This article was originally published in the January 2002 edition of ITMI Monthly. It was re-printed in the August 2016 edition as part of a "From the Archives" series commemorating ITMI's 35th Anniversary.
Sudan (Now South Sudan)
To commemorate your 35-year ministry as partners with us, we’re publishing stories from our ITMI Monthly newsletter archives. We’re praying with each article, you’ll be reminded of all God has done and moved to give Him glory and praise.
It was 6 p.m. on December 8 when rogue elements from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), acting without official orders, arrived unannounced at the Frontline mission base in Mundri and demanded that the missionaries immediately hand over their radio equipment.
ITMI’s Tim Keller tried to defuse the tense situation by offering them food.
Timothy Keller on his way to Sudan (now South Sudan) with boxes of Bibles in 2002.
Timothy Keller in Sudan, 2002.
Timothy Keller backpacks into the Sudanese bush.
When it was clear they had no intention of leaving he gave them overnight accommodation, hoping for a resolution in the morning.
The next day Frontline representative Hansie Steyn took the mission radio operator, John Akoi along with the soldiers to Kotobi to appeal the decision to confiscate private mission property. The trip was fruitless, as the responsible person was not there, however on the return to Mundri they met up with the district communications director.
He knew nothing about any orders to confiscate the mission radio, but promised to radio his headquarters to see if they were aware of any orders or the reasoning behind them.
The standoff continued for several days with threats of arrest.
When he continued to refuse to give in to their demands, Timothy was arrested at gunpoint and marched by night over 26 miles to an army base.
There they confiscated the mission radio, solar panels and batteries needed to provide lighting for the students in the mission’s school library. Tim’s pistol, which he needs for protection from wild animals and snakes in the bush, was also taken.
The students and school staff, who witnessed the forced abduction and heard the threats to shoot the missionaries, were in a state of shock. From church authorities the missionaries learned that three other short-wave radios (entrusted to the local churches) had been confiscated by the same renegade elements of the SPLA.
On his recent visit to Sudan, U.S. special envoy and former Senator John Danforth asked the Muslim government in Khartoum to stop bombing churches and schools in the South. They did not deny the bombing, but justified it by claiming the facilities were being used as military installations – which is patently untrue.
Please pray for the Christians who live in South Sudan and face the wrath of Muslim fanatics from the north who want to steal their oil rich land.
[This report reached us in mid-January when Tim returned from South Sudan, driving overland to Cape Town. Ed.]
About the Author
In 1981, after 30 years of ministry in Europe, Bill Bathman founded In Touch Mission International in Tempe, AZ with the help of his wife Harriett. Under their leadership, ITMI established a reputation for integrity and effective ministry overseas. Beginning in England as an evangelist, Bill was later called during the Communist years to minister to Christians behind the Iron Curtain. Bill and Harriett did so from a mission base in Salzburg, Austria which provided convenient entry into the mission field of Eastern Europe. In 1981, the Bathmans further expanded their ministry to include restricted access areas in Africa by founding In Touch Mission International (ITMI) in Tempe, Arizona.