First day

Left Nairobi at 8:00am and was in Juaibor by 1.00pm. The difference between the two places is more than I have time to type out, let it suffice to say that in many ways it’s like stepping back in time, way back.

Got to fly with Stephan Haganier, great pilot but an even better man. I’m reminded of the price he and his family are gladly paying to serve their Lord every time I hit Sudan.
It was 41 degrees according to the thermometer in the staff mess. They briefed me on the fact that it had been too hot to sleep in their tukuls during the nite so they stay out past midnight talking as they wait for it to cool down some. God must have had mercy on me because the rain poured cats and dogs late this afternoon, and as I type this post up I’m lying on my bed in a room that might as well be air conditioned, I could not have asked for better weather!
I met with James Koang and explained to him the course that we shall be pursuing for this module. He gave me some encouraging news. It sounds like the men have been applying the Storying method that they learned last time. James was particularly impressed by Yohaness, one of the sharper students I have. He said they have been preaching salvation by grace alone with some clarity. This is great news for me, I know they still have some way to go but I’m trusting that it will please God to use the next three modules to hasten them along on that path that the Gospel might find a believing home in the hearts of many in this region.
I also had a meeting with the CMA construction crew to secure their help in coming up with a plan to construct a new church building for the local church that we attend. Their old one collapsed in the rain and they have been meeting out in the elements or in the remaining half that was precariously left standing. EBC in conjunction with CMA and other well wishers are coming together to help them build a brick building for the church to meet in that can withstand the heavy rains that are about to pour. Half of their old building collapsed and the other half is very unstable. We hope to see the new building erected using cement blocks that are being made by CMA staff on the ground.

If you are interested in helping them out get in touch with myself or Pastor Weaver and we will point you to CMA who are running the building project.,

Summary of the rest #7

The second week went smoothly. We looked at the story of Jacob and Esau and learned about the sovereignty of God in salvation. Looked at the story of the spies and saw the necessity of faith (which manifests in obedience) as a necessity for salvation. Looked at the story of Joshua (which means Yahweh Saves) and saw how God fought for His people to save them from their enemies and grant to them entrance into His promised land…Gospel is written all over that. But then we had to stop.
The students got copies of Nuer hymn books which EBC had purchased for them. These books are great in helping the students worship in response to the Gospel. The songs get rich Gospel truths into their hearts through song. The men loved them. I plan to get some more books on my second trip to add to the few that they shared amongst themselves.

Evangelist Michael Gatwack receiving hymn books for the church he started in Pajang

I had the students do the clinic devotions to help them familiarize themselves with the method more and help me understand how I can further help them. They did a great job. The clinic offers a great opportunity to reach people from far off villages. Some of these people walk for hours to come to the clinic. Many if not most if the villages they come from do not have churches. Most if the patients get to hear the Gospel for the first time at the clinic. There are about 1600, patients coming through the clinic every month (keep CMA in your prayers. This organization is serving in an area where most other NGO’s are unwilling to go and they are offering this community health services that are absolutely critical to the livelihoods of the community.)

Peter is one of the most gifted men on the ground, he helps James in the clinic devotions.

James and I preaching to the patients

We ended class with a charge to get to the work, to labour while we still have time, a plea to God to develop a burden for the lost The men asked me to share with them one last charge early Friday morning. So we came in and traced the promised seed from Genesis 3:15 to the cross, saw the grace and mercy of God in the people He chose to be in that linage. Looked at the main covenants that God made with His children and what we learn about the Gospel in them. Then we prayed and dismissed. May God watch over these men, may He rise them up as mighty men of God in the region. May He build His Church through these men. Keep this work in your prayers…may the Church be greatly strengthened in this place, as the fame of our King spreads in the hearts of it’s inhabitants.

The sun setting on our training for this module.

The journey to Waskei and the american soldiers #6

We were to start off at 5:00am but my friend showed up at 2:00am! The last time we did one of these trips with the students he showed up 1hr 15 minutes late. I’d figured then that the problem had been not having a watch to tell him what time it was…I guess he was determined not to be late this time round.

