A Letter from Bob and Kristi Rice, serving in South Sudan
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The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
It all began with a question about the HIV/AIDS course. We wondered, “Can this course be inserted elsewhere as part of another course?” “Maybe it could be grafted into our Counseling course?” Alluding to the Counseling course, we were then off to the races, finding ourselves in another discussion altogether, which lasted for a good portion of our five-hour meeting. Such was the work of the Spirit on a Saturday morning in early October at Nile Theological College.
“What about trauma healing?” asked a member of the faculty. “If we are genuinely trying to ‘contextualize’ our curriculum, should we not teach according to the felt needs of our students?” “Yes, but can trauma healing stand alone as a course of its own, or should it be coupled with counseling?” “Is not counseling embedded into the whole concept of trauma healing?” “What about the second Counseling course for Pastoral Ministry majors?” The discussion continued back and forth, circular in nature, slowly moving in a direction. “What about the HIV/AIDS course? Isn’t that where we began this discussion in the first place? Let’s first go back to where we started.” “Not so fast…,” responded the principal, “the Spirit seems to have taken us in another direction. Let’s follow where the Spirit seems to be leading us.” After a long discussion with a lunch break in between, we decided by consensus, as good Africans do, to replace our Counseling course with a brand-new course, Trauma Healing. We also decided to replace our Advanced Counseling/Trauma course with the course Advanced Trauma Healing and Counseling. We acknowledged the value of courses being both informational and transformational. Our students need a safe space where they can receive healing from the emotional pain and trauma they have endured during decades of war and displacement. Towards the end of this course and after this course on Trauma Healing, we can equip students to be healers. In fact, when one receives healing, one begins to pick up the tools of what it means to be a ‘wounded healer.’ We then retraced our steps regarding HIV/AIDS and decided to create a new course in its place called “Epidemics,” which will cover health issues and the diseases HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19. As a faculty, we finished in a good way, and our meeting ended with a word of prayer.
Earlier this year, we requested Juba University look at our current curriculum and make important suggestions for changes. Now all of us faculty members are burrowed in the trenches of this process, looking at every course, adding important content and references, assessing which courses must remain and which courses can be adjusted or removed. It is an energizing and invigorating process. Later this month, we will invite church leaders and members to participate in focus groups to help us understand the specific skills and characteristics they need in pastors of congregations and communities in South Sudan. As a faculty, we have decided not to rush the process. We want to strengthen our college’s effectiveness in graduating students who have gained important life skills, have a heart change, and are able to think critically in terms of how to engage with the Bible and how to best serve their congregations and communities. As the academic dean said to me recently, “Our lives must convince the students.” Our lives must be marked by love and faithfulness; our example of life and faithfulness is our most important teaching tool.
We invite your prayers as we continue down this road of curriculum review. We are grateful for the work of the Spirit, and we are praying that God’s Spirit will continue to speak to us. Kristi and I are so grateful for your partnership with us in our work here in South Sudan. We are grateful for your prayers and for your generous giving that allows us to be here. In closing, maybe we can ask you the question, “How is the Spirit at work where you are?” Please feel free to write us a response by email. We are very interested in celebrating the work of the Spirit with you.
Salaam alekum! Peace to you!
Bob and Kristi
Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:
Dear partners in God’s mission,
I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.
God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.
How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.
We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe: pcusa.org/missionyearbook.
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.
Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.
In the light of hope,
Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give please visit https://bit.ly/PCUSAmission
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
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