Well, I have finally had the time to sit down and get out an update on my trip to South Sudan. I have been finishing up my first semester at seminary. That went really well. I wrote over 110 pages of material for research papers. It’s nice to be done.
My trip was a great success. I guess I will give the basic overview (click here for pictures) and then maybe share a few thoughts.
It took about a day and a half to fly from Charlotte to Kampala, Uganda. I had a sizable layover in London so I got out of the airport and was able to see some of the city. Once I got to Kampala I met up with the folks from Far Reaching Ministries and Calvary Chapel Kampala. I had to wait there for about three days for my flight to the bible college in Nimule. That ended up being a really good thing, though, because I was able to visit the church and bible college in Kampala. I also was able to spend a lot of time with the staff. This turned out to be a great learning experience.
My flight into South Sudan was great. The view from the air was really helpful to get a big picture view of northern Uganda and South Sudan. We were in a pretty small plane and never went above about 5000 feet so the view was really good. It was about a 1.5 hour flight from the airport in Uganda to the dirt airstrip in Nimule.
Upon my arrival I was met by staff of the school. We dropped off my stuff and took a little tour of the town. Nimule was a really interesting place. It is right on the border of Uganda so it has all the benefits and drawbacks of the through traffic. During the war most of the people fled into Uganda to escape the violence, but since the peace treaty a lot of people and money have been coming back into the area. There are a couple thousand people living there now.
There is still no electricity, running water, plumbing of any kind, mail, telephones, or any of the things a westerner would find as “normal” for a town that size. Everyone lives in small round huts with mud wall and grass roofs. The primary source of food is subsistence farming. There are some business springing up along the road that sell second hand clothes and food for through travelers. Money has also brought in the typical problems: corruption, prostitution, and alcoholism. The war has shielded them from the AIDS pandemic, but that too is becoming a problem.
For the next two weeks I taught through the books of Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. This took up about 4-5 hours of every week day. In the time off I got to spend a lot of time with the students. Of the 18 students, most were Sudanese refugees that had come from Uganda to go to school. They were hoping to come back to Sudan as pastors and missionaries. The rest were going to be chaplains in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, the military of South Sudan. The class size was much smaller than usual because there were not as many chaplains in the program.
Everyone in South Sudan is there because they have survived incredible hardship. Every single person is a survivor story. I got a chance to talk to one student, Peter, about his life. When he was about seven years old he took his families cows out to graze. This was an everyday thing for him. While out grazing his family’s cattle his village was attacked by military from the north. He and some other boys ran away and never went back.
For three months they traveled on foot to Ethiopia. He lived in a refugee camp for a few years before trouble reached Ethiopia as well. He then walked to Kenya and lived in refugee camps there. At age 14 he joined the SPLA, but was soon wounded in combat and went back to Kenya. During his time in refugee camps he was given a weekly food ration every two weeks. The rest of the time he had to either go hungry or find food elsewhere. A lot of people died.
When he was 22 he was chosen in a lottery to move to the US with refugee status. He lived in Virginia, got his citizenship, and then moved back to Sudan. He hopes to start a Christian elementary school in his home village.
These kinds of stories were actually very common. The thing that struck me the most in all of this was that these people were generally very cheerful and optimistic. The normal hardships that the south Sudanese have endured go far beyond the normal hardships of anyone in the US, but they seemed to bear it quite differently. They had strong faith in God and a strong hope in their spiritual and physical futures. This was very inspiring.
The Bible College is filling a very real need for the region. Most of the people in South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and the neighboring countries describe themselves as Christians. Even so, there is still very little opportunity for Christians to get strong training for ministry. The result is that many destructive Christian cults have been able to take root. Western groups, such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and prosperity teachers, have been able to come in and cause a lot of confusion and grief. Prosperity teaching in particular is causing great damage.
What is even more tragic is the form that local cult groups take. The Lord’s Resistance Army has been waging a civil war in northern Uganda for the 20 years. This has spilled into Sudan as well. This movement is led by Joseph Kony who claims to be a spirit medium sent by God to establish a Christian government in Uganda. The LRA is notorious for its use of child soldiers, and has a massive record of brutality.
These groups have grown out of the doctrinal vacuum in Christianity that can only be filled by solid, Spirit led, Biblical teaching. Calvary Chapel has three bible colleges in the area, in Uganda, Nairobi, and Nimule.
It was a great
opportunity for me to be able to help with the work in South Sudan. It is my
hope to be more involved with this kind of work in Africa and elsewhere. Thank
you so much for your help in making this trip possible. It literally could not
have happened without outside support. Please continue to pray for the believers
in this part of the world. Thanks!
Peace love and joy,
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