Tuesday, November 17, 2015

YEI, SOUTH SUDAN 2015: THE WHOLE STORY

GREETINGS to you from our EmpowerOne team and the churches in Yei, South Sudan.  Here is a summary of my trip so please read at your leisure and enjoy! 

W H E R E ?

South Sudan is in the middle of East Africa in the place where the landscape transitions from wide-open grass land to lush forests as you head south toward the equator. 

The Nile River, my personal favorite river,
runs from Uganda through South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt into the Mediterranean


The town of Yei is in Central Equatoria State in the southernmost part of the country, southwest of the capital Juba and almost equidistant from the borders of The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. 


As you leave the town of Yei on the roads that lead to either neighboring country the thick trees and grass conceal numerous small villages in what is commonly referred to as “the bush”.  We held our training in one such village called Abua (like “agua” with a “b”) gathering leaders from 3 other villages and 3 different churches in the town of Yei. 

            
Abua Baptist Church


Relative to the rest of the country Yei is doing well.  It is peaceful and far from the violence in the northern states.  This has made it a safe place for NGOs and Aid organizations to set up shop and continue development projects.  The surrounding land is incredibly fertile, opening the possibility of large-scale agriculture projects, and attracting potential investors like Lebanese coffee magnates from Brazil (true story (I think)). 

Yei Green Valley Hotel was our home for 5 days.  It's new.
The county commissioner lived in the room next to mine

Agricultural and economic developments in Yei could help feed and stabilize the rest of the country.  The stability of the region gives it potential for spiritual vibrancy that could also flow out into the rest of South Sudan.  Yei is one of the brighter lights in a very dark place.  While much of our time in South Sudan is focused on deficits, Yei is important because it is a place where we can build on the positives and develop native South Sudanese leaders who can make a difference in parts of the country that have direr needs. 


Mountains and misty mornings.  
Just like the Pacific Northwest?


W H O ?

The USA team on this trip was comprised of two fellow Dallasites and myself.  Bart "White Dinka" Roberson was my co-leader on this trip and was on our team my first trip in 2012.  He might be the funniest accountant you’ll ever meet and he has a great heart for ministry.  Josh Smith is a fella I connected with through an old friend and it was a joy to introduce him to South Sudan.  He is bold in engaging with people and tasting the local food. 

Bart and I at a pit stop in Uganda.  

Josh and our driver Boscoe. 

On the South Sudan side we were coordinating with Pastor David Taban.  He is the pastor of Rwonye Baptist Church in Yei town and oversees a network of churches in Yei county and Central Equatoria state.  He is one of the most talented ministers I have ever met.  He is gifted both pastorally and administratively, which is a hard combination to find, and his passion for serving the people of Yei is unmatched.  Despite all his talent he is a humble man of God.

I taught Pastor David how to take a "selfie"

            David gathered together a core group of 15 church leaders and pastors from 7 different villages in the area surrounding the town of Yei.  A few of these men and women have some seminary education, others are lay leaders, and some are still working out their theology but they all love Jesus and want to see transformation in their communities. 

            
Malice is the Pastor of Abua Baptist Church


Leaders and members of Abua Baptist Church
            
Fautino is an elder in the church.  He's holding a Dungu
     

W H A T ?


The purpose of our trip was to strengthen the churches around Yei by developing the leadership.  Practically this meant two main focuses: Teaching Bible Study Methods and Basic Church Planting Principles.

Teaching Bible Study methods through a translator with a semi-educated group of people is……..a lot of fun.  We kept our method simple asking them to answer three basic questions when reading scripture: What does the text say about God? What does it say about Man? What does it say we should do?  We did this in small discussion groups and modeled teaching through facilitating discussion rather than rote lecture. 

We were happy to have women attend the training too


This is a new method of teaching for most in South Sudan.  By day 2 they had the basic idea.  By day 3 they were beginning to lead the discussions with some direction and feedback.  By day 4 I was able to sit back and watch them have lively discussions relating scripture to the unique issues they face in their culture.  I was not even having them translate for my sake because it only slowed them down. 

John


Our Church Planting teaching consisted of developing 4 main actions of the church: Prayer, Evangelism, Discipleship, and Gathering Together. 

Teaching prayer was a learning experience for me as the typical “go around the circle and each person pray as they feel led” method many of us are used to is not something familiar to them.  So after a few awkward silences we adapted our methods to a style of prayer they were more familiar with, instead of making them pray the way our culture says you should. 

