I asked a good friend what her heart longed to hear most about our time in South Sudan. She said, “I would like to hear about where you’ve seen the goodness of God in the land of the living. What is it that causes people from such suffering, war-torn lands to be joyful and trust God despite the horrors they’ve experienced?”
I’m glad she asked this, because it aligned perfectly with what I believe the Lord highlighted for me during the mission: His faithfulness. He has seen the calamity. He has heard the cries of the South Sudanese for deliverance, and He is delivering them. What I have been struck by the most is God’s timing. Just as His ways are not our ways, His timing also is not our timing.
What I see is that the Lord is not in a hurry.
He works slowly, steadily and intentionally to carry out His purposes. Rarely have I seen Him do mighty works at the snap of a finger. Hearts don’t often change overnight. Trust and relationships require nurturing. What God requires of us is faithfulness. Faithfulness to Him and faithfulness in obeying Him. The timing of how His work unfolds is up to Him. Every good thing in our lives stems from our relationship with the Lord, and out of that place of intimacy we are able to advance His Kingdom, share His Good News and usher His Light into dark places. It is not the other way around.
This is what I have seen in South Sudan. Through the faithfulness of some key men and women, the Lord is steadily advancing His Kingdom and delivering people from evil. Much time and effort has been invested in creating trust and friendships there. Just as Jesus took care of people’s physical needs before addressing their spiritual state, ATC has brought much needed relief to the South Sudanese over the past two decades. They have done this by providing food, medical clinics, transportation, cattle raising programs, planting and harvesting, building schools and orphanages, and I am sure many other ways that I’m not even aware of. None of this has happened overnight.
What is the result of all of this? The people have come to know the Lord! They have forgiven their oppressors! Truly. They have literally stood before those who murdered their fathers, defiled their mothers and enslaved their children, extending forgiveness and committing to have peace amongst their peoples. Who does that? Would you do that? Would I do that? Jesus did it, and He is teaching these people to show mercy as He has shown mercy. What power there is found in His love!
There has also been a physical effect. I went to Sudan in 2008 and on this most recent trip, I was able to see the transformations that have taken place over the past 12 years. There is less nakedness, less sickness and less skin disease. There is more food, including more fresh fruits and vegetables. There are more trees and plants. Even some flowers! Last time I went, I saw ONE cow roaming around, a couple of goats and ONE chicken...which was eventually fed to us for dinner. This time there were so many cows and goats roaming around I couldn’t even count them. Chickens with their chicks trailing behind them, and roosters making sure we rose with the sun. There is more infrastructure. During my first visit to a certain town there was only one building: a simple tattered clinic. Now there are schools, churches, tukals and compounds everywhere and even some “fancy” outhouses. And now, there is a sewing center! That’s a story to be continued…
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
SARAH SMITH | DIRECTOR OF REFUGIO SOLTÉ
Mere days after Jason, a Louisiana boy, and Sarah, a Honduran daughter of missionaries, were married in 2006, they were asked to go to Costa Rica to manage the construction project of Refugio Solté. With nothing tying the newlyweds down, they set off for a one-year jungle adventure, not knowing that 10+ years and two boys later the adventure would still be unfolding. Together they direct the happenings of Refugio Solté, leading retreats and trainings, and seeking daily what God's plans are for His mountain.