Below is just a short update… we have a big day tomorrow to prepare for!
Our day started in churches around Juba, publicizing the mission and preaching the Word of God. The evangelists were well received and arrived back just in time to leave for the Opening Rally. The weather was HOT, and we were dehydrated before we got there. General attendance was slow, probably because of the heat, but it was well attended by dignitaries and church leaders. The Minister for Gender and Welfare, the Religious Advisor to the President, and even the Vice President himself attended.
At one point a huge storm approached, blowing a gusty (but relievingly cool) wind. Many people ran for cover as large drops of rain splattered the choir which was singing. The prayer team and counselors who were strategically positioned around the ground starting praying urgently – this storm had the potential to literally wipe out the Opening Rally.
The Choir sang more fervently, and everyone realized what was at stake. The singing grew in intensity and people started dancing in the rain… we were not going to give up this God given opportunity. Eventually the storm passed by and we were able to continue in considerably more pleasant cooler conditions.
After some great Sudanese choirs and our own youth “Foxfire” evangelists had performed, the Vice President warmly welcomed us to Juba, thanking the various African nations represented for their care of Sudanese refugees who fled Juba during the war. He emphasized the diversity and freedom of religion in Southern Sudan, and encouraged us to preach hard!
Stephen then shared his testimony, and clearly touched people deeply as they heard about his abandonment and suffering as a child, and had them laughing as he described how he tried to duck the preacher’s finger which pointed into the congregation where he was saved.
Both speakers set a poignant foundation for main speaker, Keith Cook’s message based on John 14:6 – Jesus is the only way to the Father. He described how God had rescued him from near death experiences, and more than that, how in Christ had completely dealt with our sin so that we can be assured of eternity in heaven with a holy God. The sun had set by this time, but people had stayed to listen to the message. When the listeners were invited to give their lives to Jesus, many hands were raised, and we were surprised by the number of people who trailed over the waiting counselors. 124 people gave their lives to the Lord for the first time.
Thanks so much for upholding us in prayer through this first day. The teams will be dispersed into the 6 mission zones tomorrow, visiting schools, businesses, government ministries and markets. Please continue to pray for:
· That many hearts will be prepared to hear the gospel
· Against obstacles and logistical difficulties
· Health and energy
· Safety as we travel around