In Memory of a Boy Named James

James-copyAt PPF, we try not to be a "gloom and doom" ministry that communicates urgency and tragedy in every correspondence. We like to report good news -- and there is much of it in Africa, despite the mostly negative reports we hear in the news. But we do occasionally have to share bad news. Last month, for instance, we had to report on the tragic loss of two missionary pilots and friends of PPF. This month, unfortunately, we have some more sad news to share.

Many of you may recall that the Upper Nile village of Khorflus was the scene of a church bombing in 2007. Several adults and children were killed and others badly wounded. PPF immediately flew in relief supplies and helped transport the wounded to the hospital in Malakal.

In late 2007, I flew to Khorflus with Brad Phillips to deliver emergency relief supplies and one of the boats PPF donated to help the churches along the Nile and Sobat rivers.

While there, we were introduced to two boys who were still suffering from the effects of their wounds. It was obvious they needed surgery that could not be acquired in Malakal. We decided to fly the two boys to Nairobi for treatment. One of the boys was named James Maguk. He had a painful leg wound that refused to heal due to shrapnel still present from the blast.

After several weeks of surgery and recovery in Nairobi, the boys flew home and were joyfully received by their families. And James could now walk again.

We had not heard any updates about James or the other boy until I received an e-mail from one of the pastors who had been with us in 2007. The e-mail informed me that James Maguk had been murdered while building a hut with his father. No motive could be determined. James was simply another victim in the escalating violence in the Upper Nile region of Southern Sudan.

This area of Southern Sudan is increasingly unstable. It was largely occupied by Northern troops during the recent civil war, and tribal prejudices against each other were exploited by the invaders to solidify their control and influence. The war officially ended in 2005, but the animosity between the tribes has remained and is still exploited by the ruling government in Khartoum to destabilize their rivals in Southern Sudan.

That's the political reality. But the reality to us at PPF is that God is sovereign, and he knows what's best for his people. We don't know why God ordained so much work and expense to be invested into James, only for him to be killed a short time later by a nameless thug.

But we know one thing: we would do it all over again if we could.

None of us knows how long we have to live. Our concern is not with the dead but with the living. Our mission statement is "Active Compassion for the Persecuted." That's the call of the Christian. That's why giving a cup of cold water to a dying man is viewed by us as an act of heroism -- not waste.

We know James was a part of the community of faith in Khorflus. We know God singled him out for a purpose. He is a witness and reminder to us of why we're doing what we're doing. We're not working in this ministry to rack up numbers on some big wall chart. We're working to serve God's persecuted people -- where they are; whoever they are; and however long God chooses.