Hello friends and family of Iris South Sudan,
This past month has been interesting here in South Sudan. Things have happened that have never happened before, and not necessarily all good things. But, we praise God who has shown himself to be so faithful through all the twists and turns of life here. Though we face new things and new challenges we rejoice because we have a God who knows all our days and experiences before they come to pass and equips us with everything we need for each new thing.
At the end of April, our fearless leader, Carolyn Figlioli, left us to go raise support and awaken the church in America. It’s always difficult when she goes but we know the Lord uses her mightily during her time away. Usually when Mamma Carolina leaves, havoc ensues on our base with the children. You know, when the cats away the mice will play? But, for the first time, the children are carrying on as usual, being respectful etc… We are praising God because we know that it is only by His grace that this has happened in our children, building their trust in a team that is permanent and loving and faithfulness to daily transform them into His likeness. It is truly one of the greatest and most miraculous of all the miracles I have seen during my time in South Sudan.
We have also learned that if the enemy can’t get in through the front door, he will try a window. In our case though, he tried to break down the front door. When you get a knock on your door at 2 o’clock in the morning, you know it’s never good. Well, our watchman came knocking with the news that someone had tried to break into the place where we keep all of our base money. The crooks expertly cut a hole in our new chain link fence in the perfect spot where they wouldn’t be seen, and they were dismantling the lock on the door of the house when our watchmen caught them.
Our initial plan after discussing with our national staff was to call the police and press charges. I knew that that was the “right” thing to do, especially because of the high likely hood of them retaliating and coming back with armed violent men. But, somehow that didn’t sit right with me in my heart. God actually reminded me of the countless stories I heard from Heidi and others during Harvest School of how they dropped charges against people, preached the gospel to them, and showed them mercy. We know who the crooks are and they have flown the coop so to speak. We decided that we would show them mercy and if we could ever find him again tell him that we know what he did but we forgive him. We would preach the gospel to him and encourage him to seek forgiveness from God.
What we learned as a team is that we should only take comfort in our God. He is the one who keeps us and who has kept us up to now. He is our protector and our defense. He is the only one who can defend us from the evil lurking all around us. And we praise Him because even though the enemy tried to steal from us, the Lord thwarted his plan. God is our refuge and our strong tower!
We also suffered loss this month. Our dear Abuba (Grandmother) Regina Atai passed away last week as a result of what we think was cancer. She has been the Iris compound Abuba for longer than I know and has been one of the closest things to family most of our children have ever had. She had been sick at her home since January after a surgery to take out the cancer went wrong. We learned a month later that she wasn’t doing well again and when one of our team went to visit her they took her straight to the hospital. She was so thin that our teammate, a petite woman was able to carry Abuba. There the doctors told us she has terminal cancer and doesn’t have much time. Many of our team and children visited Abuba all that week, even though she was barely aware of our presence, and we prayed and sang worship songs and miraculously by the end, the Lord gave Abuba a moment of clarity, she opened her eyes, stretched out her hand and said “Eyal tai” which means, “My children”. She knew we were there and one by one we went up any greeted her. The next morning we got a call that Abuba had passed away in the night.
We gathered the children and opened the word of God and taught the children that we don’t mourn like those who don’t have hope because we know we will see those who have fallen asleep again. We told them life is short and no one knows the number of their days except God and that is why having our salvation secure in Christ is so important. God not only to love our children, and staff better but even to love my friends and family at home better. Love takes effort and time and usually costs you something, but its worth it. Let us never become to busy to love those that God has placed around us.
This last week one of our older girls led devotions at our women’s fellowship. This girl has been through just about every hard and horrible thing you can imagine. She has been abused and traumatized in so many ways and yet God has done a miraculous work her in her life. She was once a prostitute and last week I watched her preach with such a heart of fire and passion and transformation. She talked about the power of forgiveness and how we must forgive others because Christ forgave us. It was so beautiful, I had to hold back tears so I didn’t embarrass her. I saw in that moment how faithful God is to transform us into his likeness. How ready he is to take our broken pasts and the hard things that happen to us and turn it into beauty and glory.
Lastly, one of the outreaches we did this month was to show the Jesus film in a village near by. As the film started, only a small crowd had gathered. We usually stop the film during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to preach the gospel. Pastor John asked me (Danielle) to preach at the last minute. Now being unprepared was an understatement. I hardly ever give the main message on outreach because in this culture they tend to prefer the men or those who are older when it comes to preaching, and I’m just a young girl. So I was a little caught off guard but I rose to the invitation. I felt the Lord tell me to preach in Arabic! That was even more of a shock. I have become conversational/ proficient in Arabic and have shared short testimonies and prayed for the sick but have NEVER preached a full message in Arabic. But, I said yes to Holy Spirit and began preaching in Arabic. I preached a full gospel message, from beginning to end in Arabic to a crowd of over 200 people. When the invitation for salvation came, a majority of the crowd raised their hands. It was amazing!! I was so in awe of God and so thankful that he has so blessed me with the gift of learning this language.
My Pastor told me later that my message was clearly understood and powerful. He said that when people see a foreigner speaking their language they open their hearts and their ears to listen. Then yesterday he told us that since that night, his church has been twice as full and that he had to go to buy more chairs this week because he doesn’t have enough for all the new believers that have started attending his church! Glory be to God! I bless you this week and encourage you to take a step of faith, sometimes a leap, when the Lord nudges you out of your comfort zone. He will surely bless the works of HIS hands!