CHILDREN IN THE WAR ZONE
“A Father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in His holy habitation” Psalm 68:5-6
Into the War Zone
Antonov Bomber planes, MIG aircrafts, tanks, scorched earth campaigns from the Islamic Arab north and crippling poverty all describe the dire situation of Southern Kordofan of Sudan. Despite the aggressive adversity the people of Sudan are facing, there is hope as people are turning to God. His Word is rapidly spreading and the Gospel is taking root in the hearts of thousands of people. In our most recent mission, our team had the privilege of being a part of expanding the Kingdom of God in Sudan.
Bibles and Books for Sudan
Last year we distributed 40,000 Bibles in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan! These resources went to churches, county offices, military units and schools in a war zone of Sudan. These are some of the most hotly persecuted peoples in the world. By God’s grace, this year, we were able to obtain and begin distributing another 40,000 Bibles and 50,000 Story of Jesus picture books. In addition, we distributed: 20,000 notebooks, 2,000 copies each of Faith Under Fire in Sudan, Chaplains Handbook, Biblical Principles for Africa and the Greatest Century of Missions.
Celebrating Life Amidst Death
A rocky dirt road brought our mission team into the Nuba Mountains on Easter weekend. We joined our persecuted brothers and sisters to commemorate the death, burial and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross despising the shame. In a land, full of death, we celebrated the One who demonstrated His power over death, Jesus Christ. In a land, full of suffering, we joyfully considered our future home in Heaven.
Ministry to Schools
The day after we celebrated Jesus Christ as the Victor over sin, our team of four men split into four separate distribution teams to take Bibles, Story of Jesus picture book, notebooks, leadership resources and curriculum aids to bush schools.
Children at War
The children in these schools live in intense and adverse circumstances. In fact, one does not remain a child for very long in the Nuba Mountains. I wrote in my diary: “As I’m sitting here, I watch 4 children playing, alone. The oldest girl, probably 14 years old, is obviously in charge of the rest. She is clearly used to the responsibility of being the “mother”. She seems unphased by the smallest child who wants her attention and cries when the other children exclude her from the ball game they are playing. Girls quickly become women here in Nuba and women are the workhorses of these mountains”. These children see real death and devastation from war, which many Western children are not even allowed to watch in films.
Muslims Welcome the Gospel
In order to operate in the districts where my team intended on distributing Bibles, we needed to obtain permission from district commissioners and heads of education. The leaders of all the communities and districts we went to were overjoyed at the idea of their children receiving English books, especially Bibles. Even the Muslim leaders gladly welcomed our mission and invited us to minister to their people.
Restricted Access Areas
I was reminded of the impeccable timing of this mission. The war zones of Sudan are closed to outside help. Any relief-aid in the Nuba Mountains is considered illegal. Yet, the people are desperate for help. Many desire the relief support of NGOs. The apparent danger is that the relief-aid from many NGOs, particularly education, comes with a secular humanist worldview. Hopefully, the Bibles and books we delivered to them will help combat the secular worldview pushed by most relief-aid agencies.
Schools in the Nuba Mountains
Our ministry to schools began as soon as we obtained the necessary permission. There are basically two kinds of schools in the Nuba Mountains: those built on the mountainside and those built in the villages – sometimes by missionaries from the past. The ones on the mountainsides are usually small rickety structures made up of grass thatch. The ones in the villages are old stone buildings, usually rundown, bombed out and somewhat ghostly.
Remote Bush Schools
The first few schools I visited were the grass kind. As we approached each school, the children would stampede to observe their visitors. Their faces were bright and elated with joy, but they were very weary of the Kawaja (white man). Some would even begin to cry with fear when they saw me.
After meeting with the headmaster of each school and explaining our mission, the teachers would gather the children together in formation. They are expected to stand at attention and stand at ease when given the command. The headmaster would walk into the middle of the square and tell the children to listen very carefully to the message that the visitor was brining. This was the norm at most schools we visited.
Involving Students in Acting Out Bible Stories
The best teaching method I have found is telling the children Bible stories and inviting them to act the stories out with me. I would usually choose a confident looking child and make him the main character such as Abraham, Joseph, Jonah, etc. I would then get him to act the part as I told the story. The rest of the children loved this. They doubled over with laughter when I made “Abraham” struggle with a walking stick up the mountain or make “Jonah” get tossed about by the stormy sea. I used loud noises and quick movements to keep their attention and always present a clear Gospel declaration.
Devastated by War
Visiting the bombed-out stone and brick buildings is devastating. Roofs have been penetrated or destroyed through areal-bombardment. Large sections of classroom walls are missing or damaged through tank invasion or shrapnel damage. Bullet shells are scattered on the ground where barefoot children play. Massive tank shells are used as school bells. Rubble and rocks are used as school chairs in the classrooms. Trench-like holes have been dug near classrooms to act as foxholes for children as young as 5-years old. Sometimes children will draw pictures of bomber planes, tanks and machine guns on the school walls. These are normal learning conditions for children in war-torn North Africa.
The Greatest Gift
When we distributed Bibles, children would instantly begin to read them. For many, these were the first Bibles they owned. Some leaders expressed their gratitude that we had travelled such a far distance to distribute the most precious resources the children could own, the Word of God.
To the Nuba with Love
My team was able to minister in 17 schools, to 5,700 students. We delivered 5,404 Bibles and Note Books, 8,131 Story of Jesus booklets and 704 teaching aids and leadership books to 37 schools and 2 county offices. During this first phase of the mission, our entire team distributed approximately 25,000 Bibles at 163 locations.
Under the Blazing Sun
There were many challenges to these accomplishments. We drove long hours over boulders and thick sand, through waves of dust, in intense heat. Work was often completed between 12-2pm when the hot dry sun descends upon you like a thousand burning daggers.
I personally had many challenges, being in a totally different culture to my own. People around me constantly spoke Arabic. Children constantly shouted “Kawaja Kawaja” when they saw me. Nubans would often walk up to me and speak in Arabic, thinking it hysterical when I couldn’t respond. Animals and loud radios often kept me up at night. But, these momentary frustrations were all worth it, for God uses His Word to save sinners. People in the Nuba will now be reading the Bible, learning more about God and what He requires of them. Families can now be instructed how they ought to live and disciple each other. People now have the necessary equipment to confront satanic worldviews and contend earnestly for the Faith.
Faith Comes from Hearing the Word of God
Hearing testimonies from our previous Bible distribution also encouraged us. I spoke with one of the school chaplains about Bibles that we distributed last year, especially in Muslim areas. He told me that after distributing Bibles to one high school four students read their Bibles and, through the Bibles, came to saving faith in Jesus Christ!
Muslims Study the Bible
In another school, which is almost exclusively Muslim, the Bibles opened up the doors for Christianity. Since receiving the Bibles, the teachers have now introduced Christian education to the students and they have even employed a Christian teacher. This particular school has also requested that the chaplains come more frequently to teach the children the content of the Bibles they have received!
Pray for the Nuba
Please continue to pray for the children of Sudan. Many have experienced the horrors of war, death and family separation. Church leaders lamented the fact that they cannot care for all the orphans in their communities. Many children go to school without food, shoes, textbooks, or pens. Pray that God will look after these children, provide for their needs and send more evangelists to share Christ’s love with them.
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’” Matthew 19:14
Rev. John Clifford
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
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
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