Opening Doors in Difficult Times

There are so many reasons that living in South Sudan would be difficult. Civil war has been a part of life for decades. First the southern part of Sudan fought with the northern part until it broke away in 2011. Then disagreements between factions in the new government began to escalate into violence.

But for missionary Carrie Lewis, those concerns are just the background noise that she lives with daily in South Sudan. She also has to forgo the luxuries of a hot shower or an occasional fast-food meal. Since her family lives far from any large cities and relies on solar power in its home, life takes on a much slower pace.

The Lewis family, originally from northeast Louisiana and southeast Texas, is ministering to the Toposa people of South Sudan. Life among these people is not only slow but also very relational, Carrie said. “If you are on the way to go somewhere and a visitor stops by, you are expected to stop everything and visit as long as the visitor wants.”

Church is quite different as well. “We meet under shade trees for worship or in the villages at night.” Rather than preaching an American-style sermon, Carrie and her husband, Shannon, teach through stories. Most South Sudanese are not literate. Only 27% of adults can read, and 70% of school-aged children have never been in a school.

“We teach in storying form since the Toposa are oral learners,” Carrie said. “We try to make sure every aspect of our ministry is reproducible so that the Toposa can continue the work if we are forced to leave.”

With an unstable political environment, the prospect of being forced to leave is another part of the daily background noise of life in South Sudan. But the Lewis family is not discouraged. “We have seen God answer prayers in miraculous ways in several critical situations,” Carrie said. “These times have opened many doors for those who were skeptical of who we were and what God we were teaching about.”

Anna Kathryn Hardin is a writer in Hoover, Alabama.

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