Entering South Sudan again one could at a superficial level be convinced that the people in parts of the country where the war is not directly happening are unaffected by it. But look closer and one can see that people are carrying on but expectant of trouble to erupt at any time. Even in these parts that are not directly impacted by the war, the indirect ramifications of inflation, lack of food, increase in robberies and mob justice, are affecting everyone. Journeys on the roads (if you can call them roads as they are in a terrible condition) are now very dangerous with armed car jacking and people being killed all too common. To make matters worse, there is cholera in some of the villages and a nasty strain of malaria that is killing people.
At this desperate time, it would appear that God has chosen to work in revival power amongst the Toposa people. It would seem that God is using the trouble to cause people to lift their eyes from the ephemeral to the eternal.
Pastor James Lokuuda and his team have seen the work multiply exponentially over the last 2 years; with over 5000 people becoming Christians and 13 new churches planted (in 2 years!) as they have continued to reach out amongst the Toposa community. The team bravely face all these hostilities, literally taking their lives into their hands whilst they go to preach the gospel, show the Jesus movie on a mobile projector and pray with people.
A young boy of about 11 years of age called Abraham, who writes many Christian songs as he has a mind to remember scripture, had a prophecy about, “The word of God would come to Kapoeta district like a river and the water would flow out from it to every place.” He turned the prophecy into a song and this is now sung in many of the churches and raising faith amongst people to see the word of God going out. In fact, this is how they are teaching the new believers; they are telling them key bible stories and creating a song about that story so that the people can sing it and then this helps them remember the story and the truth within it.
One 11-year-old girl who came to faith fell sick. She would lose consciousness and when she came round, would worship Jesus. She gathered her family and told them she would not recover from this as Jesus had told her she would go to be with him which was a better place. The family were upset but after she died they too decided to find out more about this Jesus who had made their daughter not scared of death but excited about the future!
The day after Peter and I arrived, we had the privilege of going with James and the team to Buno (20km outside Kapoeta), where several of the new churches gathered. We had a great time worshipping with them, the team baptised around 300 people (!), had communion with them and prayed for a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit.
We serve a God who brings hope to the hopeless and despite the plight of South Sudan, for the people of God in Salt & Light Outreach Ministries who we have the privilege of working with, they are a people who not only have hope but help to bring it to those in Kapoeta State. Or to put it another way, they are truly living up to their name by being Salt and Light to the Toposa people during this troubled time.
Simon Fry is the Pastor of Christchurch in Hailsham, UK.