Learning and leading on the move

A previous post reported the beginnings of BUILD training among South Sudanese refugees in settlements in northern Uganda. Revd Scopas Bullen-Lado, who oversees a number of churches in one of the settlements, Rhino Camp, is on the BUILD training-of-trainers course, and this post tells his story.

Scopas’ life and ministry has been one of constant movement. He was first displaced from his village in South Sudan in 1988 and ran to the nearby town of Yei. Having fled with others from his village, he continued to act in his role as a community leader. Shortly after he was displaced, he was asked to welcome a Christian preacher who had come “to encourage the displaced.” Scopas was not himself a believer, but as he listened to the word of God being preached he was convicted of his own wrongdoing, and in the early hours of the morning of 24 August 1988 he came to trust God himself.

Scopas’ growing faith served him well when a few years later he was forced to flee again, this time into Uganda in the early 1990s. In exile he grew in faith and leadership and began to encourage others. His gifts were recognised and he received formal training at Bishop Allison College, which had itself been displaced from Sudan to Uganda. Having received some training, Scopas returned to Yei when it had become more peaceful. There he served in a number of positions: leading theological education by extension; acting as diocesan secretary back in Yei for a time; and coordinating the education department.

But within a few years of South Sudan gaining independence Scopas was once more forced by insecurity to move back to Uganda in 2016. Within a fortnight, he had built a church in the refugee settlement using materials given by the UN and the government of Uganda. Not only did Scopus establish a church, he began to visit and encourage other churches in the settlements.

Meanwhile his Bishop from Yei had moved from South Sudan to Arua, the nearest town to the settlement where he was living, and established an office there. Scopus and some of the other pastors in the camp hired a vehicle and went to meet with him so that they could develop a structure for the church in exile: “He advised us positively to get organised as church centres (not as parishes or archdeaconries as we are under the Church of Uganda). He encouraged us to follow a structure based on seniority. I happened to be the most senior leader so I became the presiding priest, overseeing the pastors.”

Scopus and the other pastors formed four zones with thirty-five churches divided between them. Everyone constructed their churches: they started off with mud walls and tarpaulin on top, but now have corrugated iron roofs. As Scopus said, “We are now comfortable in these churches and they are packed. The smallest has 300 [in the congregation], the largest over 700. We gather together as the six main clans of Central Equatoria: the Bari, Pojulu, Kakwa, Kuku, Mundari, and Nyangwara. We want to know the word of God deeply.”

Scopus is now coming along to the BUILD Trainer of Trainers course, which began in Kampala in May this year. Pray for Scopus and the rest of his team – Moses Akuaak Hiek, Jimmy Tabule Mubarak, Jacob Karaba and Emmanuel Bita – as they develop BUILD training that equips the churches to know the word of God deeply and to live it out in practice in the midst of the testing conditions they face.