January 2016: Wars and Rumors of Wars
It was an ominous morning at the chaplains’ training base in Nimule, South Sudan. I had risen at 5:00 AM to spend time alone with the Lord. At 7:40 AM, machine gun fire erupted outside the compound. Within seconds, the chaplains were running to the armory to retrieve their weapons. I could hear the sounds of magazines being loaded and bullets being chambered all over the compound. You could hear the cries of mothers running to nearby schools to retrieve their children. They were very afraid and with good reason—there had been two ambushes in the last week alone. At Pageri, 20 miles from our compound, where Maranatha Chapel is located, a small bus had been shot up en-route to our village of Nimule and four people had been killed. Also at Ashawai, 10 miles away, two men were killed in another rebel attack.
We loaded about 40 chaplains into two vehicles and headed toward the gunfire. When we arrived, our men spread out and began to comb the area. Within 10 minutes, we were joined by about 60 soldiers from the local barracks. But the enemy was nowhere to be seen, they had escaped into the bush. As quickly as it all happened, everything subsided and went back to normal—or as normal as things can be in a war zone.
Later that day, Vicky and I were scheduled to travel to Loa to teach a Bible studies, but it was necessary to delay for about an hour until we could assess if it was safe to travel. We loaded the armored vehicle and the Land Cruiser truck with guards. We traveled and taught the studies and then preceded to visit the sister of the chaplain, Roman, who was killed in January. We brought her money to care for Roman’s children. When we arrived, you could tell the children were sick and needed care. The money was a great blessing and encouragement. After we visited the family and prayed with them, we then preceded back to our base.
Two days before Thanksgiving, we were preparing for a presentation to the government officials of South Sudan to present final plans to build the Citadel. This would be our first official meeting with leaders in the government. We have had numerous smaller meetings leading up to this one. We are hopeful that after the next scheduled meeting in March, we will have final approval and will begin construction.
While the process to build the Citadel has been long and difficult at times, we are keeping our eyes on the final prize. We know that training young men will change the nation. Any time you encroach on enemy territory, it always comes with a battle and we are prepared for the next phase of advancing the Gospel throughou t Sudan and Africa.
For those of you who are new to our ministry, the Citadel will be modeled after a Christian West Point style of teaching. The purpose is to train up a generation of young men in order to mold the course of this new nation. In Africa, a military often controls a nation, so to change a nation you must change the military. It is our intention to eventually have a thousand students. Starting in the first grade and going all the way through college—students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in either ministry or military science.
Our focus will always be on God’s work. We realize that if we put thousands of men in the military with a proper moral compass, we can effectively change the course of Africa, and thus, see many souls won to Jesus Christ. I have spoken about this vision with top leaders in the military and they believe that this is the only hope to change their nation of South Sudan.
To help you understand the vision of the Citadel, we have included pictures of the current chaplains’ base that is being renovated. We are working with different designs so we can make sure that we have structures that will meet the needs of the future school. By this time next year, we will have completed renovations at the base and be deep into the construction of the Citadel. It is our hope that within three years the Citadel will be operational, though it will likely take 10 years to fully complete.
Once the Citadel is up and running, it is my intention to change the existing chaplains’ base into a women’s Bible college. While th
ere are many women in Sudan who claim to be believers, most only have a basic knowledge of God’s Word. They are not equipped to handle real spiritual warfare. While my wife, Vicky, is doing a great job training women, we need the ability to teach more young women God’s Word. We need to raise up a generation of women who will spread the Gospel throughout Sudan, while the more mature women disciple the younger girls on how to lead godly lives.
While I was at the compound, our men just returned from the Nuba Mountains. They delivered medical supplies and moved from unit to unit holding evangelical outreaches among the military units. They were welcomed and given full access to share God’s love. Many men prayed with such zeal and faith that while their eyes were closed, tears ran down their faces. They truly believe in the God of heaven and that He answers prayer. General Jagot, the Nuba Mountain Commander, told Michael, our senior chaplain, “We were surrounded on every side and out of medical supplies. We felt totally cut off and forgotten, but Wes found a way to bring in tons of medical supplies and thousands of lives were saved!” The men went on to tell me that many of the Muslims in the Nuba Mountains said, “Our own Muslim people are bombing and killing us, but the Christians have brought us medical supplies and have cared for us.” They recognize that there is a vast difference between Christianity and Islam. Many of them were asking for Bibles and praying to give their lives to Christ. They then said, “When Wes comes to visit us, we are going to meet him with a marching band.” While I appreciate the gesture, it is truly Jesus whom we should have a parade for. And for those of you who have given to the Nuba Mountain Medical Relief Fund, you have helped save many lives.
While in the Nuba Mountains, our men witnessed a small boy who was hit by a bomb fragment that almost tore off his foot. It was heart breaking—the child did not survive. They brought back video evidence that we hope will show the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic north. We intend to release this footage but be forewarned, it is horrible to watch.
We will also soon be releasing the testimony of our twenty-fifth chaplain who was killed in the service of our Lord. I was with him as recently as August. The last few years have seen much adversity in this ministry. In the first 14 years, we had 13 of our staff killed. In the last two years alone, we have lost 12 more men in the service of Christ. Yet, we are not discouraged. We realize that working in a war zone you have to be prepared to take casualties. If you’re not willing to take casualties, you have no business being in a war zone. In spite of great loss and adversity, we are winning the war for the souls of men and women lost in darkness. The Bible has given us a clear description of what the world would be like in the last days with war and rumors of war. So rather than become discouraged, we are pressing in for the glory of Christ.
Until the oppressed are free,