Today the conferences began! Both were being held at the Arua Teacher Training College which proved to be a lovely campus with plenty of space and shade, as well as various teaching venues. We arrived at 9am (after morning prayer and a lovely breakfast!) to find the clergy and the Sunday School teachers together in the old chapel for the opening ceremony. There are 24 Sunday School teachers, mostly teenaged, and about 30 clergy.
The South Sudanese community are in exile. Most have fled South Sudan and are either living in camps or have settled amongst the local communities; but a few haven’t left South Sudan but are in the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons Camps) within Kajo Keji. The delegates in both conferences are from all three areas, and the clergy in particular showed signs of strain and tiredness.
Becky is teaching most of the sessions at the Sunday School Teachers Conference, while the clergy conference are being treated to Caroline, Fi and Bishop Joseph.
We had a great first day! Caroline spoke on Christian character and then Fi spent two hours teaching on the human givens of emotional health – acknowledging how difficult and traumatic this last year has been in so many ways and understanding how physical and emotional needs can be met. We began to learn to be more aware and manage emotions better, learning strategies together. None of this would have been possible without the wonderful Charles Kenyi who translated for the session – I can’t believe how many words it takes in Bari to translate my English, but there was the injection of much humour! Getting to know these dear pastors and having the opportunity to build them up is such a privilege.
In the afternoon, Bishop Joseph spoke on the importance of restoring a vision for his flock – regaining hope and purpose and overcoming the enemy. A call to repent and unite and be totally obedient to the authority of Jesus Christ. Committed to transforming a rotten country acknowledging that God has entrusted His church to them to pastor and bind up those who hurt. A time to birth, nurture and grow, bringing up all in the Way. For there to be worship, help with trauma, forgiveness, where ever the church is. Lastly, the seeds to be planted through education for all being a priority.
Meanwhile, in the Sunday School Teachers conference, we talked about why children’s ministry is important and thought about ways to pray with children. After lunch, the students learned different methods of Bible study and tried some. All this was punctuated by some glorious singing, led by one of the students.
Here, to call someone ‘Mother’ is to bestow an honour upon them and the fact that Caroline is generally called ‘Mother Caroline’ here had caused Fi and Becky no end of amusement – but revenge was sweet when one of the students called Becky ‘Mother Becky’.
After delivering her opening talk, Caroline went to the CRESS office to get up to date with the admin, meet Moses, the new accountant, and to go through essential if boring admin stuff. Needless to say, by the time we got back from the conference she was admin’d out! But some good work was done. There was also an opportunity to pass on gifts from supporters in the UK to Cecilia Kiden, Liwolo area Mothers Union worker – some beautiful knitted blankets and baby hats, and lots of pants!
This evening we have been joined by Fred and Charles to enjoy dinner together at the excellent (if slow) restaurant in the guest house. Tomorrow’s the final day of the conference and after that we’re up sticks to Moyo for the family day. Another long journey!
Report written by Becky Sedgwick
Please note, we are waiting on images to accompany this report and will update the blog once they’ve been received.