A visit with a South Sudanese Bishop
Bishop Nathaniel Garang, the retired Bishop of Bor, South Sudan, is traveling in the U.S., visiting South Sudanese communities. Today he was in Sioux Falls, and I happened to drop in on the South Sudanese congregation at Church of the Holy Apostles and was blessed to have a few minutes with him.
Bishop Garang served during some of the worst days of the Civil War in then undivided Sudan. Among the young Christians he served was Daniel Deng Bul Yak, now the Archbishop of the Province of Sudan. (The Province now includes both Sudan and South Sudan, which celebrated its first year as a nation on July 9th.)
The Bishop shared his perspective on facing adversity and suffering, which he takes from Deuteronomy 29:29,
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV)
He explained his conviction that reliance on the goodness and faithfulness of God, who knows the secret purposes and outcomes, allows Christians to endure hardships while taking responsibility to do the good works revealed in Scripture. “Jesus said, take up your cross and follow me. This means suffering and enduring difficulty, but not giving up.” Then he smiled at me and said, “So never give up.”
When I asked him how to pray for the South Sudanese clergy and congregation here in Sioux Falls, he said, “Pray that they will always put God first, and that people will always come together. In Christ there is no (skin) color.”
He expressed his gratitude for the way that so many in The Episcopal Church and around the Anglican Communion had supported Sudanese Christians over the years. He also said, “Jesus says that what you give will come back to you. And as you sent missionaries to us, now our people have been brought here as evangelists to you.”
The church was packed, even without air conditioning on a day approaching 100F. It was an honor to sit with Bishop Garang in a side chapel as rousing worship music provided a prelude to the liturgy. We both closed our eyes and let the songs move us between bits of conversation.
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