Seizing the moment in Sudan
Circling the Kaaba with thousands of fellow Muslims during the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca), a young Sudanese man comes to a moment of crisis.
He realizes that fellow believers from all over the world are bowing down and kissing the Black Stone, the one that Muslims believe dates back to Adam and Eve. He also realizes that he never will. Only one week away from completing his three-year journey to becoming an imam, he turns to his teacher and says, “What are we doing? Why are we praying toward this? Why are we kissing this?” He returns to Sudan, leaves the mosque and Islam behind, and at age 21 gives his life to Christ.
His name is Richard K. Now 52, he is one of the founding pastors and the director of Greater Reach Alliance, unfoldingWord’s ministry partner in Sudan.
Having grown up in Sudan, Pastor Richard knows war personally. He speaks with great conviction about this moment of opportunity for his country.
"I think the war in Sudan is a blessing," he says. "Without this war, people will not change their minds. This war, I know, is evil, is bad, but also all things work for good for the sake of the gospel. And this war, the outcome of it, are these people who we are training now."
unfoldingWord partners with GRA to equip them with our Church-Centric Bible Translation software tools and methods.
By the end of November, a handpicked team of more than 20 translators will be well on their way to completing the translation of Open Bible Stories and unfoldingWord's suite of translation software tools into Sudanese Arabic. Once those tools are in Sudanese Arabic, the translation gates will open for all 137 unreached people groups of Sudan and South Sudan.
A Message from Pastor Richard
Pastor RIchard talks about opportunities God is presenting in the middle of war.
A Qualified Team
The translation team is made up mostly of young, college-educated men and women; interspersed among them are a few middle-aged professionals, a television journalist, and a professor of classical Arabic. Samir, for example, is an English interpreter and member of the translationNotes translation team. Faheem is a translation process manager for the OBS team.
Faheem says he and his college friends often discussed the strife and bloodshed in Sudan.
"We are discussing ... why we are killing each other. We need peace so that we can live in harmony and we can laugh. But we are full of hatred. So how can we get rid of these problems?"
Samir is not permanently attached to any single organization like Sudan Interior Mission, where he was discipled, or any denomination, or even GRA. He is a church-planting pastor and English translator who makes himself available to ministries that are moving the gospel forward in South Sudan. That is why he agreed to be part of the GRA/unfoldingWord OBS translation project. "We understand the purpose of this project. What we are doing right now is very good and is going to contribute [to] the change of many, many communities in Sudan. It's very good."
Many people on the team live in refugee camps and spend months away from family, staying in a secure location for translation work.
Every time he calls them, Samir's four children ask, "When are you coming back? We are waiting for you. Why don't you want to come?" But before marriage and children, something happened in Samir's life that motivated his commitment. He was studying an old Arabic version of the Bible in an Ethiopian refugee camp when he heard God's call to serve Sudan.
"God is talking to me just to come back to Sudan, to preach the gospel to my people," said Samir. "In the refugee camp, I had a chance to go to the U.S. but rejected it. I said, 'No, I don't want to go.' Many of my friends said, 'Why you don't want to go to the U.S.? You have a chance.' I said, "No, I have something to do. I have to go back."
Samir earned a diploma in theology and was working on his master's in Christian leadership when the pandemic interrupted his education.
The U.N. provides 7.5 kg of staple food per month for a family of four. Because of that, the refugees ask local residents for permission to raise small gardens. Sometimes, the residents say yes.
"The refugees' life is really hard," he says. "You have to sit and wait for what the U.N. will give you. And sometimes, what they give you is not enough. The food is limited. Everything is limited, but there's no other choice, because you are a refugee, and you cannot do many things to sustain your life. There's a great challenge, but we thank God that we are alive."
A New Sudan
Still, Samir sees a new Sudan on the horizon.
"If we translate the Bible stories into local languages, I think within 20 years we see a new Sudan. Because of the pressure and difficulties they face from Islam, my generation's mind is open. They are ready to accept the gospel and to change their lives. Even for those who don't read, if you give them the Bible stories on audio in their mother tongue, that's the one thing that will change [their] heart. In 20 years, I think Sudan will be rich with the gospel."
Pastor Richard agrees. As a theology student, he learned that Sudan had once been a Christian country. He wanted to know why the Church faded in the sixteenth century. "I did the research about why Christianity died out in Sudan," he says. "It was a kingdom, a Christian kingdom, but totally died out. Why? I realized that it died out because they were using Greek in services, or Coptic, which the normal people of Sudan did not know. That's why they didn't own the gospel. Christianity wasn't their identity. That's why it died out. So, to me, it's very important that you give the gospel in the heart language of the people whom you target."
Editor's Note: Sudan is in the middle of a political upheaval. Would you please keep our Sudanese friends on the top of your prayer list? Thank you.
Some names have been changed for security reasons.
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