Category Archives: South Sudan

South Sudan – Longing for Peace – Matthew Deng Dut Serving his People in Juba with the Gospel

S Sudan - Crowd webA REPORT FROM JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN by R.K. ULRICH

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan as the outcome of a 2005 agreement  which ended 40 years of civil war, during which approx. two million people were killed and five million displaced. Since then, millions of refugees from 60 different ethnic groups have returned to their homeland with hope and thanksgiving, just to find a scorched land ravaged by war, void of infrastructure, but rich in natural resources. Our South Sudanese partners, whom we served for a number of years before the country’s independence, the Levi family in Nimule, and the Kuj family in Tonj, have done very well in pioneering and establishing their families and ministries on their respective rural tribal lands, where there today are stable, thriving Christian communities.

S Sudan - Matthew teaching webFor Matthew Dengdut, a young South Sudanese I met in 2008 while he was a refugee in Israel, his homecoming has posed enormous challenges. In Tel Aviv, he planted and pastored a church among his people, while The Bridge sponsored him through a three year Bible College. In 2012, when Israel deported the 1100 South Sudanese refugees back to their new country, Matthew followed his flock to the outskirts of the capital of Juba, where they settled. He and his team have continued to reach out with the love of Jesus to the poverty-stricken people in and around Street no. 107. Matthew has survived two severe malaria attacks, was robbed of all his possessions, and, since 2013, has cared for his people living through a two year internal civil war between President Kiir and his ousted Deputy, Machar, during which tens of thousands have been killed, and 2.5 million people displaced. 3.9 million are in need of food; it is predicted that as many as 200,000 South Sudanese might die of starvation this year!

S Sudan - Boys webWhen Matthew arrived from Israel in 2012, he was able to buy a small property on the tribal land within Juba. With our financial help, he built a small house, which is his home and base of operation. Matthew is an evangelist at heart, so he began from scratch—preaching the Gospel under the open sky in street no 107:

S Sudan - Street 107 web“It is a broad dirt road with corrugated metal shack vendors lined up on both sides as far as the eye can see. Matthew had set up church in the street right in front of the local bar. He had rented 100 plastic chairs and a sound system… there we had church service under the sun for 12 hours! The joyous sound of worship blasted through the community of perhaps 10,000 people, most of whom had been repatriated from Northern Sudan and Egypt, so Matthew preached in Arabic, and his friend Moses translated into English.

When the dusk set in, the shops closed, and the lights went out. A sheet was stretched between two poles, and with the electricity from the rented generator, under the brilliant starlit sky, the Jesus film was shown on the big screen, dubbed in the Arabic language! The men from the bar drifted toward the action, then slowly joined the crowd. The viewers were mesmerized – deeply engaged in the story. When Judas betrayed Jesus, many openly sobbed, and upon the resurrection, the entire crowd rose and roared for joy and relief! Light had overcome darkness! By late evening hours, up to 300 people asked for prayer and/or to receive Jesus – Matthew prayed individually for every one of them!” (Quote from my March 2013 trip report to South Sudan).

S Sudan - Old Church Building webShortly after my visit, when the rain season began, the fellowship needed shelter.  A South Sudanese living in Australia owned a walled-in piece of land on the street; he offered Matthew a three year lease. The Bridge raised the funds and a $5000 church building was erected. It consisted of open walls, with poles supporting the roof structure of corrugated metal. We provided funds for 70 chairs, and a storage house.

S Sudan - Meeting church building webThe new believers met for Sunday service – and every week day! The Gospel outreach had become a church as well as the street’s community center!

S Sudan - Bible Leadership Training webA buzz of activities ensued: leadership training, Bible study, worship practice, all night prayer vigils, women coming together for various activities. A Bible leadership training school was established for new leaders; there were plans for a school, a food program, and entrepreneurial business training.

Then— disaster hit! In December 2013, Civil war erupted when Kiir accused his former deputy, Machar, of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings which have split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.

The owner of the leased church property demanded prematurely his land back. The church building was torn down, the building material mostly pilfered. The leasing agreement drawn up by a local lawyer meant nothing! The community center and the church collapsed in Street no 107! Armed gangs roamed the streets and attacked the people by beating them, stealing their food and rob them of their few belongings. Many scattered and fled into the country side or went abroad. Anarchy and lawlessness became the rule of the day.

