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Still I Will Follow

September 11, 2019

“I've seen a rich man beg I've seen a good man sin

I've seen a tough man cry 

I've seen a loser win and a sad man grin

I heard an honest man lie

I've seen the good side of bad and the downside of up

And everything between

You know where it ends, it usually depends on where you start.”

 

"What It's Like"

Everlast

 

I have a memory of being in South Sudan before it was South Sudan. At that point it was Sudan, and Christians, along with others who were not of the Muslim faith, were attempting to defend themselves from the onslaught waged against them by the radical and fundamentalist Islamic regime in Khartoum. 

 

To be honest we were having a miserable time. It was a tough assignment. The looming issue was the lack of water. All water had to be pumped through a filter and then boiled in order to make it potable. The temperatures in the blazing sun each day would climb to an unbearable 115°. One member of the team had become so dehydrated that we had to get him on a plane to Nairobi where he could get the medical attention that he desperately needed.

 

It seemed that it could not get much worse, but it did.

 

I stood with the Bishop who represented the area and together we watched as the plane evacuating my buddy, The Train, took off. We headed back to our makeshift compound which wasn’t fancy, just a couple of tents really. I began to get the equipment to go collect water and start the filtration processes. The water was a pretty long walk away. As I gathered our equipment, I heard gunfire and then the sounds of soldiers marching, chanting their war songs.

 

Word came to us that we were surrounded by fighting. In one sense this came as no surprise because I could hear it. At another level it was shocking because we were a few kilometers from the front. This created the burning question: who are they fighting? As things began to unfold, I learned that they were fighting a neighboring village.

 

This made no sense! They were fighting those who were on the same side of the war as they were. They were even fighting people from their own tribe. With the enemy looming just a few clicks away, they had turned on each other. 

 

Thinking this was crazy, I looked to the Bishop asking, with some emotion, “What are they doing? Why are they fighting each other?”

 

He calmly responded something I won’t forget, “Because,” he said, “It’s what they know.”

 

That’s what I think Whitey Ford is saying as he sings the Blues, belting out, “You know where it ends, it usually depends on where you start.”

 

We had a team that experienced this reality in the summer of 2016. They were caught in the eruption of civil war in Juba, South Sudan. Again it made no sense really. The people who were fighting were a people who had stood together to gain their independence from Khartoum a few years earlier. Now those in power fought each other for control of resources that flood the country from the West---never seeming to make it to the people who need it.

 

This team gathered recently to reunite and share their stories from the trip. As I listened, I noticed that all of them retold a particular event that occurred when they were pinned down in a compound in Juba.

 

There was a church service that was impromptu, but consisted of about 1,500 people who had fled there to shelter themselves from the gunfire and bombing. The team shared that during the course of the service, the congregation began to sing that familiar song:

 

“I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

No turning back, no turning back.”

 

They reported that as the song was sung, there was an increase in the intensity of the shooting outside of the compound and then, as if to accentuate the point or challenge the declaration of their conviction, a bomb closer and seemingly larger than the others exploded close by.

These brave warriors of Jesus continued to sing: “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

 

Through more gunfire and bursting bombs, they kept on: “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

 

I have come to believe that this mantra, sung by these great men and women of faith, is the mantra of ATC. Through our 20 years of spending time with them, they have taught us. They have influenced our very ethos.

 

“Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

 

I started going into Sudan years ago with the thought that, if this whole “Jesus thing” was real, that it would work anywhere. Even, and maybe especially, in the war torn parts of the world among the world’s most oppressed people. You know what I have learned?! I have learned this whole Jesus thing is real. He really is the Friend of sinners. He really does inhabit the praises of His people---even when the bombs are exploding outside. It’s true! He is close to the brokenhearted.

 

I’m feeling my age these days. I feel it in my body and to be honest, I feel it in my soul. But still, my heart sings: “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

 

I feel a little like Peter in the sixth chapter of John. As Jesus begins to reveal the true nature of His Kingdom, we are told that, “many departed and no longer followed Him.” Jesus, watching all of this, turns to his disciples and basically says, “What about you? What are you going to do?”

 

I can imagine the look of bewilderment on Peter’s face as he responds, “Who else would we go to?” I get it! And so I am praying that even if only a few go with me, still I will follow. My sense is that there are challenges ahead. My prayer is that you and I, along with ATC, will remain true to the mantra that the great men and women of faith have taught us:

 

“Though none go with me, still I will follow; No turning back, no turning back.”

 

“People say I'm crazy

Doing what I'm doing

Well, they give me all kinds of warnings

To save me from ruin

When I say that I'm okay, well they look at me kinda strange

'Surely, you're not happy now, you no longer play the game.'

Well they give me all kinds of advice

Designed to enlighten me

When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall

'Don't you miss the big time boy, you're no longer on the ball?'

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go.”

 

"Watching the Wheels"

John Lennon

 

DAVID FULLER | FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

 

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.

 

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