Welcome to Common Grounds Online. Readers of Common Grounds have suggested a website to continue the explorations they began in the book. In keeping with the interactions of Professor MacGregor, Brad, Lauren and Jarrod, the theme of this site is ‘learning and living the Christian story.’
I have invited friends, and a few friends of friends, to communicate aspects of the Christian story that have been significant in their own lives. We’re all trying to find joy and pleasure in this life and the next, but often we forfeit the joy that could be ours by living out foolish, competing scripts. What distinguishes Common Grounds Online Contributors is not our own goodness, achievement or service, but rather the recognition of our need of God’s grace abounding in our lives.
Justin is reporting from southern Sudan, where he is teaching theology to the chaplains of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army. The SPLA defends the southern Sudanese from terrorist attacks that are supported by the government of Sudan in the north
It is 9pm on
Monday night and we just got done eating dinner. I’m having a blast; being here
for a fourth time is a treat. I’m very comfortable with everything and my
friends from the camp are all here. I really enjoy the people here in the
camp and around the village. Being here is inspiring and heartbreaking...usually
at the same time.
Last week, a group of my
students from the two previous chaplaincy core classes stopped by the compound
and I listened to their stories for an hour. A word they said over and
over again was “reconciliation.” They told stories about how they served
the case of reconciliation between so many conflicts: between tribes, between
various civilians, between soldiers, between civilians and soldiers, between....
UGH!...the need for reconciliation is so great here.
But even more than reconciliation,
they talked about comforting those in fear. And there are plenty of reasons
to fear. The government of Sudan is “officially” working on the peace agreement but behind the scenes they are
still funding the terrorist group (the Lord’s Resistance Army) in northern Uganda
and southern Sudan.
The LRA is alive and active here. A few weeks ago they killed one of the
guards here at the compound. They attacked the village 10 miles south of us
last week and killed someone there. It is weird how short a time it takes
to get used to gunfire. I hear at least one shot a night. So, my former
students are dealing with these people who are suffering or living in fear of
suffering at the hands of terrorists. Here the terrorists are government funded-- the government of Sudan
also funded the janjaweed in Darfur that has received some media attention.
Uganda My friends here are starting
another camp in northern Uganda to help out some of the women and children (who seem to be the primary targets
of the LRA). The LRA patrol northernand southern Sudan.
There are very few villages in northern Uganda that are constantly attacked. So, the children leave their villages every
night and walk about 10 miles to a small city-village called Kitgum so they can
sleep in relative safety. About 3000 children and many women show up each
night and consequently there is not much room for everyone. Thus, my
friends are building a huge camp to house and feed these people, and to give
them the assurance that they can sleep and not be abducted, raped, beaten, or
tortured. When the head guy here told me about it he quoted James 1:27. “Pure
religion is to watch after the widows and orphans.” Now I can’t get it out of
This LRA group is still
butchering people, but they have added a new form of torment. They started
attacking groups of woman, usually at the water well. They have beaten a
few babies to death with sticks right before they mutilate the women and let
them go. They started cutting off their ears and lips and breasts. I have
seen a few pictures of women with their entire head bandaged up.
This is “everyday reality” for
people here. This is the world in which my students
are ministering and working. This is the world that needs some reconciliation
and loads of comfort.