‘Celebratory’ Defines Mood in Visit to Sudan Church

Post a Comment » Written on October 9th, 2009     
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MALAKAL, SUDAN (October 9, 2009) – Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) leaders were greeted with a parade, choirs, and even a foot-washing ceremony when they arrived here late last month to discuss current and future cooperative projects with the Evangelical Covenant Church of Sudan (ECCS).

The team visited various ministry sites, including a new church on the outskirts of the city where a new market is to be constructed, and presented seminars for the Sudanese.

WelcomeECC representatives were Pete and Cindy Ekstrand, Department of World Mission co-regional coordinators for Africa; Curt Peterson, the department’s executive minister; Dave Husby, director of Covenant World Relief, and James Tang, Covenant missionary in Sudan and coordinator of Sudanese ministries.

The team traveled throughout the region September 23-October 2. The trip was Husby’s first visit to Africa and the region.

“These meetings are very important,” Pete said. “Partnerships in mission are built on relationships, and during these trips we are able to share stories of how God is at work in each of our lives, worship and pray together, envision the future, clarify misunderstandings, discuss tough questions that require repeated conversations, as well as talk about financial concerns and more.”

A choir greeted the representatives at the Malakal airport located in Upper Nile State in southern Sudan, with a second choir engaging the group a short distance down the road. “Four blocks from the church, our two vehicles slowed to a walking pace so we could be led in a parade by a huge crowd with a joyous choir, including a large welcome sign,” said Pete.

HusbyThe ECC delegation entered the church grounds through a double line of singers along a red-carpeted path (top photo). “When we were seated, the first thing they did was to wash all our feet and our hands and arms and even our faces,” Pete added. The lower photo was taken during the welcoming ceremony for Peterson. Click here to see additional photos of the welcoming events, the washing ceremonies, the seminars and meetings and other moments from the trip.

The experience inspired the team. “They were so generous and joyful even in the midst of their hard circumstances,” said Cindy. “I have much to learn from them about depending on God day to day, perseverance and service to others.” Husband Pete agrees. “I have never been received like this – with all the washing,” he notes. “It is so humbling to have someone sitting at your feet, taking off your socks and shoes and washing your feet. I have much to learn about expressing joy in the Lord.”

The washing ceremonies are important in the life of the Sudan church. One Sudanese leader explained, “We believe it is a blessing to wash the hands and feet of visitors. Jesus told his disciples to follow his example – he did this to show them how to act, how to humble themselves. We do this to be a blessing to you.”

PetersonThe ECCS is considered a young church, by most standards, but already has 292 congregations, 16,896 believers, 47 ordained pastors plus others that are commissioned, and 43 new preaching points established in 2008.

Broad-ranging topics covered during two days of seminars included the mission and goals of the ECC and its relationships with national churches around the world, special projects, the ministry and objectives of Covenant World Relief, and the role of women in the church. Cindy’s presence represents the first time that a woman from the Covenant has visited the church in Sudan. Husby also spoke to the Sudanese leadership team (center photo).

During the worship service the day before the team departed, “the women tied white cloths over our shoulders to symbolize that we go out as a light to the world,” Pete said.

Earlier in the trip, the Covenanters helped dedicate new Covenant-funded school buildings in which 1,900 children are educated. Click here to read a previously published story about the school.

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