Wes Bentley, a former Marine, first traveled to Africa in 1996. Crossing crocodile infested rivers, and wading barefoot through swamps, he delivered food, medicine, clothing and hope to predominantly Christian native people in South Sudan where rebel soldiers battled to stop Islamic jihadists from genocide.
This civil war pitted the Muslim and Arab controlled northern Sudan government against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) from the south. Millions of people have died as a result of war and famine since 1983. Despite denials from the Muslim controlled Sudanese government, they have sponsored genocide, have used chemical weapons and established a thriving slave trade; all perpetrated against the predominantly Christian South. Wes has personally witnessed children die from lack of medication and food, fields where thousands lay dead and people being led away to the slave auction.
Prior to Wes’ work in Africa, God prepared him as a missionary in Russia prisons where he served for five years. Then the Lord led Wes to recognize a greater need in Africa. After much prayer, Wes was convinced that God gave him a vision to reach the entire continent of Africa. In 1998, Wes founded Far Reaching Ministries (FRM).
The first step was to start a Bible school for training SPLA chaplains, as well as native pastors. The second was to begin a child sponsorship program for the thousands of Sudanese refugees in Uganda. FRM opened both projects in 1999. From FRM’s original base in Nimule, Sudan, they have developed an extensive women’s ministry outreach. Upwards of 1,000 women are discipled, taught skills to help them earn an income to support their struggling families and have access to literacy training.
In 2001, FRM expanded its ministry into Kenya, where Calvary Nairobi was established and a children’s ministry in the one of the world’s poorest slums. Because of the fruitful church plant in Kenya, over the next three years, missionaries from FRM planted additional churches in Uganda, in the key cities of Kampala, Entebbe and Fort Portal. In addition, an extension campus of Calvary Chapel Bible College was opened in Kampala to teach God’s Word to the nationals.
In 2004, FRM took on a project in Northern Uganda to minister to the Night Commuter Children. They also discovered numerous orphaned and disabled children in Uganda, who had no one to care for them. FRM began working with various orphanages to provide food, clothing, school tuition and most importantly the love of Jesus Christ to those who had suffered unimaginable pain and cruelty. To date, FRM continues to work with these projects to bring continued relief. Also in 2004, FRM established a sister missions organization to disciple hopeless and impoverished women and children named Far Reaching Ministries Aviation (FRMA). FRMA purchased its first airplane in 2006. The Cessna Grand Caravan enables missionaries to travel by air instead of by vehicle on dangerous miles of roads. Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) operates the airplane, which is available for other missionary organizations to utilize for ministry, humanitarian purposes and medical outreaches.
South Sudan became the newest nation in the world on July 9, 2011. Ten years ago, no one could have imagined that this little country, whose people who have been afflicted from the north, can now claim South Sudan as their own—a Christian nation and one not oppressed under Islamic Sharia Law.
Since its inception in 1998, FRM has graduated nine classes of chaplains, deploying over 400 men throughout Sudan who minister to their fellow soldiers, as well as plant churches in remote villages. In addition, the women’s ministry has flourished. Indigenous women who have matured spiritually are able to start other women’s ministry groups throughout the region. Looking to the future, it is FRM’s hope to host tent revivals in villages all across South Sudan, showing The Jesus Film. The chaplains will share the gift of salvation and establish small bush churches where they will continue to teach God’s Word. Wes believes that South Sudan is at a critical time in history where a great harvest is to be had.
FRM’s chaplains continue to serve on the frontline of the Islamic government of north Sudan’s massive military campaign to kill an entire people group in the Nuba Mountains, and as of December 2013, FRM’s chaplains in South Sudan are once again facing a murderous enemy. Rebel forces have come against their own leaders in an attempt to take over the government. Countless innocent civilians and military personnel have been killed and millions have been displaced and are on the verge of starvation because of the uprising and heavy fighting. As a frontlines ministry, FRM has had 17 of their team members die in the service of the Lord; five in the last year and a half alone.
Over the last sixteen years, Pastor Wes has been invited to speak at hundreds of denominational and non-denominational churches worldwide to share the plight of the persecuted church and to encourage the Body of believers to live for the glory of the Lord with passion, courageousness and absolute obedience.