FBR Report: Finding Living Water in a Dry and Thirsty Land
Good Life Club Sudan Report16 July, 2014
Our GLC programs in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan felt like a tiny drop in a very dry bucket, but God’s presence in this desert turned out to be the living water that we all needed.
We had come as FBR was invited by the people of the Nuba Mountains to see if an FBR-style training and mission would help them as they are under attack from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The desert environment, even without fighting, is a harsh place. Adding attacks from the SAF only increases the challenge of finding basic necessities. Inside the thatched walls of most family compounds live anywhere from 10-20 children, with several mothers and one father. Although there have been schools, fear of bombing has caused these and other educational opportunities to be closed down.
This was the context that most of the new Free Sudan Relief teams came from and it was into this situation that we traveled with them, to three different villages, to share the message of Jesus’ abundant life for the body and soul; We found we had to change the GLC program somewhat from how we do it in Burma. First, the children sang many more songs for us than we sang for them. In African rhythmic echo style, one child would lead while the rest followed. Second, the meanings attributed to the colored beads of the bracelet changed as every color in our bracelet is represented in their national flag. The most significant distinction was that black represented themselves, ‘their people’. Lastly, instead of games, we finished each program with a traditional circle dance, a very active performance where boys and girls joined each other stomping to the beat of a song in the middle.
Our drama was about a feature central to every Nuban village: the community borehole or pump-well. The teams opened the story at a moment of dismay at discovering a new well only produces dirty water. The scenes that follow are a metaphor for our unsuccessful efforts at a clean heart through external, superficial means. The teams painted the exterior of the pump, then gave the pump a lecture on how to behave, and then punished it into submission with a beating. Finally, the last team dramatized opening up the pump and going through the hard and dirty job of cleaning the problem from the inside out.
It was a reminder to both young and old, and the teams themselves (who presented it three times) that lasting changes in our lives must happen through God’s power in our souls and not until this happens will our actions reflect transformed lives. I think this was the most dramatic message I gained in light of the situation of these communities. Just one hour before arriving at our first program our whole group had to hide under cover from aircraft bombs that landed 15 minutes from us. This is common for all the families in the Nuba Mountains. It was a very impressionable moment that reinforced the desperate injustice and violence that we seem so powerless to stop on our own and the need for Jesus’ power to make the changes we need. But just hours later, as we returned from the GLC program, we passed a brother and sister in the middle of such a heated dispute that they were ready beat each other with sticks and stones, and the neighbors had to intervene – and it was reinforced that the changes to solve the big problems must happen inside our hearts to transform our behavior in small conflicts before there is hope to combat oppression on a much larger scale.
Yet, even as God provided water for the Israelites from a rock in the wilderness, so He provided springs of living water in the Nuba Mountains: we were overwhelmed by a vibrant welcome from families who had made temporary homes in caves that were safe from the SAF air attacks, even in a place where natural water is dangerously scarce. Christians and Muslims together formed this community, and there was a real reverence for God as they sought earnestly together for divine help from human oppressors. While the attacks they endured together left searing wounds, body and soul – their unity and the bonds forged in shared suffering were like a cooling balm on those wounds.
Our offering was small, made in a dry and thirsty land – yet the spirit of God in the people we met, their abundant joy in the harshest of circumstances, the teams who were not only trying to survive but desired to help their people – these things were all like little streams of living water. Here, again, God had brought forth water where we could only see a rock.
Thank you for your prayers and for being in this with us. Please continue to pray for the people of the Nuba Mountains.
God bless you,
The Good Life Club team
Related FBR Report from 25 June, 2014 below:
FBR Report: “Please tell the world about us” Standing with the Oppressed – a FBR relief mission in Sudan25 June, 2014 Nuba Mountains, Sudan
Thank you for all you do for us and the people of Burma. This report is about a relief mission we in FBR have just been part of in Sudan. Our main work is in Burma but last year we were invited by the people of the Nuba mountains of Sudan who are suffering under relentless attacks by the dictatorship of Sudan. This may be a one time mission or an expansion of the FBR mission, we do not know but listen and go step by step. Along with our family and Dr. Shannon, three FBR headquarters members were part of this team, Monkey, Eliya and Ray Kaw. They were a crucial part of the training and mission as well as being wonderful ambassadors for their people.
We prayed about this and felt that even though our main work is in Burma and we were very small, we should try to respond to the request for help by people in need. We felt as if our hearts were spread wider and love for the Nuba people grew there. This feeling was confirmed by friends who provided the assistance needed to get us there with the relief supplies needed to help. Our main work is in Burma and the conflict there continues, but this mission is an alliance of love of people who are oppressed but have not given up. Thank you for your part in this.
The country to Sudan is controlled by a military dictatorship that attacks its own people. Attacks continue in Darfur, the Blue Nile and Nuba mountain areas of Sudan. In the Nuba Mountain region of South Kardofan, over 400,000 people have been displaced by the attacking Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). Over 100,000 have fled this area as refugees to South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. The displaced are in desperate need of food, water, medicine, shelter and school support for their children. The SAF attacks relentlessly all across the Nuba Mountains as they do in other areas of Sudan. In these attacks they kill, rape, torture and destroy villages, churches, schools, water and food supplies. Thousands of villagers are now hiding in places with little access to water and have to wait in line for hours for just one bucket of water for a family. Many are sick and there is very little medicine or medical care available. The few organizations providing medical and other humanitarian assistance are doing wonderful and life saving work but the need is far greater than the help available. The attacks of the SAF make it very difficult to provide consistent relief and makes it difficult for the IDPs to even stay alive. The Nuba people are Christians Muslims and Animist who get along together. They are being attacked by a dictatorship who are radical Islamist and they need help. In spite of these attacks they do not give up and are some of the toughest and friendliest people any of us had ever met. Their ready smiles and cheerfulness in the worst circumstances amazed and lifted us all up. We love them.
