We are in Kampala this week running errands and doing paperwork/ doctors appointments. Today we had the privilege of spending time with three South Sudanese friends. Rina Bismark, the wife of Bishop Bismark, the Bishop of Mundri. We lived next door to the Bismarks when when lived in Mundri and have kept in touch with them since evacuating. Mama Penina and her husband were also able to come today. Mama Penina is the leader of the Moru church in Arua that we partnered with while we were living in Arua last year.
It was such a joy to catch up with these friends today. It's always interesting because it never takes more than about 5 minutes in these visits to hear devastating news. Today, that news was the death of a woman from the Moru community in Arua. She was traveling to a funeral in Juba and was shot by a soldier while she was sitting on a bus. She was holding her young baby and the baby was also shot in the leg. The woman died three days later, but the baby was okay. The devastating news is never-ending. There are always stories of deaths- either directly connected to the war (being shot by soldiers) or indirectly (sickness, but not being able to find basic medicine because of inflation or a lack of availability due to fighting). It goes on and on.
During the conversation, we talked about the need for Christ to change the hearts of the people in the government in order for true peace to come to South Sudan. Mama Penina's husband said that he and the other elders of the church in Mundri held peace meetings after the main fighting last year. They got together and publicly forgave the soldiers who had come in and destroyed their homes, businesses, families, etc. He said that by speaking forgiveness, they were releasing these men in their hearts. They wanted them to know that they no longer condemned them and they saw them as forgiven. He said this was a way to show them that Christ also forgives them and desires a relationship with them.
I was blown away.
These are the men that caused them to hide in the bush with their small children and old grandparents for weeks on end. These are the men that ignited fear in their hearts and caused their bellies to be empty. They stole everything they had and destroyed the rest just because they could.
But they forgave them.
They wanted them to know they were released from condemnation.
Men like Penina's husband are why I still have hope in South Sudan. God is moving through people like this. God is using His people to show His love to those in desperate need of it.
The issues in South Sudan right now are completely man-made. Two men are the cause of thousands of deaths, huge gaps in education (kids having to be out of school due to fighting), lack of food (people away from farms during planting season because of fighting), etc. Pure evil.
We have a God who is powerful enough to work in even the most stubborn and ill-intended hearts.
My prayer for South Sudan today is that more people would be willing to stand up through the power of Christ and work of the Holy Spirit and forgive their perpetrators of the evil they have done and are doing. I pray that in doing so, hearts would be completely changed and the gospel would take root in the place where evil once reigned.
I don't say this lightly. Forgiving such atrocities is not easy to do, and definitely nothing that can be done on our own accord. But that is exactly why true forgiveness can lead to reconciliation- because it is not something we can muster up by our own strength. It takes the intervention of the Holy Spirit. When we are able to forgive, it opens up the opportunity to share about the One who forgave us of our own sin and evil.
Please join us in praying for South Sudan. Pray that as most of the missionaries have been forced to leave due to the fighting, that God would continue to rise up South Sudanese Christians who will take a stand for peace, forgiveness and grace. Pray that God would continue to protect His people and strengthen them for the work He has prepared for them. The stories are devastating, but our God is stronger and our God is able.