She was bone-tired, but sheer terror of her captors kept her from collapsing into a heap on the parched dirt they trudged through. Her bare feet were cracked and bleeding from days upon days of walking over uncharted African wilderness terrain. Her eyes burned from the heat of the intense Sudan sun.
Her throat parched, her lips dry and blistered from the heat and dehydration. Her legs ached with each painful step that carried her further and further away from her village.
It was 1995. The Sudanese in the south had endured more than a decade of pillaging and bombing from the Islamic north.
Their infrastructure decimated, their cities ravaged. Villages were burned and families displaced and torn apart as rivaling tribes took advantage of the unrest to promote their own ethnic agendas.
Thousands of children were kidnapped and forced into armies where they’d face - and even be forced to commit - unspeakable atrocities.
Rebecca’s heart ached so fiercely she thought it would burst through her chest as her thoughts returned to her two sons, Jahim and James, still back in her village.
As the heirs to their deceased sorcerer-father’s wealth, they would have targets on their backs. It was wealth other males in his family would want to get their hands on. Wealth they’d have to get rid of Jahim and James to get.
Rebecca ended up so far from home, that her chances of returning the 800km to her village or even sending word would have been better if she’d been stranded on the moon.
Rebecca was forced to become one of three enslaved wives to one of her captors. For nine years she was separated from her tribe and her family, at the mercy of her captor.
Forced to Leave Home
Eleven-year-old Jahim came to lying in the dirt. His whole body hurt from the merciless beating he’d just taken at the hand of his uncle. He lay still with his eyes closed, hoping no one would notice he was awake.
Peaking out between his almost closed eyelids, he could see he was alone. Only then did he dare get up.
He found his grandmother. “Why is my uncle trying to kill me?” he cried as she helped him with his wounds.
His grandmother looked at him sorrowfully. “He wants your father’s money. He won’t stop until you leave or die.” So Jahim left his village.
Rescued from Slavery
Nine years after Rebecca had been taken from her village, she found out that some men from her tribe were among a group of commandos sent to the area she was living as a captive.
Pretending to be Rebecca’s brother and claiming to have been looking for her all these years, one of the commandos from her tribe confronted her captor husband, demanding a dowry the rival tribesman would never be able to provide in exchange for Rebecca.
Later, that commando was in the woods gathering food for his unit. Unbeknownst to him, Rebecca’s captor was lying in wait. He followed the commando into the woods and killed him. Rebecca’s kidnapper was never heard from again.
Still far from her village and alone, Rebecca married a man from her tribe in the Jamam area. Several years passed. It was a little better for Rebecca with her new husband, but life was still hard.
Then fighting broke out in Jamam. Rebecca’s husband was killed in the upheaval. Widowed and alone, she was helpless to care for herself.
But God, in His sovereignty heard the daily prayers of a faithful and persistent young man, asking God to protect Rebecca, his mother, wherever she was.
Jahim Remains Faithful
The civil war in Sudan between the Islamic north and the Christian south waged on for almost 3 decades. In 2011, the South gained their independence from the North, and Juba became the capital city of the newly birthed South Sudan.
By this time, Jahim had become a follower of Jesus, passionate about sharing the Good News with his people.
In 2008, Jahim met ITMI’s Steve Evers. This was while he was attending ITMI partner, Muhindo Kawede’s International School of Missions in neighboring Uganda, in order to learn how to teach sound doctrine and Biblical leadership. After one year there, Jahim had to return home due to lack of funding.
When he returned to Juba, he began ministering, teaching and preaching the gospel on SPLA military bases.
Jahim faithfully ministering in South Sudan.
In 2011, Jahim partnered with Steve Evers and Timothy Keller, who equipped him with the highly effective, field-tested SALT discipleship material. Since then, Jahim has trained hundreds of Sudanese pastors, encouraging them to be Biblical, servant-leaders who reject their culture’s worship of titles and self-importance.
In December 2013, tribal violence erupted in Juba. By May 2014, a UN Envoy reported thousands slaughtered, over a million displaced and five million in need of humanitarian aid. Three months later, the food crisis in South Sudan was the worst in the world according to the UN Security Council. (BBC News, 2015)
A refugee camp in South Sudan.
Refugees in South Sudan live in squalor conditions.
As a former refugee himself, Jahim’s compassion for widows, orphans and those separated from their families led him to partner with ITMI to feed refugees whenever possible. This angered those from the opposing tribe in high positions, and Jahim began receiving threats on his life.
But Jahim wouldn’t be intimidated. He knew His calling and he knew in Whom he trusted.
He was dragged into the office of “the Hammer” the government official who was threatening him. Jahim boldly and humbly declared the gospel to several powerful government officials that day.
Eventually, “the Hammer” became saved through his relationship with Jahim. That lead to his superiors sending him to the front lines of battle, possibly in hopes of getting rid of him.
But the Hammer continues using his position to build God’s Kingdom. He is discipling his troops on the front line, leading people to Jesus and bravely protecting and serving the people around him.
He often calls Jahim with a satellite phone to say, “We’re being sent into a bad situation where we’ll probably all die unless God protects us. Will you pray for us?”
Mother and Son Are Reunited
For twenty years, Jahim had prayed for his mother daily. “Please keep her safe,” he asked, “and let her come to faith in you.”
At the end of February 2015, Jahim got a phone call. It was a voice he hadn’t heard in 20 years. It was his mother.
Rebecca with Jahim and two of her other children.
It turned out that “the Hammer” had been sent to recapture Rebecca’s village in Jamam. Some of his men recognized her tribal markings showing where she was from, and the Hammer discovered she was Jahim’s long-lost mother.
None of this miraculous story would have happened if Jahim had abandoned Juba when the violence broke out. None of this would have happened if he hadn’t courageously evangelized those who persecuted him.
Jahim reunited with his mother!
The happy reunion was due to Jahim’s bold humility and faithfulness in putting his life on the line to share the gospel with his then-enemies.
Jahim’s faith was never lacking, but now his faith is hitting a new level. He knows deep in his very being that God really can do anything.
He’ll need to lean heavily on that knowledge to face the challenges of living, ministering and pastoring a baby church amid the unrest in his country.
Jahim's baby church faces many challenges. Here Jahim sets up the new plastic chairs, so the church's people can sit at their Sunday gathering.
The challenges in South Sudan are great, but He who calls is greater. As God’s people work together to beat back darkness and oppression, He is making great strides for His name’s sake.
Thanks for being a part of South Sudan’s story.
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.