Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:9-11
While the political waters quake and foam in one corner of South Sudan, everyone waits to see how far the ripples will extend… will they reach our corner?
For almost four years, South Sudan has been in the midst of a civil war. There are times where things taper off and there aren’t any reports of fighting or clashes for weeks on end. For us, in what is now known as Northern Upper Nile State, the rolling turbulent waters of South Sudan have affected us only by extension. We’ve carried on, seizing the time we are granted, all the while with subconscious radar running ready to alert us to more imminent issues if they were to ever threaten.
The insecurity we experienced in December was relatively small-scale. Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple here, there were potential ties to the bigger storm, but to all intents and purposes, it was small and local. That issue hasn’t gone completely away, but because of other circumstances, it has been almost glazed over… people have moved on.
Recently however, the storm that has been rumbling and foaming “far” from us, has threatened a little closer.
This has been going on since last November, but only for the past month or so has it really been hovering over us. I wish I could describe to you how tricky this is to navigate. In some ways it’s quite simple because this is exactly the sort of thing that can smoulder for a long time possibly never erupting or it could all of the sudden spark and the fire spread quick. There isn’t enough information to ever make a real prediction, so… everyone simply waits.
But how do we, as a team of gospel ministers, weigh what might be 'wise' humanly speaking with what is important in light of eternity? How do we navigate the potential worst case scenarios that are truly grim against the fertile ground we are seeing among the Muslim tribes who are thirsty and longing to hear about the living water Jesus gives and among his church here, which is just beginning to catch a vision for these neighbours?
I think our team has people in many different ‘places’ as they process all this but let me share with you from the place I am.
To me, it feels like I’m standing on the shoreline, seeing what looks to be a wave that is ‘too big’ way off in the distance. I know that it’s not the same size as the other waves, but I also know that the distance and the horizon can distort reality as well.
As moments pass, I know the tide is bringing that wave closer… is it as big as I’m imagining? Am I seriously looking at a tsunami forming?
If that’s what it is, then I should get out of here! But if it isn’t and it’s just a big wave, running feels foolish, even wasteful. I know it’s getting closer, I know what it could be, but I also know that the energy of the water is a mystery and suddenly, just as easily, the power in that big wave could suddenly disappear…
A sense of impending doom. The human side of me feels like this nearly every day. While this feeling is present, there are other truths that I know, existing at the same time. My God is sovereign. He is wholly trustworthy. My life is but a vapour. My existence is to love him. The things on this earth happening around me aren’t actually big things when I ponder eternity.
Everything in this life serves eternity – either as a tool of the King or a tool of the Enemy. We who know Christ already know the ending… we just don’t know the details in between here and there, especially as they pertain to us. But for each one of us, our lives serve eternity, whether we know it whether we don’t.
These days, for me, life in Mabaan is an active battle of the mind and of the heart. My tears well up as I remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians where he talks about beating his body into submission and making it his slave so as to remain obedient.
These days, this is where I am at. It’s an active boxing match between my natures - my earthly one that I default to so easily and my grace-enhanced-he’s-still-working-on-me spiritual
one. These are hard and exhausting days but even in the midst of them I can feel their value. Like a hot crude metal, being heated to remove impurities, I can sense some days, what the Lord is bringing about in my life. I know that if I am granted many, many more days in my future, I will look back on these days as truly precious – the days I actively engaged in the battle.
And therein lies the rub. For each one of us the battle looks different and he takes us through various ones throughout the course of our life. Sometimes building up our strength slowly and gradually increasing the heat. But sometimes it seems like he lands people right into the biggest fire early on. Our God is a mystery.
But the truth is, it’s so very easy to not engage with the battle. It’s so very easy to feel like we don’t have the energy to try and combat the enemy’s schemes with the truth of scripture.
It’s so much easier to not force yourself to lean into Christ’s victory and choose to find rest there. It’s so much easier to see just what is around us and emphasise the importance of now, rather than humble ourselves to think of the big picture and acknowledge that our lives really only have meaning by what lives on in eternity. But the purest gold or anything of value isn’t spontaneously produced without heat.
This piece was written by a Serving In Mission worker in South Sudan