Standing on the shore of the White Nile in Juba, watching three women walk down a red dirt road in colorful African dresses, gracefully balancing baskets of vegetables on their heads, I would never have guessed that the fledgling nation of South Sudan was about to implode in a bloody civil war.
It was February, 2012, just six months after the South had voted in a referendum to break away from Sudan (North). There was excitement in the air. In discussions with government officials, we were met with smiles, grand hopes and plans, and dreams of a bright future.
Some feared that the North would eventually retaliate for the South’s declaration of independence. As it turned out, however, the most immediate threat was internal. A pair of mounting challenges were poised to destroy South Sudan. Namely: poverty and ethnic strife. The lack of infrastructure (including health care and clean water) and the wide diversity of ethnic groups that had fled the north and were now forced to reside together combined to put terrific pressure on the new government.
In 2013, the tension exploded into violence. At least 300,000 people were killed and 2.4 million more were displaced. A peace accord is currently in effect, but the fighting continues.
“Many Christians have lost their lives in the civil war, though the exact numbers remain a mystery,” the Christian Post reported recently. In just one week in July 2016, over 300 died in the violence. There were also reports of “mass rapes, and children and the disabled being burned alive.”
It is in this atmosphere of instability and fragmentation that dedicated Biblica volunteers are risking their lives to share God’s Word and love with the people of South Sudan.
Despite the dangers, these courageous team members are hosting leadership seminars for local pastors and Christian leaders, providing them with training to understand and teach the Bible. They are also involved in outreach to children, as well as ministry to women.
“There is a great openness in South Sudan to receive Christian literature and ministry!” a member of the ministry team says.
While the State Department has warned U.S. citizens not to travel to this nation and is evacuating personnel from the embassy in Juba, Biblica’s volunteers continue to faithfully equip believers and minister the life of God’s Word to the people of this war-torn land.
Keeping their eyes on Christ, they are obediently fulfilling Jesus’ command in one of the most hazardous environments in the world:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Matthew 28:19,20 NIV
And surely, He is with them as they serve His Kingdom in South Sudan.