YAMBIO (10 Aug 2015) Following several weeks of violence in what has been the most peaceful state in South Sudan; discussions were held between high-level delegation led by SPLA Deputy Chief of Staff Lt Gen James Ajongo, Governor Bakosoro and Azande King Wilson Rikito Gbudwe.
Several more incidents of violence have been reported with gunfire and explosions occurring sporadically around Yambio, capital of Western Equatoria State. SPLA forces tried to get control of the armed “Dinka boys” and lawless elements of the SPLA who have been committing acts of violence in and around Yambio State. UN peacekeepers were seen patrolling the city streets in their white military vehicles during the crisis. They have little authority to intervene they are never around when trouble occurs said Paul Abraham, a resident of Yambio.
Governor Bakosoro and the SPLA military commanders seem to have restored confidence and people began to return to Yambio as life starts to return to normal in the state capital. An unlikely partner in the effort to restore calm in Yambio has been the presence of Reverend Dr. Ronald Clark is the Apostolic Representative of the Presiding Bishop from the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. Rev. Dr. Clark was in Yambio before violence broke out. Rev. Clark was here to begin renovating the Yambio General Hospital, which has fallen into disrepair. However, Clarks mission changed on Friday night when Yambio erupted in gunfire. By Saturday morning, August 1, nearly a hundred thousand people were trying to flee the city in fear.
Rev. Clark did not flee the city or evacuate with all the other UN and NGO workers but chose rather to stay behind in order to minister to those who were wounded, injured or afraid. Rev. Clark was asked to accompany SPLA generals, Governor Bakosoro and Azande King to the UN camps and then to UNCIEF where many thousands of civilians had fled in panic in an effort to restore calm.
Rev. Clark was given opportunity to address the masses of displaced persons who had gathered around ADRA and to pray after members of the delegation had entreated the people. Everyone present was amazed at the strength that Rev. Clark projected in his calm demeanor. One senior SPLA officer said, “He has the bearing of a general who is wearing a priests collar…” Faith filled the powerful words that Clark shared that day.
A SPLA general was heard saying, “He is the last white man standing in Yambio”. “He did not run but chose to stand with us for peace…” Rev. Clark brought a sense of calm and hope back to Yambio when he led everyone in prayers.
Rev. Dr. Clark was seen meeting with SPLA generals and their staff who were billeted at a local hotel as well as visiting the homes of the governor, Azande King Wilson and many other officials to encourage and pray with them. Rev. Clark would not provide any comment as to what was discussed saying, “I am here as a spiritual father and the conversations that I have […with the leaders] are considered sacred.” Neither the government nor the church would comment further on the conversations and would neither confirm the names of any leader that Rev. Clark may have talked. Rev. Clark met with numerous military, government and spiritual leaders from Yambio and Juba during his stay in Yambio.
A church minister did confirm that Clark is the chief emissary of the presiding bishop, Archbishop Charles Travis of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, which has nearly 6 million adherents worldwide. Clark serves as his apostolic representative, which is his official envoy to both government and church officials in matters of interest to the communion. Rev. Dr. Clark, 59, has been in the ministry for nearly 37 years is reported to be a “bishop-elect” by one of the CEEC clergy.
According to both church and government spokesperson’s, Rev. Dr. Clark has continued to work behind the scenes as a voice of faith and encouragement to help restore peace and calm in the city. On the Saturday, one week after the violence had erupted in Yambio town, Clark was still seen walking around the city with his Archdeacon Alfred Manfred for most of the day encouraging the people.
According to one shop owner in downtown Yambio, “[Rev. Clark] came in and just wanted to see how I was doing and how business was today…” If an “Mzungu” can be walking around downtown Yambio without armed security, maybe things will be all right again in Yambio. “Mzungu” or more accurately “zungu” is a pejorative term or slang from a Bantu word used since the 18th century to describe the European white man who seems lost or roams around aimlessly, or is dizzy from the sun or heat or even appears crazy”. A shopper overheard the comment that Clark was an “Mzungu” and she responded, “He [Clark] is no “Mzungu”, he is a man of God sent to encourage us at the right time!
Clark continued to encourage both men and women, old and young as he walked the streets of Yambio. He would stop and talk to anyone who had the time. With his black Bible in one hand, a warm smile, and a handshake he greeted hundreds that day. He was like chaplain or rector for the city! Even as a gunshot could be heard off in, the distance and Clark showed no alarm. His cool demeanor brought a sense of calm to the people not seem to alarm the preacher from the United States. When asked why he was not scared, Clark replied in a calm and reassuring tone, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me”? Clark also admitted that he had served during the Vietnam Era of war in the United States Army as a military policeman and had worked for years as a law enforcement officer in the United States. It seems that his confidence comes from both God and many years of facing danger, said a member of the CEEC Church in Yambio where Rev. Clark was ministering.
Clark was heard on the government FM station, which broadcasts, to all of Western Equatoria State and the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, August 9th for an hour encouraging the people with a message of faith, repentance and forgiveness. Rev. Clark used the text, Mark 11:22-26, which states that you can ask God for anything but you must first forgive those who have hurt or offended you! He said, “God is a good God and wants to heal your spirit, soul and body, if you will forgive”. He then led the listeners in praying a forgiving prayer and then asking God forgiveness of their own sins. He concluded his radio broadcast by have people reach out and touch the radio as a “point of contact” with both him and God. Rev. Clark’s “faith filled prayer” for sick as he asked Jesus to help each person who was touching a radio set. People who were touched or healed have called the station in the days following and reported physical and spiritual healings.
Who is the man they call the “last white man standing in Yambio”? He appears to most as a tall and somewhat imposing man, with blonde but graying hair, clear blue eyes and tan skin burned by the equatorial sun wearing the collar of a simple priest. However, in the eyes of this reporter, he is a man of God with a big heart and love for South Sudan who came to Yambio at the right time to encourage both the leaders and the common person to trust God in a very difficult time. You would hear Rev. Clark refer to Jesus as the …”Prince of Peace”.
On Sunday afternoon in the middle of a strong rain, Clark held a “healing crusade” in Freedom Square. The governor and most of the elected officials attended. At one point, Clark went out in the middle of the downpour and prayed for the rain to stop! About 20 minutes later, a blue sky developed only over Yambio. The rain had stopped and the preaching continued. As a man name Joseph said, “Maybe this is a sign that the troubles will end in Yambio.
Many of the officials who attended repeated back the message that Rev. Clark had repeated that week in Yambio. They all talked about how God had restored a sense of hope in their hearts. Clark came up at the end of the meeting and asked if any leader wanted to be “anointed with oil” in the name of Jesus for strength and wisdom” All of the officials came forward. Clark asks if any in the crowd needed healing. Several thousand hands went up. He asked Jesus to heal the people who were sick in their bodies and heart. After Rev. Clark prayed, he said, “One man off to his left was being healed of blindness.
Following the meeting, an older man of near 60 came forward to see if he could meet Rev. Clark. He told one minister, “I was the man who was blind but now I can see.” He said, “My eyes were covered with scales but they fell off as Pastor Clark prayed”. “This boy was my eyes and led me everywhere I needed to go, but now I see!” Even though he did not get to meet Rev. Clark he was thankful that Jesus had sent him to Yambio!
One bishop referred to the book of Acts 17: 6, which referred to the Apostle Paul and Silas, “These that have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Maybe The Reverend Dr. Ronald Clark was sent by God to help turn Yambio “right-side up”!