Persecution Project Foundation was contacted in early January by Pastor Francis Ayul of Faith Evangelical Baptist Association of Churches (FEBAC), one of the pastors we support in the Upper Nile region of South Sudan. He wrote to tell us about a violent attack that had occurred in the village of Atar in the early morning hours of December 31st, 2009.
Pastor Francis told us that a couple of churches in Atar were completely burned to the ground, including the FEBAC church. In addition, the ministry compound for Serving in Missions (SIM) was also destroyed. And Anglican pastor/evangelist Tuong Dau was killed in the raid.
But stories of God's divine protection are now emerging from this tragedy. We'd like to share one of those with you.
Ruth and Ubandoma were among the first missionaries from Evangel Missionary Society in Nigeria to join the Serving in Missions (SIM) team working in Sudan. Below is an excerpt from their experience.
"In the afternoon of December 30th, I had been working in my garden. I stayed up late - till about 12:30 midnight working on some reports and pictures in my computer. We had just gotten to sleep at about 2:30 AM, when my wife started vomiting from some unknown sickness. I gave her medicine but for some reason, we could not sleep well. At about 4 AM, we awakened and heard some strangers behind our house. It sounded like they were cocking their guns. Not long after, the shooting started.
"When the bullets started flying, we don't remember how we found ourselves under our bed. Our three children were crying in a nearby room, 'Dad! Mom! What is happening?' We called out to them to get under their beds.
"It was only then that we realized the thatched roof above us was on fire. Our roof had plastic under the thatch to keep out rain and bugs. this plastic was suddenly ablaze and the fire spread to all the rooms of our house in seconds. The house filled with smoke. My wife and I crawled to the next room where our children were. Bullets continued flying through our house. By God's grace, none of us were hit.
"I took my wife and children into the kitchen, but we could not reach the front door because of the smoke. My computer and thuraya phone were lying on the kitchen table. I took the computer and put it on top of my head to protect me from melting plastic that was raining down on us. My wife got to our water supply and tried to spray the water onto the burning grass above us. She was trying to reduce the smoke so we could find the way to our door. Already she had picked up our passports in her hand.
"I went to the door with my computer on my head. The melted plastic dripped down on my left hand and arm, burning my skin. I grabbed our youngest daughter, Kezya, and was holding her close to my chest with my right hand. Shielding my little girl, I unlocked the door. My wife was right behind me pushing the children out the door. When they were all out, I came out last. The whole house was ablaze by now - even the door. As I closed the door and started to move away, it fell on me burning my back.
"We moved out into the open compound and ducked into a tent. In just a moment or two, that tent caught fire as well. We came out and saw our fellow missionaries rushing toward the [metal] toilet, so we followed them. I was the last one to reach the toilet as I was protecting them and wanted to make sure they had reached safety.... After an hour, the fighting had died down.
"Since 2006, when we first came to Sudan, I have kept reading Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my shepherd.' During this whole ordeal, this Scripture kept coming back to my mind. 'Even though I should walk through the valley of death - You are close beside me.' (NLT) 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Your goodness will follow me all the days of my life.' These words comforted and strengthened me.
"In retrospect, I see that what happened to us is not our power but is a miracle of God. We lost everything in the fire. This included my personal money, clothes, computer, camera, cook ware and all of our books, including those of our children and all my theological books. But even though we lost all these things, God gave us our lives. Their guns (they used large caliber shells) were aimed right at my bed where I had been sleeping. It is a miracle of God that we were not all killed. I believe this is because God has something for me to do before calling me home."
We thank God for protecting Ruth, Ubandoma, and their children.
PPF has ministered in the Upper Nile region of Southern Sudan since 2000. This is an area where most churches were completely destroyed during the war between 1983-2005.
Violence has been on the rise again as the terrorist-controlled government in Khartoum arms local militia groups and encourages conflict between tribes to destabilize the area.
Please pray that God would extend His protection to all the missionaries and organizations working to promote reconciliation and peace in a part of Sudan that has known little of either for the past 50+ years.
The increased violence has only strengthened PPF's resolve to engage the people of God in this community with encouragement and the power of the Gospel. Only the healing power of Christ can change the hearts of people hardened by years of war and suffering.