In South Sudan, the Gospel presents new opportunity for peace

South Sudan (MNN) – When a group of prisoners in South Sudan heard the Gospel through the JESUS Film earlier this year, most of the men gave their lives to Jesus. But one of those men didn’t want this message of forgiveness to stop at the prison. He asked the ministry team to visit his village and the nearby tribe they were at war with.

We looked at the prison story yesterday, and today, we’re going to look at what happened next with the two villages at war.

Partners in Compassionate Care (PCC) works with Set Free Ministries in South Sudan to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the people in that area.

Stuart Bowman of PCC says, “Back in the prison, we were encouraged to go to the warring tribes that had just gotten in a fight and had been killing each other. And so, we decided to go.”

The Gospel challenges violence

The two villages were in a heated dispute that had escalated into murder on both sides. Unfortunately, South Sudan is no stranger to these types of disputes.

“Both of those villages were fighting against each other. And that’s where this young man in prison had fought against his relatives and had killed some of his relatives in fighting. And they were fighting over a name … that a particular area of the village was named after,” Bowman explains.

(Photo and header photo courtesy of Stuart Bowman)

And so, they listened to this man’s request and visited the two warring villages. Just like in the prison, they shared the JESUS Film using the solar-powered video projector from Project World Renew.

“There were about 700 people at that showing in that village and we sat down and we talked to them afterward, after showing the film. And after showing that, we talked to them about what it looks like to love your neighbor as yourself, and how Jesus said that we can’t only love those who love us, we have to pray for those who persecute us.”

They encouraged the villagers to model their lives after Christ — a revolutionary concept for an area so plagued by tribal violence. But it resonated.

“The word from the chief and from everyone there that got up and spoke afterward — they said, ‘We believe that God has sent you to us because he wants us to turn from our sins and turn to him and confess our sins and to give our lives to him.’ And so, out of those 700 in the morning, we had about 220 and all of them got down on their knees and accepted Christ.”

In the second village, there was a similar response and about 250 people made a commitment to Christ.

Bowman says he was struck by one woman’s story from that village who was overjoyed at the message she had just heard. You see, she had recently just barely escaped death.

“They had dug a grave for her and buried her, and she actually woke up out of the grave. And she just broke out in tears and she just said, ‘I am so thankful, after seeing this film. I know how much Jesus loves me. I know how much he cares for me.’”

This revolutionary message of forgiveness, the Gospel, had a big impact on both villages as they consider how to deal with their disagreements.

Amazingly, Bowman says, “Now both communities are actually in peace talks, trying to work out the situation. And both chiefs from both parties are trying to work on bringing peace to that region.”

The Gospel challenges social norms

The Body of Christ comes from all different backgrounds and cultures. But sometimes, something that is culturally acceptable is not actually biblical. In other words, Bowman says, “You can’t hide behind your culture and say it’s my culture if it’s sin. Sin is sin.”

This came up when they visited another village — this one near a PCC satellite clinic. Once again, they shared the JESUS Film one evening. The next morning, they sat down to talk about the Bible and to just have some honest conversations. During that time, Bowman became aware of a serious issue that had become normalized in the area.

(Photo courtesy of Stuart Bowman)

Bowman says, “I had heard that many of the men have a tendency to beat their wives when they get upset. And, we talked about the need for them to understand that [the Bible] says if you … beat your wives, your prayers won’t be answered. You’re to love your wife as Christ loved the Church and lay down your life for her.” (1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 5:25)

They were able to have a good discussion about this issue. What happened after these Bible studies gave Bowman goosebumps.

“It ended really well after giving the message… We had several there accept Christ… And then afterward everyone faced their own direction, and it was the neatest thing. Everybody faced their own direction to where their houses were, and they began to sing, and they began to pray, and they began to bless the land, asking God to come back and to restore their land, to protect them from the adversary, and to drive out the wickedness in their land. So, to see them really repent, the whole city, and to pray and to dedicate their land to God was amazing.”

As with the prisoners, PCC left behind strategically-distributed audio Bibles so these people can continue to study the Word, build Bible study groups, and be discipled.

Will you ask God to guide these new believers as they counter harmful societal norms? Ask God to bring lasting peace between the two villages, and that the Church would grow there. Pray for the husbands in this final village to value their wives and to love them.

To learn more about PCC, click here.

For Set Free ministries, click here.

Tomorrow, we’ll share what happened when the team visited a leprosy colony in South Sudan. Click here for that story.