By Brad Phillips
I hate statistics with a passion. This is especially the case in measuring suffering. Take Sudan for instance. A multi-generational war killing more than 3 million, displacing millions more, etc. Millions illiterate. Millions without access to clean water. Millions needing anti-malarial drugs. Millions, millions, millions, etc., etc.
War is not about statistics. It’s about people. All of these “millions” of people are still people – with families, friends, churches, places of business, a past, a present, and hopefully a future.
Each victim of war experiences its horrors in his or her own way. Each has to deal with the reality of suffering and death. Victims of war and persecution have the suffering and death stamped permanently upon their whole being. It’s real. It’s always with them.
I have to remind myself of this fact all the time. Otherwise I get sucked into the vortex of statistics. I hear one big collective grown from the victims… not the individual, helpless cry. War is not just corporate, it is very individualistic. And part of my job is to let caring people know about what’s happening in these individuals’ lives and give them the opportunity to show compassion and solidarity.
During my last trip to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, I met some fascinating people. People who had been under a constant seige for more than a year and a half. Many of their communities had been destroyed or forcefully uprooted and displaced.
I recall one pastor in particular. I’ll call him Kumi. Pastor Kumi was a seminary teacher before the war started, and I met him in his home, along with other pastors and teachers from the same seminary.
I was chiefly curious to know how the people were faring and surviving in the midst of daily bombings from the Sudan Air Force. I wanted to know how many people had left the community, how many were sick, etc. In other words, I was getting hung up on statistics.
But Pastor Kumi was not interested in going there. He had another agenda. Kumi wanted to tell me about the door-to-door evangelistic outreaches he was leading in the community to reach out to the Muslim residents and refugees.
The area where Kumi lived was mostly Christian. The war has displaced many Muslims in Southern Kordofan. Many fled to Kumi’s community, and the pastor was doing all he could to bring the light of the gospel to these new arrivals. The little food they had was shared between all. Everyone sacrificed to make sure no one was left wanting. And the Good News was proclaimed – in word and deed.
“What are your needs, Pastor?” Again, I was looking for statistics. How much food? How much medicine? Pastor Kumi finally obliged me: “We need Bibles in our local languages. Lots of Bibles. As many as you can give us.”
I can’t tell you how many Muslims have been converted to Christ due to the work of Pastor Kumi. Besides, that would be getting wrapped up in statistics again. All I can do is relate to you the encouraging story of one many fighting this war in his own individual way, working to bring the most important aid to his friends and neighbors: peace, encouragement and hope.
I thank God for individuals like Pastor Kumi, not statistics. And I am very honored to serve individuals, not statistics. I am privileged to work with individual ministry partners of PPF, not statistics. And I am grateful for a God Who loves individuals, not statistics.