Discover more about South Sudan

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South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but that did not bring an end to the years of conflict. Jill Davis gives us a brief insight into the background behind the troubles the country has seen this past year.

Isaiah 18:2 describes the people of the upper Nile (an area that would have included Sudan) as ‘a people tall and of smooth skin, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers’. South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is a war-weary country in the heart of Africa. The Nile River pours through it from Uganda in the south to Egypt in the north. Twice the size of the British Isles, it is home to approximately 11 million people.

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Stepping up

Lyn Noble shares about the importance of young people in the South Sudan church.

“Enyif AIC is a little church with just a bamboo wood and grass structure to meet in and mud seats inside to sit on. Until recently, the Sunday School was meeting spasmodically, depending on whether an adult could be there to lead it during the sermon. Remembering how, at 15 years old, I was asked by my little mission hall in the UK to lead Sunday School and what a blessing that was to me, I asked the church leaders if we could look for volunteers from the youth to teach. James and Rosa, both in their teens, volunteered and have risen to the challenge! I prepare the lessons from the one book we have in Juba Arabic for Sunday School in South Sudan. It was written back in the late 1980’s by AIM missionary Gill Reitsma and translated into Juba Arabic. Now, other young people are coming forward during the classes to help with the many children that come and the small siblings they have to care for. It would be great for them to grow in confidence and learn to teach too, that they may come to know the joy of passing on their young faith in Jesus.”

North and south

AIM missionaries entered southern Sudan in 1949. Together with northern Sudan the country was then jointly administered by Britain and Egypt. While the northern part of Sudan was Muslim Arab, the southern part was animistic, black Africans. There was a great animosity between them as the result of Arabs historically trading in black slaves. In 1955 southerner soldiers mutinied, killing many Arabs in Torit where AIM had a young but thriving ministry.

After independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956, the northern, Khartoum government closed mission hospitals, schools, and churches, finally forcing out Christian missions including AIM. AIM left behind a small church called Africa Inland Church Sudan. During the next 15 years southerners took up arms against the northern government.

When the 1972 peace agreement came into effect, AIM sent a new wave of personnel to southern Sudan. Unfortunately the years of peace were short lived. In 1983 the Sudan People’s Liberation Army renewed the fight for independence. In the war years that followed, AIM missionaries based outside the country made regular trips in by air. Despite the war, the church continued to grow in maturity.

Even before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, AIM sent new resident missionaries back to southern Sudan. In 2011 South Sudan became an independent country and this was celebrated with hope. But civil war tragically broke out in 2013. AIM’s 15 missionaries temporarily evacuated, but all returned to minister with the growing church even as the civil conflict continued.

“Great suffering persists in South Sudan, but Jesus is building his church”

God will open doors

In July of this year, an AIM team of three young families and four single men with their team leaders, were poised to enter the unreached Laarim tribe. But as the 2015 Ceasefire Agreement which ended the civil war unravelled into renewed fighting, they had to delay. In September 2016 God miraculously opened the door for this team and for AIM’s other ministries in South Sudan to continue.

Isaiah 18:7 prophesied that the Sudanese would bring gifts to the Lord Almighty. As I write, great suffering persists in South Sudan, but Jesus is building his church and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

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