June 2020: A Day’s March Nearer Home
Peter Gai graduated with class six from the Chaplain Corps. What made him so different, from any other chaplain we had ever trained, was that he had immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee—being one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. One day, when Peter was 11 years old, he and his brother were watching the family cattle, when their village was attacked. Both brothers fled and made one of the longest and most treacherous journeys a child could make. From other Lost Boy accounts, we learned these children had to flee to Ethiopia, and then down to Kenya, where they would end up in a refugee camp. I remember hearing testimonies from some of these children, where they recounted how they were often attacked, and many were killed on the way. What was harsher was when a brother, sister or friend became ill; they had to leave them behind. Some of the children said that the weak would often be killed and eaten by hyenas. Eventually, Peter was placed by the U.N. in Pennsylvania. While attending church, he was introduced to the Haas family. They took Peter into their hearts and cared for him. The family is good friends of Far Reaching Ministries and have been very kind to Vicky and me personally. They helped Peter to go to college and become a U.S. citizen. After becoming a citizen, he graduated from college. He did not have to return to the most war-torn country in Africa, but he cared for his people. When I first met Peter, I could tell he did not belong in the U.S. I asked him what his favorite food was, and he said, “Walmart sandwiches!” While I assumed that the sandwiches were good, this would not be what was on the top of most culinary diets as a favorite. Peter had shown me photos of his mother, whom he had not seen for 10 years. He shared that his reunion with her had been difficult because she told him that she had already mourned for him and his twin brother who had long ago been killed. When he did finally meet with her, he was not greeted with hugs and kisses. It would take his mother several days, but she finally smiled and accepted that her son was really alive. For many of us we find this hard to fathom, but when you see what the trauma of war does to people, they shut down. If they dwell on the pain, they find that they cannot survive. I have heard of many who, after going through such loss, will just commit suicide. Peter, despite all of this difficulty, wanted to go home to Sudan and start a school for children. From what he related, he wanted to bring Christ to his people. Peter had chosen to go through the chaplain school though he did not have to. He had supporters from the U.S. who would have backed him to start a new work, but he wanted to know God’s Word better, so that he would have more than just education to bring to his people. Peter was from the Upper Nile region of Sudan. When he was first deployed, we would hear from him occasionally, but not often because he was caught up in his work. When war broke out in December 2013, Peter was on the opposing side of the government. Not by choice, but because his tribe waged a bloody war against the government that would bring about the loss of thousands of lives.
Then came the silence, where we no longer heard from Peter. For seven years, we heard nothing. I suspected that he had been killed, but all attempts to find out brought no resolution. Finally, this year one of our senior chaplains, Lino, met someone from Peter’s area. Lino asked if they had any news about Peter. At first, the man paused and thought for a moment, then said, “Oh, yes, he was killed.” Lino probed to get more information about Peter, but the man had no further details. The following is a quote from The Economist: “The 2014 Bentiu massacre occurred on 15 April 2014 in the north of South Sudan, during the South Sudanese Civil War. The attack has been described as the ‘worst massacre’ in the ongoing civil war.” We will probably never have any further information about Peter. Bill Haas, who knew him far better than I, said that Peter was a fine young man who will be remembered by many for his kindness, ready smile, and generous heart. We believe that Peter had a wife and children, though we do not know if they are alive, and if so, where they are living. Sometimes when we experience the loss of such a young man, who is so enthusiastic for Christ and His people, it is hard to understand and seems a tragedy. But one of the things that I have realized, is that the Lord does nothing without a purpose. As I have referred to many times, He is the author and finisher of our faith. Why the Lord allows one to experience a long life, and another to be taken so young, we will probably never know the answer to this on this side of eternity. But we do know where Peter is, he is with the Father— he has finished the race and received the reward of a faithful servant. For the believer who is serving Christ, we need to remember that as soldiers of the Cross, a day’s march brings us closer to home.
Peter is now registered as the 61st chaplain to fall in the service of Christ. He fell many years ago, but it took us seven years to find out. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of Peter. The day that the chaplain photos were taken, he was away doing ministry.
As a ministry, we are rendering aid to those who have been affected by the pandemic and the locusts swarming across East Africa. The locusts alone have destroyed all of the crops surrounding Lake Victoria in Uganda. With the crops decimated, the people are now in jeopardy of famine. To compound this, these families are also quarantined, and are not able to forage for food. Far Reaching Ministries is in a unique position to render immediate aid to those who need it most, not only in Africa, but in 13 other mostly closed countries, where we have existing ministries. We thank those of you who have already donated to this effort and would consider it a privilege for you to come alongside us as we take on this latest ministry opportunity. We pray you are blessed and well where you are.
Far Reaching Ministries