On December 31st, 2009, the SIM station of Atar, South Sudan was attacked by Shilluk tribesmen. The SIM station there had been set up first as a center to train Sudanese basic English and then later as a teacher training school. Three SIM related families were there – two Ethiopian and one Nigerian. The following are their testimonies told in their words but edited only for clarity. HEB 8 Jan 2010
Testimony of Getachew Abo and Kelemwa Tilahun
EKHC Missionaries working with SIM in Atar Sudan.
Attack of the SIM Atar Station 31 Dec 2009
It is a great privilege for us to serve as missionaries in the Kingdom of God.
But in the past 44 years of my life – I have never experienced the kind of difficulty that we passed through in the last few days. During our trial we experienced God’s miraculous deliverance from two life threatening dangers.
At 4:30 am last Thursday morning a band of Shilluk tribesmen attacked our SIM compound and the nearby village of Atar. (Atar is in Dinka territory). The first lit fire to the dry grass on our roof. When the fire was burning they began shooting into our house. I counted six bullet holes right in the area of our house where we were sleeping. With the burning grass falling in on top of us (it has fallen off the roof and was blocking our doorway as well) and the shooting all around us – both our lives and the lives of our two daughters were in grave danger. But somehow God protected us and brought miraculous deliverance.
We saw two amazing miracles during that night. First -- our enemies were watching and waiting for us to try and escape the fire. Somehow God blinded their eyes. They could not see us as we ran through the fire toward the only building that was not burning – our nearby toilet. All four of us escaped without being burned or being hit by bullets. But when the flames came into the toilet area we had to flee the second time to a nearby tent. Again no one saw us. We were able to lie flat on the floor of the tent – unseen to our enemy. By this time our enemies were now looking to see what had happened to us. As they searched all around us, we lay very quietly on the floor of the tent. Here again we saw God performing another miracle. If one our children (or the other three small children from another missionary family) had made the slightest noise – even coughing or crying – we would have been found and killed. But God kept them silent until the enemy went away. To us this is a miracle.
The verse that God had given me this past week was from Gen. 15:1 -- "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." During all this trial, God was our shield. He shielded us from both the fire and the bullets. He blinded our enemies so they could not see us, and covered the mouths of our children so they did not cry. He delivered not only us but the other two missionary families who were with us even though we were all marked for death. Just like the children of Israel who were thrown into the furnace of fire – not even the hair of our head was burned. Glory to His Name!
6 January 2010
Testimony of Yacob Aga and Tibarek Wondimu
EKHC Missionaries working with SIM in Atar Sudan.
Attack of the SIM Atar Station 31 Dec 2009
The text which God gave me many years ago and on which my ministry is based comes from God’s promise to Jacob in the Bible (I am also called Yacob). God promised, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen. 28:15
First I would like to praise the Lord for his protection and guidance in the past 39 years of my life. I have been serving the Lord since I was a teenager of 17. In the past 22 years I have worked with both youth and adults in a wide variety of programs -- preaching, Bible teaching, youth sports programs and church planting. Since 2006 I have been an international missionary from Ethiopia but working in Atar, Sudan. My main responsibility has been teaching in the SIM Basic Education Learning Center. In the past few months my we have opened a teacher training school to train Sudanese teachers. I have been an instructor in this school.
At midnight on Dec. 30-31, I needed to go of our house to the nearby toilet shed. When I stepped outside, I could hear strangers moving about our compound. Sensing danger, I came back inside and immediately my wife and I began praying.
At 4:30 am we were suddenly awakened by gun shots being fired into our house. The bullets seemed to be aimed at the closed window -- very near the place where we slept. At the same time our thatched roofed house was ablaze. So my wife and I immediately crawled under our bed and began praying, “Jesus save us…” As the fire burned our roof, the embers began falling in on us we knew we had to get out of our house. But the enemy was outside with their guns! We prayed again. “Lord, Make our enemies blind so they cannot see us.”
When we reached our door – we could look across our compound and saw the two other families of our colleagues standing in their doorway as well. The only place to flee was to the toilet shed. It was built form zinc roofing material and should not burn. We motioned to them and all ran for the toilet at the same time. The mighty hand of our God protected us and we reached safely. One of the other missionaries had been burned badly so he ran for the river. But the rest of us (five adults and five children) hid in the zinc toilet shed.
By now the fire had spread to the fence around our compound. Our fence was made of sticks and grass -- so it was not long before the fire spread to where the toilet shed was. We could feel the heat coming. The only place to go now was into one of the tents that had not burned. All ten of us rushed from the toilet shed into the tent together. Miraculously, no one saw us.
As we lay on the tent floor, my wife looked up and saw two enemy soldiers coming back to see whether we were dead or alive. If we were alive, they would have killed us. But we claimed the promises of God. “When you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned.” The Lord protected us again and we are still alive to tell the story.
After things settled just a little, the Pastor of our local Sudanese church came to see if we were dead or alive. When he found us, we were without clothes or shoes. He and others from the community stood there crying for us and our loss. That day, the Sudanese people of Atar showed us their great love by giving us their own slippers so our feet so we would not be burned or step on thorns. They led us into the center of the village where we sat on the ground. They gathered around us and cried almost the whole day for our loss and theirs – for the enemy had burned many of their huts as they retreated back to their own tribal area.
