Big Picture

Refugee children from South Sudan and surrounding regions hear the Gospel through Child Evangelism Fellowship 

‘God can use anything, even a terrible war,’ says Andrew York, CEF Director of Communications and Marketing

For Immediate Release

July 17, 2023

ST. LOUIS — Amid incredible hardship and tragedy, South Sudanese children are finding new life in Jesus through Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF).

“God can use anything, even a terrible war,” says Andrew York, CEF Director of Communications and Marketing. “We are very thankful for how many children are being reached by our national missionaries, who are or have been refugees.”

South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of war. But when the new nation was just two years old, fighting broke out again. After a peace treaty was signed in 2015, a civil war erupted again in South Sudan only six months later. The country was further devastated by floods. An estimated four million South Sudan refugees fled their homes for Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, with many returning home recently because of the recent outbreak of violence in Sudan.

“CEF’s strategy for reaching the world’s children is to equip national missionaries,” York says. “South Sudan is no different. Nationals already know the language, culture and local people, making them extremely effective. They can be supported for a fraction of the cost of sending a foreign missionary. When disasters like the South Sudan war happen, the ministry goes on.”

“We had just finished Christian Youth In Action® training, then one week later there was an attack in our area, which forced almost everyone to leave,” says Francis Candiga, national director of CEF South Sudan. “We tried to resist, persist, but soon, everyone had to flee. I left with my family, leaving all my belongings behind — everything.

“We thought our ministry was ending when we left South Sudan, but we realized that God was turning everything to good,” Candiga says, echoing Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In South Sudan, the CEF team was reaching 5,000 to 15,000 children annually. But while they were in refugee camps, “the team reached 183,000 children!” Candiga says. “Our goal was to reach 500,000 children. These children, when they went back to their country, took Jesus with them. South Sudan will not be the South Sudan that people know now. South Sudan will not be the same again.”

Life is very hard in the refugee camps. People are packed closely, have next to no belongings, and must create their “homes” with plastic sheeting. Diseases spread rapidly in such a tightly packed population, but there is little access to medical help. It is not unusual to see people die almost every day from treatable diseases.

“Most people would crumble in the face of such circumstances,” York says. “Certainly, it was hard for the CEF staff, but their trust in God was — and is — strong. It would be easy, and completely understandable, for each of them to spend their days trying to get back all they had lost. But that isn’t their focus.”

Despite the hardships, Candiga and his team know they have an amazing opportunity to reach children for Christ. Even as many South Sudanese people have returned back to their home country, war has broken out in Sudan, bringing thousands of Sudanese children into South Sudan — and to the CEF team in the region.

They train Sunday school teachers in the camps, and with help from CEF, they were able to train 79 teenagers to reach children in 5-Day Clubs and Good News Clubs®. One person can reach between 200 and 300 children, according to Candiga. Some of the trained teens have gone on to take Leadership Training Institute, and four who graduated last year are going to join CEF ministry full-time.

CEF ministries for children of South Sudan include:

  • Weekly Good News Clubs® — Held for 183,000 children per year, most are outdoors and others are in the schools within the refugee camps.
  • Bible Camps — Workers have brought groups of children out of the refugee camps to nearby towns where they hold Bible camps.
  • Teacher Training — Candiga and his team trained Sunday school teachers in the camps.
  • Christian Youth In Action® — With help from CEF of Kenya workers, the team trained 79 teenagers to reach children in 5-Day Clubs and Good News Clubs® in the camps.
  • Leadership Training Institute — Some of the trained teens have gone on to take Leadership Training Institute, and now four who graduated last year want to join CEF ministry full-time.

“Jesus gives us the Great Commission saying, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…’ (Matthew 28:19),” York says. “Sometimes ‘going’ is not in our plans, but God moves us somewhere new and enables us to do His will amid difficult circumstances.”

Child Evangelism Fellowship, which was founded 86 years ago, has been establishing Good News Clubs® in countries around the world for decades. Clubs are thriving worldwide, in countries including Australia, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda.

Last year, through CEF’s combined ministries, more than 19.5 million children worldwide heard the Good News. In 2022, more than 439,000 teachers were trained around the world.

For more CEF news, see the ministry’s latest edition of the online magazine Impact.

Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is an international, nonprofit, Christian ministry that has been dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church since 1937. CEF is located in all 50 American states and in most countries around the world, with over 3,500 paid staff and tens of thousands of volunteers around the world.


To interview a representative from Child Evangelism Fellowship, contact [email protected], Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.