Stopped in Our Tracks

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

September 2019

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Write to Kristi Rice

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“I have to try this out!” Bob said, admiring the skateboard he had just found in the garage. His decades-old passion for skateboarding took over, and I watched him sail swiftly down the driveway and into the street before I turned away to finish packing the car. Three seconds later, Bob was lying motionless in the street, unable to move. The skateboard had stuck in a big crack in the street, and Bob’s body flew forward and fell hard, completely breaking his hip at the widest part and fracturing his elbow. Time seemed to both stop and blur over the next few days in the hospital, filled with emergency surgery, nurses, relieving pain, and grappling with this life-changing situation. Suddenly, Bob could not even get out of bed by himself, and taking a few steps was a slow and arduous effort.

Four weeks after the accident, Bob is making significant progress in recovery. He used a walker and was in an arm brace for nearly three weeks, but graduated to using a cane last week. He sees a physical therapist twice a week and diligently does his exercises at home twice a day. He is now able to climb stairs (as long as there are good railings), walk for 20-30 minutes at a time, and use his arm again. The pain in his leg is still there, but is slowly subsiding. All of these things feel like victories in the recovery process, and we thank and praise God for healing. Walking is still slow and arduous, but we trust God that healing will continue to improve.

This sudden ‘interruption’ literally stopped us in our tracks, cancelled a full schedule of travel and forced us to adjust to a new reality for a while. Life was consumed with just getting through the day, medical appointments, and praying and waiting for recovery. We have a fresh appreciation for the gift of life and the simple pleasures of being able to move, walk, travel, and enjoy the outdoors.

In South Sudan, we are encouraged by news from our colleagues. In July, a healing and reconciliation workshop was facilitated by Kristi’s colleagues for people living in camps for displaced people near Juba. Several different tribes and churches were represented, and the time of giving over pain to Jesus on the cross was particularly meaningful. We continue to hear the need expressed from churches in remote regions for training in trauma healing and reconciliation – please pray for the support and people to respond to these requests. The church partner is selecting three people who will be trained to facilitate these workshops next year in Rwanda.

Bob worked hard with a team of students at Nile Theological College (NTC) to finish the second edition of the newsletter before we left Juba in July. Bob hosted the media team for breakfast at our house and an evaluation of the newsletter creation process a few hours before we got on the plane. You can see the NTC newsletter online here. NTC is renovating some classrooms this semester, and they hope to hold classes in the new location in January. The school continues to grow, with about 85 students in the degree and diploma programs this semester. We are grateful that NTC can help meet the deep need for training of pastors and church leaders in South Sudan. NTC has had a few visiting professors this semester, both for intensives and normal courses. We thank God for these people who are willing to share their experience and knowledge with students in South Sudan.

The government of South Sudan is in the process of implementing a peace agreement with groups who have opposed the government and caused instability for the past 5 years. Please pray for this process to be successful and for integrity and cooperation among the leaders – there is a deadline of November 17 for many of the changes to be put into effect. We pray that there truly would be peace, that displaced people could leave the camps, that people would be able to farm again, and that people could live without constant fear of attack. Seeing the faith and perseverance of Christians in South Sudan in the midst of the insecurity, famine, and economic crisis that they have endured is truly humbling.

We enjoyed attending the New Wilmington Mission Conference, the Big Tent Conference, and the Mission Network for South Sudan in July. We are always refreshed and excited at the opportunity to see people who pray, give, and communicate in partnership with us and the church in South Sudan. If we did not make it to your part of the country this time, we apologize – we are planning to visit other regions next time, so stay in touch! Trusting that Bob’s recovery will be sufficient to travel again soon, we have a few more months in the U.S. of travel and visits before we return to Juba at the end of December.

Thank you again – we have been very encouraged by the messages and prayers that we have received during this unexpected time of recuperation. When we are physically broken, we are reminded how much we need each other. As you join us in partnership in serving with our partners in South Sudan, we rejoice that we are God’s body, working together for His Kingdom. We hope that you are encouraged as we are at how God is at work in South Sudan – please keep praying for the work that God started to come to fruition there. And yes, we think Bob’s skateboarding career is sadly over!

By God’s mercy,

Bob and Kristi Rice

Please read this important message from Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission

Dear friend of Presbyterian Mission,

Greetings in Christ! As the interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, I am grateful to have the opportunity to thank you for your continued support of PC(USA) mission co-workers.

The above newsletter bears witness to some of the many ways in which God is at work in the world through long-standing relationships between global partners and the PC(USA). These partnerships are nurtured and strengthened by the presence of mission co-workers in over 40 countries; you are an important part of this partnership too, as you learn about and share how our church is involved in global ministry; as you pray for our partners and mission co-workers; and as you take action to work with others for God’s justice, peace and healing.

I write to invite you to continue joining us in partnership in three ways. First, your prayers are always needed. Please pray that God will continue guiding the shared work of the PC(USA) and global partners as we engage together in service around the world. Pray, too, for mission co-workers, that they may feel encouraged in the work they are doing under the leadership of global partners.

Second, please consider making a year-end gift for the sending and support of at least one mission co-worker.

Finally, I encourage you to ask your session to include one or more mission co-workers in your congregation’s mission budget for 2020 and beyond. PC(USA) mission co-workers’ sending and support costs are funded by the designated gifts of individuals and congregations like yours; your gifts allow Presbyterian World Mission to fulfill global partners’ requests for mission personnel.

Faithfully in Christ,

Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness
Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry
Interim Director, Presbyterian World Mission


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