That kind of step is what makes it hard to keep up with my brothers ­čÖé

This was going to be a tour to explore more of the communities in the area and find out what the state of the church was. I prayed that we would get to share the Gospel with people who had never heard it before. We gathered in the mess at 5:00am, had a quick cup of tea then prayed together. Waskei is a village 3-4 hours walk away from our village. A few of my students had suggested I visit this village because there was a work in there that they were involved in helping out with and in this community visitors are greatly treasured. Just my showing up would greatly encourage the brethren.
The only technicality was going to be the fact that we would have to go and come back on the same day…that would be a potential 8hr walk in one day. Sounded like fun, so we made the plans and here we were now, starting off in the dark, all the needed food and water supplies on our backs, silent prayers on our minds.

Beautiful morning walk

An hour and a half or so into our journey we came up to a cattle camp. This was a pure treat for me to see. After the harvest season (which is typically the beginning of the dry season) the young men and some women take the cattle away from the village to a location closer to a water source. They stay there for months until the rains come. The young men engage in dances and mock fights with young men from other clans. We approached it just as the sun was rising over the horizon…reed huts surrounded a cluster of cows, smoke rose up from the ash heaps to keep bugs away…it’s a beautiful scene. I convinced the guys to take me around the place and get a closer look. One of my students showed me his pride bull. Pretty impressive animal.

They burn dried cow dung to ward off mosquitoes from their cows. Pretty creative

15 minutes and 50 pictures later we got back to our trail. We took a break about 3 hours into our trip for a snack and a rest for our feet.
The journey had provided a good opportunity to reflect on the significance of the work we as a church are doing in South Sudan Will this count in eternity? Or will it count just as another blog post? Is this all about the glory of God or were there other motives behind the critical “why” of this mission? The reflection led to prayer, prayer that God would fulfill His promise to build His Church…prayer that our meager work would be a means to that end…prayer that the Lamb would receive the reward of His sacrifice…and that we would be the means to that end, prayer that God would open up the eyes of those who would hear the good news.
I continue to pray that these men would be greatly burdened with the urgency of the work in this region. I’m not sure they are there yet.
We got back to our trail and in an hour’s time we had arrived. Waskei turned out to be a decent little village right next to the Nile river. It has a population of roughly a thousand ppl. It’s somewhat of a trading post because of it’s proximity to the Nile, which is a major trade “route” in Sudan. However it is not as populated as our village because it floods during the rainy season.
Our men led us to the homestead of one of the elders of the Presbyterian church. From the looks of the place I gathered that he was a well to do dude. He had about four huts in his compound, the compound was fenced, the place was petty clean as were his children, and food was readily available.
We had tried to catch them on radio the two night before without success. This meant that our coming was a total surprise to the church.
Chairs were brought out quickly, tea was brought from the market then chilled sodas…this was overboard as far as hospitality went. They would later offer us lunch which the church elder would serve himself. South Sudan is just coming out of their dry season which means food supplies are in scarcity. For this man to offer to feed five hungry men at a moments notice is a display of extraordinary generosity. I would later learn that he had sent for a goat to be brought from the cattle camp. His intention was to gift me with the goat. We ended up having to leave before the messenger could get back. Pastor John Jok then decided to walk the 4hr walk to our village the next day to personally deliver this goat to me before walking back in the same day! He undoubtedly outdid me in showing honor. He received us in the name of the Lord, we who to him were strangers, who were in reality less than the least of all the saints. His reward will not be lost.

Elder John Jok handing me the gift

We had a fruitful time in the village that day. Got to share the Gospel with a man who said he had never heard anything about Jesus except that He was the Sin of God, shared with leaders on the administration, then got to speak to a church full of the most adorable kids ever.



Wood Pecker at Elder John’s place

The man in the middle said he’d never heard the Gospel before

God was exceedingly gracious for the return trip. A huge storm was brewing just as we were about to start off but then the wind blew the rain away but left a thick cloud cover and a chilly breeze. This provided shade for us at 3:00pm for the next three hours as we walked back! Without that it would have been very difficult on me. Mini Mars chocolate bars, and the singing students got us back one hour earlier. We met some young men coming from a dance, they were playing around with their spears and throwing dried dung at each other…they also had an american flag hoisted on a stick. I found it very interesting. They were very friendly and were excited to have me take a photograph of them.

