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First Baptist continues refugee mission

The Rev. Wayne Bangs, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jamestown, talks about his mission trips to South America and Africa. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Bringing the word of Christ to people who are eager to listen is like reaching for low-hanging fruit, said the Rev. Wayne Bangs, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jamestown.

Bangs departed for Uganda on Thursday with his mission to a South Sudanese refugee camp near Adjumani, Uganda. Seven Jamestown members, two from Kulm and one from Dickinson will be in the camp for five days, he said.

“This will be my third trip to Uganda, but the first time that we will be ministering to this particular refugee camp,” Bangs said. “Basically, the mission is to bring the hope of Christ to these people.”

Each member brings 50 pounds of clothes to be distributed in the camp, he said. The group will join associates of Bangs from Kenya and Uganda who will coordinate events, provide food and serve as translators, he said.

“So it's a multinational team,” he said.

With approval from the office of the prime minister of Uganda, the group will be ministering during the day and showing a film about Jesus in the evening, he said. Using a solar-powered projector the film will be screened in six languages, he said.

It is often the first time that the groups of 600 people at a time have seen a film, he said. People react with genuine emotion to the story, he said.

“It’s very moving and they interact with the film,” Bangs said. “They will laugh, but then will get real quiet because they don’t want to miss anything.”

The day ministry will involve an EvangeCube, a multi-sided visual aid to share the Gospels from hut to hut, he said. The team will distribute micro SD cards containing the Bible in various languages to work in basic cellphones, he said.

By inserting the card the Bible can be read on the phone and distributed via bluetooth technology, he said. There is also an audio Bible on the card for the illiterate, he said.

“What we hope to do is make it viral because it is so much cheaper than actually having to print copies of the Bible,” he said. Listening groups will make it possible to pass the files through bluetooth from phone to phone, he said.

As of February there were 222,000 South Sudan refugees in Adjumani camps, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The refugees are fleeing human rights violations and religious persecution since the country split into North and South Sudan in 2011.

The 40,000 refugees in the camp Bangs is visiting are not allowed to leave or work in Uganda, he said. The U.N. and the Uganda government provide food and some assistance but the support is shrinking, he said.

The mission works, Bangs said.

“You can see the immediate effect,” he said. “They are really interested in knowing why you want to come see them in this place because they say no one else does.”

After missions to Colombia in the 1990s, Bangs said he started his Africa missions with Kenya in 2009. He tries to go on two missions per year and has so far been to Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.