Free Burma Ranger mission to stand with the Nuba and all Sudan people for freedom and to increase the capacity to help their people and get the news out. To help start the Free Sudan Relief teams (Aoun Sudan Alhur in Arabic) and encourage the Nuba people. May – June, 2014.
Arrival, Coordination and Training:
Nuba Mountains, Sudan.18 Nuba (15 men and 3 women) and 6 FBR instructors. Training subjects included:First Aid; ABC, CPR, Suture and IVs. Dentistry; tooth care and extraction. Reporting and Documentation, Good Life Club and Family support, Leadership, Map and Compass, GPS, Navigation, Photography, Video, Rappelling and Physical Training. The first day we were there a SAF jet fighter dropped three 500 lbs bombs near us, narrowly missing a clinic but wounding a woman who was fleeing the bombs. The woman was carrying her baby daughter and dove to the ground, shielding her daughter when the bombs were dropped. Her arm was hit by shrapnel but her baby was unhurt. The mother’s name is Wasilla and we spent time with her praying and trying to help her. She is now recovering.
The people of the Nuba mountains face these attack regularly and there is no defense against the SAF fighters and bombers that attack anything they see below them. “Please tell the world about us”, was the plea we heard from many Nuba people.
Upon completion of the training the teams went up to the northern area of the Nuba mountains vicinity Tounguli village. The teams provided assistance to the IDPS there and report on the situation. There are over 3,000 new IDPS in the Tounguli area , hiding in caves in Tounuli, Ningir and Garida. These people fled the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) attacks on 28 April 2014. The villages they fled were attacked by SAF resulting in 7 villagers being killed, over 20 wounded and hundreds of homes destroyed. Churches, schools, grain silos, food supplies, livestock, grinding mills and water points were also destroyed in these attacks. These 3,000 newly displaced people are part of the over 400,000 people displaced in the Nuba Mountain area. While we were in Tounguli area, two villagers walking near us were killed by mortar fire and three were wounded as they tried to tend to their fields. On 19 May as we walked thru destroyed fields and homes, we had just passed a group of IDPS as they were trying to start planting a field of Sorghum. The SAF began to shell from Abri with heavy 120 mm mortars. Shells landed in front of us and behind us and the shells landing behind us killed two villagers and wounded three others. All people here live in constant fear of SAF attacks on the ground and from the air, making it difficult to even go out to plant needed crops, gather firewood or even to collect water. Karen and the kids were also on this mission and did a great job; supporting the Good Life Club programs for IDP families, helping with communications, carrying water, filming the situation and playing with the kids. We lived in the caves with the IDPS and made many friends. “You really love us and give us hope because your whole family is here”, we were told again and again. The Nuba teams spent 4 days at the front lines near Abri documenting and filming the SAF attacks and destruction of the villages of Abri, Deri, Lambre, Ombri, Sabat, Timina, Ningir, Gardia, Tounguli, as well as many smaller villages and homesteads. The teams did a good job of filming and documenting the attacks of SAF forces as the SAF fired mortars, machineguns, rockets and missiles at the villagers, SPLA, and the teams. Monkey (FBR video man and chaplain) helped the teams as they conducted reconnaissance of SAF positions in and near Abri, making sketch maps, logging GPS coordinates and taking photos and video of the SAF forces. Eliya and Ray Kaw (FBR senior Karen medics) treated patients around the clock and helped the teams to treat sick and wounded IDPS and soldiers in the area, treating over a hundred patients with stomach issues, malaria, ARI, skin diseases, gunshot and shrapnel wounds- some requiring minor surgery, dental problems, and delivered one baby in a hiding place near the front line. We met with a Nuba Christian evangelist who said, ” We trust in God to help us and my message to the attackers is, We are all Sudan, you are our government. Attacking us, shooting us, burning our villages and killing us and our animals is not the right spirit in which to live and to govern.” A local leader told us, “We want freedom for all people of every faith and group in Sudan and are praying and working for that.”
The teams then conducted three Good Life Club out reach programs to IDP families in Tounguli, Ningir and Gardia. The teams taught songs, conducted anatomy, health and hygiene classes, taught basic map reading and use of cameras and videos and danced with the people. All were in high spirits at the end of the programs and the teams’ enthusiastic leadership for these programs was an encouragement to al there. Although most Nuba people are Christians, Muslims or Animist, one Nuba soldier who said he did not have any faith came to us and prayed to God for help. When I asked him, where Jesus was, he smiled broadly and said, “In my heart”. The teams treated patients and conducted a mobile dental clinic at each place until we ran out of medicine. The teams then interviewed many IDPS and local leaders in order to tell the story of the Nuba people here and get the news out. During the walk from Tounguli to Ningir, a SAF Antonov bomber circled over the group and bombed us. The new teams immediately began filming this attack and did an excellent job of documenting it. Later when we returned to Kauda, the teams again documented the air bombardment by SAF here. Over 55 bombs were dropped on the village of Kauda in the last three days of May.
As of this report SAF continues to bomb village, clinics and schools in the Nuba Mountains killing and maiming men, women and children.
Please pray for the people of the Nuba mountains and all of Sudan that they get the help they need and that the attacks would stop. We pray too that the government of Sudan would change their hearts and that freedom, justice and reconciliation would grow in Sudan.
We now continue the missions in Burma and are grateful for all your prayers and support for the people here as well as Sudan.
Thank you and may God bless you.
Love, Dave, family and teams