Why I'm thankful for a humble bar of soap
13,000 kilometers, over 8,000 miles. That is the distance separating me in Vancouver, Canada from my colleagues, friends, and volunteers in South Sudan.
As you can imagine, having a “commute” this long comes with unique challenges. There are long stretches of time when I don’t hear from anyone in the field because of network issues, broken phones, or busy schedules. When I do hear news, the stories I receive are often updates or general statements. When I ask people for stories about how the Holy Spirit is at work, I usually receive something like, “People are coming to church and our congregations are thankful for this partnership with Kingdom Workers.”
These general statements are great because I know God is hard at work through our programs in South Sudan, Ethiopia, and beyond. But I think people are often shy to say they shared the gospel. They recognize it was the work of the Holy Spirit. I also know that when English is not your first language it is easier to keep things short.
So when I was asked to reach out to my colleagues and volunteers for a story of gospel proclamation, I had an idea of what I would likely receive.
But then this little message arrived in my inbox. The following is the original, unedited version of what I received.
We have those people, who were not Christians before, in our church. We have an old woman, her name is Nyatuach Changeth and she has 56 year old. She was not a Christian but her grandsons were church members. When we distributed the soaps, I preached the words of God before I distributed the soaps. After I gave her soaps, I told her Jesus love you so much, and Jesus love many people: Christians, antichristian, pagan. I said to her, “Come to church for Jesus and he will give you many things you want through faith in Jesus.” Now that woman came to our church. She was baptized three months ago. Her name was renamed Mary Nyatuach Changeth. She is an old woman, we thank God for bringing that woman because she had seen the hand of Jesus saving innocent people. She joined membership now in our church. I thank Kingdom Workers teams who gave support to innocent people in Jesus name.
Michael Buomkuoth Kuiy, one of our South Sudanese Kingdom Workers volunteers, shared this with me. As part of our team efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Michael had been distributing handwashing soap in his community.
Throughout 2020, our local volunteers distributed soap to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Nyatuach, who lives in the community, was surprised that Michael would give her soap because she wasn’t a member of Michael’s Lutheran congregation. She figured the congregation and volunteers would keep the soap for their own members. But this young man had given some to her.
She asked him why he would do that. Michael told her that the congregation wanted to help and share with everyone, that Jesus loves all people and died for all people, not just those who worship at the Lutheran church on Sundays. She had never attended church and didn’t believe in God, but she was interested in what Michael had to say. Over the course of the months ahead, Michael continued to share God’s word with Nyatuach and connected her to his congregation.
Michael had written to tell me that Nyatuach was baptized and, in keeping with the local custom at baptism, took the Christian name Mary to add on to her given name. She had now also joined the church.
And it all started because the Holy Spirit opened a door with a bar of soap.
I have so much joy in my heart for the work of the Holy Spirit. He took something as inconsequential as a bar of soap—something that eventually is used up and disappears—and created an opportunity to ignite an everlasting faith in Nyatuach’s heart. That’s the kind of remarkable God we have. He uses simple, humble things and everyday people like you, me, and Michael, to share his incredible love. He uses any and every interaction to bring someone to faith.
Michael and Mary.
Reading Michael’s story gave me another opportunity to reflect on our approach at Kingdom Workers. It’s valuable and important for us to keep investing in communities to promote long-term, sustainable development. It can also be valuable and important for us to assist with things like handwashing soap as part of our long-term strategy. Especially when providing those things allows us to model God’s free gift of grace, meet people’s expressed needs, and share Jesus. We do this because knowing Jesus leads to something even better than long-term develop- ment goals—an eternal home in heaven.
I’m not sure when I’ll get another story like this one, but one thing is for sure:
God is certainly hard at work through Kingdom Workers. And I am honored to get to be a part of it.