The people of South Sudan (the world’s newest nation – 2011) have had more than enough suffering and sorrow for a lifetime. Most of them have never lived for even a year when there was anything resembling peace. When their country was part of the Sudan, they were constantly being abused by the central government of the north. When the new nation was formed, tribal factions battled for power and wealth.
The South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) did not exist before 2011. It was formed by residents of the north (from the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church) who were forced out of their homes to live in the new country, even though many of them had never stepped foot there before. But if your grandfather was born in the south, you were forced by the government of the north to “return to your home.”
When they came to the south they brought their church community with them. There they worshipped God and found hope and support. If we were them, most of us would have sought the refuge of our church transplanted in a new place. We would have “circled the wagons” and “hunkered down” and put up “walls to protect ourselves.”
But not so these brave believers! Most of them had more education than their southern compatriots, so they ended up in a variety of leadership positions, including government agencies. When the fighting began and many communities were devastated (estimates of 383,000 died), they were scattered across the land hoping to find a safe place. But often they took refuge in places where there was nothing. Building was made of local materials (branches, grasses, mud). There were no churches, schools or any other infrastructure to support a population. It wasn’t even safe to plant crops for food because bandits would take or destroy everything, including the cattle.
But the 67 SSPEC congregations that managed to survive (mostly in the cities) still believed that God intended something more for them and their new country: a better life for their children. So they banded together to make the best of a bad situation in a time when it was not even possible to move safely from town to town on the roads. They had to fly if they were going anywhere outside the capital of Juba, and who could afford that?
There have been several efforts at a peace agreement, all of which eventually failed. But they continued praying and now there is a glimmer of hope. They had started Nile Theological College in the capital of Juba (2014) and even though several of the students did not survive the violence, they had their first graduation on December 10. A school for pastors and evangelists now had its first graduates. (see link below)
So now what do they do? Well of course, start new churches out in these dangerous areas where there are no congregations or pastors! If they can give a graduate $30 a month he will be able to survive in these places until he can find work. People will come together as a congregation for worship and to serve the suffering people of the area. Then, they can construct a small building with substantial bricks which they can make locally. And if someone will provide $2,000 for a metal roof to protect the brick walls (no one has any money there), then they will be making a profound statement of hope and confidence in these desperate places: the people of God are here! They then have a church that will last where there is no other building in the community. They can start a school in the new church rather than under a tree. Some of the first graders will be in their 20s but this is the first time that they have ever been able to learn to read and write.
Our goal for 2019 is to provide $24,000 to start sending evangelists and pastors and $8,000 to provide a roof for four churches when the local congregation makes and lays the bricks. Can your congregation help with additional new funds for the churches of the South Sudan?
Download the narrative to accompany the PP presentation
For more information, please contact Denise Sciuto at firstname.lastname@example.org 724 946-2360