This article was originally published in the February 1, 2014 edition of ITMI Monthly.
“Jahim must have done a good job of shielding his young wife to all the terrors...”
Jahim just wasn’t Jahim.
Last month ITMI's Steve Evers sat out under a Ugandan shade tree, seeking some refuge from the intense equatorial sun, while at a small guest house in Kampala, Uganda. Jahim was really glad to see Steve, and he was wanting to discuss what opportunities there were in South Sudan, but Jahim wasn't Jahim.
With what Jahim was exposed to in December in his homeland of South Sudan and with the many images of terror and death that assaulted his sensibilities and with the burned images in his mind forever, it is little wonder that Jahim was not the same.
It was just too soon for him to have fully processed all that had accosted him and his family over the Christmas season.
While most of us were preparing for eggnog, Christmas cantatas, singing our favorite Christmas carols, presents, family, and celebrating Christ's birth, Jahim and Gisma Buli were trying to gather what they could carry, shield the children's eyes, and escape the war zone that had unfolded itself onto the infant country of South Sudan.
A war that could take years to defuse.
The capital city of Juba where Jahim lives and bases his ministry was in complete disarray.
The pent up bitterness between different tribes and its effect of unleashing all old "offences" between even neighbors, caused a anti-Christmas spirit to be released with a vengeance on hundreds of thousands who just happen to be living in its way.
And the unabated violence was splattering its ugly self in colors of red, pain and death. Jahim shares that Juba "was empty".
So many had fled and were fleeing, only a few men stayed in hopes of somehow convincing themselves mentally that they could protect their meager life's valuables from looting and armed aggressors.
With your help, ITMI was able to help Jahim, Gisma, and three of their four children escape South Sudan and start a new life in Kampala as refugees.
Jahim with his daughter, Favor.
They had to leave behind in Juba one of "their children", a young adolescent street boy who Jahim unofficially adopted and now cares for and mentors.
New Year’s day for Jahim and his family was spent around a simple table with ITMI's Muhindo Kawede's family, sharing stories, comparing cultural differences, and loving on the little baby girls who were showing the signs of having their life turned upside down.
The Kawede and Buli families celebrate the New Year.
Kawede's wife, Lillian, was especially gentle and caring with Jahim and Gisma's adopted orphan baby girl.
Even though it was the first day of the year, a day in Kampala that is traditionally celebrated – not watching wall to wall football games - but with hope and prayer and family, anticipating that God will continue to bless and provide for His dear children in the coming year, Jahim's expression was never far from that numb state of, as a young man, who has witnessed far more than he should have at his, or any age.
Before they left Juba, Jahim must have done a good job of shielding his young wife to all the terrors that surrounded them, even though he told Steve that they had the unfortunate experience of watching what the military dressed men did to his neighbor after they seized this neighbor from his house, drug him behind the vehicle down the road and then shot him out in the open for all to see.
Jahim shared, "…no one should ever have to see that”.
Because of Jahim's actions and care of Gisma and the children, Gisma, on that New Year's day was warm, pleasant and at peace.
Jahim's wife, Gisma, deep in thought.
For a woman of just twenty-one years, newly married, the responsibility of four children, three of whom are orphans, and having unfortunately lost their own baby boy at birth, Gisma was full of life and at ease in her new surrounding and among new people.
Over the next week, Steve and Jahim spent a lot of time discussing what Jahim's plans were for leaving his family in Kampala and returning back to Juba and South Sudan in order to minister to his hurting and spiritually open countrymen.
"How were Gisma and the children going to handle 'Daddy' or ‘Baba’ being gone?"
"How was his family going to eat with him not there to provide?"
"What was Gisma's state of mind with being left in a new country, among new people and her husband going back to the conflict zone?"
Jahim quietly and calmly answered in so many words that Gisma was resting in God's provision, honoring her husband's decision and rejoicing that through Jahim's supporters, ITMI and Steve were able to bring enough funds to Uganda for them to buy food and get by in Kampala for the next three months.
