by Summer Kelley
Bullets whizzed through the air. Gunshots echoed around her. Hannah, due to give birth any day now, was frantically running away from the raucous.
She held her protruding belly with both hands as she ran to minimize the pain of running with child. With each step, the baby inside her felt like a wrecking ball demolishing her insides. But terror compelled her to keep running.
It was a miracle she didn't trip in one of the many pot-holes that peppered the dirt track away from her home in Mundi, South Sudan. She'd left everything there and ran for her life - and the baby's life - when violence broke out near her house.
As she ran, her thoughts raced. Where would she go? How would she keep her baby from harm? It was the cold, dry season in South Sudan. How would she stay warm?
Great pain gripped her abdomen. With every step it got worse and worse until finally, she was forced to stop.
Hannah was in labor.
With a surge of adrenaline, she stumbled to the side of the road, groaning with every contraction. Lowering herself into the dirt and grass, she labored at the most inopportune of times.
Her baby boy was born there, by the side of the road.
In the dirt, with gunshots resounding their death through the world around him.
Thankfully, there were no complications with the birth, save the noise from the conflict behind her. But she hadn't had time to grab anything from her home. No cloths, no tools, no help, no sanitization. No way to cut the umbilical cord.
Another woman discovered Hannah stuck by the side of the road in this predicament. The woman used some sharp grass she found nearby to cut the cord. Hannah removed a piece of her own clothing and used it to rub the baby in hopes that it would be enough to keep him warm.
Just minutes after her son's first cries rang out, gunshots from the nearby conflict were too threatening to stay where she was. Hannah was forced to rise painfully to her feet and resume her sprint to safety.
This isn't Hannah and her son, but yet another woman who fled her home with a baby.
Hannah and her son did manage to find safety. Later, she recounted the story to ITMI's Vicky Waraka.
Vicky was making visits, because that's what she does. She doesn't have a wealth of resources to meet the needs around her, so she offers herself. Her time. Her ears. Her Gospel-infused counsel. Then she offers them Jesus.
On this visit with Hannah, though, Vicky did have something material to offer. A towel. A towel to wrap the baby in.
Hannah's response to the gift of a towel? "I believe God has heard my prayers."
ITMI's Vicky Waraka is part of a foursome that planted Revival and Fire Prayer Ministry, a counter-culture church in Juba, South Sudan. This may not sound unusual to us, but its incredibly outlandish in South Sudan.
A church with four leaders?! Who don't squabble over titles and power?! Unheard of.
ITMI Director, Steve Evers visited South Sudan and their church recently. He reported being impressed by the unity of the church, the number of people who are faithful and the day-in-day-out approach to ministry.
ITMI's Vicky Waraka in green next to Steve Evers with some leaders of the Fire and Revival Prayer Ministry.
South Sudanese women getting gospel-based counseling with Vicky and Ester.
As part of this bless-people-every-day mindset, Vicky does Thursday morning gospel counseling at their church's facility - which they can't use on Sunday because their numbers far exceed its capacity - along with Esther, another co-planter.
It was to one of these counseling sessions that Emily showed up. She had come from the far end of town, desperate for help.
Emily was a thirty-year-old woman who had been married ten years and was still without child. Her husband blamed her for their lack of children.
He also rejected Emily's faith and wouldn't allow her the money to take the bus to church or anything other than the exact amount it took to buy food for the day. He refused to allow her to earn her own money with a small business of some kind, either.
Emily was in deep sorrow when she arrived for counseling. Vicky and Esther listened and prayed with her. Their hearts broke with her and they asked God to act in this situation. They gently and lovingly guided her to "give it to God, and trust in Jesus."
Later one Sunday morning while Emily was teaching Sunday school, her husband called her to come home right now.
"I’m teaching right now," she said.
Her husband told her, "I have not seen or heard anything like what God did through you. Now I see His greatness and I will believe in Him because of what you and your people [church] are doing."
Vicky and her friends have planted something beautiful, a church best described by the words of Rich Mullins, in his song, "While the Nations Rage."
"The Church of God she will not bend her knees,
To the gods of this world, though they promise her peace
She stands her ground,
Stands firm on the Rock,
Watch their walls tumble down when she lives out His love."
Mullins, Rich. Songs. Arista Records/Word Records, 1996. MP3.