Praise the LORD for His Lovingkindness toward South Sudan!

Friends,
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!

In Christ,
Aaron

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!

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Cush4Christ Blogs

One of my Cush4Christ teammates writes a blog. Jan shares jots of everyday life among the Dinka people, usually accompanied by pictures.

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The LORD is Sovereign Builder and Guard

Friends,
While I am working on the construction of the training center, mostly laying bricks for the past two months, I have a lot of time to think. And there are plenty of questions to ponder. How do we help the local church mature while avoiding pitfalls on every side? How do we train the church leaders to be pastors, elders, and deacons? How do we train them to be evangelists, church planters, preachers, theologians, teachers, and servants? How do we teach a church to minister to the poor, when the church members are the poorest people in the poorest nation on earth? How do we dismantle the culture of dependence so deeply ingrained into the minds of the people, that it is considered the duty of the rich kawajas to grant the requests of everyone who asks, because everyone thinks of himself as poor (and most are)? How do we avoid living aloof above our neighbors, so as not to provoke jealousy? How do we live like them as best as we are able, yet continue to make use of the conveniences of modern life that allow us time to serve them by addressing their spiritual and physical needs? How do I write letters to my supporters back home that paint an accurate picture of God’s work here, without sounding hopeless (as the circumstances often look) or portraying the roses without the thorns (as part of me would like to do)? How do we complete our impossible task?

The answer is found in Psalm 127:1

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.

The LORD is our builder. The LORD is our guard. Our efforts to build and to guard are a hopeless striving after the wind, unless the LORD blesses them. The LORD is the one on whom the success or failure of our mission lies, as several examples will demonstrate.

Our truck of supplies coming from Nairobi arrived on April 2nd, with great excitement. Praise the LORD for this answer to prayer! Someone on our team mentioned that this might be the most prayed for truck in history. People all over the world have been praying for it, since its expected arrival two months prior. Even after the truck was unloaded and left, the children were praying for its safe return to Nairobi. Somehow, for the adults, that prayer was far from our minds. The truck brought windows, doors, sheet metal roofing, 300 bags of cement, chairs, tables, desks, and chalkboards for the construction of the training center, among various other supplies. The lateness of the truck’s arrival was God’s doing and God’s plan, not ours. Our efforts to hasten the truck’s arrival were in vain, but God brought it safely at the right time. Although that time was delayed, and we do not know why God delayed the truck, we can know, in faith, that the timing was right.

Construction projects in South Sudan always face the difficulties of theft and hiring workers. I have heard a number of stories of troubles from past projects. Thankfully, our experience with theft and disgruntled workers has been minimal during the construction of the training center. The protection of our God and learning from our past mistakes have reduced the number of incidents. The few thefts and quarrels which have taken place are sufficient to remind us how quickly our efforts could be erased if God did not guard this work. And it is not only the sin of others that could derail our efforts. Consider how quickly we are filled with anger when someone steals from us, even something small. In such a case, our own impetuousness could easily become the unraveling point for our work.

Another reminder that the LORD is the one who guards the city is the political relations between South Sudan and Sudan. It is completely out of our control whether the two countries go to war or live in peace, open the border or close it, pump oil or shut down oil production, make inflammatory comments or come to an agreement during negotiations. I would rather not comment on the internet about the politics here, because I am sure the politics are much more nuanced than I could understand after my first few weeks. I will ask that you pray for both nations to live at peace by submitting to the Prince of Peace. You may have seen news articles about South Sudan in the past few months. The news reports you can read online are the same articles we read, and we usually do not know much more, although we wish we did. If you are prone to worrying, don’t go looking for the articles. Such articles always report on the hottest activity. If you are afraid of flying, you wouldn’t go read the wikipedia article on plane crashes just before your first airplane ride. Use the same wisdom here.

Pray also for the meeting of presbytery, which is taking place as I write (on Saturday). During this meeting regarding the business matters of Aweil Community Church, the men will plan for the future and examine men who are in training for the ministry. Pray that these men will fix their hope on the LORD to build the church and not trust their own efforts or be distracted by the cares of the world.

In considering how our own efforts could easily be in vain, I Corinthians 15:58 is a challenge to obedience and confident assurance in the LORD:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

In Christ,
-Aaron

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School Construction Site

The school construction site is right next to Weer Bei FM and my home.  This is the site on March 1st:

School Construction Site on March 1st

Another view of the construction site from the top of the wall:

Zach sifting mortar:

The construction site with the walls built up, just before our truck of supplies arrived on April 2nd:

The construction site as of this morning (The windows and doors arrived on the truck.):

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Sojourning in South Sudan

Friends,

After three weeks in South Sudan, it remains apparent that I am a stranger in a foreign land. I quickly became accustomed to the children shouting, “Kawaja! Kawaja! Kawaja!” as they come running to shake my hand (and ask for money). I learned to lay bricks, while many young eyes looked on. Men, women, and children all speak openly, but my ears do not understand their words. I am a stranger, a curiosity, and, because I am Kawaja, the supposed distributor of unlimited wealth.

