25 September 2020 // Articles & Stories

The Father’s hand

Connected to prayer

This article was first featured alongside our Prayer Diary in October 2020. You can download the October 2020 prayer points here or sign-up to receive future editions by post or email.

Gord Sawatzky tells us that the chapter of his cross-cultural ministry in South Sudan, as the AIM country leader (2000-2005), was his most difficult and challenging assignment.   

In all levels of society, from families in villages, to churches, to communities, to governing entities, I felt an over-arching spirit of dissension and mistrust. Over the 40 plus years I have been involved in cross-cultural ministry around the world I have regularly seen mistrust between people groups, but for me the situation in South Sudan was much harder to cope with. How could I develop significant relational trust with national church leadership when church leaders themselves had little desire to work with each other, let alone with me? How could I get alongside individual leaders without getting caught in the difficulties between people groups? On top of that, the government out of the northern part of Sudan exacerbated the local mistrust by supporting certain people groups as they sought to diminish others.

Jesus, help!

Margaret Papov describes the spiritual battles at work among the Didinga of South Sudan. 

I lay down on the ground, with only a thin plastic mat between my bones and the hard packed soil. It was my first night with my homestay Didinga family in Nagishot and I wondered how on earth I would cope sleeping like that in the cold with only a thin blanket for warmth. But that was to be the least of my problems. 

During the night, as I was sleeping, I suddenly felt someone pushing me hard between the shoulder blades. In a dream-like state I saw myself upright against a mud wall, being pushed face forward by this crushing force in my back. The pressure was so great I couldn’t move or breathe, as if someone had me in a vice and was trying to force the life out of me. I woke and realised that I was sleeping on my side. I was unable to breathe and it dawned on me that this was not a physical attack. I couldn’t speak, so I simply mouthed the name of Jesus. The pressure lessened slightly, just enough for me to draw a small breath to whisper, “Jesus, help!” but I didn’t even get to finish my cry. As soon as his name sounded out, the pressure immediately disappeared. I was not fearful. I felt perfectly safe and peaceful. I thanked Jesus for overcoming and asked for his continued protection for the night and for this family.  

So there’s at least one spirit living with that family, whether they know it or not and it was not happy about me being there.  

While I stayed with this family, I sensed a gentleness about them and a sensitivity in some of them to spiritual matters. Would you intercede with me for Mekerina (widowed mother) and her children, Lokulang, Martin, Mayo and Dominic? Ask the Father to draw them to Jesus who has already broken all the chains of bondage and eagerly desires to free them also.

Emerging champions

Yet, in the midst of these dynamics, the Father has his hand on South Sudan. He is raising up an amazing assortment of emerging champions who are seeking to glorify his name, build his kingdom and reconcile the broken world of South Sudan to himself. While I continue to have the privilege of walking life with a number of these champions through leadership mentoring and coaching, they are striving to lead national mission initiatives, develop leaders and birth disciple multiplying movements. We are reminded again and again, that in the hopelessness of South Sudan (from our very limited perspective) we cannot, but God can. Perhaps the rejection, suffering and pervasive dissension are some of God’s tools to liberate us from human control, pride and the desire to please men. Power is dangerous in the hands of an unbroken vessel. When leadership comes out of brokenness, his strength is best demonstrated in our weakness.   

Father, we are grasping your hand as we join you (1 Corinthians 3:9) in reaching the remaining unreached and developing your leaders in South Sudan. We long for your help, your deliverance and ultimately your return as we cry out with the psalmist, “O my God, do not delay” (Psalm 40:17).