This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of ITMI Monthly.
For sports fans, “March Madness” is a deliriously wonderful time of the year. For you non-sports fans, it might seem like just “madness” to you. Sixty-eight hungry and hopeful NCAA Basketball teams compete in a winner-take-all, battle-of-all-battles tournament. We bite our nails as the hopeful underdog teams show up to battle the powerhouse teams. We celebrate with the livin’-on-a-prayer, lucky-just-to-be-allowed-to-show-up teams when they rise above all odds for the win.
There is even an endearing name for the most unlikely, lowest rated, and probably most over matched team; a "Cinderella team."
People love to see the Cinderella team overcome the deficiencies in height, skill, equipment, program and history that seem to be stacked against them.
Facing the odds: a Cinderella Story in the Making
In December 2014, ITMI’s Jahim Buli felt led of God to have "open air" evangelistic meetings in his community outside Juba, South Sudan. God so richly blessed the harvest of souls, that Jahim quickly had a baby church looking to him for discipleship.
So, Jahim started a church to feed and shepherd these new believers. But he’s facing all the odds to do so.
With no available “buildings" (tin-roofed, bamboo fenced structures) large enough to hold services or close enough to walk to, Jahim rented plastic lawn chairs and convinced a friend to "loan" the church a spot in an open dirt field.
By January, the church was already up to 100 regular attenders.
Renting a hundred chairs is expensive for a newborn church. So that month, through ITMI, you helped Jahim purchase 100 of those plastic chairs so his baby church could save the cost of renting them.
In March, Jahim shared that he was back to renting chairs because the church had grown to 150 teachable souls needing to hear God's truth.
New believers of Jahim's church worshipping together.
They are growing fast.
Last month, New Life Community Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, heard the Lord prompting them to help Jahim get the next 50 chairs his congregation needs.
Juba’s rainy season is now upon the capital of South Sudan. Jahim and the church can set up in the dirt field for church services, but for the last two weeks, they have had to run for cover as the rains interrupted services.
Open air meeting location for the Sunday gathering of Jahim's church plant.
I don't often make specific promises for funding to our partners since we don't always know what direction God wants to go in a particular situation, but while talking to Jahim over a transatlantic conversation, I felt led to make an offer to Jahim.
He approached everyone he knew in this financially challenged country and asked not for money, but for poles, tin sheets, bamboo, and other basic construction material. He had also encouraged the challenged new believers who attend his church to help them build a cover for their services.
My offer to Jahim was simple.
You raise half of the $10,000 cost to build the structure and ITMI will somehow help you with the other half.
I felt it was the least we comfortable Western Christians could do to help our brothers and sisters who want to gather with other believers to be encouraged and equipped to impact their community, but are at the mercy of the weather when they do so.
Maybe you are interested in helping Jahim and ITMI "build a church" in South Sudan for those that have no cover from the elements, and by doing so, share the love of Christ.
If so, we ask that you don't hesitate to call our office and let us know what your part of meeting this immediate need will be.
If you can't say you have ever "built a church in South Sudan" now you have a chance to help a Cinderella team overcome great odds to the honor and glory of God.
Thank you for every part you play in providing partnership to these dear brothers and sisters!
In His Service,
P.S. Please pray for our team's April 7th trip to India. With Paul and Molly, we plan to provide leadership training and discipleship training to about 300 pastors.
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.