S Sudan - Matthew with Pastors webMatthew, however, did not give up, nor was he discouraged. God had given him a vision of reconciliation, and he was going to remain faithful to his call to be a voice and a vehicle of peace and reconciliation between man and God and the warring ethnic groups in his nation! He remained on his property and pulled in the scattered flock of believers for all night vigils of prayer and intercession for South Sudan and her people and planted a new church there. He would often say to me, “My people need hope and peace” – he knows that real lasting peace only comes through The Prince of Peace! 

S Sudan - Street Outreach webAfter several, months, when the fighting in and around Juba had subsided and the streets became more secure, many of the believers began returning to their homes—or what was left of them, and rejoined Matthew’s fellowship. Through God’s love and pastoral care, their broken lives have begun to be rebuilt.

S Sudan - Family Eating webA few months ago, the Tribal leader of Street 107 met with Matthew and begged him to return. He promised him land to build on and his co-operation in re-establishing the community center. “It became so dark here after you and your people left”, were his words. “Please—build and plant!” Matthew accepted his offer. Today, the church has been revived in Street no 107!

S Sudan - Matthew Outreach webA year ago, Matthew formally re-established Elohim Shalom International Ministry which he had founded in 2005 in Tel Aviv, based on Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”   Through this ministry, Matthew has trained a committed group of 12 adult leaders, a beautiful worship team, and 25 young people who actively serve in different capacities. A portable sound system donated by an American brother is a great blessing in the church services, but also as a vehicle in the dynamic Gospel outreaches they do in other parts of the city.  Today, there are three churches planted by

S Sudan - Anniversary webS Sudan - Worship webIn February, the ministry celebrated its first anniversary in the land by inviting local pastors and political leaders across ethnic and denominational lines to a beautiful feast and celebration! 800 people attended in the joyous activities. Many bent their knees to the Lordship of Christ! “It was glorious!” Matthew reported.  

S Sudan - food webThe church is growing, so are the outreaches and mercy ministries. Matthew and his team are passionate and committed to the Lordship of Christ.  They have a vision to reach South Sudan for Christ, cross ethnic groups and class barriers.  They indeed exemplify the words of James, the disciple of Jesus, in James 2:5, “…has not God chosen those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him?”

On March 11, the United Nations released a scathing report of genocide and gross human rights violations that both the government troops and the rebels have caused among the South Sudanese people.  To read more, click on the link below:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/south-sudan-churches-confirm-un-report-children-the-disabled-being-burned-alive-mass-rapes-amid-civil-war-159138/

Following are some background information on Matthew’s journey from TelAviv, Israel to Juba, South Sudan

http://bridgeold.bridgeinternational.org/pdf/june2012.pdf

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/turkey-south-sudan-trip/juba-street-outreach-page-7/

http://www.bridgeinternational.org/2014/02/

 

Jason and Jammie Stark – Birthing Hope in South Sudan

FROM R.K.’S CORNER

RK Ulrich 2012Last summer, Steve and I spent our vacation in rural Idaho with Kirk and Laura Keuter, decade-long friends, business- and ministry partners who, a few years ago, moved from South Florida to the beautiful Northwest. Kirk and Laura used to attend our Bridge prayer meetings faithfully, and Kirk is still a Board member of The Bridge.

Kirk and Laura introduced us to Jason and Jammie Stark and their three children who were temporarily renting their downstairs apartment, while preparing to move as a family to South Sudan to fulfill God’s call to Africa.

Starks - with Ulrichs in ID -2013At first, we were skeptical —  was it not too risky  and dangerous for a family of five white, blond, blue eyed Americans to go live among Africans in a poverty-stricken, crime ridden country?   However, as we came to know Jason and Jammie – their faith, character, determination, endurance, and commitment to their long term vision which Jason is presenting in this issue, our doubts gave way to admiration and support.  They are the real thing — missionaries  with a unique combination of  deep, abiding faith in God’s goodness, grace, and guidance, combined with down to earth practical know-how!  They are an excellent family to sponsor.

If you feel led to help sponsor the Stark family and their ministry via The Bridge on this website, please click on the DONATE button above, and mark your donation SOUTH SUDANESE WORKERS 2.

 BIRTHING HOPE IN SOUTH SUDAN by Jason Stark

Starks - Birthing Hope LogoJammie and I founded Birthing Hope International in 2009 and have been working in various parts of Africa for the last 10 years. We have just begun a long term work in South Sudan Africa among a people whose hearts and lives have been broken from decades of war.  Although their hopes have been crushed by darkness, we are confident they will be restored with the light of the Good News.

