The Cush4Christ team worships together every Sunday afternoon. Part of our worship consists of singing Psalms of praise to the Lord. In my first few months on the team, I noticed that one Psalm was chosen far more frequently than the other 149 Psalms. Psalm 117 rightly serves as an unofficial theme Psalm of God’s mission in South Sudan:
“Praise the LORD, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
For His lovingkindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the LORD is everlasting.
Praise the LORD!”
It is difficult to miss the theme, because the Psalm starts and ends with the same words: Praise the Lord! You may even know how to say it in Dinka: Alleluia! The same theme of praising the Lord is repeated in the second line: Laud Him! Who is to praise the Lord? All nations and all peoples. So this Psalm is for everyone in the USA, in South Sudan, and in every nation on earth.
All nations ought to praise the Lord, because “His lovingkindness is great toward us”. How has God shown great lovingkindness toward us? First of all by creating us and giving us life as Job confesses to God:
“You have granted me life and lovingkindness;
And Your care has preserved my spirit.” [Job 10:12]
For all the seven billion people in the world, this is true, without exception: God created and gave life to each one. Until now, our train of logic through this short Psalm has been simple and straightforward:
“I should praise the Lord, because he has shown great lovingkindness to me.”
Here is where the train derails: all people were created by God in lovingkindness, but not all people praise God! What happened to our relaxing train ride through this Psalm? Before the train even left the station, I, a rebellious passenger, decided it would be better to do a little switcheroo between the locomotive and the caboose. I scrapped:
“I should praise the Lord, because he has shown great lovingkindness to me.”
And I rearranged the order of the train to:
“The Lord should show great lovingkindness to me, because I deserve to be praised.”
A few words are switched around, but it drastically changes the meaning from “the Lord deserves to be praised” to “I deserve to be praised”. And the consequences prove it: train wreck! I caused this train wreck by putting the passenger in the engineer’s seat. Worse still, I am only one of seven billion people who have done exactly the same thing, causing seven billion terrific train wrecks. At this point, we must say to the Lord with Jacob,
“I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant.” [Genesis 32:10]
In the midst of seven billion train wrecks, God’s lovingkindness appears again:
“By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for,
And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” [Proverbs 16:6]
For a second time, God has shown lovingkindness to us, this time by atoning for our iniquity. Jesus Christ paid the debt of our sin by bearing God’s judgment on the cross. That the Lord Jesus Christ died in our stead is God’s greatest act of lovingkindness toward us, stimulating our hearts to praise the Lord. This is why the Cush4Christ team is in South Sudan: so that the Lord will be praised for his lovingkindness to the people of South Sudan. Yet who are we to think that we can help the 8 million people of South Sudan with train-wrecked lives? We are train wrecks ourselves! But God promises in his lovingkindness and power that
“He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.” [Psalm 72:13]
This promise still holds, because “the truth of the LORD is everlasting”! Praise the Lord, because we have seen the Lord pour his great lovingkindness and everlasting truth into our lives! Praise the Lord, because he has appointed us to be his vessels through whom he pours his great lovingkindness and everlasting truth into the lives of people in South Sudan! Praise the Lord because the people of South Sudan are beginning to praise the Lord for his lovingkindness toward them!
Today, the 9th of July is Independence Day in South Sudan. Everyone is celebrating the hard-fought achievement of independence from Sudan one short year ago. South Sudan’s National Anthem begins with these fitting words:
“Oh God, We praise and glorify You for Your grace on South Sudan …”
I confess that I have not written to my supporters for two months. I trust God that your prayers have been more frequent than my emails. May I add several more reasons to praise the Lord and petition his lovingkindness:
- Pray that God will strengthen the testimony of Aweil Community Church in the face of adversity. The leaders, members, and adherents of the church all face great temptations to sin, even as they live in poverty, are taken to court, live with ungodly family members, and address personal grievances that arise in the church. None of these are unique to South Sudan, but they all add up to produce treacherous waters, through which it is difficult to chart the path of godliness.
- Pray for frequent rains as people are busy cultivating their fields. Last year was a drought year, yielding predictions for famine this year. Almost everyone provides for their food by farming, so people are very dependent on good rains.
- Pray for the many men who sit in the market playing cards, chewing or smoking tobacco, and drinking alcohol, while their wives and children are working in the fields. Pray that these men will be convicted of their sin. While we recognize that cards, tobacco, and alcohol are not inherently sinful, these men are sinning by spending their strength on the things of the world instead of in service to King Jesus. While we desire them to use their time wisely during prime cultivating season and stop wasting their money as their children survive on one small meal a day, we pray first that they will turn to Jesus, and then live a new life of faith and godliness.
- Pray that God will destroy the influence of those who fear demons. A few weeks ago, a large thunderstorm hit and a man in the community was struck by lightning. He survived, sustaining only damage to his hand. Immediately, some members of the community took a goat and sacrificed it to appease the gods who sent the lightning. Pray that the people of South Sudan will abandon superstition and worship the Lord, whose power far exceeds the power of demons.
- Praise God that we have completed a fence around the training center and radio station compound. This should help deter the thieves and mischief makers among our neighbors.
- Praise God that the construction of the training center is progressing, even though I am somewhat disappointed that it will not be completed before I leave.
- Pray for the four pastors who I am leading in a study through the Bible on Saturday mornings. This study is part of their continuing education as pastors, so last Saturday they took an exam over the material we have covered in the last eight weeks. Pray that all four men will grow in their understanding of scripture, love for God, and wisdom in pastoring God’s flock.
- Pray that our team leader Vince and his family will be refreshed during their summer in Canada.
- Pray that churches in the USA and Canada will be encouraged when they hear Vince report on the work of the Lord in South Sudan.
That’s all for now from Parot, Wanyjok, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Let me know what is happening back home, or wherever you are this summer!
P.S. Due in part to the inflexibility of visa and flight costs, but mostly to the inaccuracy of my budget estimates made back in December, my fundraising is about $500 short of my total expenses. This is small enough that I can stretch my own funds to cover it, but I thought I would give you the opportunity to help defray my costs. Just print out this page (pdf) and mail it to RP Missions, 3004 5th Ave., Beaver Falls, PA 15010. Thanks for your support!