November 2015: Three Months Behind Enemy Lines
Joseph Kuyok Lengudi, chaplain C00153, is a first lieutenant in the South Sudan Army. After his graduation from chaplaincy training, we lost contact with him for eight years as he was deployed to the farthest edge of enemy territory. After many years of no contact from Joseph, he was able to attend our 2015 refresher course, where he recounted the several of the battles that he was entrenched in.
In one of the battles that he was in, the unit that he was assigned to was under the authority of a non-believing commander. Joseph’s unit was facing a formidable enemy force that was much larger and better equipped. They were deep in enemy territory, fighting near Darfur, almost 400 miles away from their base. As they prepared to go into battle, a witch doctor wanted to cast a spell on the soldiers using a giraffe tail, believing that this would give them victory. He told the men that this tail had great power. Joseph’s commander was preparing to go ahead with the ritual when Joseph asked his commander to allow him to speak. Then, Joseph said, “You witchdoctors are always trying to lead people astray and away from the Word of God. This giraffe was not even able to keep his own tail! How can it have any power?” The witchdoctor started to curse and said, “You chaplains are always interfering with our power!” Even after this reasoning, the commander would not listen to Joseph. The commander spent the night drinking, rather than preparing the men for battle. Joseph, on the other hand, prepared his men for the imminent battle that lay ahead.
As they prepared to engage with the enemy the next day, God gave Joseph wisdom on how to protect all of the men. He saw a place where they could have the high-ground advantage. From this location, they could withstand an assault by a much larger force. Also, there was a stream where they could get water, but his commander, refused the plan. He would not listen to reason and he wanted to press ahead without sending scouts to observe the battleground. Joseph spoke up again, and said, “Let us, at least, deploy to this mountain where we might have some kind of advantage against the enemy.” The commander allowed Joseph to go to the mountain with 32 men, while the three remaining groups went with the commander.
When Joseph’s group got to the mountain, he prayed with his unit and read Deuteronomy 31:4-8, Joshua 24:16-18 and Psalm 91. As they prepared by seeking the Lord, the enemy laid an ambush for the non-believing commander and his group of soldiers. By the time the commander realized that the enemy was there, he had led his group of 160 men into the ambush. They were outnumbered by a force of 3,000 strong. Had the commander listened to Joseph’s advice, during the initial assault, and waited on higher ground, the enemy would have fallen into their hands, giving the unit a chance to escape. Instead, the commander and his men were caught with nowhere to go and had to fight from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon.
The place that Joseph had stationed his men gave them a strategic advantage for the battle. Joseph told his men that they would not survive even one day unless they held their position. One officer refused to listen and started down the mountain. He was immediately shot in the head and killed by the enemy. This caused all the other men to realize that Joseph had a better understanding than the other officers. The other three groups with the commander were cut off, surrounded and annihilated. Not one man survived—not even the commander.
The place where Joseph and his men held their position had a stream, which gave them drinking water. Under the extreme heat, the men were able to stay hydrated during battle and this allowed them to hold off the enemy. At one point, the enemy was forced to pull back for water. In this moment of calm, the Lord spoke to Joseph and the Holy Spirit showed him a way of escape. Joseph had already lost four of his men in the battle and he knew they were almost completely out of ammunition. They would not withstand another attack. During a brief lull, he told his men how God had shown him that they must make their escape immediately through the streams or that they would all be killed in the next assault. The 28 remaining soldiers moved quickly and escaped into the bush.
Joseph prayed that the Lord would spare all of the men who the Lord had entrusted to him so that he could get them to safety. Surrounded by the enemy, the Lord did not allow any of the men to fall into their hands. The Lord’s direction at each point allowed them to avoid the enemy patrol. However, their troubles were just beginning as they were nearly 400 miles from friendly lines.
Among the many obstacles they faced, the most vital was the loss of all their food. Joseph realized that if the men died, it would be because of starvation. Since they had very few bullets left, they were forced to choose the best marksman in their group so no ammunition would be wasted. They prayed every time a shot was taken and the bullet never missed its mark. Once the animal was shot, they would quickly cut off its legs and leave the body behind. They would run for cover because the enemy would come in the direction of where the shot was fired. At night, they would dig a hole in the ground and roast the meat so the fire would not be seen. All the men were careful with their food, because they did not know when they would eat again. In the bush where the men were, the covering was only a couple feet high so they had to lay down during the day and move by night. As the weeks went on, the men became weak from hunger so they took off their boots because they were too heavy and traveled barefoot. They survived this way for three months.
During the refresher course, Joseph told us that what kept the men strong was by reading Deuteronomy, Joshua and Psalm 91. Daily, Joseph prayed and encouraged the men, and after three months, they were able to reach the safety of their lines. Joseph prayed all along the way that not one man would be lost and God honored his prayer.
Joseph’s testimony had a great impact on all of Division Five. Even his divisional commander said that the non-believing commander was dead because he did not trust the Lord. Joseph shared with me, “Wes, the training at the chaplains’ base is tough, but it was this training that saved my life.” The Lord had not only honored Joseph’s faith, but He had answered his prayers, too.
The Division Five commander requested that Far Reaching Ministries take another 30 men for the 10th class of chaplaincy training, which began its session on August 1, 2015. The commander realized that it was Joseph’s prayers that had saved the men in his unit.
As a footnote, after being away from his family for eight years, Joseph learned that his wife had left him for another man. Joseph told me that he would not hold any anger against her. Joseph realized that he is in the hands of God, and he has chosen to forgive and move on. God has honored Joseph’s heart and brought him into a new relationship. Joseph will be getting married this September. He is 41 years old.
Far Reaching Ministries