Posts tagged South Sudan
Bob and Kristi Rice - Update

Embracing Hope: The Gift of Presence

Dear friends,

I looked over at the faces of the choir members, rigid with intensity and dripping with sweat as they sang and danced down the road. The drums beat loud, but the people sang even louder, lifting their hands in the air. I was humbled by their enthusiasm and energy. This was something of a “welcome parade” to greet the moderator and the team that accompanied him on a visit to Bentiu. We were walking (or dancing and marching, with the choir) through the large camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), ending with a celebration at the church. Being met by such an enthusiastic crowd was humbling, and then we were welcomed in traditional Nuer fashion by having our feet washed. I was overwhelmed by the welcome and realized how significant it was for this remote congregation to be visited by their leaders and feel connected to the church in other places.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - February 2019 Update

Dear friends and supporters,

Theophan the Recluse, a well-known saint and mystic in the 19th century Russian Orthodox church, once said, “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.”

I recently began teaching Spiritual Formation to our fresh intake of students, our “junior” class (I will soon begin teaching the same class to our new diploma students as well). It has been encouraging and even inspiring to see my students’ hunger for learning, their humility, and their desire for growth in the Christian life. I shared how theological reflection helps us to open our minds to God’s truth and wisdom. In most of our classes at Nile Theological College, we reflect on the major themes of our faith and look back to the church of the past for guidance as we step out into the future.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - Update

“The playground is transformed,” said Honorable Rebecca Joshua, government Minister of Roads and Bridges, “adorned with flowers and the presence of many dignitaries.”

It was true – the outdoor basketball stadium in Juba did not look like the same place where we had watched basketball practice the night before. The bold colors of the women’s dresses reflected in the bright sun highlighted an atmosphere of celebration. Families of the graduates brought buckets of home-made sweets from home that they passed out to everyone around them. Government ministers arrived with their security detail, and television cameras were poised to broadcast the event. But it was clear throughout the program that the ‘stars’ of the show were the 15 graduates of Nile Theological College (NTC) proudly receiving their diplomas.

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Bob and Kristi Rice Update

Celebrating Peace in South Sudan

Wednesday, October 31 was a big celebration in Juba of the recent peace agreement in South Sudan. Several African presidents came, along with leaders of opposition parties in South Sudan. As the city of Juba was busy preparing for the celebration by painting curbs, picking up trash, and sending truckloads of soldiers to beef up security, we were not sure what to expect. Leaders who had been at war were going to be in the same location. We were advised to stay home and lay low rather than join the crowds at Freedom Field.

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Greetings from the New Wilmington Missions Conference

Greetings from the New Wilmington Missions Conference in Pennsylvania

The theme of the conference this year is, “Love your neighbor.” It has been a busy three days with inspiring presentations on the mission work with refugees and neighbors in many countries. I have participated in the South Sudan mission network meeting, The Outreach Foundation display at the mission fair, and daily teaching of high school groups. It has been a privilege to be here and meet and make friends.

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Rev. John Tong Puk 1956-2018

Bob and Kristi Rice shared sad news about Rev. John Tong Puk at Nile Theological College in South Sudan. Please keep Rev. Puk's family, Nile Theological College and the Rices in your prayers.

"If the Lord Does Not Come"

As I nestled into the large outdoor couch overlooking the majestic African valley deep in Murchison Falls National Park during the early evening hours, I took out our iPad and quickly glanced at a few personal emails. One message grabbed my immediate attention and kept it. News had come from Khartoum that morning, Wednesday, June 13th, that Rev. John Tong Puk, a close colleague and friend, a leader in the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) and Dean of Studies at Nile Theological College (NTC), where I teach, had died that morning. I read the message over and over in disbelief. I had just been with him and greeted him before his journey to Khartoum to see family. Could it be? It was like a dream. For the next twenty-four hours I kept saying to myself, “John Tong Puk is dead,” a statement of sheer disbelief and quiet quandary. 

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Bob and Kristi Rice - July 2018 Update

A Proud Teacher
A proud teacher, like a proud parent, marvels and rejoices in the success of his or her students. I was thrilled with my students on the final examination day. For my two classes, Contextual Theology and Church History, I had grouped students together to present for our class, to share with us and teach us what they have learned. For my Contextual Theology class, I asked my students to create a local or contextual theology, a lived theology which speaks to the realities and concerns of the South Sudanese people. For my Church History class, I assigned each of the eight groups a question to respond to, each question covering a significant historical issue and/or person which we have studied together. For each of the two classes and their final group presentations, I was "tickled pink" to see my students use their imagination, their creativity, their gifts and their hard work in sharing with us and helping us learn together as a community.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - April 2018 Update

Mama Sarah
Mama Sarah stood and spoke before the large group of mostly men, those being trained at Nile Theological College to serve as pastors and community leaders. While women are unheralded and not valued in this culture, Mama Sarah quickly and easily gained the rapt attention of everyone in the room, sharing her own story in the context of our teaching on forgiveness… 

One of the great joys in life is the people we meet. Last month Kristi traveled to Rwanda for a training in healing and reconciliation with three South Sudanese colleagues. One of these colleagues is the inimitable, irrepressible, and unforgettable Mama Sarah.

