This article originally appeared in the June 2012 edition of ITMI Monthly.
It was an intense 103 degrees Farenheit. There were about 2000 people gathered for an Easter service. Most were sitting in plastic chairs crowded underneath sheets draped on hefty tent poles that were erected each Sunday for the young church’s gathering.
Those that couldn’t find seats under the awning - or should we say oven - were sprinkled in any inkling of shade that could be found outside the structure.
ITMI Director, Steve Evers, stood at a podium in front with his hand raised, sweating profusely in his dark suit. He had just finished challenging his listeners to live Jesus’ way.
He had just invited those who hadn’t yet given their lives to Christ to repent, come to Him and serve Him as Lord. He was in the middle of inviting the believers to surrender lordship of any area of their lives they were still trying to avoid living Jesus’ way.
It was estimated that half to two-thirds raised their hands, indicating one of the two responses to Steve’s double invitation.
On a normal Sunday, this church gathering would be about 800 believers strong - unheard of for a non-prosperity gospel believing church in Africa.
In fact, everything about this church is unheard of in Africa.
It seems God is starting a movement in Sudan and He used ITMI Board Member, Bob Fulkerson, Steve and ITMI to plant the seed.
In a culture where jobs and education aren’t readily available, the vast majority live as impoverished “nobodies.” As a result, being known as a pastor is a desirable thing. Many pastors have power with no accountability; people believe and do what they say as if it was straight from God.
A pastor has a title; he’s somebody and he has a whole church of people who follow him - and pay him regularly - to prove it. He has a white collar career and is credited with having a skill set that doesn’t require the hurdles of the cost and availability of a formal education.
An African pastor feels pressure to maintain his power, his title, his mystique, and often uses prosperity preaching to do so.
On their last visit to Mundri, Sudan, Steve and Bob presented a SALT training entitled, “I am not God.”
ITMI partner, Vicky Waraka was in attendance, and brought three friends who were staying with her and happened to be stuck in Mundri an extra day longer than they had planned. With nothing else to do, they attended the training on a whim.
The foursome was so moved by the Biblical truths Steve taught, that they planted a church based on these principles of leadership.
Church planted based on leadership principles Steve taught on his last visit.
No head pastor.
Shared leadership that values early New Testament examples.
Humbly responsive to the Spirit.
In fact, the foursome told Steve that they “run from titles” and are careful as leaders not to get in the way of the Spirit’s work. This church is so refreshingly different that Sudanese are drawn to it like thirsty travelers to water.
They have already funded a mud-walled church building, which is unheard of for such a young church in a war-torn, impoverished, African country, but quickly grew out of it in 2 months time. This dynamic church can’t even keep up with the awning space needed!
Mud-walled, tin-roofed church structure in South Sudan.
We expect this multiplication to continue; Vicky’s foursome plus Justin and Jahim (from last month’s Sudan story) are now equipped and resourced to do SALT training and evangelism.
Left to Right: ITMI partner, Timothy Keller, Lazarus Yezinai, Vicky Waraka, Steve Evers, Justin and Jahim.
These stories are the kind of thing we use our General Fund for. It’s true, some of that money goes toward the operating costs of the ITMI office, but by covering traveling expenses, it also helps make big splashes in spiritually dry places.
If you’ve ever given to the General Fund, you have also invested in this anomalous movement God is starting in the new country of South Sudan. Thanks for giving!
Summer Kelley is a writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three kids. She has had the privilege of telling ITMI's stories since 2006.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.