Sudan (MNN) — Frontiers wants to see a Bible translation in progress for every language group in the world, but that’s proving especially difficult when it comes to Sudan. Why? Ken Smith from Frontiers says there are several reasons.
Political and Cultural Division
First of all, Sudan is split geographically and politically.
“Sudan you kind of have to think of as a North and a South,” Smith says. “The North is run by, think of it as Arabic. They fit more into an Egypt to the north kind of mindset. The South? Black African. The government are Arabic in the North, and they’re very oppressive.”
Rising conflict means distrust and division throughout the region. Furthermore, Sudan’s tribal nature means it has more people groups than any other country according to some charts.
“The government now of Sudan has declared that Sudanese Arabic is the national language, and so if you speak a tribal language, and there are dozens and dozens of them there, you’re not supposed to do that. People are surviving by not communicating.”
But when it comes to the Church, the heart of the issue is the distrust caused by rising persecution, especially in the northern part of Sudan.
“Because the government has put spies in many of the churches to find out what’s going on, there’s a lot of mistrust amongst churches, and because of the political situation, a lot of the underground churches don’t share with anybody what’s going on.”
There’s little to no communication within the Sudanese Church, let alone with outsiders. Smith says there are few believers in Sudan, and the few that do live there don’t associate or communicate with one another.
Smith even knows three believers who live in the same small village and have intentionally never met one another.
“They’re unreached for a reason,” he says. “It’s just hard to do work there. Even the people you go into a room with, if you don’t already know each other, people are not going to share.”
As if it wasn’t bad enough within Sudan, Smith says it’s incredibly difficult for Christians to access the country. Believers can’t get into the country as Christian workers, and even if they could, they can’t go tribe to tribe. Local believers say you can’t trust anyone unless you already know them, and a misstep could mean losing your life.
“They assume if I go there today, either ‘Oh, he’s a missionary’ or ‘He’s CIA.’ That’s the way the government will see it until proven differently,” Smith says.
Bringing the Harvest to the Harvesters
The upside of the Sudanese struggle is how much easier it is to reach refugees where they are with the Gospel.
There are two major times in someone’s life when they’re most open to the Gospel,” Smith says. “One’s in trouble, and one’s in transition. If you’re a refugee from Sudan, you’ve got both going on.”
That means believers can reach people in the places they’ve been forced to go to rather than the hostility of the Sudanese situation.
Want to help? You don’t have to go to Sudan because Sudanese refugees are likely coming to your area. Your work could multiply to touch countless people with the Gospel message.
“This is a dangerous prayer, to say ‘God, who will you connect me with? I’m ready. I don’t know what that means, but please open that door to find a felt need of somebody who I haven’t connected with yet.’”
That kind of prayer might put you in places that make you uncomfortable, but Smith thinks that’s what makes it so potent.
“How do we not only help them through the crisis of landing in a new place, but now beyond the relief is the development part of it. How do we help them live here?”
Header photo courtesy of Frontiers USA