Schools a platform for community development

By October 14, 2016

South Sudan (MNN) — Dan and Teresa had been working in South Sudan for a few years, and were considering ways they could minister there full-time. That’s when a small village community asked them to reopen some schools in the area. These are the same two schools we talked about earlier this week with Set Free Ministries.

schoolTeresa says, “We went to go look at the school compound, and we were just amazed at what was available there…. Dan’s an agriculturalist, and I teach English and I teach oral Bible study methods. We just couldn’t believe the resources.”

While the schools had been abandoned and were a bit rundown, Dan and Teresa pictured them as a platform for all kinds of ministry — building vocational and business skills, sports outreach, community health, agriculture training, and education.

Dan says, “We would see ourselves as facilitators in that situation and not necessarily dictating the direction of their own development.”

While the couple has a background in community development, they were inexperienced in opening and running a school. They asked a friend to come look at the buildings. He brought along Jeff Stam of Set Free who happened to be in South Sudan and was leaving in a few days. Stam saw the schools as a project they could help with.

Teresa says, “We didn’t really know about Set Free at that time, and we didn’t know that Set Free has a bunch of schools throughout East Africa. So that was the missing piece — someone with the knowledge and experience about how to do a school in a village setting.”

Dan calls the meeting a miracle.

Need in South Sudan

There are two schools — a primary and a secondary. The first school already is in their second term of classes, an exciting thing when just a short while ago very few children even remained in the village.

When we talk about community development, we’re discussing a many-headed monster. That’s because in order to do true community development, a lot of underlying issues need to be addressed.

  • Education: According to the CIA World Factbook, only 27 percent of the population in South Sudan is considered literate, mostly men. Due to the recent history of violence as well as the conflict that continues to rise up, many children have missed years of school.
  • Health and Wellness: South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world and a high infant mortality rate as well. A large portion of the country lacks improved water sources.
  • Discipleship: But perhaps the most concerning need in South Sudan is the need for the Gospel. While the country has been relatively receptive to the Gospel, there hasn’t been a lot of discipleship in the last several decades.

Dan says, “This is really a needy country. This is in a country we need to focus on and help these people emerge from the past civil war with the opportunities God would like to have them utilize.”

And that’s what they intend to do, not only in this small, rural village, but they want to impact the surrounding communities. They hope to lead people to sustainable practices that can be replicated throughout the nation. They want to teach children about the Bible so they can grow truly knowing Jesus.

Teresa says, “Establishing a Christian school to us is fundamental. We want to infuse every subject of the school with biblical worldview. Not just religion class, not just Bible class, but infuse every subject that’s taught with a biblical worldview so that biblical worldview begins to permeate the thinking of the students [and] the culture of future generations.”

We’ll dig a little deeper later into the “how” of this story later. Dan and Teresa are heading to South Sudan at the end of this month. Would you pray for the Lord’s guidance and protection over them?

If you’d like to support this project financially, contact Set Free Ministries here!

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