We have a large population of South Sudanese in many of our cities in Iowa. Is there a group near you to which you could reach out? What are you doing to help refugees in your area?
By Julie Payne
(The Alabama Baptist) — While previously working with South Sudan churches, Randy Gunter recognized an eye-opening need.
That need manifested itself in different forms — from the extremely limited resources to Bible training that was nearly nonexistent.
Aware these South Sudanese church leaders were both hungry to learn and extremely bright, Gunter, pastor of MeadowBrook Baptist Church in Gadsden, Ala., said his church decided to bring the Bible training directly to them so they could then multiply it to others.
The result of that vision is an ongoing conference for South Sudanese church leaders and church planters with the purpose of taking them through a one-year training in basic seminary courses.
Originally scheduled to be held in South Sudan, tribal fighting within the country pushed the conference to Uganda instead, Gunter explained.
The conference’s first session, which focused on “Hermeneutics and Homiletics,” took place Feb. 12–19 with approximately 25 eager South Sudanese church planters and pastors soaking up the material for eight to nine hours each day.
Gunter co-taught the sessions with Gary Cardwell, director of missions for Etowah Baptist Association. They used The Timothy Initiative training materials but rewrote the curriculum to make it interactive for their students, Gunter explained.
While having experience leading other conferences in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, Gunter said this was his church’s first attempt “to take a designated group of pastors and church planters through a series of trainings so they may be better equipped for their ministry.”
In addition to the Bible training, he noted a team of four from MeadowBrook Baptist led Community Health Evangelism (CHE) Training of Trainers.
“CHE is an integral ministry strategy that seamlessly integrates evangelism, discipleship and church planting with community health and development,” Gunter said. “Through CHE ministries, people become followers of Jesus and whole communities are lifted out of cycles of poverty and disease.”
He added, “The [CHE] training gave the church planters the necessary strategy to reach new communities and establish churches among new believers being discipled.”
Cardwell, who noted it was his first trip to Uganda, said he went to be a blessing to the church planters and pastors but came back far more blessed as a result of the relationships that were made.
“Equipping them in sharpening their skills in order to communicate biblical truths, as well as applying those truths in the lives of those they minister to, was a great thrill for me,” he shared. “I plan to be involved in future opportunities when possible.”
Those future opportunities include five additional conferences over the next several months to both train and be in relationship with the pastors and church planters. Future sessions include topics such as “Church Planting and The Book of Acts,” “New Testament Gospels” and “Major Bible Doctrines.”
According to Gunter, all of the trainers for the future sessions will be from MeadowBrook or directly connected to the church. Gunter, who had visited both South Sudan and Uganda several times before the first conference session in February, also plans on returning to teach future sessions.
Gunter noted that in his role with the conference, building and having relationship with the South Sudanese is extremely rewarding.
“They are extremely hospitable and kind people,” he noted. “All of our missions emphases seek to train and invest for multiplication. It is rewarding that most of the ministry and expansion takes place while we are not in country.”
This article appeared in The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Julie Payne is a news writer for The Alabama Baptist.