"Give Me to Drink"
"The application for water and drilling permit has been approved!" is the exciting message we received on July 28. This means Healing Hands International now has government permission to partner with our evangelism efforts by providing good clean water in South Sudan. This new permit will also enable us to import equipment, tools and supplies tax free.
Having any access at all to water is a big problem during the dry season in South Sudan, but having clean, pure water is always a problem. When the people know that the church of Christ is providing water for their families, their receptivity to gospel preachers obviously increases!
Vast areas of South Sudan could grow abundant crops to feed those living there and even earn money for other consumables the people need. But currently no drinking water is available in these areas so people cannot live there. Clean water will open many doors!
Out of the Water and Into the Pulpit
In last month's newsletter, a story about the life of James Sokiri in a refugee camp was featured. James was baptized about 1 1/2 years ago after around 18 months of Bible study over the internet with Cyndi Murphy in Kentucky.
On July 24, Isaya Jackson wrote this news about the church meeting in Juba, South Sudan. "On Sunday, July 24, James Sokiri was our speaker. He preached to the congregation here on Matthew 28:18-20 about our role as evangelists. He did a good job."
This was James third sermon! In Sudan, new Christians immediately start using whatever talents they have to serve the Lord. Many of them start making talks to the congregation. Julius of the Opari congregation who was a former Roman Catholic, began preaching less than three months after his baptism.
This is highly commendable of these eager new Christians, even though their Biblical knowledge is extremely weak. But it demonstrates the urgency of training these men in the new South Sudan Bible School, which is scheduled to open for its first session on January 1, 2012. After attending this school, these men will be able to go back home and teach with vastly increased Bible knowledge.
Inflation Drives Cattle Theft for Bachelors!
Jacob had to work 14 years for his beloved bride Rachel according to Genesis 29. But in South Sudan, the bride price is paid not in years but in cattle!
The custom is for the groom's family to distribute a dowry of cows to members of the bride's family, even down to her uncles and brothers. Emmanuel Gambiri explains, "If a parent has 15 children and three of their daughters are old enough to marry, how else will the parents feed the rest of the children?"
Gambiri claims that an educated wife in his cattle-herding Mudari tribe of South Sudan cost 50 cows, 60 goats, plus 30,000 Sudanese pounds, equivalent to $12,000. As a result, cattle raids have become common and killed more than 2,000 people last year!
Gambiri recalls when wives cost as little as 12 cows and tribal chiefs had sufficient authority to talk to the parents involved and set an affordable bride price. But since the new independence in South Sudan, traditional authority has been forsaken by the many young men who have grown up in the army or refugee camps.
Livestock is still the measure of wealth in rural communities. So boys who have grown up knowing nothing but how to manage an AK-47 and now have to live on less than $1 a day are tempted to steal if they want to marry. "Cattle are the stock market of South Sudan!" according to Calestous Juma, professor of International Development at Harvard.
In rural South Sudan, a cow might sell for around 400 pounds or more, the equivalent of $150. But in the capital of Juba, cows net 1,000 to 1,500 pounds, $375-$560 a head; and bride prices run 150 - 400 cows. If you figure an average of just 30 cows for each of the 100,000 annual marriages, the demand raises to 3 million head of cattle for bride prices alone.
If they desire marriage, some grooms go into debt. But others, many of whom are unemployed, join armed gangs of as many as 50 who travel around raiding cattle herds, resulting in approximately 350,000 stolen cattle a year.
Those opposed to this custom say it forces young men to borrow or steal and exposes young women to domestic violence because they have been "bought and paid for" by their husbands. Economic development will eventually do away with the immoral practices fostered by "bride price." In the meantime, only the gospel will help stop the stealing and wife abuse.
(Thanks to Matt Richmond of Bloomberg UTV for some of the statistics in the above story.)
Speaking in Tongues?
Now that South Sudan has become an independent country, English will become the official language. Prior to this, Arabic was the official language because the country was controlled by the Islamic north.
This will be a great help in evangelism as the adults of the future will have learned English in school and so will be able to take advantage of teaching materials that are abundant in English. Right now across Sudan and the new separate country of South Sudan, people speak in 134 different languages!
"Giving Despite Their Need"
Our world seems to have been the victim of many disasters lately. Some of you who read our newsletter have been personally affected.
As a result, many individuals and churches are struggling financially. Yet each month we are amazed by the commitment of so many of you who continue to prayerfully and financially support the Lord's work in South Sudan.
Your continued encouragement means more than you can possibly know. Thank you for your faithfulness!