This article was originally published in the November 2023 edition of ITMI Monthly.
It has never been so evident as it was last month that sin hurts people. It happens in our homes when a sharp word escapes frustrated lips or when our emotional baggage seeps through our carefully crafted exteriors of “self-control” and causes us to hurt someone we love.
It happens in our workplaces, schools, and public arenas: one person’s sin wounds or traumatizes another, who injures another, and the pain pays itself forward.
In South Sudan, unspeakable suffering has ripped through every life in the country for decades. Every month, our partners in South Sudan send us heart-wrenching stories of lives wrung with traumatic catastrophe after catastrophe.
Mary was orphaned when she was 10. Her siblings could go to school, but because of a disability, she could not.
Now in her twenties, she recently fell and broke her arm. Her suffering has been prolonged unreasonably with a homemade splint instead of proper treatment. The pain makes it difficult for Mary to sleep at night.
Years ago, a South Sudanese village was attacked by another tribe. The attackers did atrocious things to their victims.
Tremendous suffering resulted from this sin. As one young man escaped, a bomb landed behind him. It disseminated a fellow villager just steps behind him.
Years of instability in the region has so degenerated daily life that families can scarcely stay together. So many are displaced from their homes - 2 million have fled the country and another 2.2 million are internally displaced.
Youth roam the streets, often never having had anyone who really cared about them or taught them how to be human beings.
Alone in the world, they form alliances with others like them, terrorizing citizens and committing violent crimes - sometimes to meet their basic needs and other times, just because it's the only way of life they know.
In Pakistan, the weight of sin means it’s shameful not to pursue an upstanding status as a devout Muslim.
You avoid shame by following the prescribed actions and behaviors. Non-Muslims are shamed and cast out. Violence, neglect, and abuse are justified through blaming the victim for their inability to march to the beat of societal drums.
Not long ago, a Muslim accused a believer of blasphemy against the Quran and Mohammed. He called a mob of Muslims to burn and destroy the Christians’ churches and homes. The victims are still sleeping in fields.
In less extreme examples, Christians in Pakistan struggle constantly for income, and for various reasons, some end up enslaved. These unfortunate Pakistanis live in fear and must do backbreaking work seven days a week.
They will never earn enough to live, much less get out of debt and slavery.
In India, countless injustices are the order of the day, every day. Hoards of families with nowhere to live squat in shanty towns and endure shame, rejection, and cruelty at the hands of others.
Whether because they are Muslim, Christian, or some other culturally unacceptable label, they are relegated to the lower castes, denied human rights, and eke out a harsh and difficult life, often in slums with abhorrent living conditions.
Six-year-old Ruman, for example, couldn’t hide his tears at school. Ruman’s abusive father drove his mother to run away. The families living in nearby shanties said Ruman’s father “cares little for his family.”
His father doesn’t provide food, school supplies, or the emotional connection of a parent for Ruman and his siblings. This kind of life is not unusual for children in Ruman’s slum.
In Ukraine, families are still separated as their fathers remain unable to leave the country, but it is perilous for women and children to stay. Lives are lost on the battlefields and in bombed cities. Victims have endured unbelievably inhumane conditions and left everything behind.
They are often separated from their extended families, friends and support networks. Income isn’t available, and winter is a formidable threat to health and life. People were uprooted from their homes and separated from their communities.
Some, especially those from the eastern part of Ukraine, have lived with war for years. The stress takes its toll on health and relationships.
Dima was injured while serving in the Ukrainian army. He couldn’t walk on his mangled leg, but the Ukrainian military decided his injury didn’t qualify for their medical treatment.
Despite this intensely problematic situation, he was doing what he could to serve a church made up of Ukrainian refugees in Kyiv. The church has a meeting place, but is made up of refugees with a meager collective income, so the church struggles to rent a place to meet.
If all this heartache in the world weren’t enough, a new violent conflict broke out in the Middle East last month. In these conflicts the pile of human sinfulness continues to mount - rejecting God, harboring bitterness, refusing forgiveness, lack of humility, violence instead of gentleness, closed ears rather than a peacemaker’s heart - leading to the suffering that is revealed when one nation attacks another.
We find all of these vices in every country, culture, community, and heart, including our own. As a result, this sin-filled world can be a terrible, nightmarish place. Sin - both individual and national - hurts. And it hurts real people.
Our Lord saw the misery humanity created with our terrible decisions - long before these modern-day woes. He saw - and still sees - the misery of humankind in our sin. He has seen and been heartbroken at the suffering of each human being down through the ages. And He took action.
He set in motion a plan to redeem and restore creation and all of humanity to what He originally intended it to be.
The plan that included choosing Israel and led to the birth and crucifixion of His beloved Son is not complete yet.
Yes, He has already defeated Satan, sin and death and made a way for people to be free from sin and shame. But, the plan has not been completed as there are still many who have not yet realized that the blood and sacrifice of the perfect and sinless Jesus Christ has forged a path out of shame and guilt and into a relationship with Jesus Christ and life in His everlasting kingdom.
As a result, many still suffer at the hands of others who are reeling from their sin and the sins of others.
We have His promise that the plan will be completed successfully. Every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess. We understand that the means to His desired end is the Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself coming to abide with and in us, His people, changing our hearts and enabling us to follow Jesus.
Here is where we place our hope.
