This Thanksgiving Hymn was written by Rev. Dr. Richard Gibbons from First Presby...
Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship (PFF) helps churches focus on the 2.5 billion people who have no way to learn about God’s love and grace through Jesus. This focus connects us to people in some of the poorest and most oppressive places in the world—such as among the unreached people in Darfur, Sudan.
The region of Darfur is in the western part of Sudan. The people are primarily Muslim. Darfur’s long-standing state of humanitarian crisis and political instability presents obstacles to ministry. Sudanese Christians from outside Darfur labor to help the Fur and other tribes, but the Christians’ efforts are often crippled. When relief organizations delivered food to the major cities in Darfur, Christians sought to get that food into the poor and “unsafe” areas that needed it most. Due to a government mandate, relief organizations are no longer welcome in Darfur, so there is no longer food to distribute. Then Christians began to focus on education, using vans to take children who live in remote villages to school. Because these children move frequently to stay safe, they often can’t be found. PFF has helped churches here partner in all these efforts, primarily through providing funds to support their ministry.
Growth in a Place of Crisis
The good news is that, despite chaos and hardship, the number of house churches in Darfur has grown from six to eighty. The bad news is that there are currently only two ordained pastors. There are amazing opportunities for these Christians to show the love of Jesus through education, and the pastors are also able to serve as teachers. Recently the Christians in Darfur have asked us to help their church provide more pastors. PFF is now raising funds to send Fur church leaders to Gereif Bible School near Khartoum.
Even though Sudan’s other cities have decent schools, its war-torn western region of Darfur has few cities and schools. Because of Darfur’s fragile instability, children rarely get consistent education. Sudan’s state-run schools are Islamic. Children in Darfur do not have access to a quality education, because finding teachers in a region focused on survival is an issue. Fifty years of war has reduced both the priority and the number of people educated enough to teach children. In a larger city in Darfur, like El Fashir, there are some trained teachers, but most do not want to leave their relative stability to teach in the rural and unstable areas.
Education in a Place of Crisis
Here is an example of education, Darfur-style: A man whom I will call “Jacob” was able to begin attending school at six years of age. A year and a half later, his village was bombed and everyone fled. Another two years went by before he was able to return to school. After completing primary school, his family needed him to work. “Jacob,” now grown, has become a church leader in Darfur.
Sudan’s rapid inflation has caused the cost of food and fuel to skyrocket. This impacts the poorest people the most. Gereif Bible School tries to help their students as they can, since most can’t afford both tuition and food. PFF is now helping provide scholarship funds for “Jacob” to attend Gereif Bible School. We also help with room and board since his wife and five children must come with him. There, while studying the Bible and learning pastoral skills, “Jacob” is learning English and other secondary subjects, which weren’t available to him in Darfur. In addition to becoming a pastor, “Jacob” hopes to teach children.
God is at work in places we could never imagine. If you would like to be part of the work in Darfur (or elsewhere), you can reach me at email@example.com.