I returned from Sudan on Monday this week and what an experience it was. We were trying to take in all the supplies needed to start a small Bible Institute in the village of Chukudum in Eastern Equatoria, Sudan. I guess you could say we had Bible Institute in a Truck! We were hauling everything from spoons to tin roofing, a hand powered maize grinder to lessons on the book of Matthew, 100 pounds of nails to blankets. We had taken most of the seats out of our Landcruiser so there would be room for 150 sheets of tin roofing, table tops, blackboards and benches. All of that was laid on the floor of the Land Cruiser Wagon, everything else was piled inside or tied on top.
We traveled safely, but were delayed a day in Lokichokio trying to get the proper paperwork to cross the border with all of the stuff. We left the Kenya side of the border last Thursday and traveled to the New Sudan border checkpoint 20km away. On reaching there we were told that we didn't have the right paperwork to cross with all the things we were carrying. After about 4 hours at the border we thought we were given permission to cross the border when one official told us to "just go." Well, as we were leaving the guards at the border stopped us and demanded to see a stamp on our bill of lading, it wasn't there. We were promptly told that we were under arrest! Honestly, I wasn't too upset, at the time I believed this would all be sorted out in a few more hours. Little did I know it would take 24 hours. One of our group went back to Kenya to try to get more paper work, which couldn't be obtained without special receipts for everything we were carrying and a couple of days to process the new documents. Long story short, we slept at the border, were serenaded to sleep by SPLA soldiers blasting away with a Kalishnakov, "just to make sure it worked."
The following morning after a lot of waiting and scowls from the customs officials, we were allowed to proceed with no more documentation than what we had arrived with the day before. A whole day, gone. We did have time to witness to the border officials and pass out a few materials and try to explain to the SPLA officials that there were other churches besides Episcopal and Catholic.
The rest of the trip was uneventful except for a landmine going off in the bush near Chukudum, thankfully it was triggered by a brush fire.
We have been given a nice area to build the Bible Institute buildings in Chukudum, the only problems may be that it is a bit far from water and there are a few land mines around, but most everyone knows where they are.
Please pray for Missionary Gitau as he starts teaching in Sudan in April. South Sudan is in a very difficult transition stage right now. There is serious hatred between tribes in South Sudan, to the point that most won't even mix with other tribes at church. The new government leaders are former military commanders who often don't have the right mindset to develop a community, yet there are many people ready to hear about Jesus and learn the Bible and I firmly believe that the only one who can change South Sudan is Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The thing I feared the most in South Sudan was getting stuck in the bush when the rains began. While we were there a "dust fog" blew in from the Sahara, the locals called it Harmatan. They said it was a sure sign of rain to come in a week or two and sure as anything we have gotten some really nice rains here in Turkana a week later. The rain is greatly needed there in Sudan as well as here in Kenya and I'm thankful that the Lord allowed us the time to get everything into there before the rain began.
Do pray for the small Bible Institute that will begin classes in Chukudum in April. I know they will have to start slowly because of language problems, but after meeting some of the young men who will attend I'm confident they will learn the Word of God. Gitau still needs to finish the buildings, but I'm confident that there are enough young men willing to attend classes with him that together they will get everything done.
Please pray for one of the young men named Julius who we hope will be a student. He has been a faithful Christian and is eager to learn the Bible. The family of Julius is now in grave danger. Julius's father, for some reason, was shooting his Kalishnakov randomly into the bush near their home and accidentally killed a neighbor. The family of the man who was killed immediately burned all of Julius's family's houses and took their cattle. The family of the man who was killed wants to kill anyone from Julius's family to finalize the matter, this is a normal, yet tragic part of Didinga culture. They need Jesus.
Here on the Turkana side of things we have finished putting a roof on the church at Kanamkamere in Lodwar and are working to build a building for the Church in Loki. We have plenty to do and are thankful for God giving us the means and ability to do His work.
Please pray for all of our pastors here in Turkana. An incident has started between one of our Bible Institute graduates and his pastor, most of the other pastors are siding with the young man. I have urged the issue be settled in the local church with the rest of us only giving advice or counsel when asked. Pray everyone would seek to honor the Lord in this matter.
The pictures are of Julius, the young man who's family is in danger, and some youths who helped assemble the desks and benches for the Bible Institute. The other picture is the beginnings of one of the buildings for the Bible Institute in the bush outside of Chukudum.
In Christ, Bob Clark
Missionary Gitau came by today and gave me a report on how things are going at the Bible Institute in Sudan, I thought you might find it interesting.
The carpenter Gitau had hired to build the Bible Institute facilities wasn't doing a quality job and Gitau had complained to him about his work. He was to have completed some things but had been working very slow and not even done what he had agreed to. When it was payday the carpenter came to work with his AK-47 rifle. Gitau explained to the carpenter that because he hadn't done the work agreed to he was not entitled to the wages agreed to. The carpenter told him to pay up "or else," Gitau said they should go to the police to settle the dispute and the carpenter said that the only police in Sudan was a gun and he had one, case closed. Well, Gitau is an African and a clever one at that, he knows very well how to deal with fellow Africans. Gitau said he talked and talked and in the end convinced the carpenter he had better take what he was offering or he would involve the "big commanders" and then they would see who had more guns on their side. Gitau told me that in the end the carpenter agreed to what Gitau felt he should be paid for his bad work, and no shots were fired. So, that was the first setback.