Moses and Moses

We had everyone pray out loud at the same time and simply asked them to give thanks to God and then ask God to meet their needs.  It was a simple format but David shared with me that many of these church leaders are not used to praying out loud or leading prayer groups so the foundation of simply giving thanks and then making requests will give them something to build on.  We continued to practice this throughout the week. 


Franco

Our teaching on sharing the gospel was the most memorable part of the trip.  We taught each person how to share a personal testimony; asking them to simply tell the story of their life before they knew Jesus, how they came to know Jesus, and what their life was like after coming to know Jesus.  

Charity

The stories in my group consisted of everything from wartime trauma, to abandonment, to hopelessness, to a lot of alcoholism, a lot of anger, and ultimately a lot of grace.  It was a gift for me to sit with these men and women and hear their stories of suffering and redemption.

Santino


Our discipleship training focused on the principle of mentoring others by simply sharing life with them.  We emphasized working and eating together as much as praying and reading the Bible together.  Spiritual life is cultivated not only in the explicitly spiritual activities but in the daily living of life in community. 


W H Y ?


South Sudan is the newest country on the planet and this baby nation is still learning to crawl.  Half a century of civil war with what is now Sudan has left generations of people who only know how to live in crisis mode.  People don’t plan for the future, politicians are corrupt, alcohol is many people’s best coping skill, and education is sparse.  In the last two years the new South Sudan has regressed again to civil war, now among the South Sudanese themselves who were allies in fighting the north less than a decade before.  The old pattern is being repeated. 




But if we believe that Jesus can save our souls for the next life and change our character in this one then the Gospel is truly good news for South Sudan.  More transformed hearts means more servant-leaders, more unified communities, more courage for change and most of all more hope. 

Peter holding a Bible translate into Bari, the local language


On our last day in Yei I told the church leaders that in the USA we have a word pronounced “Yay”.  I told them it’s a word we say when something good happens.  It’s a word for celebration.  I told them this is especially true for me because when I hear “Yay” I think of “Yei” and I celebrate the good things that God is doing in that place.  Thank you for supporting me and thank you for supporting the people of Yei.  I hope as you read this you are also saying “Yei” and celebrating. 


            





Monday, November 16, 2015

THANK YOU!!!

Howdy!  Here's a short video clip saying THANK YOU for supporting me and the work of EmpowerOne in Yei, South Sudan.  More details about the trip are soon to follow.
video

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Next Trip To South Sudan is Almost Here!

Where?

          This year we have the opportunity to go to a new part of South Sudan that I have not been to before.  My team and I will be going to villages near the city of Yei (pronounced “Yay!!”).  The network of churches we assist in South Sudan used to have a strong presence in Yei but in the last few years these churches have struggled.  We will be partnering with David Taban, a pastor and one of the new church leaders in Yei to help breathe life into these churches.

What?

         What does that mean we’ll be doing exactly?  In our short week we will be teaching local church leaders how to mentor others and how to teach basic truths of the Bible to new Christians, as well as providing more in depth theological education on the book of Ephesians.  With everything we do we aim to teach in a way that is culturally relevant to them and with the goal that those we teach can then go teach others.  We want everything we do to be sustainable and reproducible. 

How?

          As with all my trips I am raising support to pay for the cost of flying half way around the world and having a place to stay where there is food. The fundraising piece of a trip like this is one of the most humbling aspects.  When going to a desperate new country like South Sudan it should be easier to say “wow I need help!”  But at times in my pride as an educated westerner I forget how much I need the help of God and other people.  Asking other’s to help with the cost of a trip like this is a humbling reminder of my need because it makes it so obvious.  I literally can’t go without the help of others. 

The total I’m attempting to raise is $4100.  I have some funds left from the trip we canceled last year but there is still quite a bit of funding to make up.  If you are willing and able to give you can do so here https://empower-one.managedmissions.com/MyTrip/kellygarrett1



             

Sunday, August 30, 2015

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Well I wouldn't be a blogger if I didn't say "I wish I posted on here more often".  Sorry if you've checking back every day since May 21, 2014 for the next big update but if you are that poor soul today is your lucky day.  Here's what you might have missed if this is the only way you keep up with me.

