In 2003, the eyes of the world turned to Sudan, where genocide made Darfur a household name. Close to 500,000 people were killed in the civil war, which eventually led to a split in the country as South Sudan was formed.
The Nuba people live in the mountains that run along the border of the two countries. For years these citizens, many of them Christian, endured bombings and a scarcity of food and medical care. It was a tactic designed by the opposition to break them; instead, the Nuba persisted. They taught their children to run for cover when the Antonov warplanes came, but they continued to meet for worship, even if it meant exposure to an attack from the skies.
In 2015, Bill Loveless, an instructor with In Touch Ministries, visited the Nuba to encourage its pastors with a Life Principles Conference. Working in conjunction with the Persecution Project Foundation (PPF), Bill equipped 30 pastors with preaching and evangelism training, leaving Messengers to help them reach and teach the church. For an oral culture, the Messenger often represents a family’s first Bible. And with hours of messages from Dr. Stanley, it quickly becomes a very personal discipleship tool.
Since then, thousands of Messengers have been shared with the local people. In an area roughly the size of the state of Georgia, the Persecution Project partners with about 400 pastors, and hundreds more evangelists. These Christian leaders walk or ride donkeys—a small number have motorbikes—to canvass the region with biblical instruction, leaving Messengers behind to encourage the church during the in-between times.
“Like most of the indigenous tribes around the world, they’re used to hearing stories being told over campfires and things like that,” says Ed Lyons, Director of Ministry Advancement and Field Services at PPF. “They process really well with audio learning. These audio Bibles are just fantastic.” The Nuba live within an agricultural society, raising crops, cows, and goats. The women farm, the men hunt, the boys manage the animals, and the girls fetch water from the local boreholes. There are no paved roads or electricity. Many locations have simple church structures for the community to gather, and in more remote areas, church meetings are held under a tree or at a large boulder used as a landmark.
The Nuba pastors are an organized and cooperative force in the region. They are well-acquainted with the people of their communities and provide tickets to those with the most need. Those tickets can be redeemed within church distribution events for things like tarps, relief packs, women’s hygiene kits, and a Messenger.
And with great joy, many of their Muslim neighbors, who live to the east and west, are receiving Messengers and coming to faith in Christ. “A lot of the Muslims are wanting these audio Bibles because they're trying to perfect their Arabic,” says Lyons. “They speak kind of a watered-down Juba, of the Sudanese Arabic. They want a higher Arabic that is spoken, say, in Egypt or in the Middle East.” Then as they listen, they hear the truth, and see that there's a great difference between the teachings of the Qur’an and the teachings of Jesus Christ. “Their eyes are opening up,” says Lyons. “It’s powerful.”
The roots of Christianity in Sudan go back many centuries, but that heritage had been lost through hundreds of years of invasions and forced conversions to Islam. But the people have not forgotten their Christian background. As the Scriptures have been reintroduced to the area, it has made them curious about what their ancestors once believed. Now with the Messengers blanketing the Nuba regions, there are more and more people who are returning to the saving power of Christ to lead them in hope and peace.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.
Through your partnership, the good news of Jesus Christ is going where it’s needed most. Through the tools of the Messenger Lab, we’re reaching the lost, making disciples, and equipping pastors and Christian leaders as they obey the Great Commission.
Illustrations by Jeff Gregory