by Bishop Robert
Here is the promised trip report from my recent travels to Africa. It was a joy to see the way the church has continued to grow and reach out to the community around them. And it was truly a blessing to be able to meet with and pray with so many wonderful people of God.
I arrived in Uganda at 11pm on Wed Aug 7 after departing Jacksonville at noon the day before; not atypical for travel time to Africa, over 30 hours! Overnight, I made an amazing discovery. It doesn’t take long to sleep three hours!!!
At 7:30am the next morning, I departed the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) base at Kajjansi (just north of Entebbe) for the final legs of my journey through Arua, Uganda up to Yambio, South Sudan. While stopping in Arua for the requisite passport, visa and Ebola checks, I got to greet and hang out with several local school children who were visiting the airport.
Upon my arrival in Yambio, South Sudan, I was warmly greeted by Bishop Yepeta Sika and a delegation from Christ the King Cathedral. I gave an interview while at the airport to EYE Radio, a national news service where listeners can hear local, national and international news, with in-depth focus on a wide range of issues related to the development of South Sudan.
Afterwards, the delegation moved to the State Road in front of the cathedral, where we paraded down the street for about ½ mile and finished with a welcome ceremony in the Cathedral. The parade included a large number of men, women and children from the congregation; and we marched along the roadway with great joy, singing songs and waving branches in celebration.
On Friday, the Diocese held a retreat for the clergy and leadership of the CEEC in South Sudan. People had come from Juba to Yambio, a trip of about 425 kilometers that can take between two to three days along a very difficult roadway; as well as from our CEEC churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is an even more difficult journey. But everyone was excited to be participating in the installation of the first indigenous bishop for the CEEC in South Sudan.
spoke over a couple of sessions about the need for true forgiveness in
overcoming the ravages of the civil war that has just come to an end. Many have lost loved ones, homes and property
in the conflict. The pain is great and deep, and only can be healed in the love
of Christ and the price He has already paid.
I took the opportunity to call people to deliberately forgive,
and to allow the healing of Christ to restore unity, love and trust. It was a difficult message to receive, but
many were visibly moved and I feel as though the Lord is working in the people
of South Sudan.
Along with other items for various church ministries, I had also brought four soccer balls to give to the Sunday School children. (Two for Yambio, and two for Nabiapai, where we were opening an elementary school for 180 children. More on that later in this update.) So late in the afternoon, while the children had gathered with Richard, their teacher, to rehearse the songs they would be singing during the installation service on Sunday, Bishop Yepeta and I walked over to their “classroom” under a large tree adjacent to the church to give the balls to the children. Their joy was abundantly and exuberantly evident, and we spent a few minutes kicking the balls around together. Afterwards, they sang some songs for me. Amazing love! It is truly a blessing to have so many children, they are the future of the church in South Sudan.
On Sunday we held the installation for Bishop Yepeta Nathan Sika, the Second CEEC Bishop of South Sudan. In order to accommodate the larger crowds, Christ the King Cathedral had erected two outdoor seating areas under the shade of some white tents. This church that typically has between 375- 450 people each Sunday had close to a thousand people who had come to celebrate with the new Bishop. Along with the two CEEC Canons for South Sudan, the Dean of the Cathedral and the CEEC clergy were bishops, clergy and ministers from several other churches in the surrounding community, as well as representatives from the Governor’s Office and other local dignitaries, such as the Head of Mission for UNICEF. It was encouraging to see so many leaders from the Body of Christ come to share in this time; I took advantage of the occasion to reinforce the fact that there is only ONE church in South Sudan, and all we who have been adopted into the family of God in Christ Jesus are a part of it.
The church and the outdoor seating were packed to capacity (and a bit beyond, for sure) well before we were scheduled to begin the service, and it was amazing to see how patiently the people waited to see this momentous event. All of the various church ministries from the Sunday School, to the Mother’s League, to the Evangelists and Catechists were dressed in their finest, ready to join the procession. The choir were all dressed in matching red and black, and they were striking in their appearance. And if you’re ever looking to hear some amazing singing and worship, South Sudan is the place you want to go !
