Missionaries are back in the South Sudan settlement of Doro, just three months after the compound was destroyed by fighting between rival armed groups.
Doro was home to 22 missionaries and five staff, many of whom worked in the Serving In Mission discipleship ministries, secondary school and clinic, bringing hope and healing to the refugees living in a nearby camp.
But on Christmas Day last year tensions that had been slowly mounting over months and years reached boiling point. Long-standing disagreements between refugees on the Sudan-South Sudan border and the host community exploded into violence.
The fighting quickly engulfed the SIM compound and the missionaries were forced to spend two days confined on the floor of their compounds as the bullets flew indiscriminately above.
On December 27, two days after the first shots were fired, there was a small break in the fighting and planes were sent in to evacuate all our staff to Nairobi.
There the South Sudan team has stayed, trying to recover from their ordeal and praying about what the future might hold. That process of healing and processing is still going on.
By mid-February, the situation in Doro had calmed down enough to allow a small team to return to assess how bad the damage was. They found the compound had been looted and much of the property destroyed.
But they heard God’s voice. When they returned, one of the directors said simply: “I believe God is calling us back into Doro to unify the body (of Christ).”
In early March, five mission workers returned to begin the rebuilding process ready for more of us to go back.
By late March, most of the houses had been wired with solar electricity again and there were beds and bedframes ready. The missionaries who wanted to return were back by the end of the month.
Even now, I’m not exactly sure why God puts us through these moments of disorientation. What will the ministry look like going forward? Hard to say exactly.
Our team is figuring that out. How will the Lord shape our ministry in the light of the unity and peace this country so desperately longs for, so desperately needs?
How will a war-torn country recovering from the 2013 civil war caused by tribal tensions reach unity? How ever would SIM even attempt to fulfil what God has been speaking to our leadership? How will unity come about?
Perhaps in Christ — yes, I do believe it will be in Christ alone.
That, in this stretching time, we would have the courage to keep listening to God’s promptings and step out, venture away from the safety of the shores and head into the deep waters where he alone can navigate.
For both host and refugee communities to come to know Christ through the witness of the mission workers in Doro.
For the Doro compound to be a beacon of hope and peace in an area which has seen so much violence.
By Tohru Inoue