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Radio South Sudan Update

By Mike Gwartney
In Missions
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Mike Gwartney recently returned from a trip with his ministry, Radio South Sudan, where he was installing their fifth station. These radio stations help bring both news and the Gospel to the people of South Sudan. We want to share this update from Mike and how he saw God show up. 

On December 15, 2013 the airwaves announced South Sudan had erupted into one of the worst civil wars of our time. Bor, South Sudan, was suddenly one of the most dangerous places in the world. I joked with Cheryl about going there to put in a radio station. I thought it might help with the peace process and calm the fears of the people. She said, “There’s no way! It’s much too dangerous.”

On Wednesday, June 6, 2018 we installed the fifth Radio South Sudan station in Bor, South Sudan. Please join us in thanking God for this station, “Peace and Reconciliation Radio FM 91.15.”

On this trip we went through Juba, the South Sudanese capital — a dangerous place in its own right — to reach Bor. We were able to partner with African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) who in turn partnered with Across Ministry and the Episcopal Church of Sudan to help bring peace and reconciliation, along with the Gospel, to South Sudan.

I have learned that the fighting in December 2013 started because the fighters believed they could take over Bor and secure it as a stronghold before moving on to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. That is exactly what happened, which is why Bor was the most dangerous place in the world at that time. Today, Bor is a beautiful town with thriving businesses and major crossroads to the north, east and west. I was very impressed with how they have rebuilt. I have always believed that food can be a great indicator of how the healing process is proceeding and the food I sampled in Bor was excellent.

The Peace and Reconciliation station sits in the Across Compound, right next to the offices of the His Grace Archbishop Ruben Akurdid Ngong, of the Jonglei Province. The station sits in a three-room building with two offices and a reception area.

Every station installation presents some challenges, and the Bor station was no exception. Usually there are issues with the tower or customs. This install had several opportunities for God to show up, here are just a few. 

Mosquitos. Bor is on the river Nile, which I love due to it's significance in the biblical account of Moses. But, being on the Nile in the rainy season means that water is everywhere and that means the mosquitoes were abundant. This made installation difficult at times. 

Location. A radio station antenna needs to sit atop a high point to spread the signal over the widest area possible. The easiest way to achieve this height is a tower. We needed a tower, and it can sometimes be difficult to find one in South Sudan. Thankfully, God answered our prayers, and the people from ALARM found a tower in town. They had it waiting for us when we arrived, but we still had to negotiate a price. The seller wanted $3,000. Now, I don’t travel with $3,000, so we had a problem. In addition to this, there was an unexpected $300 expense for electricity, which I had not planned on. My money was quickly getting tight and I still had ten more days on this trip. Obviously, I was nervous.  

As soon as we arrived at the compound we sat under the nearby mango tree and started the negotiations. One of the men did not speak English, and that always makes negotiating challenging and interesting. It is easy for things to get lost in translation. In my past life I have negotiated with individuals from Israel, Lebanon, Arab states, Canada and many places, but I always had the backing of big companies and the money I needed to make a deal. Now, I am negotiating with money donated by people, churches and business. I am always conscious that I am working with money the Lord has provided. And the Lord showed up in these negotiations. We were able to purchase the tower for only $600!  And everyone was happy.  

There are plenty of stories from this trip that demonstrate the Lord’s faithfulness to protect and provide. As we were putting the tower in the ground, I fell in the hole and almost broke the antenna and my wrist; there were power issues that burned up parts of the equipment; military skirmishes close by with people running by me to get out of harm's way; some of the equipment was allowed to travel, but was never checked before it got on the plane. God solved every issue and showed up with answers when I prayed in earnest for a solution. It was never solved the easy way, but I firmly believe easy never changed the world. 

I am so thankful for all the ways I got to see God show up on this trip. And I want to ask you to please continue to pray for the people of South Sudan. Each radio station helps to spread the message of peace and reconciliation, and we continue to pray the Lord will soften the hearts of the people to this message.

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