NOTE: Sheila Schroyer is the executive director of Finance and Administration at The Village. Sheila wrote this post on a plane above South Sudan after she and a team from The Village taught a women’s conference there from Nov. 2 – Nov. 13. Hosted by the EPC of Sudan, the conference focused on the thread of the gospel from Old to New Testament. Roughly 110 women from seven other churches in the area attended.
South Sudan. What a majestic place mixed with tragedy and struggles, but surrounded with hope and joy. As I fly above this place, my heart is worshipping our great God and King. His reign over the earth is evident and a reminder of His faithfulness.
While we are all unworthy, He bestows grace and love on us in a way that we dare not comprehend. And the simple gifts He gave us this past week have been overwhelming. They fill my heart with joy.
The people of Yei, Sudan, were gracious and friendly. They welcomed us with open arms and hearts. But more importantly, they greeted us with the love of Christ.
Their testimonies to the Lord are beautiful. Many of them are laced with struggles beyond my American mind. They have endured loss to a point that would seem crushing to me. The loss of a child and, in many cases, multiple children. The loss of dignity, respect and the ability to even care for their children.
Many lost their homes and had to flee to parts unknown, without even a plan as to where they were going, how they would get there or how they would find basic necessities like food and water.
War is tragic. From a global perspective, we see war and hear about it all the time. Oppression and violence against another people for the gain of power or land or economic resources or just because they are different – this is the common link.
For us, the most recent experience in America was 9/11 – one brief morning that caused such destruction and despair for some of us personally and for our nation. That day contains stories of individual tragedies, as well as a major loss for a country. It haunts us still.
I don't want to diminish our experience or feelings surrounding that day – that is not my intent. But for many people around the world, 9/11 is a common experience. Many people live day in and day out with the threat of war or the actual attack of war.
Those in South Sudan lived under war for 50 years. Many of them are just now living in a time without war: For the first time in their lives, they are experiencing freedom. They may live in a state of peace, and we hope that peace remains. However, fear is still a temptation and ever present in their culture.
The Scriptures tell us that a spirit of fear is not of the Lord. He did not give us a spirit of fear, but of courage. There were many people we met where a spirit of courage in the Lord was ever present. They had found joy. Their testimonies, while filled with tragedy and despair, all had a common thread of the goodness and mercy found in Christ Jesus alone.
He had rescued them. They walk with a humility in the knowledge that God alone saves.
These women of South Sudan are our sisters in Christ. We will see them again. Whether it's on this side of heaven or the other side, we walk in the promises of God.
One day, all of His children will be gathered together to worship Him for eternity. No one, whether South Sudanese or American, will have despair or struggles anymore. We will live in the fulfillment of joy extended to us through the life, death, resurrection and second coming of Christ.