Worship at Jebel Church
by Jeff Ritchie
Sunday our team split into three. Hani Jack and Hany Bareh each went to a congregation of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, while the rest of us went to Jebel Presbyterian Church. Jebel means “mountain,” and the church is at the base of a large hill on the edge of Juba.
The Nuer-speaking congregation numbered 2,100+ and included persons from the “security teams” of both government and opposition forces, pastors and former pastors now holding government offices, and foreign guests including our team from the U.S. and a German couple from another mission partner of the PCOSS. The senior pastor is the Rev. Paul Ruot Kor.
For my Sudanese American traveling companions, this was like a homecoming. Jacob has known Paul Ruot Kor for decades. Both Jacob and David hosted a visit from Paul to the U.S. in 2013. Jacob also knew many of the government officials present as he had been in the army before going to the U.S. and had planned to return to South Sudan to serve the new country until the civil war put a stop to those plans.
The Rev. Paul, The Outreach Foundation, and the Sudanese American churches we partner with have worked together in two major projects. In 2013, his encouragement and efforts within South Sudan to raise funds for a church/training center in the city of Nasir encouraged those of us in the U.S. to go and do likewise. This year his congregation, on behalf of the whole denomination, raised over $18,000 U.S. to print 10,000 copies of the Nuer language hymnal. Their zeal encouraged The Outreach Foundation to donate another $8,000 towards another 5,000 copies. The photo shows two of the copies.
So the Rev. Paul and the congregation he serves are friends and mission partners. In that spirit we entered into the worship of God. I was asked to preach and was assisted by the Rev. Tut Mai, the lecturer at Nile Theological College whom I had met the day before. Also present was the Rev. Stephen Nyang, head of the PCOSS Education Department, and we were able to extend our fellowship with both Tut and Stephen over lunch along the Nile River after the service.
We returned to our hotel and, after a rest, heard how it had gone with Hani Jack and Hany Bareh. Both had excellent times of worship. Hany Bareh, who will graduate from the Cairo Seminary in Egypt at the end of this week, preached for the first time in his life. At the end of his service he felt led to ask if any in the SSPEC congregation was part of the government of South Sudan. Most of the congregation were, in fact, government employees! He called them together and exhorted them to carry out their work as Christ’s representatives. He then prayed for them.
Our team disperses tomorrow, so we had a concluding session where each of us shared what we intend to do about this visit to South Sudan and Ethiopia. What was God leading us to do by way of follow up? It was encouraging to us all to hear the next steps each of us hoped to take to continue our mission partnership with the church and people of South Sudan. There was a consensus that training and education were the strategic long-term missions. Each of us had a different, complementary approach to this mission need. We also agreed that short-term the greatest spiritual need was the provision of Bibles and hymnals to keep hope alive. At the end of our sharing, the Rev. Hani Jack prayed for each of us and we all prayed for peace to come and for the ending of the suffering of the people of South Sudan.
This Outreach Foundation trip comprising people from two countries and three cultures is coming to an end. But the fellowship we experienced with each other and with our South Sudanese brothers and sisters will continue as we live into one of the great new things that God is doing in his mission—mobilizing the whole church to share the whole gospel in the whole world. It was a blessing to be with my brothers David, Jacob, Hani, and Hany.
Associate Director for Mission