Actresses Patricia Heaton and Jen Ray have found themselves in the middle of a central African conflict, serving refugees whose lives have been torn apart by civil war. The stars of the show “The Middle,” traveled with the evangelical humanitarian aid agency World Vision to serve in
Uganda where South Sudanese refugees are pouring in by the millions.
On Saturday, Heaton, an outspoken Christian conservative, posted a video on her Facebook page showing her reading prayers that fans sent for her to encourage a 14-year-old refugee child named Victor.
Heaton, who plays the character Frankie Heck on “The Middle,” recently visited with Victor during the trip with World Vision.
Victor is now the caretaker of his three siblings after having to flee South Sudan in 2016 without his parents when violence broke out in their area. Since December of 2013, brutal conflict in South Sudan has driven nearly four million people from their homes.
According to the agency, Victor and his siblings lost contact with their parents when the fighting occured and Victor was forced to take on the role no older brother ever wants to take on.
Without their parents, Victor and the siblings walked for over two weeks and were forced to eat anything they could get their hands on as they sought safety. Thanks to help from World Vision, Victor and his siblings are now being aided by a foster family and have returned to school.
Earlier this month, Heaton posted a request to her Facebook page seeking prayers for Victor and his siblings.
“Send a prayer for Victor below, and I will read them to him IN PERSON this week!” Heaton wrote on in an April 10 Facebook post.
In the video posted Saturday, Heaton read several of the 700 prayers she received in just a 24-hour time span for Victor.
“Gina said, ‘God please let Victor know that You are with him. You will never leave him,'” Heaton said as she read the prayer to Victor.
Heaton went on to share a prayer from a woman named Emerald.
“God, please be with his parents as well. I pray, Lord, that You will reunite them and bring peace to their lives,” Emerald was quoted as praying.
One woman named Lilly prayed: “I pray for the healing of Victor and his family’s hearts, as well as the hearts of the leaders of his country.”
Heaton told Victor that the prayers that she read to him were “just a few of many prayers.”
“Over 700 people are praying for you and your family right now,” she said.
Heaton was joined on the World Vision trip by Ray, who plays neighbor Nancy Donahue in “The Middle.” Among the many activities the actresses did to help the refugees was prepare meals at the Impvepi refugee camp.
Others who participated in the World Vision trip include Walmart Chief Finance Officer Brett Biggs and Philanthropist Susan Foster.
World Vision, which operates in dozens of countries around the world, seeks to provide the much needed aid to the over 60 million children and families who have been displaced from their homes because of conflict.
The Trump administration is putting pressure on South Sudanese leaders to end the civil war that is destroying the country and causing chaos.
In January, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley announced that the United States had given up on South Sudan’s leader after the Obama administration invested more than $11 billion in the country, and she called President Salva Kiir an “unfit partner” in the pursuit of peace.
Untold tens of thousands of people have been killed in the civil war that erupted in December 2013 after tensions between supporters of Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his deputy Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. Machar is now in exile. The U.N. and others have warned of ethnic violence, the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers and the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war.
The number of South Sudanese refugees could reach 3 million by the end of this year, Africa’s largest refugee crisis since Rwanda’s genocide in 1994, the U.N. said Thursday.
The United States in the last days of the Obama administration tried and failed to have the U.N. Security Council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, to the disappointment of arms researchers and rights groups who say the country is awash in weapons.
Haley has urged the council to impose an embargo, but Russia and China remain opposed. Russia has said it would only worsen the situation and China has said the U.N.’s most powerful body should send out more “positive and enthusiastic messages.”
The world’s youngest country won independence from Sudan in 2011, and later that year the U.S. clarified that its arms embargo on Sudan didn’t apply to the new nation. Global optimism for South Sudan eventually faded as its leaders turned against each other.