Southeastern’s Center for Great Commission Studies maintains its own blog, which is full of great articles and resources for students and friends interested in fulfilling the Great Commission. Here’s a recap of their top posts in March.
Recently, John Ewart traveled with Danny Akin and Scot Hildreth, director of the Center for Great Commission Studies, to the Uganda-Sudan border to meet with pastors and their wives from the South Sudan Baptist Convention. In the excerpt of his post below, John details the reasons for the meeting and the lessons learned from these persevering brothers and sisters.
As I write this post, I am sitting in front of a desk fan about the size of a grapefruit in the mid day heat of Uganda not far from the borders of both the Congo and South Sudan. I am here with our president, Danny Akin and Scott Hildreth, director of our Center for Great Commission Studies. We are leading a conference for pastors and their wives from the South Sudan Baptist Convention. It is difficult to describe what all these brothers and sisters in Christ have endured over the last years and especially the last few months.
Sudan and South Sudan have experienced civil wars that first pitted Muslims against Christians and more recently tribe against tribe. The most recent conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2014 and saw two tribes with competing political aspirations fighting one another. This is an extremely simplistic summary of a very complex situation.
One very unfortunate result of this conflict has been the division of the church along tribal lines as well. We are here at the request of the South Sudan Baptist Convention and the IMB team to minister to and equip these leaders to go back into the church of South Sudan and bring unity and healing. It is obviously a great privilege for us. We are meeting in northern Uganda instead of South Sudan due to security issues because the tension between tribes is so intense and might spill over into our meeting.
In late April/early May my wife and I joined a number of other believers on a mission trip to the Southern Sudan. We would be in an area of extreme poverty with no running water or electricity. It was hot and the conditions were, to say the least, Spartan. However, it was one of the most rewarding mission endeavors we have ever taken. More than 1650 persons from the Congo, Uganda and Sudan converged on a small city in the southern part of the country for a Bible conference, church planting and evangelism. Virtually all of them walked most or all the way. Some walked a week to get there, spend each night on a mat outdoors, and then walked another week back home. God blessed greatly! We trained hundreds of pastors and also saw more than 170 people baptized!
There are so many things that I could share about this time in Sudan. However, one story in particular stands out that has only increased my intensity to see a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) take place among Southern Baptists. Charlotte and I had the joy of meeting and assisting a man called Pastor Sam. Sam is a church planter who has already baptized more than 30 new believers in the church that was started back in May. The church meets under 3 mango trees out among the villages. Sam came to the Lord as a teenager. Tragically, at the age of 12, he saw his father, mother and brothers and sisters hacked to death with machetes by a cultic tribe in Uganda. In God’s grace he was spared, and he was led to a Christian family where he met the Lord. Later, he felt God’s call to be a pastor. For the past 2 years he has studied in a small Bible institute in Sudan.
Now, he is a pastor. Sam owns only two sets of clothes and a pair of sandals. The only book he has is a Bible. However, I have seldom met anyone who had more of the joy of the Lord Jesus in his heart than this man. As our team was leaving, we wanted to be a blessing to Sam. So, we got together and determined that we would give him what he needed most. We gathered around him, laid hands on him and prayed. Then, we told him that we had purchased for him 2 oxen, a plow and enough seed for him to plow the land adjacent to his church to provide for himself and others who would become a part of his fellowship. Several others of us were moved to provide additional funds for him to build his tukel, the hut in which he now lives.
As we left the Sudan, once more a riveting truth griped my heart. Those that have Jesus plus nothing actually have everything. On the other hand, those who have everything minus Jesus actually have nothing. Sam has Jesus and so he has everything!
One final word. As we went village to village sharing the gospel, not one time were we turned down! I am not saying that everyone trusted Christ. They did not. However, no one declined the invitation to hear about the Lord Jesus. Truly, as Jesus said, the fields are ripe unto harvest. Oswald Smith said, “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice while there remains so many who have never heard it once.” I am in agreement with this. There are literally millions and millions who have never heard the name of Jesus but who will listen to our presentation of the gospel if we go to them. Many will respond in saving faith if only they hear the good news.
It is time for us to get serious about a Great Commission Resurgence. It is time to be “radical!” Pitiful excuses that are myopic and territorial need to cease. There needs to be genuine repentance and brokenness over a calloused heart that has grown cold to the masses who have never heard the gospel and who have no access to it. Such a movement must begin one by one with each one of us. It will begin in individual hearts. I am praying that this passion will grip my heart and soul now and until the day I stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account for the life that He gave me. I do not want to leave a wasted life. I do not believe you want to either.