Unexpected gifts from Sudan
This story was featured in the Fall 2009 edition of our Harvester newsletter.By Janine Anderson
Editor’s note: Southern Sudan is recovering from 20 years of civil war, which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 opened a critical window of opportunity for the church to partner with the Sudanese in bringing gospel-centered hope, healing, and reconciliation. WHM’s Michael and Karen Masso, who served on the Uganda team for 13 years, moved to Mundri, S. Sudan to begin a new team in November 2008, partnering with local Bishop Bismark Avokaya (of the Sudanese Episcopal Church). West End Church (PCA) in Richmond, Virginia has developed a partnership with the Sudan team; the following is a story about a short-term trip eight men from the church took to visit Sudan this past summer.
“Here in the States, if you want water, you flip on a faucet. If you want food, you drive to the grocery store. And if you get hurt or become ill, you go to the hospital,” observed Ted Elmore. “Not so in Mundri.” For Ted and seven others from West End, the difficult circumstances in Mundri exposed how the very conveniences we Americans depend on to make our lives “easy” can be crippling to our faith.
“It’s amazing that WHM and the Masso’s are in Sudan at all,” says Ted. “They’re devoted to improving access to clean water, developing education, and building permanent structures for the sake of the gospel; and yet if you could see the state of things, it seems almost foolhardy to try. But to also witness the strides they have already made—to experience them boldly walking out their faith in the face of such instability—was inspiring and infectious.”
“This trip was a huge privilege, and tool of renewal for me,” remarked Kevin Greene, who organized the trip. “Sometimes as a pastor, it can seem like I’m there to ‘fluff the pillows,’ but this trip was like boot camp for ministry and church-planting, with our relationships so deliberately centered on Christ’s mission.” “The peoples’ faith was alive and radical,” enthused Kevin. “One man, after repenting of witchcraft and turning to Christ, asked that his house be burned down because of all the years of dark spiritual practice there. Right or wrong theologically, the thoroughness and seriousness with which they regard new life in Christ really challenged my own half-renewals and confessions. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: ‘No half-measures will cut it, Christ will have the whole man, or none at all!’”
Now that the team is back in Richmond, “It is challenging to be back home without that constant rudder of ministry as the sole focus of everything you’re doing,” explained Ted,“But I can wear that boldness here too, the increased sureness of His presence as I attack life’s challenges, whether a negotiation, a job, or a relationship.”
Kevin, who was inspired by the team’s partnership with local community leaders said, “We want our church to be integrated into the community the way we saw it happening in Sudan. We work really hard to teach people that you can do your job—and in fact, do everything—to the glory of God. We want our neighborhood to be glad our church is here, such that if we disappeared, it would be greatly missed.”
The West End team had asked that God would use them to bless and encourage the Sudanese people, but they couldn’t have imagined how much their own faith would be built by their African brothers and sisters’ example of deep reliance on Christ. During one particular church service an elder turned to members of the team and said, “Go back to America and tell people to take strength in Ephesians 6:10, ‘Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.’”
“There is a spiritual richness among the people,” Ted concluded. “Their faith has had a multiplier effect, because now we are bringing our witness to the powerful work that God is doing in Southern Sudan back to our own neighborhoods in the US.”
Interested in supporting WHM's work in Sudan? Make a gift to the Sudan Ministry Fund.