Lessons from South Sudan

DrEwart_UgandaAs I write this post, I am sitting in front of a desk fan about the size of a grapefruit in the mid day heat of Uganda not far from the borders of both the Congo and South Sudan. I am here with our president, Danny Akin and Scott Hildreth, director of our Center for Great Commission Studies. We are leading a conference for pastors and their wives from the South Sudan Baptist Convention. It is difficult to describe what all these brothers and sisters in Christ have endured over the last years and especially the last few months.

Sudan and South Sudan have experienced civil wars that first pitted Muslims against Christians and more recently tribe against tribe. The most recent conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2014 and saw two tribes with competing political aspirations fighting one another. This is an extremely simplistic summary of a very complex situation.

One very unfortunate result of this conflict has been the division of the church along tribal lines as well. We are here at the request of the South Sudan Baptist Convention and the IMB team to minister to and equip these leaders to go back into the church of South Sudan and bring unity and healing. It is obviously a great privilege for us. We are meeting in northern Uganda instead of South Sudan due to security issues because the tension between tribes is so intense and might spill over into our meeting.

UgandanGroupPhotoWe have church leaders from both tribes here with us seeking solutions and training. It is a testimony to Christ and His grace to watch them sing and learn and fellowship together after the brutality many of them have suffered at the hands of the other tribe. Some have been forced to flee South Sudan and live in refugee camps run by the U.N. in Uganda and even Kenya or have taken up their own residence just across the Ugandan border. Many travel as circuit riders into South Sudan pastoring as many as 7 churches at one time. They spend hours in travel and days away from their families. Some have seen their churches destroyed or scattered and wait to go back to rebuild. Most of their churches and church plants simply meet under trees. Others have just become Baptist as they recognize solid biblical doctrine and want to learn more about what that means.

PanoClassroomWe are teaching about the church, about Baptist distinctives, about living and serving like Christ, about unity and healing and forgiveness. They soak it up then break into discussion groups for application. We, of course, will learn more from and be blessed more by them then they from us I am sure but we will do our best.

In speaking with the president of their convention, we discussed more opportunities for theological education in South Sudan which we will pursue if at all possible. But in our discussions he shared that not only do they want to move back into South Sudan to unite and mobilize the church, they seek to take the gospel to Sudan, then Egypt and Chad where so many are locked into darkness,

By the time you read this, I will be on my way back home. Back to comfort and safety. Please pray for these dear pastors and their families. They are bold with the gospel. Pray they will be able to go back to their peoples, unite them around that gospel and move it forward.

These churches have a vision to send missionaries and plant 1000 churches to the Islamic north of their country, all over Africa, and even further within the 10/40 Window.They desire to minister effectively and compassionately among displaced peoples due to conflict. Here are some specific prayer items:

  1. For pastors displaced from their churches and for the churches that have been scattered by the recent fighting within the country
  2. For the ongoing work and churches to be planted in several unreached areas within South Sudan
  3. For much needed pastor and leader training
  4. That the Baptist Convention will be a powerful vehicle for the ministry of reconciliation inside the country

Pray for me that I will never seek to ever be quite as safe or comfortable again. Perhaps that could be a topic of self reflection for you too church leader.  In the meantime, I am so thankful for a grapefruit sized fan!

John Ewart Contributor
Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives , SEBTS
John Ewart serves as the Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives and the Director for Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. A native of Oklahoma, Dr. Ewart has lived and worked, in various capacities, all over the world. He served for over 20 years in local churches in Texas, the Philippines, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky as an associate and senior pastor. John also served with the International Mission Board in the Philippines.
Posted in Blog, Missions.

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