On Monday we had planned to travel to Nabiapai in order to officially open the new CEEC King of Peace school. Unfortunately, the excess rains had caused the road to become impassible, even with our borrowed Land Cruiser. This caused us to have to postpone the trip to Nabiapai until the next day. We took advantage of this to spend the day in strategic planning discussions, preparing for several upcoming projects, planning for how particular needs would be able to get met and developing specific plans for evangelism and new churches. This is a good opportunity to make a desperate need known, and open the door for anyone to help.
The terrible state of the roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle for the transportation of evangelism teams, the moving of materials, etc. Even WITH our borrowed vehicle, there were times when we were required to exit and walk due to road instability and the danger of trying to pass certain places with a fully-loaded vehicle. In some places the water we passed through was so deep that it came up to the hood of the vehicle.
Currently, the church has to rent four-wheel drive vehicles whenever they need to transport people and materials into remote areas. But the rentals are costly, and any breakdowns along the way are the responsibility of the church. We have located a used four-wheel drive vehicle in Uganda that can be purchased for about USD $6000, which would save the church money and pay for itself over the course of a single year.
IF YOU CAN ASSIST WITH THIS AND HELP SPREAD THE GOSPEL IN SOUTH SUDAN, YOUR GIFT WILL BE PUT TO EXCELLENT USE!!!!
On Tuesday we finally we able to pass to Nabiapai to meet with the students and teachers and open the school. Thanks to the generous gifts of many South Sudanese people who are living in the Jacksonville area, I was able to being over 100 pounds of school gear, including copy books, pencils, erasers, chalk – and two soccer balls! We’ve also had two large chalkboards made, which will be delivered in the coming weeks. The local King (chief) came to express his thanks for our investment in the children, and to commit to continued cooperation with us.
The well for drinking water that had been requested in my previous visit in October 2018 was already being dug BY HAND, and has already reached a depth of over 40 feet. Now the next step is to wait for the dry season (Jan-Feb) until the current well goes dry, and then to dig deeper until clear water is reached in the dry season. This will ensure that the well is able to produce a reliable supply of water for the community through both the wet and the dry seasons. THANK YOU to the donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) for the gift of the funds to dig the well.
After returning from Nabiapai, the Governor received us. The Lord has brought a committed believer into this position of great responsibility, and he is a willing and active participant in seeing the Gospel preached. He is very clear that the only hope for South Sudan is a deep and lasting revival! We updated Governor Daniel on the projects that have been undertaken and completed since our last visit in October, and shared plans for the coming months. He was excited and encouraging, and promised continued cooperation. He has extended a tax-exempt import status to the CEEC, and all materials we bring into the Gbudue State for ministry and evangelism may enter without any tax, duty or fee.
On Wednesday, we held EVANGELISM training with the solar-powered digital projection units that had been donated by CRU. It was great to see the teams from Uganda, South Sudan and the Congo opening the backpacks, pulling out and identifying the various pieces of equipment and finally assembling a working projection system.
CRU has also donated copies (in multiple local languages) of The Jesus Film, Jesus for Children, Walking With Jesus (an African-themed discipleship program), Rivka, Magdalena, and many other materials for evangelism and discipleship. They have provided strategic training that has proven very effective in church planting in Uganda, and we are looking forward to employing the strategy in Kenya, Uganda, the Congo and South Sudan.
I returned to Uganda on Thursday, via the MAF. Their ministry makes our ministry possible!
On Friday I met with Fr. Andrew Kennedy, one of our new CEEC pastors from Kenya. He traveled from Kenya in order to meet with me and deliver greetings from the newest churches in our Missionary Diocese of Kenya, which currently has four churches established, and three more in the process of affiliating. I’ve been making WhatsApp video calls to some of our Kenyan churches on Sundays between 4:30am-5:00am to greet an encourage the congregations, and it has been a wonderful opportunity to build relationships. While we met, we discussed our strategy for church growth in Kenya. It is exciting to see the Lord work to pull together people with a heart for service to the Kingdom, not just their own fiefdoms. God is certainly at work.
If you have a heart to help with any of these projects, or want additional information – PLEASE EMAIL ME. I’d be delighted to oblige.
Thanks to all who sacrificed so much to make this episcopal visit possible