South Sudan (MNN) — The history that birthed South Sudan is littered with conflict and economic distress. Today, the country is among the poorest in the world, and violence threatens to break out at the slightest provocation.
Compounding these issues is the lack of medical care, education, and even discipleship for Christians living there. According to the CIA World Factbook, half of the population lives below the poverty line. Only 27 percent of the people are literate.
So, where do we go from here? Dan and Teresa of Set Free Ministries know the challenges the country faces. Last week we shared how they are going to work at two schools in a rural village at the end of this month. But we wanted to delve a little deeper in what it could mean for the community.
These missionaries have experience with community development and recognize that to help transform a nation, issues need to be addressed on every level.
Equipping a village
Community development has the end-all goal of helping a community get to the point where they can run the show themselves. It’s an effort to help without the danger of creating dependency.
Dan says, “There are two aspects to equipping: one is the spiritual foundation, and that’s tremendously needed.”
Mission activity began in South Sudan at the turn of the 20th Century. Many people accepted the Gospel, but discipleship has been neglected since the mid-century due to the civil war that broke out.
Dan says on top of spurring on the process of discipleship, there needs to be careful consideration on how local resources are used. This includes agriculture, for example.
He says sustainability and the ability to reach out to surrounding communities depends on a people’s ability to use what’s around them.
“Basically, we are looking at what the local resources are and the fact that God gave all regions of the world…abundant resources. So it’s our responsibility to figure out how to best utilize those resources, not only for our own needs, but for the needs of others.”
Through his program of Effective Stewardship, he teaches people how they can take care of orphans, widows, and the poor when they begin to develop what’s already at hand.
The ministry of Education in South Sudan has expressed a desire to change the literacy rates in the country, specifically when it comes to the even lower literacy rates of women.
While Dan and Teresa will certainly help with this, as well as teach each subject from a biblical perspective, they recognize the people who live there are an oral culture.
Teresa says, “Even after a person learns to read, so maybe now they’re considered a literate person, they’re more than likely still an oral-preferred learner. And most of us actually are oral-preferred learners. We learn best by listening to a story.”
She is excited to use Simply the Story Oral Bible Study Methods to help these oral learners study the Bible, apply it to their lives, and share what they’ve learned with surrounding communities.
Dan says, “It really provides an opportunity for those who are studying God’s Word to be able to do it when almost nobody in the whole region is literate. So when people are studying it together, they can actually transfer what they’ve learned to others without having to read.
“Reading is important, but when you don’t have reading, what do you do? This is the method that works best in those situations to transfer the knowledge of the Bible throughout the surrounding communities.”
Stepping in to help
As they head into this new adventure, there are many ways to help Dan and Teresa and the schools.
First, pray. This couple is starting ministry in a new place, with a new language and a new project. There’s a lot of adjustment going on. Will you ask God to guide them through this transition?
You can also pray for peace to continue in this region so the schools will be filled with children.
There are ways you can go and give, as well. Perhaps you are equipped to train in some skill, or can help with building projects. Contact Set Free Ministries here for more information.
Also, Dan and Teresa have collected a number of books for what they believe will be the first library in the region, if not the country. They’re looking for financial support to send that over.
Finally, do you have random educational or maintenance supplies lying around the house? Perhaps you have extra tools — something that could be used in shop class. Maybe you have a microscope for chemistry, a computer you’re not using, or a musical instrument you gave up on years ago. Do you have agricultural tools? There are many things that can help this school as they begin. Again, contact Set Free to find out if they could use your donation.
Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities that come with this school.
“The people are really excited and eager to have the school open — in fact the primary school has already started classes even before we get there,” Teresa says.