|Bibles to the Battlefront|
Sudan, the largest country in Africa, has been at war since 1955, with a brief ceasefire during the 70’s. The Islamic, military government of Khartoum has been persecuting the African Christians of the South by destroying their church buildings, burning their crops, massacring their people, denying them aid, banning the Bible and waging a war of terror against them. There is also a famine in the South after a severe drought – with heavy rains arriving too late for any crops.
Roadblocks and Mechanical Problems
Virgil & I set out to deliver a 4 wheel drive ambulance to Southern Sudan, where transport is almost non-existent. While travelling through innumerable roadblocks in the aftermath of the failed coup in Zambia, on a road full of potholes, we drove through a tree laid across the road by bandits and evaded the attempted hijacking. However, as a result, our engine mounting sheared off causing further damage. Virgil checked out the address of one of the few contacts we had in the country – it turned out that we were just up the road from Christian friends, who provided us with accommodation, towed the vehicle to their farm workshop and repaired the vehicle for us!
I joined up with Peter and Monte in a neighbouring country where we organised logistics and moved boxes of Bibles to the airport. On Friday we loaded the plane (in the rain) with the one tonne that we were allowed. Then we were told that the plane had been commandeered by the UN.
But then God, in His wonderful providence, replaced our charter (capacity 1 tonne) with a DC3 (capacity 3 tonnes) – for the same price! We quickly had to organise transport and move another 2 tonnes from our container to the plane. We were now moving three loads into Sudan for the price of one load.
After breaching the blockade we landed (in 45ºC heat) with more than 12 000 Bibles and books as well as 50 medic packs – and this in an Islamic country where Bibles are banned!
Hunger for The Word
During that month we held lectures and meetings for pastors, teachers, students, soldiers and officials. We conducted church services. The people of Southern Sudan are really hungry for God's Word, with devotions and prayer meetings being held every night
We split up into teams to carry out personal distribution which took us to many different parts of Southern Sudan. The roads were heavy-going, with one particular trip taking six hours to cover 80 km. Transport included 4 wheel drives, motorbikes, boats and walking. What a privilege to be able to personally hand over a Bible to someone who had not received one before. It was very special to arrive at villages that had never received visitors before, let alone Bibles. Some of the villages did not have roads, but only rough footpaths – which made the going incredibly tough. One memorable occasion was arriving at a church in the Equatorial rain forest and handing out over 150 Bibles to people who did not own a Bible.
We were asked by a military commander to pay a visit to the battlefront near Juba to minister to his soldiers. This was quite an experience, walking amongst decomposing bodies and human skeletons. I was encouraged to see a number of soldiers carrying Bibles in their pouches. They had even built a church not 3 km away from enemy trenches. We later made a further visit to the front, travelling over 150 km on a quad motorbike to take a service and distribute Bibles to the soldiers. These were received with much singing and joy. I learnt that chaplains services are being held regularly and that the soldiers believe that God has helped them in the many victories they have enjoyed this last year.
Although there is a desperate need for medicine and seed, there is a greater need for education and knowledge, based on sound Biblical principles. Training in education, health and agriculture, as well as materials, are urgently required.
We give praise and thanks to a mighty God who answered our many prayers: From breaking down in the right place in Zambia, near Christian folk who helped in a wonderful way, getting all the relevant permits on time, getting in three plane loads at the price of one load, taking in a record amount of Bibles, reaching villages that did not have Bibles, not having a single puncture or serious breakdown in Sudan, complete protection throughout a war area, even when walking in a minefield and amongst unexploded bombs, our safety as we travelled many hundreds of kilometres throughout Southern Sudan, provision of food when there was a severe shortage, as well as the good health we enjoyed (other than dehydration during the first 3 days).
Flourishing Faith in a War Zone
It is an amazing experience to travel through a war zone where people gather together every day to worship God, share the little food they have with others, to be so polite and hospitable under severe persecution from the Islamic military government, constant threats of bombing raids, no infrastructure, no transport, and little, if any, outside support. A land that has such great potential if they obey God's laws and implement Biblical principles. With the right help and teaching, this new nation could become an example not only to Africa, but also the world, providing they seek God first.
“Make disciples of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . .” Matthew 28:19-20