B.H.I.’s purpose is Restoring, Equipping, Empowering His people through Christ centered relationships and unified works. We are focused on intentional, relational discipleship that sees people restored in relationship with their Creator, equipped to be obedient disciples of Jesus, and empowered to go out and fulfill their God given purpose for His glory. What we do is both spiritual and practical; we labor, knowing that God’s intent is a whole work of redemption and reconciliation for man and his environment. We plan to be based in Juba for one year with a long term goal of planting a discipleship school, mission base, church and holistic development work among an unreached tribe in the northern region of South Sudan.Starks - Black-white handshake

MINISTRY

Gateway Group – We officially began our home based fellowship & Bible study group 3 weeks ago. These groups are focused on building community bonds, equipping believers to be obedient disciples of Jesus and empowering them to be those who transform their communities.  It is a place where people find personal one-on-one support, prayer and encouragement forward.

Starks - First Home GroupThis kind of group is rare.  The traditional church is not well attended.   Most people only know “church” as a place to pray and worship on Sunday, were they are not able to ask questions, or share their hearts. We are excited to watch people of all ages, those from different nationalities and backgrounds take hold of truth & live it out every day! So far it is going very well, God has blessed us with a small group full of passion to see others restored, equipped and empowered to BE the church wherever God has placed them.

Water Projects

Starks - Girl with running waterOne of the very obvious practical needs in our community is the necessity for clean water. Everyone in our neighborhood has trouble obtaining water for everyday use, like washing, cleaning, drinking, cooking, bathing, etc… Most people (us included) have to buy water from delivery trucks that bring it in from the river. This water is very dirty, both because of the muddy nature of the Nile River, but also from the fact that many people bathe, wash clothes in, and dump their wastes into it.

Starks - Drilling MachineIn addition to give away Sawyer water filter systems to help families, we also have plans to drill two community wells for ministry partners in and around this area.  We were given a small water drilling machine which is now being prepared to be shipped to us through one of our ministry partners; they are committed to raising the funding for the first two wells. We are currently in the planning phases for these wells – working on material lists, pricing and fundraising for the truck that is needed to begin these projects. (Comment by R.K.: Bert Cole bought the drilling machine with the idea that he would stay long term in South Sudan and drill a water well for Simon’s rural tribal people, then one for Matthew at his property and ministry center in Juba, and then for others.  Upon Bert’s death, in consultation with his family, we have given the drilling machine to Jason, who is well qualified as a businessman to learn the ropes and become efficient at well-drilling for the people in South Sudan)

Starks - Blue truckWe are believing the Lord for a truck to help in the work here. This truck will not only enable us to haul a well drilling machine anywhere we have opportunity to drill wells, but will also be used to haul the piping, rock, laborers who will help us, and other supplies needed to complete the wells. The Isuzu Elf will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $14,000 (import taxes, delivery costs, license and registration included).

Our House”

Starks - Logo of Our House“Our House” is the core of what we do. This part of our ministry is in a nutshell — opening up our home, our gates and our hearts as a central hub to our neighbors and to those who want intentional discipleship lived out in the context of family and Christian community. Over the last month, we have been praying, cleaning, rearranging, and preparing the BHI compound for those who will join us to call “Our House” their home. We are so excited and almost ready to dig into this part of Birthing Hope South Sudan! There are three additional houses on the property and we have two families planning to join us so far. One is a South Sudanese couple coming next week, and the other a family of five from Idaho, hoping to arrive late November. We still have one room available and are hoping for a children’s ministry, and teaching interns to join us at the end of the year. Pray for us, for these families and for the future members God would add to our team.

 JAMMIE SHARING FROM DAY TO DAY LIVING IN JUBA 

 We have been here for almost 2 months now. It has been a really crazy time with both amazingly good and amazingly difficult experiences! We thank God that He has given us the strength and endurance to persevere through all the trials, and that He has given us joy through being a part of His work in people’s lives!

Starks - Planting seeds in burlapWe are all settled into a daily routine, are learning the language and have somehow figured out how to do life as a family. Although Jason and I have been to South Sudan numerous times, living everyday life here with children, is a whole different story!  We have no municipal running water or sewage. Water is trucked in and stored in holding tanks on our property Electricity is only available for two hours in the morning, and three hours in the evening by generator. Everything is done by hand, and so… our daily schedules have changed quite a bit from what we are used to at home!  The food is very expensive here,  so the picture above shows our first efforts at planting a vegetable garden in our back yard in the city.

