Ministry in South Sudan

Rob and Corey with two future seminary students

The Beginning of a Relationship

The death of Fourth elder Roger Winter in 2023 reminds us of his legacy to our church. It was a sermon preached by Roger on a Sunday evening at the close of Fourth’s 2005 Missions Conference that awakened the church to the needs of South Sudan. In that sermon Roger related an encounter with a group of the poorest of Christian people in what was then war-torn Sudan, in which these impoverished believers, when asked what was their greatest need, responded by saying it was training for their pastors.

That challenge was the impetus for the congregation of Fourth Church to be involved in its ministry to South Sudan. The response began with a team of elders led by Pastor Ron Meyer meeting with leaders of the South Sudan Churches in Uganda in solidifying their vision for theological training for their pastors. A visit to Juba, South Sudan, by Roger Winter and myself quickly followed.

Rob and James Lagos Alexander opening the shipping container

Investment in Growing God’s Church

Over the next 18 years, Fourth Church maintained strong relationships with Christian leaders in South Sudan, with my regular visits and teaching. The church purchased property and planned the building of a seminary in which to teach. Through popular unrest and the illegal seizure of its land, the church continued to remain firm in its commitment to the calling of God.

A second property was negotiated by me and Dr. Todd Smedley with the community of Moli Andro near the Ugandan border. Elder David Van Duzer visited and produced architectural plans for the new seminary as fresh water wells were dug, school rooms were built, and a medical center was restored. Then came civil war: The community at Moli Andro was attacked and its population killed and dispersed; still Fourth Church remained committed even through the pain of devastation.

Rob sharing with church leaders

Equipping Church Leaders

The church financed a meeting of theologians in South Africa, who with myself and Dr. Smedley produced a theological curriculum for training pastors at every level, from certificate to degree. This curriculum was accredited by the Education Ministry of the Government of South Africa and has since become the basis for theological training in eight more nations and is now the basis for training in South Sudan.

While the civil war meant training was confined to personal visits and my “ad hoc” lecturing, the church supported a ministry in the refugee camps at Juba where more than 200,000 people were housed, and where the children were without any schooling. The congregation of Fourth Church provided a library and books, and also provided scholarships for two students to attend a seminary in South Africa. With their degrees these men have now returned to Juba and will be teachers in the new seminary there.

Children in the refugee camp where our shipping container was set up as a library

The Good Work Continues

In the nearly 20 years of our involvement there one constant figure has been a part of our mission: dear friend and brother Pastor James Lagos Alexander. James has become the Presiding Bishop of his denomination, which is the largest in South Sudan. He has provided us with dedicated space on the campus of one of his churches in the heart of the capital city of Juba, and we have renovated the space. We have provided classrooms and a new theological library, the first in Juba.

The vision, so powerfully proclaimed at that Sunday evening service years ago, has borne fruit amidst much pain and loss. In all of the time, the Lord has been faithful, as has the congregation of Fourth Church. Dr. Smedley and I continue to go and teach to support Bishop James and the local teachers; this month I’ll be teaching an intensive course on theology, bringing books for the students as there are none available there. I will also train the students — mainly pastors — on how to then use what they have learned in sermons for their congregations. I look forward to the future and all that the Lord will do for HE has not finished with us or South Sudan.

Corey with children in the refugee camp