Rebecca and Deborah are ordinary Dinka women – mothers, wives, friends – for whom the gospel revolutionized their lives. As young girls they grew up naked, working in the cattle camp collecting dung, cooking and milking cows. After marriage they settled to raise their families living in small tukels (round mud brick huts with conical grass roofs).
In 2007 as young mothers, whose husbands were pastors, they were invited to attend a women’s group, unheard of in Dinka culture. Mama Ayen (her affectionate name in Dinka) strongly believed that the gospel must be proclaimed to the illiterate Dinka women through Bible storying in order to impact the next generation.
To Deborah and Rebecca these gatherings where the ‘kawaja’ (foreign) women came and told Bible stories and gave a few trinkets were merely a break from their mundane household duties. Yet, these teams came several times a year and repeatedly told Bible stories. Slowly they came to understand that God loved them and these stories challenged them to have more purposeful lives.
During one of these short-term mission trips Mama Ayen brought sewing machines and teachers to teach sewing to some of the women. Rebecca and Deborah were among the first group of women trained to sew, primarily uniforms for the school students. However, they were quick studies and were soon sewing clothing for themselves.
Having heard the Bible stories about the industrious Proverbs 31 woman and about Ruth who worked diligently to support Naomi, they wanted to use their skills to support their families. From their meager savings they invested a small amount to buy fabric and stitch a few dresses, which they sold quickly. Soon their abilities and their creations became well known among the community in Akot. Today the extra income of these two young business women has enabled them to buy grain, peanuts and goats for their families.
What began as a fledgling experiment of faith with the first women’s group has now multiplied to over 150 women in three different groups, in three different locations. They
are learning over 100 Bible stories, praying for one another and becoming a community of believers modeling the early church – Mama Ayen’s spiritual grandchildren.
Not only has the gospel transformed the lives of the women, it is being passed on to he next generation as the women teach their children and families. In Isaiah 55:11 we read “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth’ it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
By Gracia Sugantharaj