The morning after Sudanese Air Force bombers struck his village in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, Pastor Morris prepared to go to jail.
The pastor had done nothing wrong. He was going by choice, in obedience to Christ’s command to “love your enemies.” For him, that meant packing soap, food, clothes and shoes to give to Muslim prisoners of war who served the same government that had bombed his village the previous night.
The Sudanese government has reportedly dropped more than 3,700 bombs on civilian targets since April 2012 as part of its campaign against Nuba rebels. Many have questioned the pastor’s actions, including his son. For him, forgiveness of these atrocities is unthinkable.
“Are not these the people who are bombing us with the airplane and killing our people?” his son asked him as he packed. “Why are you taking these food items to them to survive when they are killing us?”
“I tell him, ‘My son, this is because Jesus says we have to love our enemies,’” Morris recalled. “‘Even if they are killing us, we have to love them. Because of that love — because of the command of Jesus — this is why I am now prepared to go and visit them.’”
The visits are bearing fruit. Hearts are changing. Even in jail, the prisoners are finding freedom.
“This made a big difference when we visit them,” Morris said. “The prisoners ask me, ‘Pastor could you come again and share what you are sharing with us because we have never heard about these things before?’”
A challenging love
Morris attended a Muslim school for six years as a young boy, and he remembers seeing hate’s influence on people’s hearts even then.
He and fellow students were forced to memorise long passages of the Koran, and they were beaten if they didn’t recite them in proper, classical Arabic. One day, some Christian friends invited him to their church. Out of curiosity, he joined them. Morris was moved by the message of salvation and noticed a peace among the Christians that he hadn’t seen among Muslims. This inspired him to follow Jesus.
After returning to school, his teachers learned of his conversion and began harassing him. Morris saw how Muslims treated people of other faiths, witnessing forced conversions brought about through bribery, fear and threats.
He saw something very different among Christians — love, freedom and peace.
“The same love that I found, that I experienced and saw in the Christians, was the one that motivated me,” he said.
“God put something in my heart that said, ‘Morris, you can go and share the Gospel with these friends of Muslims who have hated you. Share the Gospel with them and bring some of them to Jesus,’” he said.
Loving his enemies isn’t easy for Morris, especially when he sees the effects of their violence on “the least of these” in his community.
“Sometimes when you find a young one who died, the infant ones — the ones who don’t have any reason to participate in this war or even know what is happening — they die and you really feel sorrow,” he said. “I am very troubled, actually.”
To stay grounded in his faith, Morris incorporates prayer and the Scriptures into his daily life. He leans on God to get through the stress and fear that come with his ministry. This also helps him follow Christ’s command to love his enemies.
“In the morning, I will wake up and have a prayer and also read the Bible so I can get the strength for the day,” he said. “I also remember some verses and get them in my mind and also pray as I live and go, because I know that there is trouble. I remember verses, remember the life of Jesus and try to hold onto Him, because without Him there is nothing you can do.”
A dedicated love
Pastor Morris is one of 30 indigenous pastors that VOM is supporting in the Nuba Mountains. Considered a pillar of his community, he knows everyone by name and cares for them individually.
VOM, which has served in the region for about 20 years, is the main provider of medicine to the Nuba people and assists them in a variety of other ways.
With VOM’s help, Morris shows Christ’s love to not only his community but also his enemies, just as Jesus commanded.
“These people have come … to do evil things to our communities,” he said, “but still we say, ‘We can gather and read to them because of the love of Jesus.’”
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