In his July 2015 briefing Luis Bush writes about a very interesting movement of the Spirit in Europe (and elsewhere) which is raising up young people who disciple other young people. The result is gospel transformation in many different sectors of society. One of the key contexts for this movement is the Czech Republic which has a reputation as the most secular nation in Europe.
If you would like to read Luis Bush’s report (which is very relevant to the current focus of Anglican Witness on Discipleship and young people in the Anglican Communion) then you can find it here.
Bishop Francis Loyo from the Diocese of Rokon, South Sudan shares his personal journey through hardships of civil war in Sudan, reunification with his family after six years and strength of his personal faith and service which got him elected as a bishop even without knowing it.
I was born premature, weak and almost dying. My mother was ill and without milk. This was the beginning of my journey to life. I was breast fed by different mothers in the village and so I believed I am their son.
After one year my father died leaving me in the care of my mother and my elder sister. Six years later my mother also passed away.
When my mother was dying she spoke to my sister who has just got married telling her: ‘Take him and care for him as your eldest child’.
I became elder sister’s first child and she took me to the village school. I was keen to learn and listened carefully since I knew my parents were not there anymore.
I did not have much demands I only relied on good will mothers and fathers who were kind to me.
What helped me was the African philosophy by Dr John Mbiti: “I am because we are and, since we are, therefore I am.” We share and we are concerned for one another in times of hardships and happiness.
‘I began learning and working hard’
My elder brother was involved in the second liberation of South Sudan. He took me to a church mission school in Juba. I went to the middle school in Juba and was cared for by uncles while my eldest brother went to fight in the bush.
My mother’s words still spoke to me as she used to take me to the Church. I remembered God is the only one and Christ is the saviour to us all and particularly to me as a person.
I enrolled in a British Tutorial College and did a correspondence [distance learning] course; I was awarded a Diploma in English and became a teacher in a secondary school.
In 1985 I was detained for 7 months without a charge and kept by the security forces as being a supporter of the Liberation movement. Later on I was released after the overthrow of the Sudanese president. I was given an amnesty and went back to teach.
After my release I received a letter from our Episcopal Church office that I won a scholarship for further studies at the Trinity College in Ghana.
I had already six children with my lovely wife Linda Loyo. I resigned from teaching and left for Ghana in 1986. I went with the civil war ongoing. My wife told me that God would care for them even if I was absent.
‘We all burst into tears and thanked God’
The six years of separation with my wife was not easy. I passed exams with the support from God himself because my mind was divided as I missed my young children.
My wife suffered running away from the enemies, facing hunger and lack of clean water and hiding in the bushes because of the war. I had lost contact with my family, and did not know their whereabouts.
“What a terrible calling of God? Why? What have I done? I thought I have escaped my challenges during my childhood but they were still following me”, I would often say to myself.
My prayer kept me alive and strong. If God has indeed called me, he should use me to the maximum and show me the right path.
In 1990 I won a scholarship again from the Christian Council of Ghana to go to Nairobi, Kenya for another three years. This time I decided to venture through Uganda and the South Sudan border where I had to pass the rebel controlled area to try to find my family.
When I entered the South Sudan territory I was met by the Sudan’s People Liberation Army/Movement and they thought I might have come to join them. I told them that I was here looking for my wife and children whom I left in Rokon.
They supported me by sending eight soldiers to go and search for my family. They reached the Rokon area and found my wife Linda and the children safe but in difficulty.
The soldiers brought them walking for 21 days to reach the border of Uganda where I met them. We all burst in tears and thanked God for His mercy and His kindness. We will always serve our God wherever He my want us to.
‘Am I the right person to lead as I am still on a long journey?’
I do not think that we have the straight answers, but God Himself knew exactly what to do with us.
After my theological training in 1993 I decided to go to the war torn areas around Rokon which was occupied by the Islamic forces of the north Sudan government
I worked with NGOs to help me to travel to the areas where most population were displaced and ran into the bushes. It was not easy going without food, water and shelter and the risk of meeting the Sudanese army.
The first time I reached Rokon area, I was in tears but not hungry. People lived as animals – no food or soap, no clothes or blankets, even no tools for cultivation. I decided to return to Nairobi and look for any organization that could support me with the items people needed.
The diocese was declared vacant because my bishop passed away in Juba in 1994, then I was made a deacon and later a priest. After six months I was elected as a bishop in a different cathedral Church in the Diocese of Maridi, Western Equatoria state.
