Sunday, September 24, 2017

Memories from South Sudan

South Sudanese families grow crops with seeds provided by Samaritan's Purse.

South Sudanese families grow crops with seeds provided by Samaritan's Purse.

South Sudanese remain steadfast in Jesus Christ during hardships.

Numerous conversations and events have left lasting impressions on my heart over the last four years in South Sudan. The memories pierce my soul, bring tears to my eyes, and leave a smile on my face as I’m reminded of the incredible opportunity it was to serve in the world’s youngest nation.

I can picture the hardworking women who lived in a food insecure area along the Sudan-South Sudan border. They were eager to show off their lush gardens full of vegetables and crops.

The women used the seeds, tools, and trainings provided by Samaritan’s Purse to grow food for their families. They were determined to improve their circumstances so that their loved ones would not be hungry.

I remember a pastor sharing with me his story of being called by God to train church leaders in South Sudan. He left a high paying job to work at the Bible College, where he now serves as principal.

A South Sudanese pastor.

A South Sudanese pastor.

He barely earns enough to make ends meet, but he knows God has called him to spread the Gospel and to train local pastors to do the same in their villages. He knows he is where he belongs, and that peace brings more joy than money could ever buy.

I think back on a South Sudanese colleague whose faith is stronger than anyone I have known, despite growing up in an environment of violence and destruction. The young man exuded love, grace, and kindness and demonstrated confidence in the Lord during difficult circumstances. He constantly reminded me that God is able to accomplish much more than I could ever imagine.

One of my most special memories is of a Sunday worship service. With so many people piled into one room it was hot and stuffy as usual, but that didn’t distract from the sense of peace that seemed to envelop us as when we sang, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”

The congregation included South Sudanese who have endured so much uncertainty because their country’s economy is deteriorating and war continues to rage around them. The people surrounding me had more reasons to be fearful than I could ever comprehend, yet they proclaimed the truth of the song because they know God is their Provider and Protector.

That Sunday, I fought hard to hold back tears as I stood in awe of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. I pictured God looking upon us smiling, as people from different tribes and tongues worshipped Him just as the Bible describes.

Now, every time I hear this particular song, my mind instantly flashes back to that church service and I’m reminded of God’s greatness. In the midst of so many trials the people of South Sudan continue to remain strong in the Lord.

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