Spreading the gospel against odds

James Koang leading praise songs during outreach in Sudan
James Koang leading praise songs during outreach in Sudan

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A prayer service at one of the local churches in Sudan
Christian Mission Aid Programs in Southern Sudan: Christian Outreach, Primary Health Care, SPELS, Agriculture, Comprehensive Eye Care, Immunization, Capacity Building, Needs Assessment Survey

By Tabitha Onyinge

Christian Mission Aid (CMA) works on Christian outreach, relief and development projects in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan. Their leadership training and discipleship programs make use of GRN materials and Saber players.

"Rebecca, do you know what your name means?" James Koang gently asked the 23-year-old widowed mother of four. "What does it matter what my name means? My life is cursed. I'm lonely and miserable, I don't know what to do," she replied agitatedly, without raising her eyes from the ground. James, CMA's Christian Outreach officer for Sudan, sat quietly on a log opposite the verandah, where Rebecca Nyabiel rubbed her empty gourd absent-mindedly.

Normally a self-assured woman, Rebecca seemed rather unsettled today and James tried his best to help her relax so he could share with her the word of God. "Every time I get on my knees to pray for you, God assures me of a peaceful future prepared for you and your children. Rebecca, God loves you." Ignoring James, the young woman continued rubbing her gourd, her object of worship. He had visited her several times before to share the Word of God, with little success.

Rebecca constantly reminded him that her gods, trees, reptiles, and several woven baskets filled with fist sized abstract shaped wood, bone and stone sculptures, were all she needed.

"By the way, Rebecca means beautiful and captivating..." James continued, taking the next twenty minutes to narrate the Bible story of Rebecca, Isaac's wife, hoping his hostess was listening. When she eventually raised her head up, streams of tears were rapidly falling down her cheeks. "I feel bad about myself," she said finally. "My life is meaningless..." James felt tears stinging his own eyes. Although youthful, Rebecca is a very strong willed woman, and her sudden breaking down surprised him.

"Don't worry Rebecca, God can handle whatever it is that nags you," James said repeatedly and convincingly. "I want to know your God James, I want to be like you," Rebecca said eventually, wiping her reddened eyes with the back of her hand. James led her to the Lord that evening, marking the start of her triumphal walk with the Lord. He later returned to burn the objects and several other articles and alters of worship that the young woman owned. That was eight months ago. Rebecca's children gave their lives to Christ soon after, and the family currently fellowships at the Presbyterian Church of God in Juaibor.

Rebecca's is not a unique case in the remote lands of South Sudan. In Dajo, for instance, Christianity was unheard of till 2007 when CMA started its operations there. Most people worship idols, while sprinklings others ascribe to Islam. Christianity is just making inroads in most areas. Over time, CMA has trained many pastors and lay leaders, and assisted them to establish churches to reach the people and evangelize. Through CMA's continuous training; weekly bible study; discipleship and follow-ups, Christianity is fast growing in South Sudan.

James and CMA's missionaries, as well as the pastors they have trained, use the Look, Listen & Live, along with the Train and Multiply pastors' training materials in the church leadership training program. The leadership training sessions have been going on in Juaibor, Keew and Dajo for three years now. Keew has 24 male and female church leaders attending the training, Dajo has 35 while Juaibor has 39.

CMA missionaries to Dajo are glad the leadership training has a positive impact on the pastors' Christian outlook. "When we discussed the Garden of Eden and how sin entered the world, the leaders began to understand that it was never God's design for us to live the way we live now; with sin in the world. It was good to see them grasping the realities of sin and the effects it has on the entire world," says James. "Sometimes communication is hard, it takes up to three interpreters before the people can grasp it, but it is worth the effort," he added. With a changed perspective, the pastors are confident enough to spread the gospel of Christ without being intimidated by the gods of the local people.

Discipleship classes for women are also helping spread the gospel fast. In Dajo, about 30 women from six local churches have been attending weekly leadership classes, after which women's groups in each of the represented churches receive a Saber player. A Saber player is a digital gadget with hand wound power, as well as an amplifier, speaker and sound box, which is ideal for use in groups, especially in areas with no infrastructure, like South Sudan. It plays out sounds of Bible stories, but not videos. Armed with knowledge and the player, the women are usually ready to teach other women and children in their churches the same messages they have learned in the discipleship class.

Because of the underdeveloped infrastructure and the rapid growth in number of Christians and churches, CMA has recently bought bicycles for James and the missionaries in Sudan to enable them access the reached and unreached villages that are located miles apart, with ease and spread the word of God. Apart from training the pastors and other leaders, the outreach work involves reading bible story books; playing tapes with special Christian messages in the Saber player; showing Christian videos and counseling.

Through these activities, many families have been converted to Christianity, while four schools, the only ones in Dajo and Juaibor, have incorporated a Christian lifestyle in their daily activities. "The children and their teachers sing Christian songs and pray at the school assembly at the start and the end of each school day. I know their lives have changed because even their behavior has changed," says James.

"The video ministry is the most popular amongst the people," James says with a smile. Understandably, gospel in motion pictures is perhaps the best way to bring The Word to life, as people pay attention and remember more, especially when they see Jesus speak their language. James has reached thousands of people in five villages in South Sudan, evangelizing and showing them 'The Ten Commandments' and 'The Pilgrims' Progress' and the 'Jesus' films on his laptop computer, all translated into Arabic, a language they understand.

"Watching more than 200 people craning their necks to follow the narration on my lap top really tugs at my heart. But I know it is the hunger and thirst for the word of God," comments James. The people's hunger for the word of God is evident every time they interact with a bearer of the Good News. They are constantly asking missionaries for Bibles and hymnals. Thousands of Bibles and hymnals in English, Nuer and Arabic languages have been distributed to the people so far, and more are still needed.

Reprinted from CMA's "the Bridge", Summer 2010. Used with permission. www.cmaid.org.

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