This update is related to the Crossway Global Ministry Fund campaign.
Hope Springs from the Darkest Places
Throughout the past couple of decades, the city of Darfur, located in southwestern Sudan, has been known as the “World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis.”1 If there is anywhere in the world where it would make sense that the light of the gospel would not shine, it’s here. And yet, even in the darkest of places, the light is still shining.
Joshua Abraham, a Sudanese native living in a refugee resettlement camp in Uganda, was seeing lives change as the fruit of the evangelism he and a group of men were doing among the camps in western Darfur. People were getting saved and being baptized. They were able to provide biblical resources, including the ESV Global Study Bible, to these new believers so that they could continue to grow in their newfound faith.
Everything was going seamlessly, with no government interruptions—until it wasn’t. One day the authorities came to pay a visit to the location where Joshua and his team were preaching to a growing crowd of curious people. These Sudanese authorities, known historically for persecuting Christians, imprisoned Joshua and several other pastors and confiscated the books and Bibles yet to be distributed.
The pastors were imprisoned with no connection to the outside world. Their futures were now unsure and seemed to be dependent upon the favor of the authorities. On the third day of their imprisonment, the authorities pulled the pastors out of their cells, letting them know the charges were dropped and they were free to go home.
About six months later, Joshua was still working on getting more biblical resources into the country when he received a report from a ministry partner in Darfur. They had never given back the books and Bibles they confiscated on the day of the pastors’ arrest, and he feared when he picked up the phone that he may have unwelcome news to share. But instead, this brother exuberantly proclaimed, “These are good books and Bibles! We’re giving them back to you. But if you get more, could you bring some for us?”
The Need to Train and Equip
Joshua is an example of one of many pastors whose lives have been transformed by the ministry of missionaries Jacob and Carol Lee through Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU). Founded in 2011, Jacob and Carol, along with their team and other short term leaders from America, are seeking to carry out Paul’s command to Timothy: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul had a vision for the church to grow through passing along correct, faithful training to each generation. Jacob shares this vision: “It was people who discipled other people who discipled other people. That’s the same fire God has put in my heart. And it’s the fire that we like to try to put in pastors’ hearts who we train in our ministry.”
Jacob and Carol’s passion is to equip pastors with what they need to minister effectively in their churches throughout Uganda, South Sudan, and the Republic of Sudan where pastors lack effective training. “In our area, somewhere around 85%—I dare say even up to 95%—of pastors have had little to no biblical training. This means no Bible school, seminary, and so forth. When we began this ministry, we really felt like that’s where we could come alongside these brothers in Christ and support them in their ministry.”
The outlook is grim for those who have had little to no theological training. Jacob recounts a time when “we did evangelism in an Ugandan village and God worked very powerfully. People were getting saved. At one point I asked one of the local men who was going to shepherd all of these new believers. He looked at me somewhat surprised and said, ‘We just pick out whoever we think is the wisest and we make him the pastor.’” This is one of many examples of what churches and pastors in this region of Africa are faced with. It’s not that the pastors don’t want training. They are simply unable to leave their rural contexts, or they don’t know where they can get access to training that will equip them for their ministry.
Teaching the Bible and Farming
Today, Jacob and Carol provide a peaceful place on RAU’s campus for pastors from various denominations in their region and nearby refugee camps to receive a series of week-long intensive biblical training sessions—referred to by Jacob as a “retreat.” For most, this is their first experience receiving training on the fundamentals of faith. And it’s also an opportunity for teaching these pastors to equip themselves using the resources around them to support their families and congregants. Jacob emphasizes two keys for their retreats.
Because most, if not all, of the churches these pastors come from have very little that they can give to pastors. All of these pastors have land, which made it a natural fit to teach farming as a business along with theological training. So during the retreat week we’ll spend at least part of one day doing agricultural training on RAU’s demo farm. As they receive biblical instruction, we’re also teaching them the basics of planting and caring for grafted mangoes and growing vegetables in box gardens. I preach grafted mangoes second only to preaching the gospel!
Part of what these pastors receive upon their return to their villages is a set of resources they can refer to as they move forward into ministry with what they learned during their time with RAU. One of these key resources is the ESV Global Study Bible. Thousands of copies have been distributed into the hands of pastors and ministry leaders.
Most of these pastors, Jacob shared, have never owned a Bible like this: “I would say 99% have never had a study Bible before. So if I can give one resource to a pastor, I would give them a Global Study Bible. Then they have an in-depth resource all in one, because they don’t really have a library. Since English is well known, an ESV Global Study Bible becomes a very valuable resource.”
Strengthened to Return for Ministry
Salah, a former Muslim, came from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan where political unrest had broken out, forcing him to flee to a refugee camp in South Sudan where he heard the gospel and gave his life to Jesus. After once more being forced to move to a different resettlement camp in Uganda, Salah met Joshua. Joshua was looking for men with a passion for the Lord to invite to RAU’s retreats. Salah agreed to come for the week, and he shared with Jacob at the end of one retreat, without a hint of contempt in his voice that “I know why I’m in Uganda: so that I could be strengthened by the teaching of the Word of God and now return to my tribe which is 99% Muslim.” Salah continued to attend these RAU retreats throughout his time at the resettlement camp, and has since returned to his home in the Nuba Mountains and is ministering there.
Through the Crossway Global Ministry Fund, pastors and church leaders like Salah are being given this key resource in the Global Study Bible to take as a resource to be better equipped to minister in their churches and communities. There is still much work to be done throughout Uganda, South Sudan, and the Republic of Sudan, and the ministry of RAU continues to flourish and train pastors who do not otherwise have the opportunity to receive theological training. Join us today in our partnership with ministries like RAU as we seek to resource the church to the ends of the earth!
Pray that God would send long term co-laborers to RAU and their immediate region to continue to spread the gospel so that lives would be changed.
Pray for the copies of the Global Study Bible and other resources that continue to be given to pastors in need. Pray that these would serve as effective resources for their ministry.
Pray for the cessation of the civil war in both South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan. Pray that church leaders would rise up and faithfully teach sound doctrine, even in spite of the ensuing conflicts.
- Sikainga, Ahmad. “‘The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis’: Understanding the Darfur Conflict”. Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, February 2009. https://shorturl.at/bixAW.