Our Pastor Spencer Cunnah has now returned home after spending the month of July 2016 teaching at the Middle East Reformed Fellowship (MERF) Training Programme in Lokichoggio, Northern Kenya. This is the only training that many of the church leaders who attend will ever have. Some of them are seeking to pastor or serve in very large churches having only ever had elementary education themselves due to the political turmoil and violence in South Sudan and elsewhere. The Training they receive through this programme could therefore have long term benefits for many years to come. During this time away he sent us regular email reports which you can read here.
1st July 2016 – Arrived Safely
Just a quick email to let everyone know that I am safely at the MERF compound in Lokichoggio. I have started teaching straight away on Friday afternoon. There are twenty students mostly south Sudanese but also some from Kenya and Tanzania. I’m also preaching on Sunday. The main problem seems to be the wide range of ability and Bible knowledge among the students, from those who have excellent English to those who can’t read more than a few simple words. I value everyone’s on-going prayers.
13th July 2016
I’ve been incommunicado for nearly a week, but it’s been due to the fact that we have had a power cut here that lasted from Thursday morning last week to Wednesday morning nearly a week later. As you can imagine, that has caused some problems especially for electronic devices! I am well and have finished teaching Christianity Explained and Discipleship Explored. I would value your prayers for:
- Teaching ‘All Things New’, a booklet about starting the Christian life.
- The Sudanese students are understandably concerned and rather preoccupied by the resurgence of the civil war in South Sudan. You have probably seen something about what has happened on the news in the UK. Although the situation here is calm and peaceful many of the students are going to face big problems about whether they can return to South Sudan at all at the moment. They certainly can’t return via Juba.
- One or two of the Kenyan students have been sadly influenced by prosperity teaching, even believing that Jesus was rich during His earthly ministry. I need to clearly and carefully explain the huge errors in Prosperity teaching to them all but especially those who have already been influenced.
- As well as teaching I am preaching on Saturday afternoon in the Turkana village and on Sunday morning in the church that meets on the MERF compound.
14th July 2016
I have heard that one or two people are worried about the news from South Sudan at the moment. Everyone can rest easy that all is calm and peaceful here in Lokichoggio! In fact many of the relief agencies have flown their staff here from South Sudan for safety. The town’s “hotels” are all full of westerners!
The exciting event here locally today was a wedding where a rich man “paid” 50 goats as a dowry for his new wife. The 50 goats have all been slaughtered and in the process of being eaten by all the villagers as I write.
The students are working hard and looking forward to graduating next Thursday. I am going to have to choose the two goats which will be slaughtered and cooked for that celebration.
Today was exceptionally hot, even by Loki standards, with the afternoon temperature pushing 40 C. I hope I can sleep tonight with all the fans full on and hopefully no electricity cuts.
I would value your prayers as I finish teaching “All Things New” and start on the Ten Commandments.
17th July 2016
Just a quick update from Lokichoggio to let you know that I am fine, The schedule for the next few days is that I am preaching here today (Sunday) and then teaching Monday – Wednesday; the farewell service and “graduation” is on Thursday. On Friday evening I’m due to fly back to Nairobi where I may be able to meet up again with Michael Grey’s friend Samson. I’d value prayer for:
- The service today and the final three days teaching.
- That I keep healthy and have strength for the final “push” and then safety in travelling.
- Wisdom in advising the students from South Sudan. Some of them will not be able to return at the moment because of the situation in Juba.
19th July 2016
One issue that has become increasingly pressing here in recent days is the predicament of the students here who should return to South Sudan but who cannot because of the situation in Juba, the capital city.
The short version of the problem is that the government in South Sudan is arresting anyone who is not a Dinka (the tribe of the President) travelling in and out of Kenya on suspicion that they might be sympathisers with the opposition. The government has also ordered that all aircraft flying to any airstrip in South Sudan must report and first land in Juba. The local pilots report that this means that the planes are being searched and looted and that anyone who is not from the Dinka tribe is taken away for “questioning” – this actually means execution if the person is a Neuer (the tribe of the Vice President who is in opposition to the President). All the South Sudanese students here are Neuer.
On Wednesday an American AIM pilot flying missionaries out of South Sudan was arrested for objecting to the looting of his plane. He was detained for a day, roughed up, and then released.
The situation means that at least five of the students here are effectively stuck in Lokichoggio until the situation in Juba improves or the government relents or is changed – possibly by a UN mandate. No airline here will fly in or out of South Sudan at present. The journey by road is even more dangerous. Army checkpoints have been set up and the reports are of looting, rape and summary executions.
I should reassure everyone that the situation here in Lokichoggio is very calm and peaceful. However, the Sudanese students need our prayers and the MERF staff need wisdom to deal with the situation on the ground which is constantly fluid.
The graduation is going ahead on Thursday as planned and I am due to fly to Nairobi on Friday.
21st July 2016
We are thankful to the Lord, the graduation service has gone well and most of the students are on their way back to their home churches. The feast has been consumed, including the two goats bought on Tuesday, killed on Wednesday and cooked and eaten today! The five students who should be going back to South Sudan are going to stay at the MERF compound for the time being because of the problems I mentioned in an earlier email.
There are many gospel opportunities now open to the young men who graduated. Some were already pastors, some were evangelists, deacons, choir leaders and church workers. Many of them are with large congregations on a Sunday – many hundreds and some even thousands of people.
I would value your ongoing prayers for:
- The students as they travel home and take up church work.
- For safety in my travelling initially back to Nairobi and then on to London overnight Monday/Tuesday.
- The new intake of students who will arrive tomorrow.
- The MERF staff and the new teacher Pastor Ding.
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