In a calm and factual manner, using packed PowerPoint slides, Patrick Jok of the Sudanese Reformed Church presented both the hope and the horror of South Sudan to synodical delegates and guests gathered at Trinity Christian College while synod (the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church) was on a dinner break.
Patrick Jok briskly walked the audience through a century of Sudanese history. As he explained, it is a history of war. He said, “My father grew up in war. I grew up in war. My son is growing up in war.”
In recent years there appeared to be new reason for hope for an end of the conflict. For a long time the conflict had been between north and south, but in 2011, South Sudan became an independent nation.
That hope was quickly dashed. By 2103, South Sudan was plunged into civil war along tribal lines. To date, Patrick Jok said, 100,000 people have been killed. Millions more have been displaced, many becoming refugees in neighboring nations. Much of the population faces daily hunger.
The Sudanese Reformed Church has emerged and grown in the midst of this violence. The church began in 1992 with a single house church. Five years later, in 1997, it had grown to four congregations. By 2005, with 500 members, it was organized as a denomination subscribing to the Reformed confessions. In 2009, the Sudanese Reformed Church held its first synod. The church has now grown to 6,000 members. It has 12 ordained pastors and 20 evangelists.
This new church has grown largely without much in the way of outside support. It has been hard. In the ongoing civil war, the church has lost 27 members, two pastors, and five evangelists. Three church buildings have been burnt down. Seven properties have been looted.
The leaders of this brave church have decided to stay. At a trauma healing conference sponsored by Christian Reformed World Missions in Nairobi, Kenya, the leaders decided to go back. They said, “If we die, we die in the Lord.”
Synod 2017 is meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., from June 9-15. For continuous coverage while synod is in session, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases and the webcast, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.