New RoommateRich Stigall
From: Joe Knittig, Torit Sudan
I’m in a mud hut with grass roof, pitch black, bullet holes everywhere, in Torit, Sudan.
My roommate for the night, right next to my bed as I write (within petting distance), is a white, Sudanese pigeon/chicken.
And I have to say, what a privilege it is to be right here right now.
We’re at the home of Bishop Bernard Oringa Balmoi. Being bishop means that he is the head pastor of Eastern Equitoria State, centered in Torit. This was the first region where war started, and the last region to have peace in 2008.
Bishop Bernard is an amazing man. Before this call, he worked in Khartoum for Wycliffe Bible Translators. He had a very good job. He and his wife and another local friend used their incomes to care for 28 orphans at their home.
You may think that accepting a call as bishop of this enormous region meant a big “promotion.” Hardly. He accepted the call when war still ripped through the region and its families. He could have opted to live elsewhere and retained his position. He instead chose to lead by action: he moved into the heart of Torit, among its shattered people. He built a mud and stick structure and humbled himself into that home. It’s just outside of my hut right now.
When he moved here, he saw extreme poverty, almost no schools, and traumatized people in every hut. So many men gone – to war or the grave. So many widows. So many children completely orphaned, and few women left shouldering an impossible burden. Still, he saw these same women and children keeping community fabric intact through the local church, a supernatural feat. Just near his home, nearly 300 worship each week, nearly all widows, their children, and their “dependents.” He told me: “Go to church and ask who has lost their family in the war. All will raise their hands. Here, this is normal.”
I have to tell you, if you’re mad at the local church, don’t blame God. We may foul it up in our execution, but His design is perfect. It can even withstand and drive through decades of bloody war, with no support other than Christ Himself. Don’t believe it? Come visit here.
I sat with this courageous man for 2 hours and heard his struggles, his hopes, his dreams. He shared so much information and wisdom. I learned a great deal; too much to share now.
I’m about to doze off. As I think of Bishop Bernard, my mind is running to the faces of great men I know within GO Project who’ve taken on crushing burdens in oppression, just like Bishop Bernard. Moise, Dony, Louis, Peter Maseko, Obed, JJ, Diton, Tony Applegate, Mike Valdez, Peng Castro, Manny Sinoy, etc… It’s hard for us to understand the weight they carry in these circumstances.
Do me two favors, please. Pray for these leaders. And go out of your way to pray for and do something to bless your own local church pastor. They’re in some deep, deep waters.
We’ll talk more tomorrow.