Mama Sarah is a widow in her late forties; her husband died almost twenty-five years ago. Mama Sarah has raised four children on her own. She has also taken in children not her own from other clans and tribes, an unheard-of reality here in South Sudan. Mama Sarah is a grandmother and she relishes her role as “matriarch,” calling others sons and daughters and cherishing her well-deserved title and status as “Mama Sarah” (Mother Sarah).

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Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan - March 2018 Update

The project, “Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan,” has a number of on-the-ground partners. This project update comes from  Mr. John Jock Gatwech, Coordinator for the Education Ministries of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan in the refugee camps in Ethiopia. Thank you, brother John Jock, for this report and for all the work you do.
Jeff Ritchie, Mission Advocate, The Outreach Foundation

From November 22-24 of last year, I accompanied Dr. Frank Dimmock, The Outreach Foundation’s Mission Specialist for Africa, the Rev. Stephen Pal Kun, Coordinator of Ministries for the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) in the refugee camps in Ethiopia, and the Rev. James Gatdet Tang, President of the Western Gambella Bethel Synod of the  Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, on a visit to PCOSS Schools in the refugee camps in the Gambella Region of Ethiopia. Over a three-day period we covered the six camps – Kule, Tierkidi, Nguenyiel, Jewi, Pugnido One and Pugnido Two. In each place we were received with great joy and enthusiastic singing by the children of the preschools we visited.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - January 2018 Update

Abiding in Christ, Resting in the Lord

While living in Rwanda several years back, Antoine RUTAYISIRE, then team leader of African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) Rwanda, and I would spend a week in prayer and fasting as we began the New Year. We enjoyed being refreshed together by God’s presence, earnestly crying out to the Lord about life and ministry issues which lay deep in our hearts. While in seminary at Fuller, each year I would take a few days of retreat at St. Andrew’s Abbey up in the High Desert of Southern California where I would reflect over the past year while seeking God’s presence and will for the year to come. Those were incredibly meaningful times of prayer and silence and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. 

The day after Christmas, Kristi and I spent several days doing a prayer retreat on the shores of the Nile River here in Juba, South Sudan. It was an enjoyable, restful, and relaxing time of reflection, enjoying nature, and praying over 2018. 

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Bob and Kristi Rice - December 2017 Update

Equipping and Preparing Leaders for the
Church in South Sudan
“College Day” at Nile Theological College

A festive quality filled the air. The large tents were erected by students and faculty for this special, annual occasion. We were gathering to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the founding of Nile Theological College (NTC). Our small contingent of mission co-workers showed up close to eleven in the morning amidst a flurry of activity. In attendance were alumni, faculty, former faculty, esteemed guests and the student body. A local choir led us in song, filling the tent with vibrant sounds and distinctive Arabic praises. The theme verse for the day, emblazoned on the banner up front, was from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Amidst all the adversity the apostle Paul faced, he boldly proclaims, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”   Philippians 4: 13

Perhaps this theme reflects well the journey of Nile Theological College, particularly over the last six years. From their origin in Khartoum, a second campus was planted and developed in Malakal in the Upper Nile State in 2011. 

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Nile Theological College - December 2017

Dear friends,

Nile Theological College carries on its ministry in North-East Africa through its campuses in Juba (Republic of South Sudan) and Khartoum (The Republic of Sudan). Each location has its own unique character and lives out the calling to develop Christian leaders in very distinctive ways amid formidable ethnic and religious tensions. The Khartoum campus recently sent us a moving update worth celebrating.

Leading to a bachelor’s degree, Nile Theological College (NTC) in Khartoum offers the highest level theological training institution in the Republic of Sudan. Presbyterians, Episcopalians and members of other Protestant traditions attend school there. 

With ninety-eight percent of the population of the country being Muslims and seven percent of the population having access to college-level education, the school plays a crucial role in the current and future life and witness of the church. As only eight percent of those attending college in the country are women, The Outreach Foundation comes alongside the efforts of Nile Theological College in support to its female students.

