By Ed Lyons
For the 10 years I’ve worked with Persecution Project Foundation, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling all over South Sudan. Mostly, it has been during times of peace. But recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Nuba mountains of northern Sudan to oversee PPF projects in an area which is an active war zone.
Never had I been so close to the violence. I was literally jumping into foxholes or hiding in caves EVERY SINGLE DAY. For my Nuba friends, this was just another day. For me, I not only realized how dangerous daily life is for the 1.5 million Nuba residents, but just how important PPF’s work is in the region.
On my first night in the Nuba, I was staying in a village that was bombed 7 times the previous day. One of those bombs wounded an 11-year old boy, who was then driven 11 hours over miserable roads to the Mother of Mercy Hospital where Dr. Tom Catena performed emergency surgery to save his life.
In village after village, we watched as playing children would suddenly scatter to find the nearest foxhole. Their ears were trained to hear the low rumble of the approaching Antonov.
Life is a series of disruptions in the Nuba mountains.
One of my grimmest memories from this trip is of attending the funeral for a boy from Heiban. We had just passed through Heiban the day before on our way to a place called Delami. Soon after our visit, a Sukhoi jet from the Sudan Air Force swooped in and rocketed the town, killing 13-year-old Khalid. Khalid was entering a foxhole with his brothers when shrapnel cut him in half. His father was forced to pick up the pieces of his son for burial.
Can you imagine? …Can you even imagine?
Maintaining any type of continuity in the fields or in school is impossible. The Nuba people must constantly be listening for the approach of planes. The Sudan government is targeting medical clinics, schools, churches, and market places with their campaign of terror.
I met with the headmaster of a Nuba school that PPF supports. He told us that they had to move the classrooms closer to the mountains for purposes of safety. Some days his students have to run to the foxholes five or more times. How much learning can go on in such an environment?
But I was deeply impressed by the courage of the Nuba people – especially the church. Nuba Christians are not immobilized by fear. They are engaging their community in the midst of the crisis. They are loving their enemies. They are worshiping their God.
An hour prior to Sunday worship, the Sudan Army began firing artillery shells in our direction. The area pastors told us this was a typical occurrence.
Nevertheless, 120 Christians showed up for the morning service that day. The minister preached from behind a podium riddled with shrapnel holes. I thought to myself, “What’s my excuse when I don’t go to church?”
We are privileged to stand alongside our brothers and sisters and help in any way we can. But most of the church in America has no idea what’s happening to the church in Sudan. The good news is that many who do know are partnering with us in active compassion for the persecuted. The battle may continue in the Nuba, but the real war has already been won – and your love is part of this victory. Thank you for the privilege of being an ambassador of your love and compassion to our brethren in the Nuba mountains.