I was 20 years old and fresh out of Bible College when I first stepped into a Sudanese refugee camp. They had been forced to flee when the government began bombing raids and sent soldiers to attack their villages. I heard stories of immense suffering, but I also saw healing begin.
UNHCR had set up refugee camps in Ethiopia, providing food, shelter and medical help. They invited other organizations to provide vocational training and education. Rolf and I served with SIM, an overtly Christian organization, training teachers in mother tongue literacy and English, always with discipleship and biblical training as our focus.
Bible study for non-literate women
We were able to train hundreds of Sudanese teachers allowing more than 10,000 children to receive an education. We also had an open door to disciple these teachers (many from Muslim background), provide biblical education for non-literate church leaders, and run a small Bible school.
We spent hours visiting in makeshift villages, and celebrated Christian and Muslim holidays in our homes. Over steaming cups of coffee and tea and platters of food, we built bridges, read the Scriptures, and dialogued about faith, hope and freedom in Jesus Christ. Here they had a safe place to search for truth and many responded to the gospel.
Dawud* arrived in the refugee camp disillusioned with Islam and searching for truth. He asked us to teach his family the Bible. When he and his wife came to faith, they experienced persecution, but were filled with passion and boldness to share about Christ. This last week, we were surprised to receive an email from Dawud, for we had lost contact when he returned to Sudan. He is currently planting churches in and around his community.
Abdul* was translating the Bible into his language when we last saw him, and had written over 200 Scripture songs. Since being resettled to Canada, he has posted them on the Internet and is dialoguing with his “unreached” people now scattered all over the world through resettlement.
Little did we know that men and women who spent over two decades as refugees would be among the most qualified English speakers of South Sudan. They would hold government positions, become translators, health workers, teachers, preachers and evangelists. The small Bible school that trained a dozen would result in men passionately and sacrificially planting churches upon their return to war-torn South Sudan.