We thank God for the partnership that we have in the gospel between St John’s congregation and the South Sudanese Lutheran community at Geelong in Victoria.
Our goal is to fully integrate the South Sudanese fellowship into the life of the congregation. We have been slowly, but surely, doing this through the monthly Pal Makta services we were running prior to COVID-19 restrictions taking effect. Pal Makta means ‘combined service’ in the Nuer language.
The services are conducted by both of us and they are bilingual – in Nuer and English. We are encouraging South Sudanese members to share their stories with the congregation as part of these worship services.
In February, we were blessed to hear from Thalual Marwang, who shared how he had escaped the violence in South Sudan as a young boy with his brothers. We heard how he and his brothers lived in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for 21 years. Thalual eventually made it to Egypt and then to Australia.
As we hear these stories, we can only marvel at God’s hand of blessing over Thalual and others during these very difficult times in their lives.
We also hold regular social get-togethers between leaders from St John’s and the South Sudanese fellowship. We currently have 17 young people preparing for first communion. This includes 10 South Sudanese young people. The South Sudanese Support Group meets monthly to support this vital ministry. During the COVID-19 restrictions, Pastor James has been serving the South Sudanese community by live-streaming worship services from his living room. The service, which lasts almost two hours, has included singing led by Pastor James, Bible readings, prayers and a weekly sermon. The service is run through Facebook live and it is great to read comments sent in by the South Sudanese members who participate. Participants also include people from Ethiopia and North America.
Pastor James also continues to keep in touch with members through phone calls and some visiting.
We had been planning for a small group of South Sudanese people and members from St John’s to visit south-western Ethiopia toward the end of May and early June. Sadly, this trip has had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason for the trip is to experience where many of our South Sudanese families were living in Ethiopia. Our plans included visiting Kule refugee camp, visiting Madding and Jekou Warreda, Pastor James’ birthplace, and meeting family members, including his mother.
We also planned to worship with one of the local Lutheran congregations and spend time with students at the orphanage school which is located on the church grounds. Over the past couple of years, St John’s congregation has supported the school through monetary donations which have helped to build the school and provide basic furniture for the students.
Pastors James Ruei and Milton Fritsch serve St John’s Geelong, including the South Sudanese community.