Empower One’s vision is also to reach the unreached with God’s love, which makes for a perfect partnership with MAF.
‘MAF is so incredible!’ beams Jackson Songa, Director of Operations of evangelism organisation Empower One. ‘I am very grateful that its aircraft came along at the right time for us. How else could we get to dangerous, hard-to-reach places without MAF?’
Empower One sends two teams a month from the USA to work alongside the growing number of Christians in the Rhino Camp refugee settlement.
The teams are active in evangelism, church planting and leadership training – the latter through its pastor training centres.
Furthermore, the teams provide programmes for women ranging from evangelism and poultry farming to soap making and tailoring.
The Gospel under fire
Pastor Banja Benjamin is from Yei in South Sudan – just one refugee among tens of thousands from that town. His testimony is honest and direct.
‘I was lost in the world. I didn’t know Jesus and my life was one of drinking, smoking, fighting and spending my money on prostitutes.
‘But my brother is a Christian and he told me the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery and him going to prison on the false testimony of Potiphar’s wife. That story went straight to my heart and so I gave my life to Jesus in 2007!’
Seven years later, having trained at theological college, Pastor Banja flew with MAF to Yambio in South Sudan on a mission to spread God’s love. But Yambio had become a lethal place for Christians – several who preached the Gospel were tortured and murdered.
When soldiers shot and killed some of his neighbours, the church arranged for an emergency MAF flight to get Pastor Banja to Uganda and safety.
‘I will hear from heaven’
Everything is relative in Rhino Camp. While the refugees who’ve survived the horrors of South Sudan are grateful to be alive, suicide has been a major problem. It will take years for many to overcome the traumatic effects of the civil wars that have torn their lives asunder.
However, Pastor Banja’s arrival in Rhino Camp has sparked a Christian revival among the exiled people of Yei. He helped open the first church in Rhino Camp, preaching that day from 2 Chronicles 7:14.
‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.’
‘People wept,’ Banja recalls, ‘because they knew in their hearts they had to repent and come to Jesus Christ. At first, that church had just a few born-again Christians – now there are 117!’
The Gospel is reaching places it’s never previously been. In 2017, 124 people were baptised while more than 800 people attended youth conferences organised by the churches and co- ordinated by Empower One.
And there are now 12 churches in Rhino Camp.
The refugee evangelist
Dalam Tombor is one of the evangelists responsible for the stunning rise in church attendance. His testimony is, by turns, enthralling, tragic and spectacular.
Dalam was born into a Muslim family in Darfur; his father is an imam at one of the largest mosques in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. In 2013, while farming cattle, he heard gunshots and realised that the war had now reached his neighbourhood.
He fled the fighting to live in the mountains, hiding in the daytime and emerging tentatively at night to drink from streams and eat whatever the trees could provide. He was 13 years old.
Dalam has witnessed mass rape and child killings, lived in a Darfur refugee camp and had village-burning Arabs tell him he would not go to heaven because he was black. His own father beat him for asking why Allah failed to protect so many Muslims from being killed.
He was imprisoned and tortured by government officials and suffered traumatic heart problems causing him to collapse into a three-day coma.
Dalam moved between Egypt, Israel and Uganda in search of a God in whom he could believe, before moving in with his brother in South Sudan two years ago.
In the capital, Juba, he met former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Encouraged by their faith, he prayed to God, ‘Can your way help our people?’ and felt the peace of Christ in his heart.
Empower One enabled him to attend Bible school and he became part of their vision to bring Jesus to around 20 million South Sudanese and Sudanese people yet to hear His name.
He is proud to say that he has brought six people to Christ – so far.
Pilot: Matt Eager
Story: Richard Chambers
Photos: Rebecca Walker