Loving support from the Anglican community in Sydney has meant the world to the South Sudanese congregation at Oakhurst.
September Southern Cross reported the anguish of the congregation at losing Arop Mayen – the wife of its assistant pastor John Deng – to COVID, as well as the job losses, financial difficulties and other struggles many members were experiencing because of lockdown or being COVID positive.
However, the congregation’s pastor, the Rev Samuel Majok, is now full of joy and thanksgiving at how Sydney Anglicans responded after hearing about their troubles.
“We have received close to $40,000 worth of support,” he says. “People affected by COVID, we have been able to send them [supermarket] vouchers every fortnight, and we were also able to support John’s family. It’s been a big relief to them and a big relief to the people of my church.
These people who support us, they don’t even know us – they’ve never seen us before
“Really, it’s amazing. These people who support us, they don’t even know us – they’ve never seen us before – but they’ve been touched by our situation. And that’s how the Bible says Christianity is: that we should not just look to our own interests but also to our brothers and sisters.”
Mr Majok says money and vouchers came from individuals and churches. The congregation also received support from Moore College, Sydney Missionary and Bible College, Anglican Aid and Anglicare.
“I’m still receiving phone calls of prayer, and some people still send messages asking how they can support my ministry and how they can pray for us – and when I ask, ‘How did you hear about our ministry?’ they say, ‘Oh, we read it in Southern Cross’,” he says.
Much to his surprise, Mr Majok also received a phone call from Archbishop Raffel. “It’s a big thing in my culture for a simple, small man like me to receive contact from a high bishop,” he says. “I was so thankful to God, and I really appreciated it.
“And his phone call actually empowered me, that we are all equal in the sight of God regardless of what position we have... I was so strong after that to [continue my work] and give people Scripture and wisdom from the Bible. That was really good.”
Another unexpected positive has been how the pandemic has resulted in the growth of the congregation’s ministry.
Mr Majok began online services in the Dinka language in March last year, but followers have increased exponentially over time. There are now about 13,000 people viewing the services from all over Australia, Europe, North America, Africa and the Subcontinent.
"The word of God is powerful – it cannot be stopped by COVID-19.”
“Many people who had not been to a physical church for a very long time have decided to join our online services,” he says. “The word of God is powerful – it cannot be stopped by COVID-19.”
Testimonies have come in by email that the ministry has saved marriages and spoken into people’s hearts at a time of need. But while he rejoices that people are keen to be taught about Jesus and live their lives God’s way, for many there is the insurmountable issue of distance.
For example, one family of six South Sudanese siblings who attend his online church and Bible studies live in Gothenburg City in Sweden. They speak English but not Swedish, which they are required to learn.
Mr Majok wants to support them, as they lost their parents while living as refugees in Africa, have never been to church and are the only Dinka-speaking people in their city. But he’s also aware of the impracticality of being their long-term pastor from the other side of the planet. “Pray that they will find a church where they will find Jesus, pray that they will remain united as a family and love each other.”
He also asks for prayer about how to effectively balance his time between his responsibilities as a husband and father, a pastor to a physical church community and the online ministry.
“Pray that God will give me his wisdom to be able to arrange my time in a godly way,” he says.