Our last venture into the Nuba Mountains was one I am sure I will never forget. I can’t really recall how many trips I have been on over the years, but I’m certain the number exceeds 100. I would imagine I have been to Sudan and/or South Sudan 50 times or so. Yet somehow this last trip was different.
When I think back on this trip, two things come to mind: Armies and Honey.
There’s a great song performed by The White Stripes called “Seven Nation Army.” The rendition by Zella Day is the best in my humble opinion. The words written by John Anthony White are poignant. I can hear Zella’s bluesy, sultry voice singing it now:
“I'm gonna fight 'em all
A seven nation army couldn't hold me back
They're gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back.”
This is exactly the attitude I entered this particular trip with. Our goal seemed impossible. The plan was to deliver 50 tons of food and emergency supplies to a region in Sudan that has been under vicious onslaught by the regime in Khartoum for several years. The aggression from Khartoum has been so severe that no one had been able to access the region in four years. To put it bluntly, Khartoum’s genocide campaign by way of forced starvation has been very successful. Many have died. More have suffered and probably wished they were dead.
So the mission of this trip was to deliver largely food relief and share the love of Jesus. The area is almost completely populated by those who would identify as Muslim. The message of a loving Deliverer seemed not only welcome, but relevant.
An impossible task. It ended up taking an army to accomplish. In my understanding there were two armies present. One consisted of 53 men, M60 machine guns and rocket launchers. They were well armed men of distinction who performed not only professionally, but compassionately. They were not there to engage in offensively, but simply to provide protection for a small team of folks from a far away land who came to help their friends and neighbors.
I also caught glimpses of another army. It has happened before. The prophet Elisha experienced this in a time of crisis when confronted with an army from Syria. “What shall we do?” his servant asked with distress. It’s a good thing he used the word “we” in his question. The response from the Lord through His prophet was clear and quick. Elisha answers, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)
As Elisha prayed, the eyes of his servant were opened and he saw the surrounding hills “full of horses and chariots of fire” set to defend them. I swear there were times on this venture when we passed potential conflict areas that I could “see” another army protecting us --- enabling both food and Gospel to proceed toward their destination without incident. Just as it was before, Heaven’s armies under direction of The Lord of Hosts often join those who are determined to carry out His plan.
Zella sings on:
“And I'm talking to myself at night
Because I can't forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone”
Our arrival to the food relief distribution destination was joyous and tragic all in the same moment. The sign of help finally breaking through incited the people on the ground to celebrate with abandon. The joy they set in the atmosphere was almost tangible. But the tragedy that created the need for such extensive measures could also be seen behind the dull eyes of the starving women and children.
I can’t imagine a time when I will forget that moment either. Quietly and in my secret place, I think I will always celebrate and be grateful to have seen that display of joy at our arrival, but I must confess that part of me also thinks I should have “left it alone,” as Zella sings. Starving children are quite difficult to erase from a Western mind that is so familiar with plenty.
In the end Zella offers a little more insight:
“I'm gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding
Right before the Lord…”
“...And the stains coming from my blood
Tell me go back home”
To be honest “going back home” after a trip like this is complicated. Interestingly the despair that made its way into my consciousness tends to fade. However the exhilaration of marching with the Lord of Hosts to the quite literal doorstep of Hell won’t fade. This causes an almost palpable anxiousness to get back into a battle of similar proportions. It can even result in an inward turmoil that manifests in unattachment or irrationality.
Oh yeah — Honey.
One day after not eating much for a while, we sat to “eat breakfast.” What appeared in front of me came with sacrifice, but it was still not very appealing. Then we were given a gift. It came by way of the local people, but I realized even then it was from God Himself. Apparently the day before, someone had climbed a very high tree and endured many bee stings to secure us some of the honey from the hive. As the golden sweetness touched my lips, I understood it was nectar from God. It energized me in amazingly refreshing and supernatural ways. I will never look at honey the same.
I have thought of it many times since coming home. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.” Since coming home I have heard some pleasant words from the Lord. Even in times of emotional, mental and spiritual struggle, they are sweet to the soul: I am almost home.
FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | DAVID FULLER
David is the embodiment of Answering the Call. David regards barriers, borders and obstacles as opportunities for God's power to be made known worldwide. He preaches the Gospel in underground churches in Asia, prays over rape survivors in Congo, and facilitates relief materials into the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. With David Fuller, there is no line, no point at which to stop and turn back, when God calls you to reach the ones He loves.