WHY SUDAN? Alcoholism is epidemic in southern Sudan after 22 years of war and a shattered economy. WHY ME? In the Fall of 2005, I was hopelessly numbing out my pain with alcohol.
On Dec. 27, 2005, in absolute desperation, I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
In January of 2006 I got to Step 3, "Give your life and will to God." Life hasn't been the same since.
This June-August, I will share the Gospel of Jesus and alcoholism recovery to the men of Sudan.
Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Old Scopas and the Chief and a man named Michael - I'll explain more below if you have time. Old Scopas continues to promise me he'll come, but hasn't been around each time I go by on the way to the meeting. I haven't seen Chief in over a week.
Mondays are the best day of Rapha. We start the week and dedicate it to the Lord by celebrating the Lord's Supper in rememberance of Jesus - 1st Cor. 11:23-26 (two or three buns of bread each with hot, sweet tea).
During communion, we have open share time. Today, Michael came back to Rapha for only the second time.
The first time was last Thursday. He came drunk and filthy. We were meeting inside the church because it was raining. I met him at the door and asked what he was looking for. He immediately responded by saying that he was an alcoholic and needed divine help from God. We brought him in and he made it through about half the meeting before passing out. Before going out of consciousness, he spoke during the share time.
Michael has been HIV/AIDS positive for 17 years and alcoholic for most of those. He lost all hope and purpose in living and started numbing out the emotional and physical pain. He's probably in his early thirties and speaks raspy English from years of smoking. He's in the nearby town of Wudu doing contract work for a HIV/AIDS hospice house called Loving Hands. After that meeting, he took the first step - admitting he is an alcoholic and that life has become out of control.
We hadn't seen him since until today.
He came walking up in clean clothes and in his right mind. He apologized for not having been at the group, but had been sick and in great pain.
Today in share time, he said some beautiful things. He talked about how for years he has tried to quit alcohol. He's tried will-power, he's tried medicine, he's tried counseling and even some strange treatments. Some would work for a few days at best and then he would go back to drinking.
But now, with the strength of Jesus, he is feeling freedom and is strong. He assured the group that any other means of leaving alcohol will be done in vain. After the meeting, he said he would be coming more regularly and asked for a bible...King James Red Letter with extra large print.
And so after his humble and honest words, we went around the group listening to others who will be one month sober come Wednesday. These are literally the drunks and rejects of the community. And now they are the most cheerful, kind and genuine people. They are being called on to lead church service Bible readings, worship and prayer and are trophy's of God's grace and redemption.
They are receiving all sorts of mocking from their old drinking friends and even some "religious" in the community who insist that they are being paid by the church to attend Rapha. They have concocked this story about being paid to explain away what they can not reason.
They see people gaining weight from their restored appetites and proper use of money, buying new clothes from the work they are getting as a result of being reliable and strong, they see their children in school uniforms and enrolled with school fees once again, they see their mud hut compounds improved and cleaned and they see what appears to be years of trouble, stress and pain melted away from their appearance - and they insist that we must be giving them medicine and money.
They laugh and say it's God. It's their Savior and Lord Jesus.
And then they joke back and say, "If we are being given money, you'd be a fool not to come and receive it too - because it's no secret that anyone is welcome at Rapha." They scoff. But they'll come around. You can't deny a living testimony. You can argue that the Bible isn't true or that all religions are the same, but it is impossible...impossible to deny a radically changed life.
All this and it's only been a month. Think what God will do in a year in their lives.
And for all that talk about money and medicine being given away at Rapha - it just makes Jesus' reputation that much greater. The change is so drastic that they've made up ridiculous stories about the recovered people. Nope. It's Jesus. Everything He said in the Bible is true - and people are seeing it firsthand and are dumbfounded by it. Because the town drunk is now leading worship in the town's biggest church with brand new shoes on.
The Lord gets all the glory. Not "a" Lord. The Lord.
Please continue to pray for Old Scopas and Chief to come to Rapha. And for Michael's pain, inside and out.
Love you all.