It was a typical Monday, busy with meetings and report deadlines looming. Sometimes life in South Sudan doesn’t seem much different than the hustle and bustle in the United States, running from one meeting to another, filling our days with more “to-dos” than there are hours in the day. Despite my full schedule, I had arranged to meet with a pastor who had requested assistance from Samaritan’s Purse. I thought I was too busy, but God knew I needed to meet this man. He knew my heart needed encouragement.
Pastor Michael arrived at the office and greeted me with a warm smile and cheerful spirit. Born and raised in South Sudan, he told me all about the work he is doing in this young nation—leading his congregation of 700 believers, feeding hundreds of people who have been displaced, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with soldiers. It took me by surprise when he mentioned he serves all the people of South Sudan, despite his tribe or theirs.
“A pastor is not by tribe,” he said. “A pastor is international. And every human life is valuable because we are all created in the image of God.”
He continued to share his story of how he used to be in the military until he got injured and gave his life to Jesus.
I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. With the deteriorating economy and ongoing conflict in South Sudan, it would be easy to put your own needs and safety above those of others. I was confused why his attitude and perspective seemed so different from what the world preaches.
“Why do you do what you do?” I finally asked.
“I want to pay back all that people like you have done for the people of South Sudan,” he said. “You’ve left your country, your family, and jobs where you could earn more money to help us.”
I paused, trying to hold back tears that had been locked-up since July, when fighting returned to South Sudan and fractured the hope of thousands of innocent people here. Talking to Pastor Michael restored my hope as I learned about his life and how he was ordained in 2007 in a church that had been rebuilt by Samaritan’s Purse nearly a decade ago. It was if God whispered in my ear, “I knew you needed to hear this.”
Finally, Pastor Michael explained to me that he and his family remain in Juba despite the security concerns because “suffering must be shared together.” The words pierced my heart as I thought about Paul’s words in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (NKJV). The burdens in South Sudan can seem heavy and too much to bear, but I’m honored to help carry the load with my brothers and sisters here.