I was in Kenya when I was elected and many people did not know me. I was not aware that I would become one of the bishops. I was not sure whether know whether I was the right person to lead as I was still on a long journey.
It is important that we can learn to be the disciples of Christ in the difficult times. Out of our hardship we bear fruits of Christ and peace to the people we serve. Humility must cover us wherever the challenges may be.
As Anglican Witness continues its major focus on intentional disciple-making and discipleship we are pleased to welcome a major new resource. Charles Davis served for many years as the Director of TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) based in Chicago, USA. Drawing on his wide experience of mission in many cultures around the world he has just published his latest research findings in Making Disciples across Cultures.
Davis suggests that culture affects how we make disciples and in this insightful roadmap he provides a framework for missional disciple-making across diverse cultural contexts. With on-the-ground stories from a lifetime of mission experience, Davis navigates cultural tensions to help Christian workers minister more effectively within their own culture or cross-culturally.
The book is available as a Kindle version or in hard copy from Amazon USA or Amazon UK or any good book store.
Mission-centred relationship and openness about the challenges faced in both the global north and global south of the Anglican Communion were the key needs identified in the Companion Link consultation involving 25 Anglican/Episcopalian leaders from 11 dioceses in Canada, Ghana, South Sudan and Tanzania that took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 14-17 May.
Companion or Church links are relationships among Anglican Communion churches that agree to work together to enhance their local and global mission by sharing resources, exchange visits, work and cultural experience. “Companion Link relationships should become the heartbeat of each diocese,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada pointed out at the Tanzania meeting.
Meanwhile, political instability in the country prevented Burundi Anglican leaders from two dioceses and their Primate from participating in the consultation. Those who gathered expressed profound sadness and solidarity with their counterparts and the whole nation, and prayed for peace and co-existence among Burundians and the ability to settle differences and remain united.
The delegates discussed Companion Link achievements and areas for improvement to enhance cooperation among companion dioceses and parishes. The meeting provided an opportunity for the dioceses to know more about each other’s work and develop even closer partnerships.
Diocesan bishops shared personal stories of mission experience lived out in their contexts and across Companion Links. Bishop Jane Alexander from the Diocese of Edmonton in Canada talked of a church partnership with the local government to end poverty and homelessness, and highlighted the diocese’s vision to deal with the challenge to keep youth and young people in the church beyond confirmation.
Bishop Wilson Kamani of the Diocese of Iba in South Sudan talked about the high illiteracy levels and the role of the church in providing education, pointing out that the first school in the area was started by the church in 2007. Bishop Kamani also highlighted the vision for self-sustainability where more locally educated people and infrastructure support the work of the diocese so there is less need to depend on support from outside.
Some of the areas identified for future cooperation included regular communication of good practice stories and information as well as the crucial role of personal visits and exchange of theology students and young people to break down misconceptions and learning from each other’s culture.
Speaking at the meeting, the Revd John Kafwanka, Director for Mission of the Anglican Communion Office, implored the delegates to look at Companion Link as a means of “serving together” as disciples of Jesus Christ. “Companion Link provides a platform for common witness to Christ’s love in God’s world, expressed through the common voice, vision, mission, and unity of purpose in a world that is so divided by sin,” he said.
Mr Kafwanka also pointed out: “The Five Marks of Mission provides an avenue in which Companion Links can be intentional in serving together as partners in mission, and as global disciples.”
How to encourage responsible consumption and create awareness of global south challenges, such as famine or difficult climate conditions? To sensitise young people about food security and scarcity of resources the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWDF) have produced a resource based on ‘The Hunger Games trilogy’, a popular film and book about a mystical country that deprives its citizen access to food.
The story of the film takes place in Panem where an oppressive government forces youth to fight each other to death in the annual Hunger Games. In an easily accessible language of popular culture in six interactive learning sessions, young people are invited to reflect on the messages about food and actions of different characters in the film fragments.
The resource has been developed by the Rev. Monique Stone and PWRDF’s youth facilitator Sheilagh McGlynn. It was presented last October in Ottawa gathering 120 people from over a dozen congregations with 12 parishes each bringing a different type of loaf of bread to represent the 12 districts of Panem. “Holding the Eucharist in the Bank of Canada vault at the bottom of the ‘Diefenbunker’ [Cold War museum] was an appropriate place to examine privilege vs. need,” said Rev. Stone. “The Hunger Games Eucharist helped the youth to recognize the connection between the book and real issues of hunger in our world,” Stone concluded.