This article was originally published in the January 2015 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Dan Rockwell says, "The future is the past unless you change something now."
For the last year in South Sudan the future has been very much like the past. In Touch Mission Monthly reported last January about the tribal conflict that was rearing its ugly head in South Sudan between warring tribes.
Many outside of South Sudan are claiming that the atrocities against mankind run on par with what happened in Rwanda and in Yugoslavia.
ITMI's Jahim Buli reported firsthand the human devastation seen just outside of his family compound and littered throughout the capital city of Juba. He also experienced persecution and threats from government officials due to his accepting the book of James' definition of "true religion", as he cares for widows and orphans from all tribes.
For years the people of South Sudan had a common enemy in the Islamic North government. For decades they battled against all odds, being underfunded and unequipped as they tried to hold off the Islamic North invasion into southern Sudan.
In 2011 after 22 years of civil war, South Sudan received their independence and became the newest created nation on this planet. Unfortunately getting independence does not guarantee peace.
ITMI’s Steve Evers regularly comments, "If we don't deal with our anger we will soon find some other 'adversary' that will take the place of our previous challenges."
December 15, 2013 a fierce tribal conflict spilled into the streets and into the villages of South Sudan with many, many innocent casualties, and a government unable to deal with the aftermath and devastation. Many were killed.
There are upwards of 500,000 to 600,000 homeless refugees that now struggle to survive on a daily basis.
Jahim Buli was himself one of the "lost boys of Sudan."
Jahim Buli was himself one of the "lost boys of Sudan."
As a young boy he had no family, no home, no food, no protection, and no hope. Yet God had a plan for Jahim and God knew where Jahim was and what he needed at all times.
Jahim willingly shares of the fears and the dismay he had in the refugee camp as a young boy when he couldn't get official "papers" that would allow him permission to share in the meager food rations. He shares that "somehow" every day God caused one of the other refugees to be his "raven" bringing enough food to sustain him for that day.
This went on for years. This knowledge of hope and provision permeates Jahim's DNA and message to the lost and needy of South Sudan.
This message also is what he shared with the government's secret police personnel who were threatening and persecuting him for "feeding the enemy" - because he was feeding widows and orphans from the rebel tribe. ITMI reported that finally during a face to face meeting, Jahim courageously shared truth, to the government officials who were persecuting him.
Parentless children that were provided with pillowcase dresses by Jahim and ITMI.
Children in South Sudanese refugee camp.
Jahim cooking for a refugee family.
More children in a refugee camp.
One of the secret police came to Jahim sometime later after hearing Jahim preach a gospel message, and asked him "...can your God forgive me for all the people I've killed?" After sharing how the Apostle Paul persecuted the Christians, and how God redeemed him and revolutionized his life, "the Hammer" (his nickname is used to protect identity) asked Jesus into his heart and life.
This was not without great risk.
As Jahim discipled the Hammer, the Hammer knew that he could not continue torturing and abusing the people that God wanted him to love and help. Hammer also knew that "...no one ever leaves the secret police except through death."
He knew that he knew too much, and his newfound desire to follow God's plan was in direct conflict to the government's way of dealing with enemies. Yet the Hammer, after advice from Jahim and Steve, chose to not run from the country, but to stay and become a "Daniel" within the government.
Hammer trusted that God would take care of him, he didn't yet know how, but he, by his new found faith, decided to trust God's provision and protection. What happened next caused great concern for everyone who was close to the Hammer.
Towards the end of the 2014 summer, Jahim contacted Steve and said "...the Hammer is missing!" His family knew not of his whereabouts. Jahim could not get in contact with him.
None of his associates knew where he was. He had disappeared.
There was a fear that the Hammer had really "disappeared" as had many who happen to disagree with the ungodly government methods of abusing and persecuting the south Sudanese people. Jahim said, "all we can do is pray that God will comfort the family and protect the Hammer wherever he is. We may never know where he is...what happened to him."
Hammer would've never known the peace of Christ if Jahim had not stayed in South Sudan during his time of persecution. Last year during December, when the conflict was at its height in intensity and Jahim was fearing for his life, he humbly shared "… If I leave, who will tell these people about Jesus and the only hope for this country?"