2014 South Sudan Trip Cancelled 

Last year's trip, the one mentioned in the previous post, was first postponed due to the Ebola scare and later cancelled when members of our team were no longer able to come on the rescheduled date.  It was very disappointing and ever since I'be been eager to get back and the good news is I'll be heading back this Fall.  More to come on that later. 

Empower Sudan changed our name to EmpowerOne

The focus of the organization has always been first and foremost church planting.  However as we continued to do this we began to see other needs that needed to also be met such as schools, medical care, and relief in the midst of the current conflict.  The people we were training also began to spill over the boarders of South Sudan to surrounding countries so Empower Sudan became too small of a name.  So we changed it to EmpowerOne.  Learn more about our mission here.
Don't worry there's a video so it's an easy read.  

Conflict Continues in South Sudan

For decades the people of what is now South Sudan fought against the government in Sudan and finally won their independence.  Now that they are their own country some of them are fighting each other.  The conflict is tribal and political and skirmishes are intermittent with temporary cease fires and endless negotiations.  Here are some recent articles that do provide some hope.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/26/us-southsudan-unrest-president-idUSKCN0QV1MF20150826

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/29/us-southsudan-unrest-idUSKCN0QY0NF20150829

http://news.yahoo.com/south-sudan-rebels-army-accuse-other-ceasefire-breach-004355065.html

The places I will be visiting are not near the areas where there is fighting.  I could get to Canada faster than one of these skirmishes could reach the cities where I'll be. 

We Moved...

....to Camas, Washington for me to complete my Masters in Counseling and Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.  The Pacific Northwest is beautiful and we are settling in well.  

We all miss Texas...


....but there is a lot here to keep us busy....



......like our new dog Jerry


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

South Sudan Update

What's been happening?

          As you may know there has been in internal conflict in South Sudan since December when fighting broke out between soldiers who wanted to oust the current president and those who are loyal to him.  The conflict has been mainly along tribal lines with the Dinka tribe being loyal to the President, Salva Kiir, opposing the Nuer tribe, led by former vice president Riek Machar, making up most of the rebel faction.  Given the tribal nature of the conflict most of the fighting has occurred in territories comprised of these tribes and in the towns of Bor, Bentiu, and Malakal with some initial skirmishes in the capital, Juba.  Talks between the two sides have been on going but no measurable progress toward peace has been made.  Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes. 

Here is a fairly recent story http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27291154
And another helpful resource http://sudanreeves.org/

How is this affecting Empower Sudan?

         In the midst of the conflict we have turned our attentions to refugee relief in regions where we had people serving that were affected by the conflict.  

         Pastor John Monychol is our regional leader in the Upper Nile State, where the town of Malakal is located and where there has been a lot of fighting.  His home was destroyed and his congregation has spread to different parts of the country as people flee the fighting.  We have been partnering with him to provide food that He and his church are distributing among refugees in Upper Nile State.  

          The town of Nimule on the border with Uganda is far from the fighting but is on the way to refugee camps in Uganda.  As a result Pastor Tolbert, another local pastor we support, and his church have been assisting refugees on their way to Uganda.  We continue to try to provide food and what shelter we can.

          In all of this our vision and mission to Empower local church leaders remains the same.  People in South Sudan need hope right now and Jesus is that hope.  While we are focusing a great deal of our resources on the areas affected we continue to plant churches and minister to pastors in areas that we operate that have remained conflict free.

more on what Empower Sudan is doing here http://empowersudan.org/home/blog/
 

What about little Torit where I like to go?

          Thankfully the conflict has not reached Torit.  The majority of the fighting is in the North and Torit is in Eastern Equatoria State in the East.   There are very few Dinka and Nuer in Eastern Equatoria and since this is a tribal conflict they have very little interest in this region.  Eastern Equatoria remains under the control of the central government but there is no strategic incentive for rebel groups to go there, especially with their limited resources.  While Pastor Dominic and his church are heavily grieved by the conflict they report that things are normal on a day to day basis.   

What's Next?  Torit 2014 - Happy Birthday Me

          As I mentioned we are continuing to support pastors and church planters in the areas unaffected by the conflict so I'll be going back to Torit this September, just in time for my 32nd birthday.  This trip was scheduled for this month but we postponed it to see if it would be safe to go.  We have assessed the situation there and while there is always risk in traveling abroad we feel it is safe to travel to Torit.  I would not be going if I didn't think it was safe.

