Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Church of the Brethren issues update on Sudan mission.

General secretary Stan Noffsinger has issued an update on the Church of the Brethren work in Sudan, in a letter sent this week to congregations and to those who have contributed to funding of the Sudan Initiative.

"This program has not gone as smoothly as we had hoped," Noffsinger wrote. "Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the latest developments.... In the three years since taking on this challenge, we have learned a great deal."

The letter listed three specific learnings for the denomination during the three years since Oct. 2005 when the Church of the Brethren board approved the Sudan Initiative, including difficulties related to various views of mission and related personality conflicts, and that in trying a new model of fundraising the church has found "that it is difficult to operate a venture like this outside the core ministries budget of the church."

The Sudan Initiative was approved as a new model of funding for mission efforts, in which mission workers raised their own funds and the mission budget was based solely on designated gifts. The letter noted problems with this model including placing burdens on prospective mission workers, the time required to manage fundraising, and the way it "undervalued the need to provide overall administration." The letter also noted "a clear benefit to this model was the face-to-face contact with church members."

A third learning for the church was that original expectations for church planting in Sudan "have been met with caution," Noffsinger wrote. "Church leaders there tell us that 95 percent of southern Sudan has been exposed to Christianity and has access to existing indigenous churches.... The task in this place and time appears to be church-tending more than church-planting."

The letter closed by lifting up the invitation for the Church of the Brethren to join in work with Reconcile International, an affiliate church organization in southern Sudan established by the New Sudan Council of Churches. Bibek Sahu, a computer consultant who has been active in Church of the Brethren congregations in Kansas and Iowa, began work with Reconcile earlier this month as a Church of the Brethren short-term mission worker.

Noffsinger closed the letter with a request for prayer and continued financial support for the Sudan mission: "Please join us as we pray for good judgment, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and for wisdom to sense where God is leading us at this juncture."

Source: 12/17/2008 Newsline

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