Partnership in a ‘newborn nation’

Sudan Mission Network holds first meeting since split of north, south Sudan; members discuss mission, relationships

December 8, 2011


Nearly a year after southern Sudanese citizens voted to split from northern Sudan and form a new country, the Sudan  Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) met here to worship, share stories and discuss mission in the two countries.

The Republic of South Sudan declared its independence in July, making it the world’s newest country and a “five-month-old baby,” said the Rev. Ismail Kenani, general secretary of the Sudan Bible Society.

As a “newborn nation,” South Sudan faces many challenges, Kenani said. The capital city of Juba is really just a small village with no infrastructure and is struggling to fill its new role. The country has a lot of oil, but not many skilled workers. Tribal conflicts continue, and the government has a high rate of corruption.

But Sudanese Christians still have faith, he said, adding that times of persecution are a test of that faith.

“In both the South and the North, we are living by faith,” Kenani said. “We are awaiting that hope in Him alone.”

The PC(USA) has two partner churches in Sudan: the Presbyterian Church of Sudan and the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. Persecution of Christians is a real threat, said Debbie Braaksma, the PC(USA)’s area coordinator for Africa. There is also a lack of trained leaders, especially women.

In working with Sudan, Presbyterians must remember that relationships are key, she said.

“Our fellowship that we hold together in Jesus Christ is really No. 1,” Braaksma said.

Other speakers also emphasized the need for continued partnership and dialogue in peace building.

“We work in partnership,” said Ambassador Dane Smith, U.S. senior advisor on Darfur. “It’s slow, but that is the way forward.”

It’s important for the United States to look for the right combination of diplomatic, economic and sometimes militaristic options in partnership with the rest of the world, he said.

The Rev. Goanar Chol, Sudanese ministries resource person for the Presbytery of Des Moines, reminded Presbyterians again of the importance of partnership in Sudan. If American Presbyterians are making a trip to Sudan, they should travel with a Sudanese from the diaspora, he said. Sudanese better understand cultural issues like how polygamy can affect HIV/AIDS transmission and therefore peacemaking, he said. That might be a hard pill for U.S. Presbyterians to swallow, but Chol recommended drinking a bigger glass of water if that’s the case.

Members of the network also heard updates from several mission co-workers in Sudan via Skype or in person. The co-workers described their work, relationships and prayer needs.

Participants could attend one of several small group sessions focusing on peacemaking and children, community health education, the PC(USA)’s education program in Sudan and working with the Office of Public Witness in Washington.

  1. I am so grateful PW has chosen South Sudan for a clean water-provision project. Thank God for the hope Sudanese christians have. And what a blessing it would be to have Rev. Chol work along side our mission workers. Having been born and raised for the first 19 years of my life in Khartoum, I feel a kinship to the people of Sudan, whether North or South. My parents and our family were close to so many missionaries who came to serve under the auspices of SIM, as well as the American Mission. My husband served as a short term missionary teaching in a boys' school in Omdurman 1953-56. Please keep sending us information regarding South Sudan so we can pray accordingly. May God bless all efforts to help the christians in South Sudan. Thank you. Phebe Smith

    by Phebe Smith

    December 20, 2011

  2. All Praise and Glory be to God for the fellowship and partnership with our South Sudanese siblings.I quite agree with Rev. Chol that every mission trip to South Sudan ought to be accompanied by a South Sudanese Presbyterian Pastor from the Diaspora. Our South Sudanese colleagues be they Nuer, Murle or Dinka know not only their own tribal language but also Arabic. In addition they know the societal and cultural norms. They have also suffered the persecution fist hand. I think it long overdue that a South Sudanese Pastor labor along side our mission workers in place. I propose that we send Rev. Chol to work as Peacemaker among the Murle, Dinka and Nuer and to have him serve in partnership with the faith communities there and alongside the PC(USA) mission staff in place. May the Christ bless the New Republic of South Sudan and all the peoples with PEACE. May Advent blessings pregnant with hope for this peace be ours, world wide, Rev. Heidi McGinness

    by Reverend Heidi McGinness

    December 9, 2011