With just under two weeks remaining until Franklin Graham preaches the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in Juba, South Sudan, anticipation among pastors is building to new levels.
“After all the years of struggle and separation, it is time for pastors to come together and fellowship and pray for the upcoming Festival,” said Bishop Lagos Alexander, national coordinator for “Hope for a New Nation: A Festival With Franklin Graham.”
The Festival will be held Oct. 26-27 at the John Garang Memorial Park in Juba.
“As a new nation,” said Bishop Alexander, “we want to thank God for all He has done for us. We had experienced a difficult time when the country was one with the north. We were under heavy persecution then, but God has given us our own country.”
The bishop said he no longer sees “the spirit of persecution” in South Sudan. “Christians are enjoying Christianity and even other religions are enjoying the freedom,” he explained. “We do have difficult challenges in life—building a new nation is tough—but we are still thankful to God for what He has done for us. It is a gift we need to keep.”
Alexander said that roughly 20 percent of South Sudan’s population is Muslim or belong to African traditional religions. “And while 80 percent say they are Christian, maybe 20 percent of those ‘Christians’ are active evangelical believers.”
But, he added, “You can see churches all over the country, you can see singing all over the country, you can see crosses and signs of Christianity.”
Festival Director Hans Mannegren pointed out that living conditions for most people in South Sudan are quite challenging. “It is a poor country, especially in the rural areas. In Juba, many people live in houses and you have a wide range of economic conditions. But there are also clay huts with straw roofs close by and people are living in incredibly humble circumstances with almost no income at all.
“Agriculture is in an early stage and they are not yet able to provide food for the entire population.”
Mannegreen said he has been struck by the desire for unity among South Sudanese pastors: “They feel this has never happened. They have never been together in such a way. This bodes well for the Festival and for the future. “
“Only God knows what will happen after the Festival,” said Bishop Archangelo from the African Inland Church in Sudan. “I believe God is making a new beginning. This is a time that God is preparing us as his vessels to reach out to people in this new nation.”
According to Bishop Archangelo, a spiritual darkness looms in South Sudan. “It requires serious evangelization to dispel the darkness and bring the light of Christ to every person in our nation, and to harvest a crop.”
Pastor Mawan, senior pastor of Juba international Chapel, has been mobilizing his church using Operation Andrew, which teaches people how to pray for lost friends and family, then invite them to the Festival.
He said his expectations for the Festival area high: “This is the first time since the nation has been formed that so many men of God have come together. The unity that has been created will allow the flow of the spirit of the Lord to have a great impact on the nation.”
Mawan prays that many people will come to know Jesus as their personal Savior during the Festival. “If they do,” he added, “our churches will grow and we will have influence in our nation.”
Rev. Malis Basha who is responsible for evangelism in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan agreed that people are excited about the Festival. “We thank God for all the pastors involved.
“Now we are praying that God will break through the hearts of the people and prepare them so they will be open and ready to respond—not because we tell them to, but because God prepared them.”
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