relatives who were fleeing Yei in 2016 due to the fighting.  “These kids are scattered – some in Ugandan refugee camps and others possibly still living in the bush,” she says.  In 2018, with the invitation from the Ugandan government, HRTN opened a primary school located in the Rhino Refugee Resettlement Center near Arua, Uganda with the intention of providing the defenseless children with hope through education.

Shortly after their arrival in Sudan in 2001, a two-week old malnourished and dying infant was brought to them for care.  With no doctors or hospitals in the vicinity, Lillian found she had no choice but to trust God for His provision and guidance with the child.  Seventeen years later, that first orphan, named Caleb, thrives.  He was adopted by Dennis and Lillian becoming their third son.  He is one of hundreds of children who have benefitted from their ministry. One of their neighbors, a former Muslim, turned to Christ after nearly dying in the midst of the war zone.  “God is still at work through the struggles, hope and resilience of those who remain in South Sudan,” she says.

In 2014, Dennis and Lillian moved back to the States after having served on the ground for 13 years.  They continue to serve as President and Vice President of the Board of Directors for HRTN.  Through a partnership with CBN’s Orphan’s Promise, over 740 children are being fed every day in both primary schools in Yei and Terekeka, South Sudan. In addition to obtaining an education, the children are fed two meals every day.  For many of the children, these are the only nourishment they receive. 

Mentioned in the Video



Guest Info


Co-founder with her husband Dennis and Vice President/COO of Harvesters Reaching the Nations (HRTN), since 2001


3 children



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