The official religion of South Sudan is Christianity. “Shouldn’t we go to people who have never heard of Jesus? Shouldn’t we go to the 10/40 window and preach the good news of Jesus? Is this really an unreached people who need missionaries?” These were the questions I asked myself when we were first feeling called to South Sudan. We came because we felt this was where God was leading us. We came because we knew beneath the “national religion” there was a deeper need for Christ’s peace.
And what we have learned is that beneath the surface, there is a deep need.
We are seeing people in bondage. Recently, to celebrate the creation of Tonj state, 21 bulls were sacrificed to spirits as part of a government celebration. The strongest and best spear masters (or witch doctors) were recruited by the government for the ceremony. The horns of the bulls are now on top of posts as idols surrounding the South Sudanese flag in the middle of Freedom square.
We are seeing people in pain. A friend‘s husband took a second wife this month. In a culture of polygamy, I honestly placated myself by believing that it was accepted and therefore it did not hurt like it would me. I was wrong. The betrayal, embarrassment, pain, and anger are just as raw and deep as they would be in me. It would be like my husband having an affair and then marrying the woman, then having her come to live in the guest house.
We are seeing people in fear. The mother of twins went through an extensive ritual to protect them and bless them. When one died, she mourned the fact that she must not have honored the spirits enough. She began grasping at anything that might protect the remaining twin.
We are seeing people feeling hopelessness. The poverty, hunger, and thirst take an incredible toll on the people here.
Far from being a place where missionaries are not needed as I originally thought, it is easy to then fall into that same hopelessness. It seems too little for 4-6 adults to do...why are we here? The fight is too big, the laborers too few.
But God is big enough. Period. We are not big enough…at all. But thanks be to God, this is not too big for him. We are seeing changes in the people around us as we continue discipleship relationships with them. It has been such a blessing to have the honor to see God at work.
...A man remaining faithful to his wife even when culture and family pressures indicate he should take a mistress or second wife.
...A witch doctor who dedicated his life to Christ this year was approached by the governor to serve at the state blessing ritual. He was offered significant payment. Despite the fact that he is extremely poor, he said no and explained to the governor that he now followed Christ.
...Our friend on hearing the parable of the four seeds rededicated his life to Christ and burnt his idols that day.
“Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might... For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In His might we can have hope. In His might we can move forward. In His might, our tiny work belongs to Him and He can do anything. Thanks be to God.