This article was originally published in the November 2020 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Kuluda Aziza stared at her palms as they rested in her lap. The complex white and cornflower blue pattern of her dress behind her hands went blurry, reminding her to blink. What she’d just heard struck her in a way nothing had before.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God,” the Reverend had said.
Reverend Gismala Beneth was a thin, energetic man overflowing with joy in Christ. He had a broad, flat nose, wide-set eyes and a contagious smile.
Reverend Beneth works closely with ITMI partner, Lazarus Yezinai, and had volunteered to help teach God’s Word in Lemon Gaba at a time when venturing out of one’s home was feared by many. Beneth was involved with Lazarus’ outreach to gang members, too.
ITMI's Lazarus Yezinai with a gang member he's ministered to.
One of Lazarus' teammates sharing the Gospel at a hand washing clinic.
Reverend Beneth handing a handwashing kit to one participant.
Now, the words of the smiling preacher wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt pierced the tough shell around Kuluda’s chaotic, wounded and traumatized heart.
She realized, “I am missing the peace of Christ in my life and my family.”
Kuluda’s family had been one of one hundred households identified as most needy and selected by the evangelist, Lazarus Yezinai, to receive a jerry can hand washing kit and an elongated stick of soap provided by compassionate believers in the United States.
Excited to acquire such a coveted, necessary and difficult to obtain item, Kuluda had left her home in Lemon Gaba and walked until she arrived at Seek and Save Community Church.
The church met under a patchwork canopy of canvas pieces and corrugated tin sheets held up by tree trunk poles. Kuluda had joined others from the community as they sat on the rough wooden benches or bright turquoise colored plastic chairs under the canopy.
Before Reverend Beneth shared from Matthew 5, she and the others had been taught the World Health Organization’s procedures for effectively washing hands.
During the time for prayer with the event team, Kuluda told one of the volunteers that she wanted to be saved. “Jesus has the only answer and hope,” she confessed.
Kuluda hadn’t expected to return to her shanty home with something that would be even more important to her when she left that day. She knew she was leaving with the peace of God guarding her heart and mind.
Kaluda Aziza, new believer in South Sudan!
“I’ve been far from God.”
“I’ve been far from God,” shared a tall, strong young lady wearing a navy blue dress with two bold, colorful sections, one over her torso and another across her knees.
“Life hasn’t been easy,” she said, referring to the locked down conditions of fear and hunger many South Sudanese families have faced.
It was James 4:8 that the Spirit used to call her to the Lord, she later told one of the team members.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts...”
It had been a fitting message for an event where those who came were provided a stick of soap and a bright yellow jerry can with a white spigot at the bottom which would give them access to cleaner running water to wash germs away.
The hand-washing demonstration supplied the perfect illustration of our spiritual need for a cleansing we cannot provide for ourselves, just as these families were unable to produce a way to properly sanitize their hands.
As her navy, formless dress brushed her ankles, she knew the bitter struggle to survive had caused her to turn away from God. But in response to the ministry of Lazarus and his team, she received Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
The young woman left with a smile and the assurance that the God referenced in James would draw near to her.
Exuberant New Believer
Resting on her mother’s hip, the baby’s eyes were glued to the young woman’s arm raised high against the blue sky in vigorous passion.
The child wore a pink sleeveless shirt that was slightly too large, causing one ruffled sleeve to slide down her rounded shoulder. The baby’s bare feet hung down next to her mother’s legs, but her big toe was flexed in the intensity of the moment.
The young mother’s other arm wrapped behind the baby, holding her in place, while at the same time, her fingertips bent around the handle of her new yellow jerry can. The pair almost bounced with excitement.
Not only had this young mother been the recipient of a jerry can hand washing kit and a long stick of soap, she’d also been the recipient of a new life in Christ that day!
A young South Sudanese mother, now a child of God.
“I wasn’t a believer.”
“I wasn’t a believer, but I was touched by the power of God today.”
The speaker, one of the hygiene training participants, had a wide, rounded face and a wide smile.
She had the smallish ears that many South Sudanese share, but the most unique feature was her forehead. Partially covered by a cream-colored head wrap, her forehead bore three nesting v-shaped lines that dipped down between her eyebrows, a traditional facial scarification of the Mundari tribe.
After receiving the gift of salvation, she is now marked by something else - the blood of Jesus, pardoning her past and freeing her future.
“I will take God’s message to my family,” she told Lazarus’ team, “so they can join me in Christ.”
Young South Sudanese woman, touched by the Lord at a hand washing outreach, now eager to share Him with her family.
ITMI's Lazarus Yezinai preparing for a hand washing clinic outreach.
This outreach isn’t stopping with just reaching people and sharing Jesus. It’s aim is to make disciples.
After working together for the hand washing clinic and outreach, Lazarus is teaming up with Seek and Save Community Church to organize a discipleship program for the vulnerable women and widows of Lemon Gaba.
To engage people in the area with God’s Word, they also started a Community Bible Study!
About the Authors
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 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.
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