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Bob and Kristi Rice - August 2017 Update

Dear friends,

I exchanged friendly greetings in Arabic with Ms. Niemat, who sells bread and vegetables in one of our favorite little shops in Juba. I then looked at her wares as she asked in Arabic, “what are you looking for?” The only word I recognized was “what,” but I understood, and attempted the word for bread. She corrected my pronunciation, and then asked how many I wanted. “Four,” I responded. “No,” she corrected in Arabic, “you say, ‘I want four pieces of bread.’” I knew all the words, but I just hadn’t been quick or confident enough to put it all together without her prompting. So, I dutifully repeated the phrase and knew that it would come easier next time.

Here we are again, folks. Back to feeling like little children as we learn to hear and form the sounds of a new language and probably sound rather like children as we slowly put together a phrase and get corrected for our pronunciation. As we put ourselves in this humble position of learning the basics of a new language, we are grateful for the great patience and encouragement that many people are giving to us – much needed on the long road of learning a language. 

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Bob and Kristi Rice - June 2017 Update

“Father…not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22: 42

On the morning of Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Kristi went for a bird watching jaunt with the Nature Kenya group. I stayed at the guesthouse and took some time to rest and do some therapeutic, meditative coloring. While I was tempted to color in the page with the theme of “Healing,” I was drawn in my spirit to color in the dramatic “S” for “Surrender.”

Surrender feels like the greater, all-encompassing theme of our lives, while of course we are earnestly seeking and praying for healing. We came to Nairobi three weeks ago from Juba regarding a couple of health issues which were badgering me. First was a fish bone I swallowed in Kinshasa which left my throat perpetually disturbed. Second was an inexplicable tiredness and lethargy that still won’t let me go. Over the last three weeks we have been to see the doctor four times and had two multitudinous rounds of tests performed.


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Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan - April 2017 Update

South Sudan has been in crisis since December 2013 because of a civil war which has devastated the land, killed tens of thousands of people, and driven millions into Internally Displaced Person camps inside the country or into refugee camps outside the country. The Outreach Foundation has re-framed our mission with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) to rebuild hope among the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to camps in Ethiopia.  

One of those refugees is John Jock Gatwech. I met him in 2013 when he was a teacher at the leading school of the PCOSS, Good Shepherd School in Malakal. John also worked in the Department of Education of the PCOSS. In addition to being trained as an educator, he has also studied theology.

The next time I met John Jock was in Gambella, Ethiopia in 2015. He had fled for his life when the civil war reached Malakal, headquarters of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. Living in Gambella with an uncle, John had no income and had lost most of his belongings. But John wanted to make a difference through his calling as a teacher. 

After we met John Jock on our initial visit to the refugee camps, he sent us a proposal to establish preschools in three of the parishes of the PCOSS that had been established in the camps. The target group would be almost 400 children. Additionally, adult literacy classes would be started. All the classes would be taught by volunteer teachers. 

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Bob and Kristi Rice - April 2017 Update

Just after Thanksgiving last year we got a text message from our leadership at Presbyterian World Mission: “Don’t buy your tickets back to Congo yet. We need to talk.” In the ensuing conversations with our leadership we learned that our church partner, the Congolese Presbyterian Community (CPC), had asked us and another mission co-worker not to return to Congo because of instability in the country and conflict within their denomination. There were discussions between Presbyterian World Mission and CPC through December and January to see if the door might still be open for us to return as planned. In February, it was concluded that the door has indeed closed, and we would not be able to return. If you receive the e-mail version of our newsletter you should already know this news, but we wanted to say it again for those who get only the print version.

God has given us peace and hope in the midst of uncertainty during these months of transition. Plenty of other emotions have also hit us. We grieve having to give up our Congo home and leaving friends we had grown to love. On the other hand, we also felt relief when the decision finally became clear. We are grateful for the prayers and words of encouragement and comfort received from so many of you who have heard this news. We worry and grieve for our friends in Congo living in the challenging reality of conflict. 

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Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan - June 2016 Update

The Outreach Foundation has been involved in the ministry of Reconcile in South Sudan for about a decade. Their ministries of peace-building and trauma healing are essential components of our overall project, “Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan.” Listen to these compelling stories from Presbyterian Mission Co-Workers Nancy and Shelvis Smith-Mather. Then pray for peace in South Sudan and give as the Lord moves you.

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Michael and Rachel Weller (PCUSA) - March 2016 Update

Fasting is a common practice in Ethiopian Christian communities. Many churches designate one day a week to gather at the church or someone’s house to focus on prayer. They go without eating or drinking all day. The Jabjabe congregation in Gambella practices this discipline every Friday. I was invited to participate with the members of the Jabjabe congregation, a new church with an active membership. At 7:30 a.m. my companion came to my door to escort me to the church. 

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