Sometime later, while Gitau and the students were trying to do some work themselves on the Bible Institute buildings they heard gunshots from Chukudum, ( the Institute plot is about 2 km outside the village center). At first they didn't think much of it, but then the firing became more sustained and then they began hearing the artillery and anti-aircraft guns. They said that in no time everyone was fleeing Chukudum and heading for the hills. Gitau and the students weren't sure what to do because there was no way for them to hide the tin and materials that I had taken in for them and they knew the things would be looted if they fled with everyone else. So, they prayed and decided to stay and face what would come. By evening the shooting had stopped and the SPLA commanders began calling to everyone on a loudspeaker for them to come back to Chukudum because the fighting was over. Gitau said that the next day word began to spread that the problem arose because a man from the Nuba tribe had messed around with the wife of a man from the local Didinga tribe and things got a little out of hand. Setback #2.
In all they have completed one building and have already started their classes. They are working to complete the other buildings, but are facing many more challenges than they had expected. The local carpenters are not working out very well and Gitau plans to have one of the pastors from Turkana, who is a good carpenter, come to help him finish. Also, by my visiting there the local carpenters believe that Gitau is loaded with money, my money, and see no reason Gitau should be concerned with doing a quality job or even completing the buildings at all. After being there and seeing how things are none of these setbacks surprise me.
Missionary Gitau seems determined and he said the first classes went well despite not having all of the facilities ready, but this is a learning process for him too.
I am thankful to report that Missionary Gitau believes the first classes were a great success. English seems to be of some hindrance to the students, but they all believe that with time and determination they will be able to understand the lessons we have printed for them. There are no books in the local Didinga language, so English is the only language that would be suitable for us to use at this time. Also, many leaders want to make a complete break with the Muslim government of Khartoum and hope that English will become the unifying language of Southern Sudan.
The First Supper at the Bible Institute. Among the Didinga there are many customs that cause conflict and hardship in their community. One such custom is that if one of your near or extended family members has fallen into disfavor with the larger Didinga tribe, you are not to sit or eat with that family member. Julius, one of the students has had just such a problem, his father accidentally killed a neighbor when he fired his AK-47 randomly into the bush. Julius's family has been ostracized by the whole tribe over this matter, so when he came to the first classes at the Bible Institute this community issue became an issue among the students. Unbeknownst to me Julius is distantly related to five of the other students there in Chukudum. The first evening the students sat together for supper, Missionary Gitau prayed for the food that was served and sat down to eat, five of the students refused their food and told Gitau that they wouldn't be eating any food with Julius around. Gitau had everyone stop, return their food and he spent the next hour teaching them about the new culture of Jesus Christ. Gitau went on to teach that if they wanted to stay in the darkness of their Didinga culture they could refuse to eat that night and go back to their homes in the mountains and die in darkness and ignorance. He went on to state that if they would agree to sit and eat together after the culture of Christ, they would be protected by God and see his blessing come on them and their families. That evening they all agreed to eat together, but there was no conversation after supper and after prayers each student went to sleep with relatives in Chukudum because the dormitory house was not yet completed. Gitau told me that he wasn't sure if any of the students would return for classes the next day, but he knew that if he didn't take a firm stand that night, the Didinga culture would always dominate the lives of the Christians and stifle their spiritual growth. The next morning all of the students returned! They thanked Gitau for teaching them that they way they had been treating Julius was wrong and they wanted to learn more about how Jesus teaches us to live! God's Word will accomplish the work He has set for it to do!
Another blessing. When Gitau began the first day of classes the whole village of Chukudum began to buzz with rumors that a great school of theological training had been started. The elders began asking where the lecturers and professors were and where the "white missionary" was as this school was starting without any celebration or grand opening. When Gitau sat with the elders he informed them that the Bible Institute had truly been started, but that there were no professors or "white missionaries" coming to lecture. He told them that the missionary had already done his part in helping provide materials for the buildings and lessons to teach, but that Gitau would be the only teacher. Gitau stated to the elders that many NGO's and missions had sent medicine, built schools, dug wells and opened hospitals but none of these things were changing the way the Didinga people treated each other or helped them out of their backward way of living. Gitau asked the elders to forgive him for not having an opening celebration, but that if they would wait a few years until some of the young men completed their training then the elders could come and let him know if the graduates had brought good teachings and good changes to the community. If the elders liked the end result of the Bible Institute then they would have a celebration and a feast in honor of the goodness of the Word of God and teachings of Jesus! The elders gladly agreed and heartily approved of the Bible Institute being started in the village of Chukudum!
This is how it is in Chukudum, Eastern Equatoria, Sudan. I am thankful for the opportunity to help with the ministry that Missionary Gitau has started there. I believe that God has given him wisdom on how to deal with issues in the Didinga culture. I also believe that because Gitau is an African and has an African perspective on how local culture conflicts with the Word of God he is much more effective than I could ever be in Chukudum. Please pray for Gitau and the teaching of Gods Word in South Sudan.
In Christ, Bob Clark