Tag Archives: Avant

South Sudan: Sunday, an Orphan and a Bishop

by Gordon Skopnik

South Sudan – Sunday is not just a day. This story is about Sunday the man.  Sunday grew up in refugee camps as a Sudanese orphan.  Camp life was very difficult and as an orphan, and especially a Sudanese orphan, he had to figure out how to support himself in another country.

The culture and language were different and people often never thought of others and were consumed with trying to survive. Sunday felt like he was the scum of the earth, and that is how he thought about himself.

When he was a bit older, maybe 13, he left camp life that was too difficult only to find that city life was sometimes even worse.  A pastor in Kampala City in Uganda found him destitute and offered him a helping hand and counsel.  It was not much, but Sunday was given some food, counsel and provided some education.  Sunday believed he would never become anybody significant because he believed he was nobody significant.

The pastor taught him that he could have a position in Christ. He could be a child of God and learn and have a new identity.  Sunday could not believe that could ever happen to him. But as he grew in relationship with his new community and the pastor reinforced that Sunday had potential, he went along for the ride.

It was time for him to move back to his own country, South Sudan, and the pastor bought Sunday a ticket to fly back with Mission Aviation Fellowship.  Sunday had only seen these planes in the sky, and so, when he went up into the sky himself, he was terrified that he would fall out of the sky.

This experienced changed his life, though, and God used it to move him forward in faith.  He realized that if he could fly in the sky, he could do anything—and be anybody that God wanted him to be.  He finally grasped his identity in Christ as a child of God and brother of Christ and all its benefits, and he shared them freely with others.

It was difficult in South Sudan for Sunday but he, as a humble servant of Christ, just helped people and orphans; and the community noticed that Sunday was a spiritual leader.  Sunday is now a bishop and serves thousands of people.

There are many more details to Sunday’s story that I did not share as they were too disturbing and too graphic.  In an interview with Sunday, the last time I met him, he was living in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda because his home in South Sudan is destroyed and he is not able to go back. He said, “I was born in war. I married in war. I have had children in war, and now I may die in war.”

This may sound devastatingly negative, but Sunday serves beside Avant Ministries. He serves South Sudan within the context of Short Cycle Church Planting in the refugee camps promoting health, peace, and spiritual vitality.

Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve with Avant Ministries. Sunday’s story is told with his permission.

Conflict affects all projects, but hope remains

by Gordon and Sharon Skopnik

SOUTH SUDAN–The overall situation in South Sudan has worsened through the years, with conflict heightening between the government and rebel groups over oil, resources, and power. This began in 2013 and then continued to escalate so that by 2016 there is war between tribes, leading to a failed state.

The conflict has also had a negative effect on the economy causing severe inflation. This has caused the South Sudanese people much difficulty in obtaining the necessary resources to meet basic needs. Food shortage has been an issue, in part due to the dry season (January to April), but also because of conflict.

When people are fleeing for their lives, they leave their crops behind unharvested. Militia attacks in Maridi, Mundri, and Yei have put a strain on the projects that Serving South Sudan has in those towns.

In Yei many children lost their academic materials through the attacks and have yet to return to school or even to their home villages. The economic and military instability has had a drastic effect on all of Serving South Sudan’s projects.

Miraculously, all of the projects continue to operate and all of the program and project leaders are surviving either locally or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. As we have watched our friends, co-workers and ministry partners flee to safer havens, mostly refugee camps in Northern Uganda, God has been leading these dear saints to safety. Up to this point none have lost their lives, a miracle in a time of civil war and unrest.

So now they are in refugee camps—now what? A team working in a Northern Uganda Refugee Camps in December 2016 reported some good news is that one of the communities through church leadership resolved and buried their tribal, denominational, and political differences and agreed to leave as one people of South Sudan.

Through the ministry of an Avant Team, as an associate to the EMC, we were able to see 110 people of different tribes give over their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We know there are many who are praying for this country, and we continue to ask for prayer so that the prince of peace might rule. So is there a better future for the children of South Sudan? Yes!

You have an exciting opportunity to help through prayer and partnership—with the Prince of Peace—into these refugee camps scattered across east Africa. The nation’s leaders recognize that the future of the country lies in the character of its young people and in the hands of the church.

And that’s why we continue to educate people in church planting so that when these people go back to South Sudan, they go back with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace, promoting the spirit of peace and reconciliation, and bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to which ever tribe they come from. Together we will see God answer prayer.

Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve in South Sudan with Avant.