Just days after I flew back from South Sudan to speak at the East Coast Mission’s Conference and Pastor’s Conference, I awoke to the sound of my phone ringing. As I sat up, Michael, our senior chaplain said, “Pastor Wes, I have some hard news. Chaplain Peter Magar has been killed at the frontline around Bentiu.” This was the seventeenth time that I have received this kind of call over the last fourteen years, but it never gets easier. The news of Peter’s death was especially hard because he left behind a wife, four daughters and a son.
War is a destroyer of lives. The scale of what lies ahead for the chaplains and this ministry would be overwhelming if it were not for the Lord. The recent civilian death toll in South Sudan has left behind destroyed families, and many new orphans and widows. It will require everything we have to comfort these latest victims of war. The scripture is clear when it says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” We have the confidence that Christ alone can work through the darkest of circumstances and bring healing to the broken hearted.
I once visited the former Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed in a single day by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. From the archeological remains, you can see how the people once lived, laughed and played. What remains in the aftermath of the volcanic destruction is the haunting silence of a place that, in an instant, became devoid of life. It was the same with the siege of Masada, Israel, where an entire group of Jews passed into history in 73-74 AD. I did not think that I would ever witness, firsthand, this level of total destruction in my lifetime; but the city of Bor, South Sudan, a place with families who had hopes, dreams and loved ones, was utterly annihilated.
On December 15, Chaplain Char Gatwech Chol, who went by his Christian name Stephen, crossed into the Valley of the Shadow of Death from which he would never return. Stephen graduated with our ninth class of chaplains in June of last year. This young man had only been on the field for five and a […]