Jahim proclaiming truth in a rural village of South Sudan.
It was almost a month before Jahim finally received a phone call from the Hammer.
The Hammer had been transferred from the secret police to commanding a squadron of government soldiers on the front line in direct fighting with the rebel forces. No one knew where he was and what he was doing, not even his family.
Hammer shared with Jahim that his faith in God was sustaining him in the intense battles against the rebels. The Hammer carried into battle his military equipment as well as his most prized possession, a Bible Jahim had given him.
Because the Hammer was growing spiritually he wanted to share with his soldiers the truth and light that he had found. His regular Bible studies on the front line included over 100 of his soldiers who were coming to know Christ and who were hungry for discipleship help.
November 21. 2014 Jahim received another call from the Hammer. Hammer shared a story that is almost impossible to get your mind around, but “with God all things are possible.”
Jahim relays the story like this:
The Hammer called me on the phone asking me to keep praying for him. He said, 'Jahim I was ordered by my top commander to attack a rebel position with 500 soldiers. As I was leading these troops I felt very sleepy and ordered my troops to rest. I sat down under a tree and I was half awake and half asleep and I had a dream.
In the dream I saw all my soldiers killed. I and three others were the only ones left and as we four were running in my dream, I woke up from my sleep.
We came under attack by the rebels just a few minutes after I woke from the sleep, out of the 500 government soldiers only four of us were left. As we were running the distance between us and the enemy was only 1000 meters. The three soldiers that were with me overrun me. I was tired; I gave up my life, sat down to wait for the enemy to do away with my life.
As the enemy approaches just 50 meters away, to get hold of me, a rescue team of 200 soldiers arrived in Toyota pickups. I was picked up from under the tree, and dropped in the pickup. I was drove away to barracks. All the 200 rescue team - none of them have returned alive - all of them died because of me. God caused this people to die because of me.
It's difficult to impossible to confirm all the individual facts of the story, due to the current government officials not wanting to display before the world their real or rumored losses. Steve hopes to meet with Jahim and the Hammer early in 2015 to discuss further the first hand details, if the Hammer will be awarded time away from the warfront.
The Hammer is feeling personally conflicted because of the loss of lives in this conflict. However he is very grateful for the gift of life that God has given him. He is very thankful that at least 100 of his soldiers chose to hear him share the gospel, repented of their sins, asked Jesus to be their Savior, and were being discipled.
The Hammer knows that God has a plan for his life that is yet unfinished, and cannot be stopped by any army or forces seen or not seen.
Jahim continues to disciple the Hammer via conversations over the phone from the frontline. The Hammer regularly calls and asks Jahim to explain a certain passage of Scripture or share with him God's truth on a particular issue, so that he can better disciple himself and his troops.
Wikipedia's article Economy of South Sudan states, “South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most villages in the country have no electricity or running water, and the country's overall infrastructure is lacking with few paved roads anywhere in the country."
Jahim’s heart and passion is to reach the country of South Sudan for Christ. He does as much ministry as God provides funds and resources for. He continues to make ends meet for himself and his family by taxiing people daily on his motorbike.
Jahim's Bible Study has grown to 100 people.
Jahim also started a Bible study in his courtyard surrounding his home that is now expanded to over 100 people. Jahim is asking if we can help him purchase 100 plastic chairs for the people who come to his new church plant.
ITMI would like to help him get at least 150 chairs at a cost of SSP $55 or $19 U.S. dollars per chair. Jahim's new church also needs a generator to power the small sound system and a few lights in order for everyone to hear and see God's truth.
A. T. Robertson in his book Types of Preachers in the New Testament contends that "the Word of God is not bound by human shackles," and that God uses ordinary people from diverse backgrounds to preach and teach. (Robertson)
God is using Jahim to reach South Sudan for Christ, He is using the Hammer to evangelize and disciple government soldiers, He is using ITMI to oversee and empower godly nationals in South Sudan and abroad, and He is using you, your "fingerprints", and your sacrifices to give the story of eternal life and make disciples in far, faraway places.
Robertson, A. (1922). Types of preachers in the New Testament,. New York: George H. Doran Company.
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.