[What follows are my thoughts for an upcoming visit with the Dinka congregation at Church of the Holy Apostles, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.]
Go Yecu jaal eeti (Matthew 15:21, Dinka, from the Gospel for the Sunday closest to August 17th, Revised Common Lectionary) Then Jesus left that place…
Jesus and his disciples were healing and answering questions near the Sea of Galilee, where he grew up. He was with his own people, near his own home, speaking his own language.
Go Yecu jaal eeti – then he left that place and went to what is now Lebanon, the District of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus and his disciples were in a different culture. Some of the people were called Canaanites, the pagans that the Jews’ ancestors fought agianst for the land. Sidon was the home of Jezebel, the Queen to Israel’s King Ahab, who together led another generation of Israelites to pollute the land with idolatry, oppression and bloodshed. His disciples did not think well of the people there.
But Jesus went there and, through a hard conversation with a local woman, gave his blessing and opened the way for his Good News to come to people there.
The Dinka people lived for a very long time in South Sudan. Much violence came to their land and culture. Some of the Dinka then left that place. Like the disciples of Jesus, they must have been confused as they traveled to other parts of Africa, and then to many other places around the world. They were called Lost Boys and Lost Girls. But Yecu Kritho walked with them.
Some came to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This was not easy. It gets colder here than any Dinka ever experienced in South Sudan. People here speak a different language that is not easy to learn and do things very different from Dinka traditions.
But I believe that the Dinka are here not just for their own safety, although that is good. And not just to help other Dinka, although that is good. And not just to keep Dinka culture alive, although that is good.
The Dinka are here because Yecu Kritho walked with you here to help Americans know him better. The Dinka are here as Dutuuc – his apostles and witnesses – to help Americans hear God’s word like it is new – Lek Jot de Yecu Kritho.
This is what Jesus promised his church would do. The Holy Spirit – Jandiit Lajik – would provide power to Lost Boys and Lost Girls to travel all over the strange world with Jesus and to share God’s glory wherever they went.
We bi rier loom te cii Jandiit Lajik ben enan week, ku we bi ya duleekcie ne Jeruthalem, ku Judaya, ku Thamaria eben agut piny thok eben.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts/Dutuuc 1:8)
Sioux Falls is the end of the end of the earth where Jesus brought a Dinka congregation. He is with you here so you can help all of your strange new neighbors learn about him and have new life, here and cen de Nhialic, the kingdom of God.