Of the ten ministry trips taken to Sudan (now S. Sudan), this came at one of her most fragile moments. Prices have risen about 500% since last December, when the government devalued its currency by 84%. Our ministry partner in Torit for the first time advised against travel to Juba until the end of the year. In Uganda, it’s considered safe to leave a computer bag in a locked car. In Juba, it’s not. Since I needed an assessment of various projects in S. Sudan, upon which to base proposals for 2017, and since there were issues that needed to be discussed among ministry partners in Uganda, I felt compelled to go. Wycliffe people being in Juba 24/7, and confidence in prayer support made the decision easier.
An additional challenge was packing two 50-lb. boxes of commentaries for the planned Grace Theological College in Juba. Lookout Presbyterian Church (LMPC) had provided $3,000 for this, and I enjoyed selecting the best commentary for each Bible book. The remaining 60 pounds of commentaries and other reference books should be in Africa by now.
With two days’ notice, I prepared—largely in transit—“Making Life Work”, from the book of Proverbs. I taught it to over 500 high schoolers at Covenant High School in Uganda the evening after arrival. Another three talks or sermons were yet to be finished. The primary goal was to meet with nine people or groups in Uganda and S. Sudan. Sleep became the big problem, due to jet lag and warm evening temperatures (I had about two good nights).
Word at the Wycliffe compound, where I stayed, was that the Solidarity Restaurant had the best local food. It was three crowded blocks away. The Overseas Security Advisory Council warned Americans not to go out alone in Juba. More than in Uganda, whiteness is a visual magnet, so I asked for angelic accompaniment on this soon-predictable daily foray for perfectly spiced roast chicken. On the second trip, as I returned to the massive compound gate, a man somewhat younger than I, about 30 feet behind, called out twice, “Father, do you need anything?” I’d assiduously avoided looking needy, assuming the bravado of an English sergeant-major, but he blew my cover. Didn’t spot him again—my angelic detail?
Leaders of the proposed Grace Theological College and I met. Two new classrooms have been built since last year, and shelving will be installed for the newly purchased books. Westminster Theological Seminary, where three MA students from Juba attend, suddenly cancelled classes due to accreditation requirements and a decision by seminary leaders to become the independent Africa Reformed Theological Seminary (ARTS). I met with ARTS leaders in Kampala later and learned that classes will perhaps resume in September, and the men graduate before 2017. They will comprise the faculty of the Juba school, which is seeking startup salary funding. LMPC previously provided some funds to purchase land for the school.
The Jebel UN Camp near Juba was much the same as before, except for extra sand bags and visible machine guns at perimeter towers. We met with chaplains and about fifteen followers of Jesus who meet daily from 8:30-11:00 am for prayer and Bible study. For over a year they’ve met, weather permitting, in the disintegrating tent that LMPC provided new three years ago. They were grateful for the dozen plastic chairs we left last year and for the Bibles. Could we possibly provide some study Bibles—as no one had one? Union Grove Missionary Baptist Ch. donated $2,500 for a structure to replace the tent. RMNI left funds for another fifteen chairs and four NIV Study Bibles, and they’ll receive an African Bible Commentary.
Six chaplains (4 men and 2 women) serve about 5,000 Nuer refugees within Protection of Civilians camp one. We plan to distribute more English and Nuer Bibles in the camp, as well as audio Nuer Bibles. Agape Mission, which is our ministry partner in providing spiritual and education ministry to Jebel Camp, will work with the chaplains on Bible study methods.
We then met with the ten faculty members of Hope Secondary School—teachers who live within the camp. That week 110 students sat for university entrance exams. Had not LMPC provided funds for the school, none would have taken them, had they stayed in the camp. Some of the school’s bamboo walls had been ripped off for fire wood, but it was repaired, with a night watchman now on guard. School attendance is currently about 175.
Agape Mission is doing outstanding work. They’re planning a second Teacher Professional Development Training, after the first one for 43 teachers, who received Bibles. ESV Bibles will also be provided to the Hope Secondary school students, and a Bible study offered. A fourth classroom is to be added.
A few days before departure news came that VP Machar, who fled Juba for his life in December 2013, would return April 18, the same day as my flight to Uganda. Many prayed, and he did not return that date, due to “logistics.” Back in Uganda I was able to spend time with Rashid Luswa, an outstanding ministry partner of about 25 years, who founded the two Christian high schools, and the church where I spoke.
The annual meeting with Ellen Fox, missionary in the village of Lohutok, S. Sudan, took place at Rashid’s guesthouse. The big event in her village was that a respected sub-chief had recently been killed by the elephant that he tried to kill. Eight elephants, searching for water, came to her village, which is experiencing a famine. Elephants are very rare in that area, and meat scarce (villagers catch rats). Ellen has not been back to America for six years, with no definite plans to return. She is thoroughly Sudanese, loves her work and the girls she teaches—particularly the four for whom she provides a daily meal. Her joy has been consistently irrepressible over the years. Fellow missionaries marvel at this, despite her privations.
I kept “divine appointments” on Delta flights with a nominal Hindu Indian, with Ugandan citizenship, and especially with a nominal Buddhist from Palestine, living in Dubai. Not until returning did the scope of intercessions for me become apparent. It more than sufficed, by God's grace.