When I consider how many people in scripture sojourned in foreign lands, being a stranger and an alien appears to be normal. Consider one man, Abraham:

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. … All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” [Hebrews 11:8-10,13-16]

I am an alien among the Dinka, but the Dinka are realizing that South Sudan is not their spiritual homeland as they look to Christ in faith for the promise of a better land. It is our hope that many more Dinka will be added to the city whose foundation is Christ and whose architect and builder is God. Because our God builds his church, we have faith that simple obedience will bear much fruit for the population of that holy, heavenly city. This obedience takes shape in several ministries of Cush4Christ: the training of men to be church-planting pastors, the broadcasting of the gospel by Wëër Bei 99.9 FM, and most recently, preparing to start a Christian school. My primary responsibility is the construction of a building for the Crossroads Training Center and the school. This building, containing four classrooms, is expected to be completed in April. These past two weeks have been filled with making bricks, laying bricks, and moving fill dirt.

Please pray:

  • Giving thanks that I have adjusted well to life in Wanyjok. I was ill for a day when I arrived, but quickly recovered.
  • That the truck of construction supplies will arrive soon.
  • That visa uncertainties for all 14 members of our team will be resolved quickly and inexpensively. Since South Sudan became an independent nation last year, visa rules are changing frequently, making it very difficult for us (and even the government officials) to understand and comply with the requirements. This is yet another reminder that we are strangers in a foreign land.
  • That the gospel will take deep root in the lives and culture of the Dinka, for the salvation of many unto new life in Christ Jesus.

In other news, I am becoming less of a foreigner, because I have now received my Dinka name: Athian. My father’s name is Akwei, and my clan is Panyer.

In Christ,

-Aaron

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Watch Your Step

Friends,

“The moving walkway is coming to an end. Please watch your step!” As I sit at the Indianapolis airport, I hear this recorded message over and over. This message could be an accurate warning for my life. “Watch your step, Aaron! Your smooth ride is over.” Not that I think my life before this point was smooth flying. Not at all. Nor was I looking for more turbulence. I was looking for stability. I was looking for a job post-graduation. I was looking for smoother flying and a place to call home.

When I received a message asking if I would consider going to South Sudan to serve with the Cush4Christ mission, I was interviewing with several companies. The idea of going to South Sudan was very exciting, but I really didn’t want to delay getting a paying job. Then I received a job offer that was well-paying, but not well suited to me. I had to examine my steps. I had to compare my hopes to the clear direction of God. It should not be a surprise that God’s word proved true: “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Will this path that God has directed to South Sudan be turbulent? You bet! God doesn’t promise smooth flying. But He does promise that, by faith, He walks with me. I do not have to live in terror of taking wrong steps, for “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) But I do walk with care, paying attention to the word of God. By His discipline, God keeps me in His path, so that “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23) May I fix my eyes on Christ always!

Thanks to my friends who counseled me to see God’s hand of preparation and direction in my life and go to South Sudan. Thanks to the people who helped me prepare to go. And a big thanks to the saints at Sycamore RPC who made a very tasty dinner and generously gave over $2000 to send me. God bountifully provides more than we ask!

For those who like dates, here is my calendar:

Feb. 17: Leave Home
Feb. 18: Arrive Nairobi, Kenya where I meet Scott
Feb. 20: Apply for South Sudan visa
Feb. 22: Pick up South Sudan visa
Feb. 23: Fly to Juba (the capital of South Sudan)
Feb. 24: Fly to Aweil and drive to the Cush4Christ mission
July 18: Arrive back in US

Please pray for traveling mercies from the hand of God and for speedy visa processing.
Pray that God would establish the steps I take in South Sudan by keeping me in His ways.

In Christ,
-Aaron

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To South Sudan

After much consideration, prayer, and exhortation from friends, I have decided to serve the Lord in South Sudan for several months next year. Please read more about this mission, pray for me, and consider supporting me.

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The Expression of Ideas

I could wax eloquent about how the creativity of the human mind and the propagation prowess of the internet have combined forces to empower bold ideas with lucid and engrossing exposition. But my words would distract the reader. Observe two excellent examples from RSA Animate.

The Secret Powers of Time

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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Aaron’s Manifesto

The first draft of Aaron’s manifesto has been published: http://aarondinkledine.com/about/

Synopsis

  • Who am I?
  • This blog is not meant to be a blog.
  • Author’s Guidelines
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