Venture supports Sudan in word and deed….but why?
What it means to “support Sudan” has shifted dramatically over the past three months, but the efforts of Venture Church have remained actionable. What originated as Venture’s involvement in a gospel mission effort has transitioned into aiding in what is shaping up to be one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The shift has called our missions team to refocus the purpose of our financial resources while remaining true to the calling of the church as both a missional organization and a family of faith.
First, let us understand why Venture committed a portion of its mission’s budget to send both mission teams and gospel resources to Sudan for the discipleship of new believers. Why Sudan when there are lost people all over the world including people in our own neighborhoods?
The response to that question is “access”.
The country of Sudan has a population of approximately 47,850,000 (0.68% of which claim to be evangelical Christians). Until 2021, Sudan operated under a Sharia-based legal system making any form of worship, other than Islam, illegal and punishable by death. There are no churches, Bibles, study groups, or anywhere to turn for the hope of Jesus Christ. Of the few Christian converts, many were originally called through visions and dreams and, subsequently, sought out the full truth of what was revealed to them personally by the Holy Spirit.
I spent some time with a Sudanese Muslim named Betty who was very confused in our first few days together. She woke one morning and revealed that she had experienced a dream in which no matter how vigorously she scrubbed while showering, she could never get all the dirt off. While trying to clean herself, she saw a beautiful, jeweled necklace just out of her reach in the shower stall. Regardless of her efforts, she could not clean herself and she could not reach that most valuable possession. My team walked Betty through understanding salvation by faith/not works by allowing her to read a Bible for herself in her own language. Understanding the truth of what the Spirit had revealed to her was immediately transformative. Watching her read the Bible for the first time was experiencing the embodiment of one who was blind but could now see. Betty’s story is common to many Sudanese converts.
Sudan’s recent history made it primed for both a spiritual and revolutionary awakening. The country formally declared independence mandating freedom of religion and was working to establish some form of civilian-ruled government. Both were fledgling concepts with significant undercurrents of resistance but taking root among the civilian population. In partnership with Calvary Road Ministries, Venture recognized an opportunity to take the gospel to one of the least reached people groups in the world. It was understood that the government’s stability was tenuous. But it appeared to be the Lord’s time for Sudan as many were coming to faith, and there were well-established, formidable relationships with local pastors on the ground facilitating coordination efforts. New believers were desperate for more teaching of the Word. Plans for a team to take resources and training to Sudan were abruptly halted on April 15, 2023.
The Fall of Sudan
On April 15, 2023, two rival military factions who had colluded in overthrowing the interim Prime Minister of the fledgling Sudanese democracy in Oct. 2021 waged a full-scale war against each other in the capital city of Khartoum. The Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF- a contracted army hired by the former Sudanese government in 2003 and performed acts of genocide against specific Sudanese tribes). The power grab is aimed at gaining and maintaining military authority independently rather than being conjoined under the authority of the newly developing Sudanese government. The fighting and war atrocities have only escalated over the past 3 months and the situation in Sudan is devastatingly dire.
Venture’s financial efforts have shifted from supplying gospel resources to funding emergency evacuations for pastors on the ground and high-risk believers who are being hunted like animals on account of their faith. Currently, over 2.9M people within Sudan are displaced. The number of dead being reported is only in the thousands, but those numbers are widely considered grossly underestimated. In fact, many sources are already referring to the situation in Sudan as the next Rwanda which is remembered for the slaughtering of 800,000 innocent civilians. Travel is extremely dangerous due to burnings of rural cities, mass shootings, and militant checkpoints that carry the risk of execution and rape. Militant groups have scorched markets destroying food and water supplies. There have been seventeen scheduled ceasefires to allow for safe evacuations of civilians and for aid workers to bring in food and medical supplies. The militant groups have failed to hold these ceasefires seventeen times. Because the ceasefires can’t be trusted, aid is sparse at best.
The specifics of rescue endeavors to which Venture has contributed include:
- Assisted in the evacuation of (3) Pastors from different areas of Sudan during the early onset of the war. All (3) are now safely in Uganda assisting with the rapidly rising refugee crisis there and preaching the Gospel to those people.
- Facilitated the evacuation of an additional 19 believers considered high-risk. Those 19 are now in Arua, Uganda.
- Transported 270 individuals from the city of Aljinena to Nyala which is currently considered to be a safer city within Sudan. They are able to share the gospel now in that city and have reported around 30 people being converted since their arrival on 6/15. One sister was sharing her faith with her Muslim brother and told him how Jesus calls us to forgive our enemies. She asked him if they could forgive the RSF to which he responded, “No”. She explained to him that is why they cannot have peace. That they can only live in peace by forgiving one another. He came to faith along with his household.
- As of 6/16, Attempting to evacuate 15 individuals out of Khartoum with the assistance of the gentleman from whom CRM typically contracts to print Bibles. They have encountered major obstacles in their attempt to evacuate but have redirected their travels to a safer region within Sudan for the time being.
- We are currently exploring options to evacuate 9 individuals out of Omdurman/Khartoum. Finding strategies to move people is becoming increasingly difficult as communication and financial infrastructure continue to deteriorate. These 9 are currently being hunted by RSF who are said to be gathering names of all Christians with the intention of eradication.
One of the most devastating reports received relayed the death of a lady named Fatima. She had been a leader among the women of new believers in Darfur (a rural western region of Sudan) and had opened her home as a house of prayer. She was intended to be in the gospel storying classes with the missions team in April. Her family was murdered by militia members, but Fatima was killed by a family member who was angered and blamed her for the deaths of her family because she would not believe in Allah.
She responded, “My God, himself, gave his own son to save mankind. What about me, a human being whose death is an obligation? You should comfort me, but the enemy blinds you.” She was subsequently beaten to death.
How could we possibly help or contribute?
The obvious answer to continued support is prayer. Of course, prayer for protection, prayer for deliverance, prayer for provision, prayer for healing, and prayer that more of those who live in blindness may come to know the Lord. But also, that we, as the church in the West, might grow in our love for the Lord, which may subsequently grow our love for the lost. Pray that our hearts will be turned from all the things of our culture so that we might find ourselves fixated on God’s grace and mercy in such a way that we are moved to want that joy and peace for all people, of all nations, of all tongues, not counting the personal cost.
Obedience to Biblical mandates to carry forth the gospel into all the world (Matt. 28:16-20) and to attend to the needs of his flock (Gal. 6:2) seem unattainable in the face of an atrocity occurring halfway around the world, however, the details are not our concern, only the obedience.Betsy Dellinger
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Photo Credit: Abdulaziz Mohammed