SOUTH SUDAN - UGANDA
Angelina and her children were forced from their home in 2013 when the first tribal violence erupted in South Sudan.
Civilians were caught in crossfire between the warring Dinka and Nuer tribes. Many were attacked, raped and killed. Those that were able to escape sought refuge in crowded UN refugee camps in neighboring countries.
In the following years, the civil conflict would displace almost 4 million South Sudanese families like Angelina’s and traumatize the entire nation.
Angelina and her family ended up around 130 miles south of South Sudan’s southern border, in Kiryandongo Refugee settlement near Bweyale, Uganda.
Last month, ITMI helped a team of believers from Juba, South Sudan equip pastors and leaders in Bweyale with a 3-day workshop.
They also held an evangelistic crusade for the general population.
The group included several believers who would teach, including ITMI’s Vicky Waraka and Lazarus Yezinai. The team also included younger believers, along to observe and learn as well as encourage and pray with people.
The team was made up of believers who daily face the formidable challenges of living in South Sudan. They are looked to to provide for many children in need with few opportunities for income.
Lazarus regularly has close to 20 people living in his home and eating with his family. Vicky has taken in 5 orphaned girls and provides for them.
Even so, they wanted to help even more people who are suffering. They wanted to share where one can find true hope when all seems bleak.
So last month, they went to Bweyale, Uganda.
Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, Bweyale, Uganda
The large brick building where the workshop and crusade was held.
The camp and the nearby town, located about 130 miles north of Kampala, Uganda, is home to refugees from over 50,000 ethnic groups.
Displaced families from South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo outnumber the indigenous residents of the area.
Though security threats in this area are minimal, which is unexpected for such a colorful clash of cultures colliding in just 6 square miles, life in the camp is still tough.
Most of the people in the camp rely on the World Food Program for food. Sometimes, there isn’t enough. Many nights, Angelina and her children go to bed without food.
“Really, our people are suffering,” writes Musa, one of the younger team members from Juba, after listening to and praying with people at the crusade.
Spiritual leaders are typically poorly equipped to handle the challenges of shepherding such a traumatized people.
Lazarus describes the situation many leaders find themselves in this way, “Many of them are ignorant of the true words of God because of no true teaching about God.”
It’s near impossible to obtain ministry training when copies of the Bible are few, and so many of those who could train others have fled.
Church leaders are traumatized, too. No one has escaped suffering as a result of this civil conflict.
In the void of training and excess of trauma, church leaders often don’t see how the cultural practices they never question directly conflict with how the Bible calls them to lead.
Lazarus observes, “...church leaders wanted to be worshiped, like judging others for their wrong, church leaders don’t want to be questioned and they are demanding much respect and honor from the people.”
In Bweyale, that’s going to start to change.
The low murmur of voices tumbled throughout the large room, rolling off the pitched tin roof held up by a web of wooden rafters.
Church leaders from 15 different churches near Bweyala, Uganda were turned toward one another in groups of two or three. They were attending the 3-day workshop given by the team from Juba.
Their faces weren’t set in the hardened, emotionless expression you often see among this traumatized people. Their expressions were softened, reflecting humility.
Many held others’ hands as they prayed.
Many held others' hands as they prayed and confessed.
Bweyale area pastors and church leaders listen eagerly.
Lazarus challenges the temptation and desire to usurp the position of God as humans and church leaders.
They eagerly soaked up the teaching given by the team from Juba.
ITMI’s Lazarus Yezinai had challenged them to abstain from the cultural temptation to put themselves in the place of God, to seek worship and control over those they lead.
Many responded with tears of sorrow and repentance on their knees as they realized they had not been the kind of Biblical leaders they are called to be.
Many responded with tears and repentance.
Next, Lazarus talked to them about human sin nature and called them to turn from traditional practices that they had continued participating in.
The room was filled with sincere repentant prayer as they asked the Lord’s forgiveness and turned away from cultural practices that dishonor the Lord.
Joy and relief were the result of seeking forgiveness from the Lord, and a new excitement for Christian life washed over them.
Joy and relief were the result of seeking forgiveness.
Many received Christ during the evangelistic crusade.
During the evangelistic crusade, many refugees gave their lives to Christ. Many more were prayed with and encouraged by the team from Juba. Including Angelina.
When you’re as physically needy as many in these refugee camps, spiritual and emotional needs may seem less crucial.
But it really means a lot when someone takes the time to listen to your story, encourage you and pray with you.
As important as meeting physical needs is, that’s a gift that lasts much longer.
ITMI helped Vicky and Lazarus with the costs of the workshop, including meals, because in this impoverished population, taking even a day away from their day jobs means their family may not eat that day.
Through her difficult circumstances, the displacement, the hunger and the trauma, Angelina never lost hope. She continued to put her faith in the Lord.
After the teaching, she returned to her family refreshed and strengthened in Christ for the challenges that lay ahead.
This is the kind of work your gifts accomplish in the hands of our partners.
The Kiryandongo refugees, like Angelina, wouldn’t have the hope that they now have if not for those who sent Vicky, Lazarus and their team to Bweyale with the Biblical message of hope.
Your support truly makes a real difference and a meaningful impact for His Kingdom.