Ponia Hakim’s favorite Bible verse is 1 Corinthians 1:10. “The church cannot leave coming together,” she says, and community is an integral part of her life.
She works as a cook in the restaurant attached to the AIC Juba headquarters, the South Sudanese church denomination Partners International supports. The restaurant was started as a way to bring revenue to the church and a small income to some of its women who would otherwise be unemployed.
In a compound with no running water and no latrine, the women cook outside over open-air charcoal fires, boiling blocks of white chalky mais, the staple food here, and savory sauces of fish, liver, chicken, and vegetables.
Before the recent unrest in December, Ponia had worked as a primary teacher. When the violence escalated, the children fled the school and have not returned.
She worked a stint at another restaurant which struggled to sell its food and brought in no profits. Since starting work at the church, she’s seen all the food sold and money left over as profit.
Ponia became a Christian some 35 years ago through open air prayer at a revival. “Before I became a Christian,” she remembers, “I was rude, I would ignore the person preaching.”
After her conversion, she says the love of bad things was no longer within her. She started preaching to others.
“There’s a message in Psalm 1, don’t be with those who their life is not changed. If you are still staying with them, even you will be like them.”
Yet she knows the South Sudanese women love being together. Groups of women gather together to drink coffee and gossip for two or three hours at a time.
“They’re talking nonsense sometimes, fighting. I go to them and tell them, ‘you are wasting your time. Be in a place where you can hear the word of God.’”
Not only is Ponia’s work in the restaurant yielding results, her preaching to her women friends is as well. In the spirit of 1 Corinthians, many of the women already joined together are coming to Christ.
When she speaks of her favorite verse, it is with the passion born of experience. “Let the people be together to encourage one another,” she says, “because the time of Jesus is near.”
Ways to pray for Ponia Hakim:
- pray for her family and her two children. Her 22-year-old daughter would like to join university but the school fees are expensive. Pray that God would provide through the restaurant for her children’s school fees.
- pray for the continued growth of the AIC Juba compound restaurant.