Think About Joining Us

           As always I'm looking for a team to join me.  We will be doing some Theology training with the local church leaders and Bible teaching with people in the village.  If you're interested then let's talk more about it.  I love sharing this place with people. As always I'll be raising support to fund the trip and there will be more to come in that department.  Until then MUCH LOVE!
   

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Somewhat Unrelated Update

It has been some time since I posted anything on the goings on in South Sudan and what Empower Sudan is up to.  I've been a little busy with our new baby boy Paul Kelly Garrett.  He was born January 11, 2014 and He is the greatest thing in the world!  I could tell you all about him until we ran out of internet but I'll just post a few pictures.  Enjoy!





Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I'M OFFICIALLY ON STAFF WITH EMPOWER SUDAN


 Mong, Mong, Mong (Hello, Hello, Hello)          
            I’ve recently taken a part time staff position with Empower Sudan.  I’m in the process of raising monthly support for this position and wanted to give you an idea of what Empower Sudan does, how I fit into all of that, and what my funding will look like.

THE GOAL

            Empower Sudan’s (empowersudan.org) goal is to reach the 20 million people in South Sudan and Sudan who have never heard the good news of Jesus.  We do this by providing support to South Sudanese nationals to plant churches, disciple others, and create positive change in their communities. The reason we are called “Empower” Sudan is because our goal is to provide knowledge and resources to South Sudanese pastors so that they can do evangelism and discipleship in their communities. 
This map shows Sudan and South Sudan
Can you find Torit on this map of South Sudan?  That's where I go every year.

THE METHOD

             Our organization is made up equally of Americans who provide support and South Sudanese who live and minister in their local villages and towns.  We do not have any Americans on staff who live full time in South Sudan.  The reason for this is that we do not want to the South Sudanese to be dependent on us for leadership.  We empower them to lead and then we step out of the way and let them do so. 
            As a result of this model most of our work from the American side is done through short-term trips.  Teams of three to six will go and do a myriad of different trainings in everything from theology to community development to education to evangelism.  We have knowledge and resources that the pastor’s there do not have but they are more equipped to minister to the people in their country than we will ever be.     
These pictures were take at our community development training in Torit last October.
        
              If you visit the invest section of the website (http://empowersudan.org/home/invest/) you can see that we do a lot of things on top of training church leaders.  We operate a Bible School that provides theological training.  We provide physical resources to help pastors like bicycles and motor-bikes.  We even have staff who focus on educator training for church leaders who have started schools in their communities. 

 


WHO IS EMPOWER SUDAN

            To help you understand a little bit more about how the organization works I’ll tell you about some of our key leadership.
Mike Congrove is the head of Empower Sudan from the American side.  He takes frequent training trips and oversees all operations and fundraising.
Pastor David Kaya is the head of Empower Sudan on the South Sudan side.  He’s been church planting in South Sudan for at least ten years.  He and Mike equally share all decision making for the organization.
David Kaya (left) and Mike Congrove (right)

Brian Bain is the Regional Strategy coordinator for the Eastern Equatoria State (There are ten states in South Sudan).  He takes four to five trips to South Sudan each year to train pastors and teach at the Bible School.
Dominic Africa is the South Sudanese pastor of the church in Torit where I have visited the last two years.  He partners with Brian in the planting of churches in the Eastern Equatoria state. 
Then there is Me.
Brian (left) Dominic (middle) Me (right)

MY ROLE

            I will work directly under Brian leading one trip a year to support Dominic and the churches he has planted.  Each year we have four to five specific trainings that we plan to do with each of our South Sudanese pastors.  These trainings are designed to give the church leaders a solid theological foundation, leadership skills, and vision for planting churches. 
            A typical trip will have three to six people visiting from Monday to Friday.  Each day our mornings and early afternoons we do training with church leaders.  In the late afternoons we usually invite all the church members and people in the community to larger bible teaching.  We have a lot of children attend these teachings.  The well being of the children in South Sudan will have a major impact on the future of the country so ministry to the younger generations is a key part of our what we do.  My next trip is scheduled for the end of May this year and I'm still looking for people to go with me so let me know if you're interested.
            In addition to leading one trip a year I also take part in strategy development with the American team here in Dallas.   
Nothing is cuter than kids in suits........... so read on