Many of you know I have worked in South Sudan with the Dinka tribe for quite some time. Unfortunately, several years ago, this area experienced one of the most brutal acts of war at the hands of a group locally known as the Janjaweed from a region called Darfur. In the local vernacular, Janjaweed, means, “devil on horseback” which appropriately described this nomadic and militant Islamic group.
Their deeds were infamous. They swept through villages in Northern Bar al Gazzelle on horseback, unleashed by the former president of Sudan, Omar al Bashir. They would storm through the villages, lighting the grass huts on fire, torturing, and killing the men and capturing the women and children. This went on for years. I worked a little South of this area in those days but remember them well. As I arrived in Bar al Gazzelle to work some 12 years ago, this dark period of Dinka history was closing.
I was meeting with a group of pastors one day not long after all this. I could sense the pain their eyes had seen. Very cautiously, I forwarded into the discussion of whether or not there could be forgiveness for the Janjaweed. Some talked, others did not. I understood why this would be the case.
The informal meeting closed with the suggestion that perhaps we should take the good news of Jesus to the Janjaweed. They were a completely unreached people group from the Darfur region of over 300,000 people. I learned that some of them were close by and that, due to their nomadic culture, there were times they were within walking distance out into the bush. There were a couple of guys that day who agreed to walk into the bush to greet them. I was shocked, not to mention unglued, by this declaration. I left simply saying I would be back in a few months and planned on walking out in the bush to greet the Janjaweed. I offered that any who wanted to join me were welcome to come.
I did return as promised and brought some others with me. A plan began to be put in place to reach the Janjaweed with the good news of Jesus. Twelve “evangelists” were gathered to be trained. The truth is, I felt that myself and others who engaged in the training had little to offer in comparison with what our friends already had. They had a love in their hearts for a fierce enemy. They demonstrated this by forgiving the wrongs that had occurred. We talked of these wrongdoings and prayed prayers of inner healing.
One good friend of mine recalled watching his father die at the hands of the Janjaweed. When his village was raided, at the urging of his parents, he and some other younger children fled into the bush for safety. After staying there for some time in the hot African sun, they of course began to need water. As he described it, the need for water in the mid-day sun was almost overwhelming.
So, he began to make his way to the river, which flowed intermittently through the North of the village. When he arrived at the river, he remained hidden in the reeds on the riverbank. As he gazed at the waterhole, his heart sank. There in the sandy riverbed beside the waterhole, was his father.
His father had been captured by the Janjaweed and had been buried standing in the riverbed, chest high. This was a cruel attempt on the part of the Janjaweed to draw the children out of the bush in order to capture them. He dipped his head in the reeds in order not to be seen and waited and watched. He watched as his father was cooked that day in the hot sand under the afternoon sun. As darkness fell and the devil on horseback gave up on the capture of any more children, he climbed from the reeds to dig his father out of the sand, but it was too late. He was dead.
As we took our first “trained” team for the first time of ministry among the Janjaweed, my good friend, who had lost his father that day, accompanied us. There was some awkwardness and tension as you might expect, upon our arrival. It was then I spotted my friend. He was huddled up around the fire with one of the Janjaweed.
Somehow, I knew not to encroach on the meeting. My friend is usually quite animated and an extremely funny guy. In this instance, however, he had a very serious look on his face and was very concentrated on the discussion at hand. So, I watched for a while. Both were talking, their heads were nodding sometimes in agreement.
Finally, I asked a guy standing next to me, who could speak English, “Look at that, what is that about?” He replied, “Oh, that is the son of the man who killed his father. He is meeting with him to offer forgiveness on the part of his family to theirs. You know Marwell Dit (a Dinka name I was given by my South Sudanese friends), the gospel is more readily received once forgiveness has been offered.” I can remember the moment to this day as if it were yesterday. I am still amazed.
The gospel was preached that day and now has been in many subsequent meetings. All I can say really, is that there has been receptivity among this people group to the message of Jesus. Our modus operandi has been to show the Jesus film and then to engage in a debate that usually focuses on whether Jesus is the son of God or simply the son of Mary. It has been fascinating and probably the most fruitful thing I have ever been involved in.
On one such gathering I was approached by an Iman (chief) who said he was sent by his people, a six day walk away, to see what was happening. He told me they had sent him with two questions to answer. First, is it true that we are loved? Second, is the Jesus they speak of real? I can’t help but think that the answer to question number one gives some evidence to the conclusion of question number 2.
The reason I write to tell you of all this is, up until this point, we have only been able to meet with the Janjaweed in their cattle camps. It has taken years to prove that we can be trusted and to show them that they are loved. On my most recent trip, one of the chief’s of their tribe, after watching the Jesus film and engaging in conversation, agreed to take me and others back to his village of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur. In the past, doing something like this would have been impossible, but the Lord has made a way through His faithfulness.
In order to reach Darfur and the surrounding area with the message of Jesus, we are in need of a reliable 4x4 vehicle capable of crossing the rushing rivers and mountainous terrain that stands in the way of us getting there. The total cost of something like this is about $30,000. Thankfully, we had two incredible donors come together and agree to match any donation up to $15,000!
EDIT: In just a week, donors came together to FULLY FUND the vehicle and REACH the DONOR MATCH! Thank you so much for your support! We can't wait to REACH DARFUR.
FOUNDER & 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.