Standing Firm for God -Youth Training in South Sudan
Rev Arthur Young, (Kill O’ The Grange Parish, Dublin) recently took part in a CMSI META to South Sudan, where he and other team members contributed to a diocesan youth conference. Here, Arthur shares some reflections from the week.
After the cancellation of our trip to South Sudan in January 2014, due to the civil unrest at that time, we were so thankful that, this January, we were able to fulfill the visit to the Diocese of Yei.
During our week in Yei we met some really inspiring individuals who impacted the lives of myself and the members of the team. It was very moving and humbling to listen to some of their stories and hear something of the cost of what it means for them, in their situation, to follow Jesus.
One of the main purposes of the week for Naomi Kumar (a parishioner from Kill O’ The Grange) and myself was to take part in a six-day Youth Conference that is organised annually by the diocese. Hard work from the Youth Conference planning team meant that every ‘young person’ (late teens to early 30s) in the diocese was offered the chance to attend this week-long event.
Between 500 and 600 young people attended the conference, many of them travelling between 50 and 75 miles on open-back trucks, in intense heat, such was their desire to be there, join with other youth and hear teaching from the Word of God.
I was invited to speak through the first six chapters of the book of Daniel, under the overall theme of ‘Standing Firm for God’. Given the context of life and faith in South Sudan, it’s a very relevant theme for those who attended. The days ahead may be unsettling and unstable, but their determination and commitment in following Jesus is real and resolute. That could be obviously seen in their spiritual hunger and their desire to learn and go deeper with God’s Word.
To witness so many young people sitting in front of you with Bibles and notebooks open, writing down as much as they could possibly manage, was an uplifting and encouraging experience.
After each presentation on Daniel, the young people were presented with two questions to discuss in groups. Before the next day’s sessions, we allowed time for feedback and debate around the issues that had been taught the previous day. Their participation and enthusiastic engagement was thrilling, as were their answers to the set questions. Our experience with God during those sessions was most amazing – I have never felt so challenged and so fulfilled.
Bishop Hilary’s presence and teaching at the evening sessions was so empowered by the Holy Spirit. He gave four talks, all of which were challenging and life changing for so many. The first evening, 72 young people committed their lives to Jesus, something that was repeated throughout many other sessions during the conference.
A lot of the bishop’s teaching also emphasised the importance of being peacemakers, and the young people were challenged to take responsibility for affecting change in their country. The tools for change were identified as: devotion to God’s Word and to prayer; boldness in sharing their faith; Godliness in their living; involvement in social projects. Bishop Hilary encouraged these young adults to return to their homes, communities and villages and live out the differences that Jesus was making in their lives.
Training, mentoring and supporting young leaders is such an important aspect of ministry in the Diocese of Yei.
Throughout the week, I witnessed the personal growth and development of not just those who were being ministered to, but also those who were leading the conference. These young leaders were equipped and empowered by all they had undertaken to provide through this conference. Many of them were remarkable and talented and they had such a burning and consuming desire for God. They covet your prayers for them and the ongoing work amongst the young people, and for the youth leaders in the various parishes throughout Yei.
Some of the participants wrote letters to Link Parishes in Ireland. Here’s what Samuel wrote:
“With great and mighty honour I greet you in Jesus name. I am very grateful to see my brothers and sisters from Ireland who came and helped and advised us through the mighty Word of God, especially Naomi who helped us a lot by telling us a lesson on ‘discipleship’ which moved me and I felt encouraged.
“Please keep praying for us and especially our nation South Sudan. We believe that with God, all things are possible. He alone knows the plans for our nation.”
Our visit to South Sudan has been an enriching experience, and an amazing opportunity to serve God. It’s something I will forever remain thankful for.
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