During their discussion under the shade tree, Steve thought many times and verbalized to Jahim, "Why don't you just stay in Kampala for a while and rest up?"
Jahim, although obviously traumatized by all that had recently been brought into his life, immediately communicated that he "needed" to go back, he "must go back”.
Jahim knows what it means to be displaced, to be a refugee. He has experienced the fear of not having anything, nothing, that says "home".
He knows what it is like to be a refugee that isn't registered and who doesn't have "papers" that allow him a chance at getting the always insufficient food rations, clothing rations, and shelter rations that go with being an unwanted casualty of war in a foreign country.
This life was still very real to Jahim who experienced it for more of his youth than he cares to discuss.
This first hand knowledge of a refugee’s life drives him back to his country and countrymen with the message of hope and love. Jahim knew that there are now many homeless, scared, sick and injured refugees that need to hear that God loves them and God has not forgotten them.
Early morning of January 15th, Jahim climbed into a packed vehicle with the hopes of making it to the Uganda - South Sudan border by nightfall. He intended to cross the border into South Sudan and then leave early the next morning via bus for Juba.
South Sudan officials don't allow night travelers on the rural dirt roads that sporadically crisscross the barren landscape due to the lack of police escorts and the high probability of robbers and thieves hijacking you and your vehicle in the dark of night.
Jahim's plan was hijacked.
He did get to the border, but when he arrived, he was confronted, while still in Uganda, with a South Sudanese refugee camp. The internal pull and God provided opportunity to give back to those 20,000 plus souls that are so alone and empty, was unmistakably a leading from God.
South Sudanese refugees under a Mango tree by the Uganda-South Sudan border.
Once he arrived at the border, Jahim shares it like this, "… [we arrived] to the border [and] had a privilege to visit the office of the Prime Minister, department Refugee Desk in Pakele and they gave us the permission to visit the refugee camp and gave us police to take us to the camp."
Jahim with government officials in the camp.
"The refugee’s transit camp in Adjumani hosted a population of 20,000 South Sudanese. When we reached the camp people are sitting under trees, there is no food to eat, medicine, tents [or] mats to sit on only few of them that manage to go [escape South Sudan] with their mattresses. UNHCR (United Nations High Court for Refugees) has tried to provide with tents but there not enough for all of this 20,000 people."
"Most of them are hopeless because they lost their beloved ones and those [children were] separated from their parents. Remember, we could not gather the 20,000 people together to speak to them that may need loud speakers to speak to all of them."
"Many of them are sick, we [were] so helpless, what we did is to gather few of them to encourage them with the Word of God and pray for them, and then we took our time to pray for those who are sick."
"We pray for more [than] 40 children and elderly who are sick and everybody wants us to lay our hands to on them. Four pregnant mothers gave birth in this transit camp with no help from medical personal."
"After we have prayed for them at 5:45 pm, we can witness they have regain[ed] hope and trust in God."
"One of the community leaders said ‘thank you for coming to encourage and pray for us, now 'we have hope that God will remembers us'. We encouraged them [that] God will provide for them in a way they did not expect."
"There are more [even more] displace people north of Juba that I plan to visit them in coming days."
You may not have physically been in that refugee camp in early January, but you were there.
You may not have physically placed your hands on the new young and old orphans, but you were there.
You may not know how to share God's love in Arabic, but you did it that day.
You may not have physically been in a refugee camp that day in early January, but you were there.
All who have helped and partnered with ITMI and Jahim and our South Sudan projects, were there helping Jahim minister to the destitute and hopeless, giving hope, giving God's love.
Jahim knows from close personal experience that "…God will provide …in a way they did not expect…." Jahim saw it at Christmas time when God provided and allowed him to take his wife and family away from the terror to a foreign country.
God also used us to help him provide for his family while he goes back into the upturned world of refugees and the war-torn and what he once knew as home. God is using him to not just lay his hands on the physical bodies of hurting people, but using him to touch the very souls that make up this "field that is white already to harvest."
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.