Transforming Mission: BECOMING
Aluel Abraham attending worship with her family
at the Faith Evangelical Baptist Church, Saika
Since the outbreak of civil war and conflict in December 2013, the people of South Sudan have been struggling for survival. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people are now living in refugee camps near the borders of Kenya and Uganda, and in urban slum areas like Saika, Nairobi.
This past Sunday, we had the privilege of being invited to celebrate worship with our South Sudanese partner church in one of the South Sudanese congregations living in Saika.
We reflected together on how God is always calling his people to follow Him through journeys of change. That to be a follower of Jesus involves a continual process of "becoming". All through the scriptures, we see God calling people to leave home, to step away from the known, and the safe, and to walk by faith into a strange land, a new people, and an unknown reality.
Being transplanted into a new land is a difficult and often confusing experience. The refugee communities that have fled South Sudan are thankful to be free from the conflict and insecurity of war, but what this means for the future of their family, friends and nation is a deep and distressing concern.
As we spoke together about how God uses such transitions to shape his people, we noticed a single sprout in the mud floor of the sanctuary. Like the three hundred worshipers gathered in that structure, this little sprout was brought in from the outside. A seed carried by rain, a bird, or perhaps the sandals of the people themselves. It was once small, insignificant and unnoticed. But the little seed survived. It took hold of the soil. It broke through the surface, and is growing. It is the miracle of life.
This is the story of the South Sudanese refugee churches.
Pastor Philip Thon Giving Thanks to God
Every person worshipping in Saika church has a story to tell of God's miraculous hand. Pastor Philip Thon was dying in the Upper Nile district of South Sudan. Cut off from medical support and the surgery needed to save his life, he and the church prayed for God's intervention.
Through the aid of an anonymous gift from Canada, Philip was brought to Juba and later Nairobi with just enough time for the doctors to operate. By God's grace he lived.
On Sunday, Philip shared and prayed with the Saika Church. He is returning to South Sudan to join his wife and their three children in the ministry among the hundreds of thousands of other internally displaced people living in camps in places like Narus.
Pastor Jeremiah Deng Akoi leading a hymn in Dinka
Pastor Jeremiah leads the Saika congregation which he helped to establish in 2013 when many families had first come to Nairobi. At that time Jeremiah had received a scholarship from Canadian Baptist Ministries to study theology and pastoral ministry here in Kenya. He credits this training as what God used to help him minister to the families that had come to Kenya in desperation.
Today, Jeremiah's congregation is growing with almost two hundred children and youth in the Sunday school. A lack of land and finances has pushed Jeremiah and his congregation to be creative. They worship on Sunday's in a borrowed building on the edge of the community where many of the congregation lives. The worship services are led in Dinka, Arabic, and English as everyone participates in music, dance, scripture reading, and sharing.
Rev. Saphano Riak Chol, General Secretary FEBAC
Rev. Saphano, the leader of the Faith Evangelical Baptists Churches also visited the Saika congregation on Sunday. He had just returned from South Sudan where he participated in a joint relief effort of FEBAC and CBM that distributed beans and maize to thousands of internally displaced families in the community of Narus.
With great appreciation, Rev. Saphano thanked the Canadian Baptist Churches who have been supporting not only the training and education of key leaders in the denomination, but faithfully contributing to the vital emergency relief efforts in South Sudan.
Food aid being stored and distributed
by the FEBAC churches in South Sudan
2016 Food Relief
The journey of becoming the people of God is a daily step of faith that moves us beyond what we know and understand. As Canadian Baptists, we are keenly aware that no one makes this journey alone. As the Church, we are called to walk together. The story of the church in Saika is our story, as we participate in the great redemptive movement of God in the world. Even in the hardest of places, in the most desperate of times, God continues to work in the lives of those who call out to him.
Aaron with Pastor Philip and Rev. Saphano
Please join us in praying for the church of South Sudan. We continue to pray for the FEBAC churches in Upper Nile, Narus, Kakuma Refugee Camp, and Saika. May God continue to strengthen his people in becoming firmly rooted in the communities where he has placed them. We pray that the church would continue to grow and bear fruit in the lives of many.
Please pray for leaders like Pastor Thon, Pastor Jeremiah and Reverend Saphano. May they continue to lead with humility and courage as they bear witness to the transforming love and truth of Christ.
We continue to pray for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan. The strain of conflict, and the burning of farm lands and property by armed groups has contributed to great food insecurity. We pray that God will continue to use the church to bring much needed hope and help.