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A letter from Nancy and Shelvis Smith-Mather in South Sudan

December 2011

Dear friends,

Nancy and I (Shelvis) are excited to inform you of our move to the Republic of South Sudan! We have been invited by South Sudan’s National Council of Churches to join in efforts for peace within their country from 2011 to 2014.

As many of you know, Nancy and I worked in the area of reconciliation and community development in East Africa (Kenya and Sudan) from 2008 to 2010. However, our mission work ended last fall when we returned to the United States to accompany my mother during her journey with cancer.  The time at home offered sweet memories of my mother’s faith and courage in the midst of challenges.  Even in her sickness, she insisted that we attend my grandmother’s 92nd birthday party, travel to my sister’s law school graduation, and craft an unforgettable Christmas for her grandchildren. 

In her last days she sang songs and recited prayers with the friends and family surrounding her bedside. These moments reminded us of God’s ability to transform even the most difficult situations into occasions of hope and celebration.  The friends and church family who walked us through this trying season provided a tangible illustration of God’s desire to use community to help heal the wounds of life. As Nancy and I prepare to depart for South Sudan, we leave with a renewed sense of God’s ability to mend and restore.

Sudan’s Northern-based government signed a peace agreement in 2005, ending Africa’s longest civil war and allowing the South an opportunity to secede.  On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan became the newest nation and also one of the poorest in the world.  At present, many Southern Sudanese are laboring to address both a history of inter-ethnic violence and the deep wounds of war.

During this critical time South Sudan’s National Council of Churches invites us to join their peace-building efforts.  Supported by the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we will work in collaboration with the Resource Center for Civil Leadership (RECONCILE) in Yei, South Sudan. Through RECONCILE we will help train communities and church leaders in conflict transformation, trauma recovery and civic education, with the hope of strengthening a foundation for sustainable peace.

Although excited, we know that we will face many challenges. The day before I (Nancy) left for my first trip to Sudan in January 2010, I received a report of “insecurity” in the region.  The presence of violence caused me to doubt my calling to serve in South Sudan, which previously seemed so clear.  I wrestled with God that night, but the next day I boarded the plane. 

When Jacob wrestled with an angel in the book of Genesis he received a blessing.  I was also blessed, blessed by the Southern Sudanese people who welcomed me into their lives and shared with me their hopes and dreams.  The great vision of many of the Southern Sudanese I met inspires me to join alongside them.  Feelings of fear are overshadowed by a sense of possibility and divine purpose.

Our Sudanese sisters and brothers asked us to partner in their efforts, and we are inviting you to team up with us in this important ministry.  We cannot do this work alone and we would love your support. Some ways you can join us include: 

  • Pray for us and for the people we will work alongside in South Sudan. 
  • Keep in touch with us, follow our updates at http://nancyandshelvis.com and invite us to share with your church or organization when we are in town. 
  • Prayerfully consider making a financial contribution to our ministry efforts in South Sudan.  To give online go to: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/give/E200316/ (or use the "Give" link below). To donate by check: make your check payable to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and write our support number, which is E200316, on the memo line. Send checks to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Thank you for the important role you play in our lives and ministry,

Nancy and Shelvis
Reverends Nancy and Shelvis Smith-Mather

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Sudan, p. 54-55

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