The Republic of the Sudan
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The Republic of the Sudan, the largest country on the African continent, was formerly known as Nubia. The Sudan is bordered by Egypt on the north, Ethiopia and Eritrea on the east, and the Red Sea on the northeast corner. The Nile River traverses the eastern half of the country and divides at Khartoum into the Blue Nile and the White Nile. In the north the rocky Sahara Dessert stretches in sandy dunes across into Libya and Chad. With nearly six hundred ethnic groups in the Sudan and over one hundred languages it is one of Africa’s most divided countries and this diversity has proven to be a barrier to developing a modern state.
By the fourth century B.C. the ancient inhabitants had developed ox-drawn water wheels to pump water for irrigation. The ancient Greeks traded with the Sudan and it is said that the Roman Emperor Nero once sent an expedition with thoughts of conquering the Sudan but later decided against an invasion. The northern region came under Islamic Arab control in the fourteenth century. Other Sudanese kingdoms became Christian prior to Islam sweeping the country in the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century the Egyptians and the British came into power wielding control until independence was secured in 1956. For most of the time since independence the Sudan has experienced military rule, coups and civil conflict. In part the difficulties stem from the Muslim north attempting to impose Islamic and Arab values on the varied people groups. The 1.5 million Nuba people are particularly oppressed and subject to a government “war of annihilation” which has seen over a half a million deaths in the last dozen or so years. Famine, displacement and slavery have also troubled the ethnic Africans. Currently a military regime governs the country with a single legislative body known as the Provisional National Assembly.
Sunni Muslims represent about 70% of the population in the nation of about 34.5 million people. Indigenous beliefs are practiced by about a quarter of the population while Christians account for only 5% percent of the people. Farming is the chief occupation of the Sudanese with cotton for export being grown at the expense of food crops.
In 1988 Paul and Marilyn Douglass from the American Christian Churches and Churches of Christ began a two year stay in Khartoum, Sudan in order to teach Sudanese men how to repair hospital equipment in a mobile workshop supplied by International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES) of Kempton, Indiana. Paul is a skilled journeyman, machinist, mechanic, draftsman, electrician and builder with an undergraduate degree in ministry and a master’s degree in education. These qualifications earned him the approval of the Islamic government to work in the Sudan providing education desperately needed in the war-torn nation. Marilyn is a skilled seamstress and has used those skills to teach Sudanese women how to make clothing.
Among the young men being taught to repair equipment was Yournew, a respected young man of the Dinka tribe. Through the example and teaching of Paul and Marilyn he was baptized in September of 1989. Almost immediately upon his conversion Yournew began leading many to Christ, including twenty young men to help him teach in Khartoum.
In 1990 Sudan African Mission (SAM) was formed in order to support young men like Yournew while attending Bible colleges in order to help native Sudanese become missionaries to their own people. In June of 1991 Yournew began attending Zimbabwe Bible College and was soon joined by Kuac and Michael. Others began attending Great Commission Bible College in Nairobi (Kenya). More than a dozen men have been educated to give leadership to the emerging Sudanese Church of Christ. Upon his graduation in 1993 Yournew began ministering to Sudanese refugees who have fled the conflict in their native lands, principally to the Kakuma refugee camps in neighboring Kenya. The population of these camps numbers near 90,000. He and several others are based in Nairobi and make long journeys for months at a time into southern Sudan bringing relief aid and evangelizing. More than forty evangelists and paid workers have been employed to work in the camp. With the addition of several bicycles the effectiveness of the evangelists has increased. In the last year alone the Church in Kakuma has grown from 2500 to 3500 in number.
The rapid growth of the church and the success of the evangelist can at least be partially be attributed to a number of projects and programs sponsored by SAM and the aid of Paul and Marilyn Douglass. As many as 10,000 English Bibles have been distributed among the people and the New Testament in one of the Dinka dialects can be secured for purchase in Nairobi. Song books have been translated and published in the Dinka dialect; 1,200 have already been printed with the goal of printing 4,000 copies as funds become available. Several Singer treadle sewing machines have been sent and with these several women have been given the opportunity for developing useful skills. Meeting the medical needs and providing food have also been a significant part of the ministry. The Bread of Life Plow Program has provided farmers with plows and trains their oxen to plow the fields in order to grow more food. Discipleship and training among the Sudanese greatly strengthens the church and has made it an indigenous movement. While the work is growing those in the Sudan must exert much caution in order to prevent persecution and reprisals against the Christian community. The last names of the Sudanese workers are withheld to protect their work.
Through the efforts of these Sudanese men an estimated 15,000 people have come to know Christ.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
See past issues of the Sudan African Mission newsletters.
Sudan African Mission
Paul and Marilyn Douglass
P.O. Box 187
Gresham, OR 97030 USA
Telephone: (503) 665-1069
Fax: (503) 661-6649
Website: http://www.minnehahachurch.org/missions.html [Minnehaha Church of Christ, 3217 NE 54th St, Vancouver, WA 98663]
The 10th Sudan National Conference is scheduled for December 1-5, 2003 in Nairobi, Kenya.