Overall, the girls are doing well with adjusting to life in South Sudan, minus some cold/flu symptoms, pesky mosquito bites and Aliyah losing multiple teeth in one week!  All three of them are happy to have made a few friends in the neighborhood and at church.  We have not yet begun their home school studies, but are hopeful that we will have the funding for their curriculum by mid-October. Later this year we hope to have a teaching intern join us, not only to help with their school lessons, but also to be a part of our ministry team. He or she will also be working with the kids on outreach projects for the other children in our neighborhood.Starks - Jammie with Children

God has blessed us with the opportunity to be here, to live right alongside the South Sudanese, while experiencing some of the same struggles, fears, and opportunities to overcome as they have. Through all this, we have had many opportunities to share with people who we are, why we are here, and what God has placed on our hearts for the future. This is what it means to be a witness for Jesus; sometimes it is fun and exciting, but sometimes it is also very humbling and frustrating, too – but we believe that He who called us, will do it!

More information about us and the work we are doing in South Sudan, as well as the opportunity to sign up for our monthly newsletter, can be found at www.birthinghope.org  and our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Birthing-Hope-International-Inc/115403088789?ref=bookmarks

 

War and Peace in South Sudan

FROM R.K.’S CORNER

RK Ulrich 2012What a privilege it is to serve the Lord in the nations!  South Sudan is shaking in the chaos of armed conflict with close to a million people displaced, and no peace in sight. The men and women we serve in the world’s youngest country are making a difference there in bringing and maintaining real peace as they represent to their countrymen  THE PRINCE OF PEACE – JESUS CHRIST!

The conflict is complex as there are many factions, not only within the country, but also powerful external forces of influence and power brokers who are endeavoring to maneuver this nation in the heart of Africa toward their benefits.  South Sudan is rich in oil, and has untapped resources of water, minerals and massive land areas of fertile soil with sufficient balance of sunshine and rain for excellent food production. The most significant fact, however, is that the country is positioned at the fault line in Africa’s warfare between Islam and Christianity.

As backdrop for the conflict, I list here chronologically the main events that have taken place since July 2011, up to present.  I am also presenting an article by William Levi, outlining the broader conflict at stake: the global agenda versus the church! Next month, I will update you on each of our South Sudanese partner’s lives an ministry in the midst of conflict.

Human Peace is elusive in South Sudan….  but the below mentioned  families bring God’s Peace.  Please pray for them and their ministries and help us financially support them and their outreaches to the poor and needy in their homelands!

S Sudan Bridge Partners

The South Sudanese celebrated with joy and thanksgiving to God for the birth of their new, independent country!

The South Sudanese Celebrate their New, Independent Country with Joy and Thanksgiving to God 

TIMELINE OF MAJOR EVENTS TAKING PLACE IN SOUTH SUDAN SINCE INDEPENDENCE ON JULY 9, 2011

July 9, 2011 – South Sudan becomes an independent nation, with a population of approximately eight million people.  Becomes the 193rd member nation of the United Nations.

August 18, 2011 – Continuing violence between Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups leaves 600 people dead and approximately 200 people missing in the eastern province of Jonglei.

January 4, 2012 – South Sudan’s Council of Ministers declares Jonglei state a “humanitarian disaster area” and calls on international aid agencies to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance.

January 23, 2012 – South Sudan shuts down oil production after accusing Sudan of stealing $815 million of its oil. Sudan says it confiscated the crude to make up for unpaid fees to use the pipeline and processing facilities in its territory.

February 10, 2012 – During talks mediated by the African Union, Sudan and South Sudan sign a nonaggression pact aimed at bringing peace to the border region.

May 2012 – President Salva Kiir writes letters to more than 75 government officials and to eight foreign governments in an attempt to recover $4 billion lost to corruption. “If funds are returned, the government of the Republic of South Sudan will grant amnesty and keep your name confidential,” writes Kiir in a letter to his officials.

September 27, 2012 – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir sign a deal to resume oil exports and establish a demilitarized zone and principles of border demarcation but do not reach a deal on the status of Abyei, a disputed region claimed by both countries.

January 6, 2013 – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir agree to temporary arrangements for the oil-rich Abyei region.

March 8, 2013 – Defense ministers from Sudan and South Sudan sign an agreement to soon withdraw their military forcesfrom the 14-mile-wide demilitarized zone between the countries.

December 15, 2013 – Deadly clashes begin, which President Salva Kiir later calls a failed coup attempt by soldiers loyal to sacked deputy Riek Machar. Days later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says 500 died and 800 were wounded in the fighting.

December 24, 2013 – The United Nations Security Council votes unanimously to authorize 5,500 troops to bolster its mission to protect civilians.

January 6, 2014 – Talks between South Sudan’s government and rebels begin in Ethiopia, to resolve the three-week long violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and forced 200,000 from their homes.