In Jesus’ ability and faithfulness to do what He said He would do: put everything in creation fully and entirely under His good, just, and loving rule.
Our hope is not in Congress somehow getting unpolarized or the results of any election.
Our hope is not in doing away with the political parties or principles we find distasteful.
Our hope is not in scientific or medical advancement. Our hope is not in peace between Hamas and Israel, Russia and Ukraine, or the Dinka and the Nuer tribes of South Sudan.
Our hope is not in health and comfort.
Our hope is not in the power to maintain a certain way of life and values and exclude others. Our hope is not in our ability to avoid cultural shame by avoiding certain behaviors and engaging in others. As long as our hope remains firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, it is secure.
As one small part of God’s good plan to redeem and restore His people and His creation, He has brought you together with the ITMI partners you support, and the light of Christ is gaining ground.
Lazarus, the South Sudanese man who lived through a horrific trauma the day his village was bombed, has become a man guided by Jesus’ Spirit as he works to reach his people with the Good News and help them follow Jesus.
His faith in the Lord prevented him from becoming bitter after the attack on his village. Lazarus’ heart was available for the Lord to prepare him for a role in His plan to reach other hurting youth.
The Lord placed ITMI’s Lazarus Yezinai in South Sudan, and brought him the partnership of ITMI supporters so that suffering, violent gang members who once terrorized the streets of Juba could find the path of redemption Jesus provided.
Mary, the disabled orphan with the broken arm, didn’t lie in her bed unseen and uncared for. No, the Lord sent ITMI’s Vicky Waraka into Mary’s home for a visit filled with Biblical encouragement, prayer, and nourishment.
Vicky and Lazarus don’t have to spend every minute of their days providing for the many who rely on them because ITMI supporters do that. They are free for these ministry activities because they don’t have to spend time finding supporters every month.
The ITMI staff, through your gifts to our General Fund, are available to them to help with that. When they need someone to walk with them on a project or provide encouragement, the ITMI leadership is a phone call away.
In Pakistan, Abid used to provide for his family as a math teacher, but now, the Lord has provided for their daily needs through ITMI. Abid was able to visit the Christian victims whose homes were burned, pray with them, and remind them of their hope.
You enabled him to give some of them audio Bibles.
Our partnership has equipped Abid to teach the SALT discipleship material to many as well as launch the Goat Project.
All of this is a result of the Lord’s Spirit, bringing His people together - donors sacrificing to support financially, prayer warriors faithfully remembering our partners and leadership in prayer, and the work of our staff, funded by General Fund donations, to equip, disciple, and provide logistical support as needed as well as ensure support keeps fueling this ministry.
The Lord brought these resources together so that the body of Christ could be built up in Pakistan.
In India, the Lord forged a partnership that may seem run-of-the-mill to us at ITMI, but when you think about it, it is truly an act of the Lord.
How else would we have known David and Taru Kumar were humbly and quietly serving suffering Muslims in an Indian slum? We can’t explain it other than the Lord put us together so that impoverished Muslim families could experience His love and have the chance to become His disciples.
David and Taru’s presence in the slum is a bright light of hope to these families. The morning that Ruman came to Taru’s school, Deepam Primary, in tears, Taru took Ruman on her lap, listened to his heartache and dried his tears.
Deepam students receive a nutritional drink provided by ITMI supporters.
David and Taru’s students learn to call on Jesus every day.
Then she eased his hunger with a bit of extra food, on top of the meal that Deepam students already receive as part of their morning, provided by the support from ITMI.
Onboarding David and Taru, like onboarding every new partner, was funded by your contributions to the General Fund, which allows the ITMI staff and leadership to function.
In Eastern Europe, our partners were well-equipped and in the right place at the right time to find safe places for Ukrainian refugees to shelter, food for them to eat, and clothes they could wear, help them learn a new language, and find ways to earn income and communities to become part of.
For years, the Lord had been quietly building networks of believers and businesses who could pull together a logistical miracle to get supplies and aid into Ukraine, where believers were positioned and ready to exercise their calling to make disciples using refugee centers as conduits for the love, hope and message of Jesus to reach them.
The networking ministry of ITMI’s Adi and Ema Ban, and your General Fund contributions made it possible for ITMI’s Steve Evers and Mark Burritt to take a team to minister among believers in Ukraine twice in 2023, offering discipleship training and encouragement.
This all led to their encounter with Dima, the young believing soldier in need of medical attention, and his church, who needed help to rent a place to meet. ITMI supporters provided both medical treatment and rent for the next year so these godly national refugees could continue ministering in the heart of the Ukrainian conflict.
Dima with his family after surgery was completed, thankful for your prayers and support.
Because of the Lord’s faithfulness to keep His promise to redeem and restore creation across the globe, we are confident He will also do so amid the horrors of the rising conflict in the Middle East.
We are confident, by faith, that He has also prepared godly believers already in the region for this moment.
We wait on Him to see whether He wants to use ITMI to forge a partnership between you and one of them.
If Israel is on your heart and you feel led to donate but prefer your contribution go toward help that is focused on making disciples, Steve has a story you might be interested in.
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In this two-and-a-half-minute on-location video, David Kumar gives us a look at the rural village where he, his wife, Taru, and Pastor Walter conducted their most recent training.
About the Authors
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 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.
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