Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Mission co-worker Leisa Wagstaff safely evacuated from South Sudan

PC(USA) urges continued prayer for the country and Sudanese mission partners

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Leisa Wagstaff, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker in South Sudan.

Leisa Wagstaff, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker in South Sudan.

Presbyterian mission co-worker Leisa Wagstaff has been safely evacuated from South Sudan.

Wagstaff left early Wednesday morning (EDT) on a Mission Aviation Fellowship flight to Kenya. There is no timeframe for her return to South Sudan, but she has made clear her desire to go back and finish the important work with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan she started nearly three years ago.

The most recent violence began a week ago when South Sudan’s government troops and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar clashed. Estimates are that more than 300 people have died, with an estimated 36,000 people displaced. The American embassy has evacuated all non-essential personnel.

Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission, expressed gratitude for the tremendous support for Wagstaff and our Sudanese partners over these last few days. “Your expressions of concern and your prayers have been a source of hope to us all. Leisa Wagstaff and South Sudanese Presbyterians have placed themselves in harm’s way to educate children, heal the sick, build peace and grow the church across South Sudan. I’m deeply encouraged that U.S. Presbyterians responded so enthusiastically to the South Sudanese Presbyterian Church’s call to prayer and advocacy because these were the tools that pushed the nation’s political leaders to stop the fighting. I’m thankful for the solidarity of God’s Spirit that binds us together as one people.”

The Rt. Rev. Peter Gai, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, told Horn of Africa regional liaison Michael Weller Wednesday afternoon that the ceasefire is holding. Weller said talks would involve church leaders because the church is such an important factor in the life of people in South Sudan.

In 2013, when the conflict between opposing forces escalated into violence, Gai protected the lives of 5,000 people from various ethnic groups by allowing them inside the church compound in Malakal. He stood in front of the church compound to stop armed soldiers from entering.

“We appreciate the prayers of our Presbyterian brothers and sisters in the U.S. and we will not let go of the hope that the people of South Sudan can one day live in peace,” said Gai.

Weller also spoke with the Rev. Philip Akway Obang, General Secretary of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, who is in Juba. He said there were no soldiers visible on the streets, but there is looting and violence.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and World Mission have been working closely with Gai, who is also the chair of the South Sudan Council of Churches, to communicate the South Sudanese churches’ recommendations for ending the conflict.

“While we celebrate Leisa’s evacuation and the unwavering commitment of our global partners to the people of South Sudan, we also mourn the loss of more than 300 people in this recent fighting,” said Farrell. “We ask you to continue your prayers that the leaders of South Sudan will commit to lasting peace, so that healing might begin.”

Weller said the South Sudanese people are resilient and they will not give up the hope that one day their children will know peace.

Updates will be posted on the Presbyterian World Mission Facebook page.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.