The joy of loving enemies
How about meeting people whom you then discover were involved in ransacking your own home village and killing your relatives? Christians of differing backgrounds have experienced that kind of thing for the past two thousand years, but here is an up-to-date account concerning two Sudanese Christians, ‘S’ and ‘K’, both from southern Sudan. They come from two different black Sudanese tribes, the Nuer and the Shilluk.
‘K’s grandfather and father were converted from animism over thirty years ago through the testimony of an American missionary. ‘K’ grew up in a family that cherished freedom from fear and superstition, as well as the joy of a blessed eternal hope in Christ. The Lord answered the family’s prayers, and ‘K’, too, was blessed by God’s saving grace in Christ. That was when he was thirteen years old. He became burdened with love and concern for the lost around him and was constrained to give his life to gospel ministry, living as an evangelist.
‘S’ did not grow up in a Christian home. His father died an animist, at the age of thirty-eight, when ‘S’ was just nine-years old. His mother did not discourage his attendance at Sunday school classes, however. These were conducted by a young lady from ‘S’s village, who had been converted at a school in Malakal, a south-eastern Sudanese town. This town was an important centre for gospel outreach in that area. She also conducted a literacy class, which his mother attended. ‘S’ was converted and went to study in an intermediary school in Malakal. It was not long before his mother, two brothers and a sister also became Christians.
Some of ‘S’s relatives, like many others from their area, were active in the southern Sudanese liberation movement. Thus, when the Sudanese army (government troops) attacked and destroyed their village eleven years ago, many of his relatives died. Their bush-houses, crops and belongings were destroyed or burned.
‘S’, however, had known another ‘fire’. It was his burning desire to preach the gospel and call animists from his tribe to repentance and faith in Christ. With other young men and women, he received Bible training in Malakal, which lasted four months, and he became an evangelist.
‘S’ longed to reach his own people who lived in the government-controlled area north of Malakal. So that is where he and ‘K’ met and became close friends and associates. They then befriended northern Sudanese government soldiers. These Muslim soldiers have much time for reading. One of the soldiers asked to borrow the Christian Injeel (New Testament). ‘K’ loaned him one and told ‘S’ about it. They prayed for the soldier. Then other soldiers asked for Arabic New Testaments. ‘S’ and ‘K’s friendship with the soldiers gave them many opportunities to answer questions and speak to them of God’s saving way in Christ.
One day a soldier asked ‘K’ for an Arabic Bible for the regional army commander. This commander turned out to be none other than the junior officer who had led the attack on ‘S’s village eleven years ago. But ‘K’ was able to obtain the Bible for him and, after a while, the military chief needed answers to his questions about what was written in the Bible.
So there was a meeting between the army commander and ‘S’ and ‘K’. There sat ‘S’, drinking the tea offered to him by the man directly responsible for the killing and suffering of his own people! Both these Christians experience much joy as they realise that this man is interested in hearing about Jesus Christ, the Saviour.