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Getting Creative

A Letter from Bob and Kristi Rice, serving in South Sudan

September 2020

Write to Bob Rice
Write to Kristi Rice

Individuals: Give to E200429 for Bob and Kristi Rice’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507528 for Bob and Kristi Rice’s sending and support

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Dear friends,

Rev. Santino Odong, principal at Nile Theological College (NTC), is getting creative in finding ways for students to continue studying as they prepare for ministry in the church. Schools have been prohibited from meeting since March 23, 2020 in South Sudan, and they did not have the equipment or connectivity to switch to online classes. They were able to use some large church buildings to allow students to social distance while completing interrupted courses from last semester. Most of the students came to Juba from remote regions of South Sudan, leaving their families while they study at NTC in preparation for serving as pastors.

As everyone realized that COVID-19 will continue to hinder the normal way schools have functioned, Rev. Santino and the other faculty at NTC wrestled with how to start the new semester so that students could continue their studies. Now they are experimenting with teaching remotely over WhatsApp, a smartphone application for messaging and calling over the internet. They asked Bob to teach two classes remotely from the U.S. while we wait to be able to return to Juba. With only two weeks’ notice, Bob jumped into the research, planning, and preparation for teaching classes on the Exegesis of Acts and African Church History.

With a grant from The Outreach Foundation, NTC was able to get a consistent internet connection and equipment that enables the faculty to be able to teach, research, and communicate online from the school. The students, studying from their homes, are using the local cell network for their connection for now, which is often unpredictable and slow. The need for creativity continues as teachers wrestle with how to have a discussion online and transmit readings and assignments to the students.

Bob attempted to get his class connected on a group call, but the unpredictable cell network meant calls were dropping or people could not hear each other. The students suggested sending the lecture by voice message and doing the discussion over text chat. His exegesis class is based more on discussion than on lecture as the students dig into passages of Scripture together, and this felt particularly challenging in a remote class. But so far Bob is impressed with the engagement of students as they send voice and chat messages during class discussions. He really enjoys being able to connect with students again, and also the challenge and the learning involved in teaching classes he has not taught before. But it requires a lot of time, creativity, and perseverance for everyone to make it work.

Kristi started taking an online course in September called Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR). She hopes that the increased knowledge about the effects of trauma and some tools for promoting healing will be helpful in the ministry of healing and reconciliation in South Sudan. Colleagues in South Sudan are hoping that as churches begin to reopen there that the work of healing and reconciliation can continue through small gatherings or groups. This is an opportunity for creativity and exploring new approaches to helping people experience healing from trauma. She continues to stay in touch with colleagues in South Sudan, providing support as they find ways to minister to people.

South Sudan has had severe flooding in some regions in August and September of this year, which has destroyed houses and crops and caused thousands of people to flee their homes. This is one more crisis in an already fragile environment where most people are either living in camps for displaced people or just trying to start over. The South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) is getting creative with how to communicate, worship, and support members living in these crisis zones. With support they received from one partner, they have given food relief to congregations in Bor and Bentiu. Please pray for God’s Spirit to protect and encourage people in the midst of these crises, and that the church would be a source of life and hope.

We really miss being in South Sudan and are praying and watching for the right time to return. Please join us in praying for an open door! We value your prayers for us and for South Sudan during this challenging time – may our intercessions as the church move our God of mercy to intervene and bring healing and provision to all who need it.

In Christ,

Bob and Kristi

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