Post by Joanne Viola, treasurer of The Lulu Tree

The photos come in on my phone of men and women – my brothers and sisters – in South Sudan.

They labor so hard to construct churches, sanctuaries for the people to come and worship, and hear God’s Word.

They are simple structures consisting of open sides and a roof made of steel sheets, enough to protect the people from the elements of rain and the scorching sun.

The men purchase the lengthy iron sheets, strapping them to the roof of the van to transport them to the beginnings of a church building, having only just been framed. They labor in the hot sun, knowing they must get the structure as close to completion before the winds come and the dry season is over.

Pastors Emmy and Santos work alongside the men in humility, not thinking of themselves as better than any of the men but as co-laborers. The women come alongside the men with cooked meals and water, encouraging the men to stay fed and hydrated for their strength to be sustained.

And isn’t this how we all should work?

“Then I will purify the lips of the people, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9, NIV)

Shoulder to shoulder.

We work in one accord, in unity, as we stand firm with our arms around the shoulders of those beside us. We draw strength to keep on going, encouraged with our souls made firmer as we know we are not working alone.

My eyes drop down a little further in the chapter and read verse 17:

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)

We don’t tend to imagine God singing but He does – our unity, standing shoulder to shoulder, causes God such great delight that He breaks into song. He sings as He rejoices over His people when they come together for His purposes, for His people, and for the glory of His Name.

This is the South Sudan team together with Pastor Santos and some of the men who helped in the building of the church.

These people, my brothers and sisters whom I have never met, continue to teach me how I am to serve God and others. They remind me to be faithful to labor, shoulder to shoulder, in unity with those He places in my life.

The Lulu Tree is dedicated to partnering with the pastors who are already making a difference in the refugee camps in South Sudan. Pastor Santos is the first pastor to have a church in any of the three camps. It is the desire of The Lulu Tree to encourage pastors and to help them help their people.

You can read more about the work we are doing in South Sudan HERE.

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