South Sudan is the kind of place where a sermon anecdote about gunfire draws hearty laughter. The sound of a firearm is such an everyday occurrence that South Sudanese only question whether it came from a pistol, an AK-47, or an M-16. “Many people right now are praying, ‘Thank you God for not making me South Sudanese,’ ” says the pastor.

Listening near the back of the sanctuary in Juba is Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. He is visiting the world’s newest and most fragile state in his quest to revive the compassion American Christians had for Sudan years ago. The South gained independence from the Muslim-dominated North in 2011 with the solid backing of evangelicals. But two years later, a political power struggle engulfed the Christian-majority nation in bloody conflict.

“It’s a hard sales pitch,” he told Christianity Today as he stood among 50 mothers with malnourished children at a clinic. He said South Sudan is a perfect example of how enormously difficult it is to fulfill both the Great Commission and Great Commandment amid chronic conflict and violence.

CT joined Stearns as he toured World Vision projects in South Sudan to gather evidence to make his case. His appeal—for US churches to focus their aid on where poverty is worst, not where it is almost gone—is counterintuitive. But perhaps the best argument for it are the successes South Sudanese Christians are already achieving, far from the war- and poverty-focused eyes of the international media.

Africa’s Broken Breadbasket

The view flying into Juba is peaceful. Many metal rooftops are painted welcoming shades of blue, red, and green—the national colors. But once the plane ...

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