The Spirit makes the difference – By Gustav Krös, incoming director

It is a great privilege to write my first article as incoming director of INcontext International. Since this is my first Just a Minute, I feel that a formal introduction is needed. I have been working at INcontext since June 2011, and from January 2012, I have fulfilled the role of Project Manager. My wife of six years, Hanlie, also works at INcontext (in the Communication Department and with event coordination). We have two boys, Roald and Sion, and live in Durbanville, South Africa.

2019 is a year of transition for INcontext as our current director, Mike Burnard, mentors me in this new role, which I will officially take over in December. As part of the transition process, we will alternate writing Just a Minute throughout the year. It is my hope that through reading these articles, you will also come to know my heart, so I won’t be a complete stranger to you when I take over from Mike.

In my capacity as Project Manager, I have had the privilege of travelling to various countries where we support projects and people working in the “harvest field”. In January this year, I visited the South Sudanese refugee camps in the north of Uganda where we are involved through ‘Project Restoration’. This project focuses specifically on trauma counselling and trauma counselling training for South Sudanese pastors and teachers, so that they in turn can provide trauma counselling for their congregation members and the children in their care. Another aspect of the trip was investigating new opportunities to be involved with the refugees, and as a result, we will be launching a few new projects in March to support the South Sudanese refugees.

Something that stood out for me during the visit was how isolated the people are. The first camp we visited is a 90-minute drive away from the nearest town, on a dirt road. The second camp is even further away, and the condition of road is worse. There is no possibility of employment for these refugees and the camps are situated on land that is unsuitable for agriculture. They don’t receive any money from the United Nations – only 12kg of maize meal per person, per month. They have to walk long distances to collect water and it’s quite common for the water collection points to run dry for up to three or four days. There is no electricity in the camps and if they want to ‘buy’ anything, they must trade using some of the 12kg maize meal allocation.

They truly live in dire circumstances, but when you talk to them, their attitude doesn’t reflect their physical circumstances. They are friendly, happy and welcoming. In comparison, poverty is also a major factor in India, where I visited our projects last year. Unlike the South Sudanese refugees, the people we encountered on the streets of Kolkata didn’t have the same friendliness or joy. There was hopelessness in their eyes, and a spirit of depression and death. It became quite clear that although the physical poverty of these people was similar, the difference came from the people we encountered in Kolkata not knowing Christ, whereas many of the South Sudanese do.

In their churches in the refugee camps on Sundays, the South Sudanese praise the Lord with songs, while jumping, dancing and clapping their hands. They manage to put the trauma of seeing family members killed behind them, and they can look past their impoverished circumstances and focus on the joy of an eternal life with Christ.

If there is one thing this visit highlighted for me, it is that true joy is not found in our physical circumstances – it is brought forth through the Holy Spirit in us. The Hindus on the streets of Kolkata are still searching for the Spirit that brings true joy, whereas the Christian South Sudanese are able to experience the peace and joy the Holy Spirit brings, despite their physical poverty.

This encourages me to remain focused on God and His Kingdom whenever I go through challenging times, but it also encourages me to share Christ with people who do not know Him yet, and do not know the peace and joy that can only be found in Him.