By God's grace, it would appear that the culminative effect of many years of intensive prayer, worldwide publicity, international pressure, and missionary partnerships with the courageous persecuted Christians in Sudan are finally bearing fruit.
For most of its independence, Sudan has suffered from successive oppressive governments, violent revolutions, coup d'etats and civil war. Since being granted independence in 1956, the increasingly oppressive Arab governments have discriminated against and waged war against the Christian Black South. The government of Sudan has bombed Christian schools, hospitals and churches, burned crops and poisoned wells. The long-suffering Christian Blacks of Southern Sudan have endured slave raids, scorched earth campaigns, amputations and even crucifixions.
For many years it seemed that the international community and the mass media were blind to the decades of Jihad in Africa's largest country, Sudan. For some reason, most of the war correspondents never covered the longest war of the 20th Century, in Sudan. As the beleaguered Christians in Southern Sudan explained to me in 1995: “We are a hidden people, fighting a forgotten war.”
The Frontline Fellowship mission teams have come under repeated attack in Sudan. Church services and Bible teaching lectures have been interrupted by air raid warnings or artillery bombardments as everyone has scrambled for cover. The Frontline mission base and school seem to have been especially targeted for repeated aerial bombardments by high flying Antonov bombers or low flying MiGs. Our mission base is now pock-marked with bomb craters and littered with shrapnel.
At one church service, my sermon was interrupted by an artillery bombardment from National Islamic Front government forces. As rockets and shells exploded nearby, everyone scrambled for bomb shelters or trenches. For the next 40 minutes we listened to the whistling sound of rockets passing overhead. The barrage appeared to have been fired from multiple rocket launchers.
Recent mission trips to Sudan have included torrential rain, flooded rivers, a key bridge washed away, medical emergencies, vehicle breakdowns, lots of walking – including at night in an operational area - thefts, attacks and the abduction of one of our team by renegade soldiers. And much more.
"Expect to be Bombed"
It was just before departing on a recent mission trip that I was shown a ludicrous article entitled "Why Churches in Sudan are not Bombed!" I had to laugh reading this pathetic piece of propaganda. It had not even been a year since I had been buried under the debris thrown up by one of the 8 bombs, which all landed within 100 metres of a church we were ministering at on a Sunday morning. There had been few days since then that I had not had cause to remember the high pitched screaming of the bombs hurtling down upon us and the earsplitting noise of bombs crashing through the trees, exploding in pillars of fire and the bone jarring shock waves. Being pummelled by the debris propelled by the blast. Then the debris raining down on top of us.
By God's grace, Frontline Fellowship's Sudan team leader, Tim, has safely returned from another mission trip to Sudan. He succeeded in delivering and distributing to desperately needy Christians in the Nuba Mountains over 1000 Bibles, Hymn books and catechisms in local Nuba languages, multiple sets of audiovisual evangelistic equipment, educational materials and relief aid.
Most of the Bibles were in the Krongo language. Not long ago, the Krongo were listed as an unreached peoples group. By God's grace, a high percentage of the Krongo are now confessing Christians and members of evangelical churches.
Frontline Fellowship has been supplying Gospel literature, Hymn books, catechisms and Bibles in Krongo since 1999.
After delays caused by an untimely charter cancellation and several delays to transport Bibles up to our forward base, we were finally all set to begin our trip. The Nuba Mountains is a no-fly zone several hours flying time into Central Sudan. Both the Government of Sudan and the UN forbid flights to the Nuba. It was a tense flight in.
Our Sudan mission started with a research and preaching hike through the Nuba Mountains. In 2 weeks we walked roughly 250 km. We ministered to and encouraged 26 active congregations. We also returned to the place and people who, with us, had endured the ruthless government of Sudan helicopter gunship attack earlier this year.
“We thought you'd never come back, you have encouraged us with your return” said one church member who had aided our team in escaping to safety.
For one thousand years Christianity predominated in Northern Sudan. From the sixth century to the fifteenth century Christianity was the official religion of the three Sudanese kingdoms of Nubia, Alwa, and Makuria (later Dotawo). For nine hundred years the Christians of Sudan successfully resisted the southward expansion of Islam.
Yet by the late fifteenth century the weakened Christian kingdoms reeled from waves of Arab attacks. Towns were burned and confusion spread. Nubia fell. The fall of the Christian kingdom of Dotawo in 1484 and the fall of the southern most kingdom of Alwa in 1530 heralded the demise of Christian faith in Northern Sudan. Today Sudan is an officially Islamic state. The National Islamic Front (NIF) regime declared Jihad (holy war) against the Christian South and against the Arabic speaking Nuba Christians in central Sudan.
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!
After years of desperately fighting for survival in the Nuba Mountains, the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) launched a full-scale military offensive in the Nuba Mountains of South Khordofan. Seven garrisons of the National Islamic Front (NIF) government's occupying force were captured and two concentration camps liberated. With the fall of Bilinia, the provincial capital, Kadugli, came within artillery range of the resistance movement.
In an exclusive interview with the SPLA Commander for the Nuba Mountains, Yosif Kowa Mekki, a Frontline Fellowship mission team was told that the Nuba people had finally managed to turn their defensive war for survival into an offensive campaign to liberate the long suffering Nuba.
Much of our ministry in Sudan had been carried out in stifling heat which sometimes reached 58ºC (136ºF). Hiking up and down the Nuba Mountains, with 35 kgs (77 pounds) of kit, for hours on end in the heat of the day tests one's endurance.
During the day our eyes continually scanned the skies, the horizons, the bushes and the paths for any signs of danger. There was the very real danger of an air attack or ambush and landmines had been sown throughout the area. At night time the danger of an air attack subsides, but the possibility of stepping on a landmine or walking into an ambush remains. We strained our senses to try to recognise shapes and sounds in the darkness. Our pace had to slow down as we carefully negotiated jagged rocks and precipitous slopes.