Adventist Church leader Ted N.C. Wilson has encouraged Adventists to be ambassadors of reconciliation and peace in South Sudan, where a yearlong conflict has caused 2 million people to flee their homes and prompted the establishment of a major ADRA program.
Wilson spoke during a two-day visit to the world’s youngest country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011. He is on a seven-country tour that started in India and Tanzania and will move to Rwanda on Tuesday.
Wilson was welcomed to the country’s capital, Juba, by a jubilant parade of hundreds of Pathfinders and other church members. Women involved with local Women’s Ministries pierced the air with a shrill sound that is used to greet guests. The colorful throng marched from the city center to a compound that houses the local Adventist Church headquarters in temperatures approaching 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.5 degrees Celsius).
Wilson told the crowd that he had come especially to make sure that they felt like they were part of the Seventh-day Adventist world family.
“We do not want them to feel separated and apart,” Wilson said by e-mail. “They are so happy to be part of God’s great family: wonderful, friendly, and faithful people.”
Wilson also pointed to 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul says believers are “ambassadors for Christ” and speaks of how God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
“I shared with them their need to be ambassadors of reconciliation and peace in South Sudan to bring peace to the country,” Wilson said.
He made similar remarks in an interview Monday with 94.0 Salvation FM, a radio station owned and operated by the Adventist Church in Juba.
South Sudan has been mired in inter-ethnic conflict since December 2013. The country’s president and his rival reached a power-sharing agreement last month, but the terms have yet to be determined.
Of the 2 million people who have fled their homes over the past year, 1.5 million remain displaced within South Sudan and the rest have sought refuge in neighboring countries, according to UN figures. A senior UN official, Valerie Amos, warned during a visit to Juba on Monday that 2.5 million people urgently need food aid.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency has ongoing health-related work in South Sudan and, because of the conflict, has teamed up with the United Nations to provide emergency food supplies to internally displaced people, said Imad Madanat, vice president for programs at ADRA International.
“The rainy season has made it nearly impossible to access remote villages with food supplies and emergency health care,” Madanat said by e-mail. “The situation in South Sudan is still dire, and we are striving to reach as many internally displaced persons as we can.”
ADRA has 350 employees serving 372,000 people with various programs, including feeding programs, Wilson said. Another 50 employees are to be added soon.
“They are probably the largest ADRA program in the world,” Wilson said after attending a special ADRA meeting on Monday.
It is unclear how many people live in South Sudan, with estimates fluctuating wildly between 8 million and 11 million.
The Adventist Church in South Sudan has 23,000 members worshiping in 59 churches and 166 companies.
At 94.0 Salvation FM, Wilson observed a groundbreaking ceremony for a new media center that will replace a container-like studio used by the radio station.
He also attended the inauguration of smart, new guesthouses at the Adventist compound — decent lodging is difficult to find in the city — and the laying of a cornerstone for a new church that will seat 4,000 people.