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Southwestern

Jacob Alexander

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South Sudan prepares for independence on July 9

JUBA, Sudan (BP)--"Welcome to our country," a smiling police officer says, excitedly greeting visitors walking past him on the street. "Welcome to the new Sudan!" The officer's infectious spirit resonates among the residents of Juba, where on July 9 a declaration of independence will be signed giving birth to the world's 196th nation, the Republic of South Sudan. Nearly 99 percent of voters from southern Sudan approved a referendum in January to officially designate the region as a new nation. Sudan has been ravaged by years of civil war between the heavily Islamic, Arab-dominated north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. The referendum was the final benchmark of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended more than 20 years of civil war in Sudan. Crude oil exports from Sudan generate millions of dollars for the country. Many observers cited oil as a factor in the referendum, but Christians in southern Sudan say they are more concerned with freedom to practice their faith -- and freedom from the north's harsh enforcement of Islamic law. "Before it was not easy, people had been intimidated; there are some areas where you cannot carry out the message of the Gospel," says Simon Gatluaklim, a pastor at Nuru Baptist Church. "I believe the church will really benefit and have freedom of worship ... being able to carry out the message of Jesus Christ." Radical change in South Sudan will not come quickly; it likely will take many years to develop its government, infrastructure and an identity apart from the north. Juba, expected to be South Sudan's capital, does not look like a typical African urban center. There are no high-rise buildings, few paved roads, no traffic lights and piles of trash strewn here and there. Small squatter camps are springing up around the city, occupied by displaced people who construct houses from whatever rubbish they can find. Western-style hotels are few and far between, but lodge owners have gotten creative by converting storage containers into comfortable, yet small and pricey, overnight accommodations.

Rwanda’s survivors choose to forgive

KIGALI, Rwanda (BP)--April is a time of annual mourning and remembrance in Rwanda as the nation reflects on the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed. Memorial services are being held across the country and many Rwandese are visiting mass graves where their loved ones are buried ...

FIRST-PERSON (Jacob Alexander): Amazed by Rwanda’s stories of healing

KIGALI, Rwanda (BP)--From the small window of the Kenya Airways jet, I looked down on the beautiful green mountains of Rwanda as we slowly made our descent to the Kigali airport, where 17 years ago an airplane carrying Rwanda's president was shot down, sparking one of the most evil acts of humanity in my lifetime.

Sudanese secession vote could open door for Gospel

NAIROBI, Kenya (BP)--Nearly 99 percent of the southern Sudanese who voted in the referendum on independence have chosen to split from the Arab-dominated north, according to preliminary results reported Jan. 21.       More than 3 million ballots have been counted to date by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission. Official results are expected in February, but if the vote is confirmed, the new country of Southern Sudan is set to formally declare independence July 9.       While many southern Sudanese already have begun celebrating the huge vote in favor of independence, some are still struggling to understand what it all means. Take the rural Toposa people, for instance. [QUOTE@left@200="When I go through the villages, sometimes I can hear the Word of God being spoken by the people in their language."
-- Missionary Shannon Lewis]      Life among the Toposa resembles what many Americans visualize about the African bush: mud houses in small villages, dirt roads, lack of education, no technology to speak of. They number about 800,000. They communicate orally; fewer than 3 percent can read.       So they're trying to absorb the revolutionary idea of being part of a new country.       Missionaries Shannon and Carrie Lewis are church planters and community developers, living and working among the Toposa through the International Mission Board. Many of their Toposa neighbors registered to vote but have asked the Lewises questions about the referendum and what a new country could mean for them. [QUOTE@right@200=If a new nation is established, the Lewises hope it will open the door to a rapid expansion of evangelism and church planting.]      "They are really not sure what is going on, and they really don't understand what is happening with the referendum," Shannon said. "For them, this is just something different and new."       News media reported skirmishes along the north-south Sudanese border during the weeklong referendum vote Jan. 9-15. But many international observers have complimented Sudan on the overall fairness of the vote.       Sudan has been ravaged by decades of civil war between the heavily Islamic north and the predominantly Christian and animist south. Millions have been killed or displaced. Sudanese Christians hope a new country will provide religious freedom and equality.       The Lewises, along with their three sons, have ministered to the Toposa for nearly two years. They have relied solely on oral presentations of the Gospel, using methods like chronological Bible storying for evangelism and discipleship.       The Toposa stay busy during the day tending to cattle and gardens, so the Lewises usually visit people after dark, when villagers have finished work and their evening meal.       "That's the time families can gather together with us to learn more about the Word of God," Shannon said.       In a recent blog post (www.toposafamily.blogspot.com), Carrie wrote: "God is doing great things here in Sudan. We are so excited to be part of the work that He is doing....

Living Hope blossoms in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (BP)–Two young sisters walk home happily after an afternoon of singing praise songs to Jesus and hearing stories from the Bible. At home in Red Hill, an informal settlement in Cape Town, their mother is zoned in to the television, where she sits every afternoon. The girls walk into their tiny […]

Brazilian soccer players minister too

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (BP)–A team of Brazilian soccer players were busy on and off the soccer fields during the World Cup competition in South Africa, either teaching fancy footwork with a soccer ball or washing feet and handing out new pairs of shoes. The volunteers from Brazil came to South Africa to help with […]

Faith replaces his futile soccer dreams

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (BP)--Soccer was his passion and he wanted nothing more than to gain success in the game, even if it meant sacrificing his relationship with his parents.

MK having ‘a great time’ in S. Africa

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (BP)--"I've always seen my parents put their faith in God in everything." Lars Fracheboud, 22, is intent on doing the same with the French Athletes in Action team by helping lead youth soccer camps in the townships of Bloemfontein, South Africa, one of the host cities for the World Cup.