More than a year ago, the Diocese of Missouri formed a Companion Covenant with the Moru people in Lui, Sudan, a southern diocese of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, to share the mutuality of vision, knowledge, wisdom, expertise, and resources. We have built meaningful relationships among congregations, clergy, and lay people in Sudan and Missouri, while attempting to create awareness that southern Sudan is still recovering from the "Darfur conditions" its people have experienced during the genocidal civil war of the last several decades.
"It is not possible to hear the stories of the Moru people, and see how their deep faith has sustained them -- during this conflict in the face of every atrocity -- without being humbled and transformed," said Missouri Bishop George Wayne Smith. "We are dedicated to trying to advance the Millennium Development Goals while serving Christ alongside our Sudanese brothers and sisters. Meanwhile, we share with the Diocese of Lui the challenges facing God's people in the American Midwest, as we strive to live the gospel imperative in a society struggling with so many issues including materialism and consumerism."
The Diocese of Missouri has sent more than 20 missioners at different times to this village of 6,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. This companion diocese relationship has transcended a lot of other mission-based relationships because it has gotten the people of Missouri and Sudan involved not only in prayerful congregation to congregation pairings and fundraising for education, computers, and three successfully drilled wells in Lui, but also we are both participating with the AFRECS (American Friends of the Episcopal Church in Sudan) and other national organizations, according to Smith. In April 2007, the diocese hosted the AFRECS conference to bring together supporters and representatives from the Episcopal Church of Sudan: Sudanese refugees, U.S. churches, non-governmental organizations, and individuals who care deeply about the struggle for peace and justice in Sudan.
Furthermore, a Sudanese theological seminarian, the Rev. Stephen Dokolo, who attends Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis and is sponsored by the Missouri diocese, along with members of the Companion Diocese Committee, has spoken to people around the diocese, and become involved with the local Chapter of Save Darfur to help enlighten the entire community about the problems not only in the Darfur region, but the southern region of Sudan as well. These are relationships created which strengthen both dioceses and remind us that we are part of a worldwide Communion, according to the Rev. Susan Naylor, deacon and chair of the Companion Diocese Committee.
"The best part of this relationship from my perspective is that others have come in Christ, and visited us in Lui, and witnessed the hardship and disillusionment, and although we know these people have prayed for us; we haven't seen anything," said Dokolo. "But we know that God has heard our prayers when we see the work you have done with us -- we have water now from three wells, we have education provided, materials, computers. [We] see truly where 'God happens' in this relationship."