Given the situation in his home country, South Sudan, it seemed completely impossible for Peter Aloro to make it to the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG2016). Locked in his office in war-torn Juba, with bullets flying all around him, he had little hope of even staying alive.
But our God is a miracle worker, and Peter escaped. Shortly after, safe in a refugee camp in neighboring Uganda, he said goodbye to his family as he left for Jakarta, Indonesia. The Lausanne team at the registration area who had been aware of his situation were overjoyed with tears when he arrived.
YLG2016 was a heaven-on-earth experience for Peter as he joined people from over 140 nations in worship and explored the theme, ‘United in the Great Story’. The second day on the theme of Creation was particularly impactful for Peter in reflecting on his own story. Through the Bible exposition by Richard Chin, Peter was filled with faith that God the Creator is able to bring light into the emptiness, void, and darkness of the situation in South Sudan and the refugee camps. He was ready to go back to his country as an ambassador of hope.
Then the crisis struck. The evening session that day featured a video on the conditions of pain and poverty in the South Sudanese refugee camps. As Peter watched the distress of his own people in such familiar circumstances, he was so overwhelmed that he had an extreme breakdown and was rushed to a nearby hospital. For three days Peter was sedated as part of the recovery process, and could only rejoin the gathering in this state of Nehemiah brokenness on the last day, with an even stronger commitment to see the healing of his people and country.
‘Even though I missed a few days, I did not come back empty,’ Peter recalls. ‘When Dr. Ravi Zacharias talked about preaching the wounded Jesus to a wounded people, his words were directly hitting my heart, calling me to preach the gospel among my people in the refugee camp. My people saw their dear ones raped and killed in their presence; they were driven away from their homes and forced to foreign countries for safety. But at YLG2016 I was reminded that Jesus, who knew what it was like to be a refugee and to suffer, intimately understands and shares in the pain of his people.’
Peter was also able to make deep friendships through the gathering that would help him in his renewed passion to minister to his people. One such friendship was with Nana Yaw Offei Awuku, who served at YLG2016 as a mentor and now leads the ten-year initiative of Lausanne called Younger Leaders Generation (YLGen). Nana says, ‘Peter became one of my closest younger friends. We shared prayer, fasting and Scripture together.’
The connection with Nana at YLG was just the beginning of what God was orchestrating, as YLGen has led to even more connections. Seeing the commitment of this young leader, Nana connected Peter with Scripture Union Ghana for ministry training where he received funding for a two-week staff retreat in Ghana. Paul Borthwick, another YLGen mentor, learned about Peter and connected with him while in Uganda recently, and was able to help with school fees for him and his family during a very difficult term. Justin Schell, who serves on the YLGen Executive Team, has arranged for Peter to be part of an upcoming discipleship training in Kenya.
As the first fruit of the connections he had made and his time at YLG2016, Peter organized a conference in a South Sudanese refugee camp in Uganda to invite people into the Great Story portrayed and lived out in Jakarta. ‘Our goal was to unite children and youth from different cultural backgrounds, help them love one another, and mentor them as agents for forgiveness and reconciliation through sharing their stories in Jesus Christ, so that they become key players in their families and communities at large,’ says Peter. They were initially planning for 150 participants, but in the end 460 attended.
The fruits of Peter’s refugee ministry continues to grow in the South Sudanese refugee camps. Women are coming together in their renewed love for Christ and for each other, pastors and young leaders are becoming empowered in their ministries, and children and youth are blossoming into agents of peace and reconciliation.
Peter is now looking toward partnering with even more ministries and stakeholders to make trauma, counseling, and forgiveness training available for pastors. He hopes to make the ministry of reconciliation more accessible for the people of South Sudan, who have suffered much from the effects of war.
We give thanks to the Father as we witness the fruit of YLG2016 and the ongoing commitment of many YLGen mentors to connect with and serve younger leaders like Peter. We invite you to join us in praying that the mentoring, connections, and missional resources provided through the YLGen initiative will continue to bear fruit for God’s glory!