Even though I have passed through many challenges in my life and ministry, this present experience was by far the most dangerous. As we look back now, we can see that through all this, God was teaching us that in times of trial – we must depend on Him alone.
7 January 2010
Testimony of Ruth and Ubandoma Nabad
EMS Missionaries working with SIM in Atar Sudan.
Attack of the SIM Atar Station 31 Dec 2009
Ruth and Ubandoma Nabad were among the first missionaries from EMS in Nigeria to join the Sudan team. Since 2006, they have worked faithfully at a station called Atar in Southern Sudan. The local people there love them very much and officials have even given them gifts in recognition of their service. The locals have given Ubandoma a Dinka name – “Thon Deng” refers to a very special bull which has red sides and a black design on its back. This bull is known for its hard work and it never tires. This is the story of their ordeal at Atar.
The Scripture that God gave us when we came to Sudan is Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Trouble started on November 18th when Shilluk tribesmen attacked a town called Canal – about one hour by boat or three hours by foot from our village. We do not know the reason for the fighting – but it took about two weeks for things to settle down there. The police from our village of Atar were sent both to Canal and to Atar school which is about 30 minutes walk from our compound. This Atar School is the place where our government Commissioner lives.
In the afternoon of December 30th I had been working in my garden. I stayed up late – till about 12:30 midnight working on some reports and pictures in my computer. We had just gotten to sleep when about 2:30; my wife started vomiting from some unknown sickness. I gave her medicine but for some reason, we could not sleep well. Then at about 4: 00 am, we wakened and heard some strangers behind our house. It sounded like they were cocking their guns. Not long after, the shooting started.
When the bullets started flying we don’t even remember how we found ourselves under out bed. Our three children were crying in a nearby room. “Dad! Mom! What is happening?” We called out to them to get under their bed.
It was only then that we realized that the thatched roof above us was on fire. Our roof had plastic under the thatch to keep out rain and bugs. This plastic was suddenly ablaze and the fire spread to all the rooms of our house in seconds. The house filled with smoke. My wife and I crawled to the next room where our children were. Bullets continued flying through our house. By God’s grace, none of us were hit.
I took my wife and children into the kitchen but we could not reach the front door because of the smoke. My computer and our thurya phone were lying on the kitchen table. I took the computer and put it on top of my head to protect me from melting plastic that was raining down on us. My wife got to our water supply and tried to spray the water onto the burning grass above us. She was trying to reduce the smoke so we could find the way to our door. Already she had picked up our passports in her hand.
I went to the door with my computer on my head. The melted plastic dripped down on my left hand and arm burning into my skin. I grabbed our youngest daughter Kezya and was holding her close to my chest with my right hand. Shielding my little girl I unlocked the door. My wife was right behind me pushing the children out the door. When they were all out, I came out last. The whole house was ablaze by now – even the door. As I closed the door and started to move away, it fell on me burning my back.
We moved out into the open compound and ducked into a tent. In just a moment or two, that tent caught fire as well. We came out and saw our fellow missionaries rushing toward the zinc toilet so we followed them. I was the last one to reach the toilet as I was protecting them and wanted to make sure they had reached safety.
Long before this attack, I had talked with the local Sudanese people about what to do in times of attack. They told me that in their culture, enemies will never kill women and children – only men. So I realized that once they had finished burning everything, they would come back to look for the men. If I stayed with my wife and children, they could kill us all. So for that reason, I left them. The fence surrounding our compound was not burning yet so I put my head down and plowed through the fence. The river was not far away so I ran there. Two men from our village were already hiding in the tall grass and so I joined them. They assured me that I had done the right thing and that my wife and children would be safe.
In the meantime, my wife and children were in the zinc toilet shed. Soon the fire reached them and they had to flee again to another tent that had not burned.
After about one hour, when the fighting had died down I heard people crying – because they thought I had been killed in the attack. I came out of the river grass and it was already morning. I met with my children and my wife they are all OK. She was crying because she had not seen me for some time. The local people, however, were comforting her telling her that I must be alive he is somewhere else. I had been embarrassed to show myself because I was only wearing the underwear in which I had been sleeping. Getachew – one of the other missionaries lent me his pants. So everyone was Ok. The Lord had truly been our Shepherd.
Since 2006, when we first went to Sudan, I have kept reading Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd.” During this whole ordeal this Scripture kept coming back to my mind. “Even though I should walk through the valley of death – You are close beside me” (NLT). “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” “Your goodness will follow me all the days of my life.” These words comforted and strengthened me
In retrospect now, I see that what happened to us is not our power but is a miracle of God. We lost everything in the fire. This included personal money, clothes, computer, camera, cook ware and all our books including those of our children and all my theological books. But even though we lost all these things, God gave us our lives. Their guns (they used large caliber shells) were aimed right at my bed where I had been sleeping. It is a miracle of God that we were not all killed. I believe this is because God has something for me to do before calling me home. I have this belief.
9 Jan 2010