“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” Philippians 1:29
The Church of Christ is expanding in Sudan. Leaders are coming to salvation and developing a Biblical worldview. Apart from distributing another 40,000 Bibles to schools, churches and chaplains, we held conferences for training pastors, chaplains and teachers who are facing persecution and suffering in the Nuba Mountains.
We conducted a leadership seminar for 100 pastors and chaplains which ran for three days. On the first day, we targeted the heart, emphasizing the need for personal repentance, holiness and Gospel-centeredness. The second day, we dealt with more practical issues like preaching, church-planting, goal setting and strategizing, God and government and humanism. The final day we helped them cast vision for the future and presented them with Bibles and books to help further their efforts in God’s Kingdom.
The pastors and chaplains had many questions and responses to the presentations. It seemed many were concerned with inaccurate and dangerous preaching in local churches. One pastor said, “I want you to go deeply into this issue… people are preaching nonsense.” There was also some level of confusion about salvation. Many of the pastors and chaplains theorized that salvation was basically just confessing sin and that salvation can be lost - every time the believer sins. At this point in the conference, we had to slow down and talk about God’s gracious gifts presented to those who are in Christ and the power of God in forgiving and transforming sinners. Others had never considered the different spheres of government in the Bible (self, family, church, civil). They were eager to observe how they may be mixing and confusing these different areas of government.
Devastation of War
There were constant reminders that we were ministering in a war zone. People told us their stories as we were eating lunch or drinking tea. One pastor retold of the time he was in bed late on a cold night. He could hear the sound of an Antonov bomber plane flying nearby. He started shaking with fear, not knowing what to do. The sound of the plane grew louder. He ran outside and found crowds of people looking into the sky, trying to find a safe place to avoid the devastating bombs of the aircraft. Children were crying because they were out in the cold and confused. The plane terrorized the village that night as it dropped bombs in two locations, wreaking chaos and destruction.
A local minister told me that women have been targeted and ravaged by the wicked crimes of the Islamic Arab North. He told me the story of an Antonov bomber that killed 5 children in a single day in Heiban County. Even the pastors were devastated. Some could not address the community and pray for them since they were so overcome with grief. They stood speechless before crowds who were waiting to be encouraged by their leaders.
A chaplain, who ministers on the frontlines, told me about the pain of warfare. He often walks for days to minister to one group of soldiers to another. Sometimes he has to cross enemy territory and fight his way through, fearing for his life. He grew in intensity as he told me that the international community has done nothing to help his people. Khartoum has killed and destroyed his people, yet there is no justice. He finally asked me, “Does God love us? Have we sinned against Him? Why do we suffer so much?” As we were talking, Daniel began with his lecture from Hebrews 4, explaining that Christ identifies with our suffering. I encouraged the chaplain to go and listen to the presentation. He eagerly went inside to find answers to his questions.
“Looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfector of our Faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right Hand of the Throne of God” Hebrews 12:2
After the pastor’s conference, we held a teachers’ training conference for about 60 teachers from 3 different counties. Among them, we had Muslim teachers in attendance. The first presentation, on the first day, was on the heart of the problem. We discussed why children are naughty. Then we discussed why we behave badly. We looked at the Biblical teaching on man’s depravity. The heart of man’s problem is our wicked hearts, our filthy pasts and our destructive sinful lives. We discovered that in Christ, we receive a new heart, a new righteousness and a new holiness. At the end of the presentation, one teacher stood up and said “I am ignorant about God. I need you to teach me. Please teach me now.” By God’s grace, we did teach him and the other teachers more about God throughout the conference.
Ministry to Muslim Teachers
When we later recapped on the three aspects of salvation in Christ, I asked who could explain what Christ does for us at salvation. One of the Muslim teachers stood up and told me, “We get a new heart, God cleans us from our filthy pasts and He gives us new lives.”
Our team acted out the scene, from Mark 5, of Jesus healing the demoniac. Afterward a Muslim teacher pulled me aside and asked me to explain the story to him. We went to Mark 5 and the teacher read the story out loud, pausing along the way asking for clarification on difficult words and foreign terms. He compared the story in Mark’s Gospel with the drama that we had just acted out, asking which scenes from the drama corresponded to Mark’s account of the story.
After another full day of teaching, the same teacher who wanted to know about Mark’s Gospel asked me more questions about Jesus. He wanted to know why Jesus was tortured and why they made Him carry a cross and who was the man who was forced to help Jesus carry the cross and who were the two people crucified next to Jesus and why were they there? I slowly tried to answer all his questions. I asked him more about his home, his family and his spiritual life. He said that he knew nothing about Christianity, but the messages that he had heard really touched his heart. He said that he wanted to learn more about the Bible, so we challenged him with the Gospel and introduced him to a local pastor who agreed to begin training him in the Scriptures.
Blessed by Bibles
The Christian teachers who attended the conference repeatedly told me how grateful they were for the Bibles they received last year. They told me that some of the children are not allowed to have Bibles at home, but now they are studying the Bible at school. Other children take the Bibles home and bring them back to school with them. The smaller children took their Story of Jesus Bible stories home and showed them to their parents. Many open doors for the Gospel have now been opened through the Bibles and booklets which were distributed last year.
Riots in Khartoum
When we arrived in the Nuba, crowds were protesting in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The protestors wanted the president and military leaders to be tried for their war crimes. They also wanted “the people” of Sudan to rule the country and rid themselves of Sharia law. People in Nuba were fixed to their phones, TVs and any contact with outside news they could get a hold of. They were desperately hoping for peace in the country. By the time we left, the political situation did not seem to have gone as the people of Sudan had desired. Military generals were pushing for Sharia law and delaying the process of handing over power to civilian rule. Many Sudanese were feeling deflated after weeks of delays in progress, thinking that perhaps peace would not come.
Hope for the Future
Despite political turmoil and uncertainty, church leaders of the Nuba Mountains have a great vision for the future. They hope for a time of peace so that the people of the Nuba can be missionaries to the rest of Sudan. They are praying for God to open up the doors so that they can be salt and light in areas which have been closed to the Gospel for decades or longer.
Pray for Open Doors
We pray that in spite of the political situation, God will continue to preserve His people so that they persevere in preaching the Gospel to every tribe and tongue in Sudan.
“For everyone who has been born of God has overcome the world” 1 John 5:4
Rev. John Clifford
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
Children in the War Zone
Bibles and Books to Sudan with Love
Bibles for the Nuba Mountains
Mission to the Nuba Mountains
Bibles Bless the Nuba Mountains
An Overview of Sudan in History