January 11, 2014 – Between 200 and 300 women and children, fleeing violence in South Sudan, die when an overloaded ferry capsizes near Malakal.

January 15, 2014 – The U.N. says that about 413,000 people have been displaced in the prior month, due to the ongoing fighting.

January 23, 2014 – The South Sudanese government and rebels sign a cease-fire, which calls for an immediate end to all military operations and for the protection of civilians. The cease-fire agreement went into effect on January 24th. The deal also stipulates that 11 officials close to rebel leader Machar should be released.

January 26, 2014 – Skirmishes between government troops and rebels break out in the northern oil Unity State and in Jonglei State.

February 2, 2014 – SPLA recaptures the town of Leer in northern oil-producing Unity state; hometown of rebel leader Riek Machar.

February 6, 2014 – 700 government troops desert with all equipment and machine guns and are heading to rebels.

February 10, 2014 – The peace talks in its second round stall. Postponement in negotiations confirmed by a government official from the host country Ethiopia.

February 12, 2014Fighting continues between government troops and rebels.  Peace negotiations are to resume next week. Approx. 900,000 people – 10% of the population – are on the run.  724,000 people are displaced within South Sudan, 145,000 have fled to Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia. Nearly 75,000 people are being housed at United Nations bases, afraid of what could happen if they try to return home while the combatants are still skirmishing. @CNN

 William Levi:  Include the Church in Peace Negotiations!

S Sudan - William LeviThe UN global agenda does not allow the voice of the Church to guide our people in wisdom and inspiration toward the attributes of God’s providence that gave us  South Sudan.  It is a global institution that thrives on crisis and tries to compete with our Creator God, the Author of life and the entire Universe!  He brings the councils of nations to null and void.  Sin is a reproach to a people but Righteousness exalts a nation.  The UN has exceeded its mandate in the South Sudan.

The government of South Sudan is powerless  in the sense that it does not have control over her destiny.  The development fund, raised by the International community to develop the Republic of the South Sudan since 2005, has gone into the hands of the UN-driven NGOs who have strings attached to the funding of every projects they sponsor in our country, especially in directing the implementation of their agenda through the ministries of Education, Gender, Child, Social  Welfare, Culture, Youth, Sport, Health, and Agriculture.   In our nation, whoever has control over the welfare of our women, children, and youth; our culture, health and food, will control the country and silence the family, the church and the government.  The root of the chaos plaguing our  country right now is that our government has given over these important ministries to the UN global Social Engineering agenda to transform the mindset of the next generation. Through the UN proxy organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, FAO, we are now single handedly destroying our families, aborting our unborn children, brainwashing our children and destroying our land and health with the GMO seeds we plant and the GMO food we eat.

Looking at the lineup of the various ministries in the ten states, as well as departments within the federal government of the Republic of South Sudan, there is not a single agency dedicated to the support and welfare of the Biblical family and education on the Judeo-Christian world view.  No none educates our citizens who have returned from exile on the  history of our suffering and helps them understand the nature of aggression against our families and churches. We need to teach our people the Biblical Worldview, not a secular one.

As the church in this new nation, we must teach our young generation of Christians across South Sudan the history of persecution against our church and our struggles against Islamic oppression which resulted in the displacement of our families and communities for 50 some years.  How can we do that if our government does not give the Church of South Sudan a public forum within the constitution to educate the next generation on the dangers of Islam in our country, which even now threatens our very freedom?

Our people need to be reminded that the Gospel-centered  message of reconciliation across tribal divides is the only powerful force of discipling in our nation.  It brings peace and unity and helps believers from all tribes think biblically and shape the culture for Christ.  As  a citizen of the independent new Republic, please join me in dedicating the country to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  I admonish our church, the community of Christians, our government, our families — men, women, and children — not to forsake the foundation pillars of God which constitute our country!

Like America in the 1600, the eyes of the world are on this new country.  South Sudan is called to be a City on the Hill that cannot be hidden.  I  urge you my dear countrymen to preserve the family unit, that the next generation will carry on with the Great commission, strengthen the church and use the land to create sustainability, as men and women work with their hands, not dependent on government or UN welfare.

The church must exhort our nation not to forget that it was God who delivered us from our enemy!  Warn them not to make the same mistake America has done in straying off from her original mandate outlined by the founding fathers: to remain a Judeo- Christian nation.  Regretfully, America has become a country whose God is materialism and political correctness is the order of the day; a polytheistic country whose future is doomed to fail unless it repents and returns to her Judeo-Christian roots.