Friday, January 25, 2019

Knowing God as a Loving Parent

I looked over and realized that the participants were listening intently, leaning forward and thoughtful as Omot taught about what might block us from experiencing God’s love as a ‘heavenly father/mother’. I couldn’t understand what was being said in the Anywaa language, but I could see that people were being touched. Later, I learned that Omot, who grew up in the town of Pochalla where we were currently sitting, was sharing his own story. As is typical in the Anywaa culture, his father did not show affection to his children. He gave orders rather than listening, and he expected results. It was not until Omot attended a training in Rwanda called Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations (HHTN) that he realized how this lack of love from his father had affected him, and he was able to experience God’s unconditional love in a deeper way.

Omot teaching at the workshop in Pochalla

Now, we were in Pochalla, seated in a shady clearing and conducting the same workshop we had experienced in Rwanda last year. After Omot shared his testimony, he asked participants whether there were things they lacked from their earthly parents. God, the only one who can love us perfectly and unconditionally, wants to make up for those things that we lacked and heal those wounds. After a time of silent reflection and prayer, Omot invited people who felt they had lacked something or been wounded by their father or mother to come forward and receive a hug from a man or woman standing at the front, to represent God’s embrace and offer healing and acknowledgement of those wounds from the past. This is not easy – facing pain of the past and seeking to forgive and heal. But many did, and would return to their seats to cry, to pray, to sing with the music in the background. It was truly sacred space, where people had opened themselves up to God and to each other.

Participants write down things that they lacked from their parents

The following morning, we asked participants what they had experienced during that time. Mary was the first to offer her story. When she was two years old, her mother died in childbirth. Her father demanded the return of the dowry from his wife’s family, because he thought that Mary and the new baby would not survive without their mother. Mary was raised by her mother’s family, but always felt resented. When her younger brother grew up, their father agreed to help with his dowry, but communicated such a negative message to his son at his wedding that Mary’s brother later committed suicide. Mary felt alone and rejected, and wanted to curse her father’s family. She was a Christian, and had her own children, but still felt weighed down by the burden of rejection. During the session on the father’s heart, she recognized the source of this rejection, and finally felt able to forgive and be released from the burden.
Mary acts in a drama about the giving our pain and
burdens to Jesus, who bore it on the cross (Is. 53:4)

During the teaching, Omot emphasized the responsibility of parents to show love and affection to their children. He encouraged participants, most of whom were parents, to go home and tell their children that they loved them. The testimonies of how this went were both humorous and moving! One woman called her son to come from where he was playing, but he was afraid to come, because he was afraid his mother wanted to beat him. Another woman shared that she had a daughter who was often stubborn, but she was able to affirm her daughter for her good qualities and say that she loved her. We hope that this ‘counter-cultural’ way of verbally communicating love to children will continue and spread in Pochalla, helping children to know they are valued and loved.

worship at the end of the first day of the workshop

That was just the first day of this workshop focused on healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We continued to see God work over our three days together, and praise God for the ways He is bringing healing to people around Pochalla. Thank you to many of you who prayed for this workshop – truly, we were dependent on God and know that He heard your prayers. We will share more in our newsletter, but wanted to give you a brief taste of the impact of this significant workshop.
We are receiving many requests for these workshops that help people to experience healing from trauma, forgiveness, and a path to reconciliation that is based on Christ’s work on the cross. Transport in South Sudan out to remote regions is expensive, but we know that there is great need in those places. If you would like to support this.ministry, you can do so at the following link. Designate your gift for “reconciliation workshops”. Link to give through Presbyterian World Mission:

Thursday, January 17, 2019


A Tribute to the Courageous Peoples of South Sudan

Ai, saiid muktelum**, it is true...
Our peoples straddle the Nile
Our land is lush and green
Our cattle outnumber the stars
Blessed, are we, beyond measure.

Ai, saiid muktelum, it is true...
The biblical account counts us tall and strong
Our wives are hearty and wise
Our children make full many quivers
Blessed, are we, beyond measure.

Ai, saiid muktelum, it is true, but have you not heard...?
Our children and our wives, stolen as slaves
Forced, are we, to learn tongues not touching our own
Strange and new beliefs, substitute our well worn ways
Our lands, besieged, decade upon decade upon decade
Our peoples displaced, and often, not embraced.

Ai, saiid muktelum, I pray thee to continue...
The Egypto-British Condominium
The Arab Islamic Regimes from the North
Little do they know, little have they cared
About us Southerners, catching us...awares.

Ai, saiid muktelum, humbly I beseech thee to know...
We are proud peoples possessing a rich history
Reduced to ashes by proxies and divisions
Emanating from without, germinating from within
Humbled to the ground, a mortally wounded lion -
Are we, much to our chagrin.

Ai, saiid muktelum, I pray thee, stand with us in prayer
To be a people united, humbled, but not in despair
A healed people, a people made whole, under the banner of Him
Our Savior, Redeemer, our Comforter and Friend
From Malakal to Mundri, from Pochalla to Torit to Wau
From Yambio to Yei to Abiyei, every people
Covered with peace and joy
Every tongue rejoicing
Singing the eternal

~ Bob Rice, New Year’s Eve, 2018

** “Malu?” Is a question in Arabic and/or the local version of Arabic in Juba, meaning “What is it?” or “What is wrong?” 

** “Aii, said muktelum” is a classical Arabic expression meaning, “Yes, honorable sir” - this link will take you to a video of me presenting this poem to a group of missionaries on New Year’s Eve at the “Do-It-Yourself” talent show at the Renew Conference at Brackenhurst in Limuru, Kenya