Kimberly Smith, Executive Director of Make Way Partners, and Larry Warren, Director of African Leadership were unlikely tourists. They were touring The Sudan. Their purpose however, was not sightseeing. They were ready to make a difference for the suffering people there and they were on the look out for indigenous Christian leadership whom they could support. Ultimately, their tour led them to the border between the Muslim North and the Christian South where they came to a village named Nyamlell.
And there in Nyamlell they came across the most astonishing sight: A young man teaching 150 orphans under the trees and telling them about God’s love with only one school book and a chalk board. He had no food for the children and no shelter to protect them from the blistering Sahara sun. No one assisted him in his attempts to care for these small, vulnerable ones the rest of the world had forgotten but he served faithfully nonetheless.
James had been struggling under the load but he never abandoned his post nor his calling. He just kept teaching and preaching and all the while he was praying and praying that God would send help.
Kimberly and Larry did not know it but they were the answer to those prayers.
Cautiously, they began to size up the situation and begin talking to James. They knew nothing about him and there was no one to vouch for his sincerity or character. Quite frankly, he seemed just too good to be true and they worried about giving him money for ministry.
“Could this man possibly be for real?” they wondered.
But in the end, they knew they could not turn away and Make Way Partners and African Leadership each gave him $5,000.00 to begin a feeding program for the children. They told him to send them pictures of what he accomplished with the money and they made him no promises.
On the second day of their visit, James looked at Kimberly and Larry and told them the crisis in Darfur had only just begun. In the years previously, the attacks on the Dinka people had come from the Muslims in the north from both light skinned Arabs as well as the dark skinned “black” Muslims. The tide however, was changing and the northern Arab Muslims had begun “ethnic cleansing” against the northern “black” Muslims as well. As a result, some of the very people who had been raping, murdering and enslaving the Christians in the south were now victims and refugees themselves.
“I know where some Darfur refugees are hiding in the desert,” James said. “Will you go with me to see them?”
Kimberly, who had known James for about 24 hours, suspected the worst. She thought James wanted revenge. The people he was asking her to go see would most likely be the same people who were responsible for shattering his life that fateful day so many years before. The people hiding in the desert were the very ones who had taken everything from James, his family, his home, his childhood…..
“Why go?” someone cautiously asked James.
He looked at the light skinned Americans all around him as if they were out of their minds.
“What do you mean?” He exclaimed. “They are starving and they don’t know Jesus!”
The group sat quietly for a moment and another person spoke.
“But, James…don’t you understand? This food we have given you for the orphans, when it is gone…it is gone. How do you feel about sharing the children’s food with the very people who murdered their parents?”
James replied, “Jesus forgave me. I must forgive them! It is the only way for peace.”
*What does the number 278 mean to you? Come back Monday to find out why it is so important to James and hear the conclusion of his story.