February 2014: The Valley of the Shadow of Death
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 half months when he was killed in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was 22 years of age, yet he completed the race to which the Lord had set before him.
Beginning in mid-December, fighting erupted in South Sudan as a result of an insurgent-led coup d’état, led by the former vice president, Riek Machar, and his rebel faction. Heavy fighting erupted in the Jonglei State region and 25,000 armed rebels captured the highly strategic city of Bor. Though the government of South Sudan was able to retake the city, it changed hands four times between the government and the rebels over the next two weeks. In addition to the rebel attacks in Bor, further attacks took place in the capital city of Juba. The government of South Sudan fought for over six hours before the city was secure, but there were many casualties and wounded soldiers.
Since the fighting began in December, six chaplains have been wounded, some critically. In addition to our men, over 1,000 people have been killed in the attacks and numerous are injured. Estimates on the ground are reporting that 200,000 to 250,000+ civilians have fled the worst hit areas. Near our base in Nimule, South Sudan, there are refugees in large numbers crossing the Uganda border to escape the conflict.
In the midst of the coup, 15 of our chaplains who were traveling to the front with a military convoy, were ambushed by Machar’s rebels. The rebels were beaten back by South Sudan’s military forces, but within minutes the rebel forces regrouped and counter attacked with ferocious intensity. One of our chaplains reported that the rebels were greatly determined to prevail, even though they were being severely defeated. Each time the rebels attacked, they were beaten back and incurred many casualties. The fighting continued throughout the night, yet the men held the line and defeated the rebels. In the midst of the fighting, three of our chaplains were wounded; however, none of our men were killed in the firefights. Peter Akech was among the injured when an RPG exploded near Peter and shrapnel struck his leg and abdomen; he was also shot through the hand. The two other chaplains wounded in the ambush were Joseph Nbor and Noel Emanuel.
Needless to say, the Christmas holidays were exceptionally difficult for me as reports continued to come in from the front-lines of the dead and wounded. As a father figure to these men, I could not rest as the escalating situation consumed my every thought and prayer.
The entire nation has been torn apart because of this internal conflict and from the ongoing attacks from northern Sudan. World leaders are struggling to stop the bitter hostilities from further spiraling out of control. Not only are there tribal conflicts, the greater continued threat is the Islamic infiltration into these groups that are fueling and funding division in this nation.
Without Christ and a Christian influence, this nation will continue to flounder in political unrest and war.
Our chaplains are well trained and have been prepared for war so they know how to handle themselves in a combat situation. The last class that I teach before the chaplains graduate, is to prepare them for martyrdom. It is necessary to prepare them for death because in the last 14 years of this ministry, 16 of our men have lost their lives in the service of our Lord. I tell them that not all men are supposed to live to be 70 or 80 years of age; some of them will fall in their twenties and some in their thirties.
I want our men to understand that each man’s race has a beginning and an end and when their race is over, it is time to go home to be with the Lord. Many of these chaplains will perish in combat situations. Some will die from disease and some will live to see their children grow up and marry. Regardless of when or where they die, we expect them to live Jesus Christ to their very last breath. When we stand before the Lord, the end result will not be how long we live—but how we live.
After 18 years of working in Sudan, I had planned to take a five week sabbatical from the ministry to seek the Lord beginning in February. Due to the current crisis, I am leaving as soon as possible to join the chaplains on the ground. By the time you receive this newsletter, I will be in South Sudan. In truth, there is no other place that I would rather be. This is the ministry and the calling that the Lord has created me for. From what I can ascertain from field reports, and other reliable sources, most mission organizations have pulled out or they are in the process of pulling out of Sudan, which under the current circumstance is most likely the right decision. This is not an option for this ministry!
Time is of the essence as many are being killed. We, as God’s people, need to treasure every day that we have and live Christ to a world that is blinded by sin and evil. Sudan may never know real peace but through Christ, individuals can have peace and forgiveness.
The men will remain faithful to their calling in spite of the losses. We have always known that we would take casualties. Thankfully, we have been able to work with ground troops to get Peter evacuated to a hospital for proper medical treatment and are working to ensure all of our wounded chaplains are receiving the best care possible. In underdeveloped areas, untreated wounds can be just as deadly as a bullet.
We mourn for our fallen brother but he has been transferred from the Chaplains’ Corp to the Holy City of God. He will be missed but he will not forgotten. As he lived and died for the Gospel, so will the rest of us follow!
Until the oppressed are free,
Medical Relief: Sudan Crisis
Physically, we cannot stop the atrocities, but we as believers must do what we can to bring as much relief as possible to those suffering through this on-going war. Having 400 chaplains on the ground, we have a strategic advantage to answer the cries of the helpless and to provide and distribute medical supplies in the name of Jesus.
Our desire is to raise the necessary funds to purchase, transport and deliver critically needed supplies to the worst hit areas as quickly as possible.
To be a part of this ministry outreach, please indicate “SUDAN CRISIS” in the comment box when you donate online. Donations, large and small, will ensure that we respond in a manner that will have a great and lasting impact for the glory of our Father.
During the closing hours of World War II, General Patton’s Third Army was racing across Europe, destroying the German Army: until he ran out of fuel. His Army required three hundred and fifty thousand gallons of fuel a day. He spoke of his frustration saying that once in a thousand years would two great armies come together for battle with the outcome of the world at stake. All Patton needed was a few thousand gallons of fuel to finish the job. I have felt much the same way with the work in South Sudan; that we are at a unique time in history where we have the chance to change the entire course of a nation. If we can just get the supplies needed to build a godly academy, we can raise up Africa’s future leaders. I have asked the hand of the Almighty to move so that we change the course of this nation. Your prayers are greatly needed in this endeavor.
If you desire to join us in this great opportunity to win souls for Christ, please notate “Citadel” in the comment box when you donate online.