Sometimes I look at things here and it just makes so much sense. But then it doesn’t. How can a people so oppressed and so persecuted have so much love and joy in their lives? Love and joy makes sense. How can a people who have so little have so much joy and peace in their lives? Joy and peace makes sense. But I look at the hard reality of their lives and it just doesn’t make sense how they can be so happy. I look around at our fellow workers and they take great care in coming to work in their very nice and pressed clothes. They still use coal irons here because there is no power in our village. By the way, I do iron my Sunday clothes with a coal iron and have managed not to get any embers on them yet. I am pretty proud of myself! These people all have dirt floors, which they sweep every day (me too), and they walk to work. And the first thing they do when they get here is wash their feet.
Then they change into their work clothes, which they carry with them or leave here. At the end of the day, they take their buckets to the bore hole for water and get a shower before walking home in their nice clothes again. They take great care with what little they do have and I admire that. Here in Sudan, you also learn to recognize people by their clothes because most only own two outfits. So if I see the green striped shirt and brown slacks with the blue flip flops, then I know it is John Dut Dheng.
As I was on my way to Aweil Town market this week, I just had to drink in the beauty of the countryside. It is so green and beautiful now. Most tukels have a new springtime roof and everywhere people are cultivating their land and so there is beautiful fresh turned earth against a “new” green backdrop. And then to add even more flavor, there are people in the fields everywhere in their various colorful wraps cultivating the earth. Here in Sudan, cultivating is a family affair. They use long poles with a tiny 4 inch hoe on the end and they work an entire field on their knees. The children who are old enough to maneuver a pole are also there on their knees with mom and dad. The babies are just walking or sitting among them playing in the fresh turned earth and walking behind as the seeds are sown one by one. Every day, all day long, they work, inch by inch. Again, I admire their tenacity.
Their crops are mostly sorghum and ground peanuts. Most grow only for their families and so this is how they get their food for the year. A bad crop or a lazy farmer could literally mean life or death. But the one thing about these people that I find most amazing is that they never refuse to help where help is needed. If a family member or friend comes to ask for help, it is against their culture to refuse. They simply never refuse, even at the loss of their own comforts.
Now for an exciting story of God’s amazing power. One month ago I preached at the Sudanese Pentecostal Church Akuem. There I met a soldier in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) who asked me to come and preach at his church. I didn’t know where his church was and I didn’t know how I would meet him again. Then two weeks ago, some men came to see us about building a church. I “just so happened” to step outside my office for some fresh air, which I rarely do, and I “happened” to go by the front gate to say hello to the children who wait for me everyday.
I stopped to say hello to these three men who just so happened to be standing there and I learned that they were from Tong and Rumbek, the place that has been having all of the tribal fighting and killing, where we had to pull our guys and equipment out and quit building there because it was so violent. These were SPLA Army Garrison pastors and I mentioned how I was invited to preach at the SPLA church here etc……… They told me to come and so I went last week and was pre-empted by another visiting pastor. Well this week I went and heaven invaded earth in that place. God so set us up! Haha!!!
These SPLA guys are war veterans. They have a bad reputation because they abused their power during the war and would come and torture and murder and burn entire villages. There is much evidence of mass graves where children were buried in mass. So many horrors were suffered at the hands of the SPLA. And so here I am this morning, deep in the heart of the 3rd Division Infantry Battalion headquarters where the families live and the soldiers. These men are like Paul/Saul. They have been turned upside down by the love of Jesus since the war and they welcomed me with such warmth and humility. The wives of these men have lived through hell and their faces are etched with the shadows of what they must have gone through.
I came with the message of the resurrection power of Christ IN us in Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 and with the message of Romans 8 where we were predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, and that by the power AT WORK IN us and we are called, each one of us, to do greater works than Jesus because of this. The Presence of the Holy Spirit was burning in the hearts of the people this day and I could feel the electricity in the air every time I mentioned His name. A couple of times I even trembled and shook because of the Word that was coming from my belly and the move of the Holy Spirit. I finished with:
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are now the temple of God and that the SPIRIT DWELLS IN YOU?!!
Isaiah 51:16 “I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, THAT I MAY PLANT THE HEAVENS, and lay the foundations of the earth!
Your kingdom come Father, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!!! I told these people that God predestined heaven to be planted here on earth! If Jesus said to pray this, then let’s bring it to pass!! Let’s bring heaven to earth now. Why wait to go there? We are already seated there! Then I began telling testimonies of all the miracles I have seen in Africa, even at the hands of little children.
Then I told every one who needed a miracle to stand up right now. The entire congregation stood, all 417 of them (They take a count each week)!! Then I told them that if they believe the Word that was just preached then they have the power to do miracles BECAUSE of Jesus Christ IN them. They don’t need a kawaja to form a healing line. I had them turn to each other and lay hands on each other and pray and declare the name of Jesus over each other.
This had never been done before in this church! They did it and people were praying fervently. When we were finished I asked for testimonies of immediate healings. So many hands shot up that we could not get to them all!!!!!!! It was the most amazing thing I was ever a part of! Hahahaha! It was amazing! Holy Spirit moved so powerfully and showed the people that it doesn’t have to be some visiting white person to have a healing line for them to receive their healing. They saw the power at work in themselves!! They saw the great love of the Holy Spirit for them and His desire to see them free! Backs that have been paining for years, healed in Jesus Name! Stomach ulcers that have been paining for years, healed in Jesus Name!
I literally jumped up and down and we all started jumping up and down and clapping and yelling to the heavens and rejoicing at the power that was displayed there this morning! Then we took an offering for the church and began to give thanks and pray to close the service.
John, my interpreter, said that he related so much to the story I told about Peter and how he was not qualified to do any miracles because he denied Jesus three times, yet Jesus came and asked Peter to take care of His sheep. This man, John, said that the SPLA killed so many innocent people that they were not qualified, yet Jesus came and forgave and wants to use them for His glory. All of a sudden this big man in the front row starts to shake and tremble and starts sobbing and weeping loudly. God was doing something in this man and no one stopped Him. We let this man be and tears came down my face because I had NEVER seen a Sudanese man cry before. This man was breaking and I think Jesus was touching him mightily with love and forgiveness. It was a great morning.
I am late in getting this update out because another pastor has come to see me and ask for prayer. He told me that he sees the work of the Holy Spirit concerning me and my walk and passion and total trust in Jesus and he wants this. He says it is very difficult sometimes to be a leader and his passion is being challenged. We talked about encouraging yourself in the Lord and other things. I am just honored that God uses me, even in the seemingly hidden place of being a finance manager in some remote compound in a remote part of Sudan. If you leave yourself open to His direction, He will use you wherever you are. And when you allow the Holy Spirit to be let out of you, watch out, He moves in power!