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All I Want for Christmas

I recently returned from a trip to South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to an interesting movement on social media. Prayers have been circulating far and wide for a precious little girl who passed away unexpectedly in the last few days. I can think of nothing more tragic.

Many, even thousands, have joined the campaign sharing her story and asking God to raise this child from the dead. Hundreds are pouring into various locations to join nightly prayer and worship for her.

I applaud faith. I reject the notion that if I question this move then mine is somehow lacking. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus raised people from the dead. I also certainly believe that, as King of Kings and the One who defeated death itself, it remains His ability to do so.

I wish in no way to detract from a people whose faith I admire. I would never question a mother and father who have suffered indescribable loss. This however does not preclude that I don’t have questions about a movement I am unable to fully embrace--even though I want to.

Last spring ATC actually launched a similar campaign for a group of children in the Nuba Mountains. Upon arriving in a region that had been blockaded by Khartoum’s demonic regime, we found many children on the brink of death. The nearness of starvation for those children was remarkable. Many of them still smiled, though their weakness was entirely evident. Their swollen bellies cannot escape observation on leaf like frames. Spindly arms and legs that lack not only strength, but also coordination signal a long road to recovery with uncertain success. The discoloration of their hair and nails reveal the nutrition wrung out from their little bodies in the attempt to survive. While not scientific and perhaps more spiritual in nature, the dullness in their eyes that indicate impending death. I recognize that this is less than an empirical understanding, but I swear that after all these years in the field, I can see death knocking at the door.

Like the parents and community who currently gather, there was a desire to see God move in ways far beyond what we could do. Discussions were had with liberating military Commander in the area to devise a rescue plan at least for some. I found the Commander as moved by the scene in front of us as I was. He, I am sure, is a man who has seen a lot of death. Maybe, like me, he has come to hate its unnatural portrait and smell. It was not hard to convince him to return to the area and walk fifty of those precious little ones to safety, providing them security on the eleven day journey on foot.

I am not sure how the fifty were chosen among the hundreds and perhaps even thousands. The truth is that I didn’t want to be involved in that selection process or even know the criteria used to choose. That was left in the hands of the embattled community. I closed my eyes that night justifying my posture at this point in two ways. First, the community knows best. Second, I would never be able to get over a decision like that. I suppose you could call it selfish, but I see it as survival. If you have something you feel I need to consider at this point, please keep it to yourself. I’m teetering here.

Plans were made. I could not imagine those fragile bodies navigating their way on foot, dodging enemy soldiers for eleven days. I largely got it out of my mind. I did pray. Perhaps it would’ve been a good idea to launch a social media campaign and some prayer services, but we did not. I’m not sure attention to this tragedy would have been a helpful thing. Plus I’m not sure our small church gathering area could have held the throngs who might have come.

Crazy enough, my last image of these children was of them receiving high protein biscuits that would hopefully start them on their road to recovery and help them gain enough strength for the journey that lay ahead of them. Like all kids, they wanted to perform for us. They began singing. It was in Arabic, so I couldn’t understand it, but something felt wrong. The Commander stepped in to give, from what I could sense, a strong rebuke. One of the most prominent features of war is confusion. Sounds like Satan, doesn’t it?

The gift of a song they offered us was a song of jihad. Unbeknownst to these poor children, they were singing praises to the very warriors who bombed them and secured the perimeter around their land in the forced starvation campaign that threatened their very existence.

The Commander was definitive in his rebuke, but understanding their inability to know otherwise, there was a kindness and compassion in his voice. I felt like I was in a remake of an Apocalypse Now movie as we drove away that day.

Deep inside the liberated area of the Nuba Mountains, there is a town. It’s not exactly a land flowing with milk and honey these days. The war has clearly taken its toll. It is, however, a safe place for the children, so it served as the destination for their journey.

On our last trip into the Nuba Mountains, we visited this same town. There are always logistical arrangements that must be here. On our way back from meeting with coordinating officials, we took a sudden turn off the “road” towards an abandoned building. As the vehicle approached, I choked back tears as the fifty rescued children emerged from their new home. I was and remain somewhat speechless at that moment.

At first I didn’t recognize them with jet black hair and the absence of swollen tummies. As I got closer though, there was no hiding it. They were the same kids we had met eight short months ago. They cheered as we exited the car. I wish I could in some way communicate the celebration in my heart.

What now? There’s a good question.

We are constructing a school not far from this town where some of these children may attend. We are in the second phase of that construction. I have been worried about raising the $30,000 needed for this phase that will allow classes to finally begin. However, I am comforted as of late with the thought that God loves these children He brought from the brink of death enough to provide these funds from somewhere. I can see some holes in this thinking, but would prefer you don’t tell me.

In addition we have been asked to go to another area and rescue fifty more. I’ll be honest and tell you, I am worried about this too. I’m not worried about going in to find them. God delivered before, so I anticipate He will again. It costs $235 per child, totaling $11,750, to get them, bring them out, feed and educate them for one year. I thought of starting a social media campaign, “A Kid for Christmas,” but it doesn’t feel right.

Then it hit me, seeing social media erupt in faith-filled support for the little girl who passed away. Seeing thousands focusing prayer and hundreds traveling to worship gave me comfort. Surely there are a few as they hear this story too who may wish to help.

I know there are some issues in thinking this way. I don’t want to hear it. A man has to sleep at the end of the day.

I don’t know if the little girl will be raised from the dead. I truly hope so. I don’t know if we get to rescue fifty more from the brink of death, but I hope so.

For now I have my Christmas present. It’s a picture that will never fade. It’s a picture of those fifty children standing in front of an abandoned building and rather than being trapped in confusion, singing songs to the warriors carrying out jihad against them, they are smiling, so full of joy and singing:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus when the sun goes down!



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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