The lost brigade.

It is a pure privilege to get to do this stuff for my Lord.

Storying continued, journey planned #5

Got back to Storying today with the second story having covered the first one over two days. The students remembered absolutely everything that I had taught them from this story. With this method, when the students fail to remember or understand the point of the passage it is 90% my fault, either I could have done better prep or thought about better questions that would lead them to seeing the point of the passage better. As a model of preaching, it is incredibly effective. A friend from EBC, Walt Middleton, sat me down over coffee and for four hours taught me how to use this method. He did church planting up in the northern part of Kenya using it.
The story ended up being packed with teaching on the role of men in the home. Adam failed to lead his home spiritually. I asked the men if their wives were believers of Jesus, wether they understood the gospel loved the gospel sought to live the gospel…then asked whose responsibility it was…what were they doing to lead their families spiritually. I got some curious thoughts from them when I suggested that their kids should be found often on their laps hearing stories of this powerful, merciful God.
We reviewed the story of Noah, they remembered it just as well, told me the attributes if God displayed…His holiness, justice, mercy and covenant. Saw the sinfulness of man both in his thoughts and acts but also in God’s word about him “I will not destroy man from the face of the earth…even though he is sinful from his youth upward”
Went to Abraham’s test (our first new story) saw the link between saving faith and obedience…talked about the place God’s Word has in their lives eg His Word on their roles as husbands and their roles as preachers of the Gospel…then asked them to point the guilt and failures to the cross which is what the story is all about…we who have refused to give up our Isaac’s are forgiven because God crushed His Son the cross. We said the way to be what God calls us to be is to look at the Gospel and allow the glory of God’s deep love to change us, empower us and instruct us.
Wrapped up class by planning to walk to one of the villages we’d talked about earlier and preaching in the church there then evangelizing in the market later in the day. I will need much grace to lead these men well.

James Koang addressing the crowd after the preaching

Kids helping carry the sound equipment to the market for open air preaching

Marriage and the Gospel #4

We’ve had a few interesting days of class. We’ve been looking at the Gospel…what Christ is to His Bride the Church as seen in the first marriage. But weve also been spending time applying that to their views of marriage. The poem that Adam recited to Eve…his first words to his bride…God’s description of how it will work…thus a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife. The unchallenged devotion to her (shall leave), the unbreakable covenant (shall cleave), the inseparable union (and the two shall become one) and the fact that the man is here the one primarily addressed…then we got to discuss their marriages…asked if their marriages displayed the Gospel to people, if they are to love as Christ loved the Church…are they showing that singular devotion or are they allowing their relationships with friends and extended family come in the way, we challenged their understanding of the marriage covenant, the rate of divorce here is way too high for a village…it’s a simple matter of taking back the cows you paid as bride price and the divorce is sealed. Then of course there was the intimacy of it all, are we pursuing that uniquely intimate relationship, seeking to know her…to allow yourself to be known. It was pure fun! There were moments of grand awkwardness. These things are in many ways foreign to a traditional African view of marriage.

At the start of class I had begun with the question “in the eyes of God who is more important in their being?” 10 out of 12 said the man. So it took a day of class to show the equality in being and difference in roles that complement each other. We did it by looking at the relationship of the Trinity…by the time we were getting done with the Trinity some guys in the class were smiling saying “we are about to be cornered”. It was no doubt a fun two days of class. The overarching question was “are you seeking to display the Gospel through your marriage?” focusing on the Gospel is the means to that end.

S Sudan Pastor’s Training Trip May 5th – 18th 2012

I got back from my trip this past Saturday. Thank you for keeping this mission in your prayers. I’ll be posting several journal entries and pictures over the next few days. I trust that these posts will be encouraging to you and serve to help you know how to better pray for those left in the field serving and for us as a church as we seek to make disciples of Christ in places where He has not been named.

Start the reading from “First day” #2