By Jim Hardenbrook
During a conversation in Khartoum last June, Sudan’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, told me of a saying used in his village: “Don’t let this harvest pass.” He was raised in the Darfur region of Sudan. His village subsisted through farming small plots of land. When it was time to harvest they could not allow disagreement to delay bringing in the crops. The harvest was too important. Lives depended on cooperation and hard work.
Over the past 25 years the Church of the Brethren has, through thoughtful and ethical ecumenical work, planted “good seed” in war-ravaged south Sudan. Those seeds took root. Now that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan in the north, and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in the south, has been signed and is now being implemented there is a harvest ripening.
The churches of south Sudan and the government are interested in designing a way for the Church of the Brethren to begin a holistic outreach there. The Church of the Brethren General Board voted in Oct. 2005 to move in this direction, calling for what has been named a Sudan initiative. Faltering steps have been taken but they do not match the magnitude of the harvest. Philosophical and personal differences have slowed us down.
But the initiative continues to generate enthusiastic interest throughout the denomination. It seems as though this truly is a call from God.
When Jesus saw a crowd of people that could only be described as “harassed and helpless, as sheep without a shepherd,” he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful…” (Matthew 9:36-37). The people of south Sudan are harassed but certainly not helpless. They have withstood war and deprivation for years. Now they are willing to partner with us to plant churches, revive educational and medical services, extend commercial opportunities, rebuild systems of law and security, and work together at person-to-person peacemaking.
The present needs are to design a strategy to meet the opportunities, recruit and equip workers, identify partners from other Christian agencies who will work with us, raise money, and–as Jesus said–“Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Some say we have forgotten what it means to be mission minded but I don’t think so. The evidence shows otherwise. The Church of the Brethren is facing an unparalleled opportunity in south Sudan. An amazing harvest is lying before us. We must respond.
If you need more information, would like to visit about the Sudan initiative, or would like to schedule a presentation at your church, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As my friend in Khartoum said, “Don’t let this harvest pass.”
–Jim Hardenbrook began earlier this summer as interim director of the Sudan initiative of the Church of the Brethren General Board.