The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) forever changed my life. My family and I had read the Jesus Freaks books the ministry published along with dc Talk; they raised our level of consciousness, and then it hurt to look at our comfortable churchy lives, compared to those modern-day believers who lived “Outside the Camp.” (The book of Hebrews tells us that’s where the real life takes place.) In the midst of the self-examination and struggle, I met a VOM employee, Petr Jasek, and we became fast friends. The “Light” in his laugh and the sparkle in his eye, even as he spoke of dangers and hardships, told me he had something I didn’t know much about. Petr made me hungry for a taste of life “Outside the Camp.” After more than a year of Petr’s stories, I finally went with him to Darfur, Sudan – in the height of the country’s genocide. He warned me that it wasn’t safe, but if I was serious about helping the world’s most vulnerable women and children, then I could go to listen to their stories.
Once there, I learned two things: First, I discovered why Petr was so insistent that I go: to witness for myself the widespread persecution and oppression. Second, I learned where that “Light” and sparkle that exuded from Petr’s countenance came from: the paradox of Petr’s joy was buried in the soil of his willingness to participate in suffering.
It was from this initial trip, more than a decade ago, that the vision for Make Way Partners was solidified. Meeting thousands of widows and orphans who were barely surviving the persecution, genocide, and slavery oppressing their entire country, we dedicated ourselves to work exclusively where women and children are most vulnerable to this modern-day oppression. Starting literally from ground zero, God has equipped us to build orphanages, schools, churches, and clinics for more than 2,000 orphans, while rescuing thousands more widows from persecution, government-sanctioned rape, and slavery. Many of those women are now employed through Make Way Partners.
Mary Achai is one such lovely testimony. As a young woman, Mary was kidnapped from South Sudan by the Janjaweed militia group, her hands tied to a horse’s tail while being dragged hundreds of miles to Khartoum. Along the way, she was tied up each night and raped by many men. Some of the men took sticks to tear out the womb of the women they raped, telling them, “This is so you cannot make Black Christian babies.” They did not do this to Mary because she was so beautiful; they knew she would bring a high bride-price once they got her to Khartoum. Indeed, Mary did bring a high price to them, even as she paid a high price to live a Christ-like life while suffering daily rape and slavery under her militant Muslim slave master. Over the years, Mary bore him multiple children, and never complained as she and her children (counted as slaves also) worked the fields, drove cattle by day, and slept in the barn at night.
One day, the “real” wife of Mary’s slave master warned that her husband was going to sell Mary’s 10-year-old daughter. He was certain this young beautiful virgin would bring an even higher bride-price than he’d paid for Mary. Although Mary had humbled herself to serve him without complaint, this news of her daughter’s fate drove Mary over the edge. Once everyone in the house was asleep, the terror-stricken mother gathered her children and set out on foot, hoping to find a way across the Sahara Desert in search of their former home.
When the slave master awakened snugly inside his home, he grew angry because he did not catch the scent of his morning chai rising from the barn. He rushed to the barn, assuming Mary had overslept. Instead, he found his barn empty of slaves. He rode out on horseback, chasing Mary and her children.
The power of the slave master’s horse, stoked by hot angry kicks, quickly overcame Mary, who ran as best she could while carrying a nursing baby and toddler, with her 10-year-old daughter in tow. She hid with her children in a small desert bush while he fired off rounds of ammunition from his AK-47 rifle. In the end, he decided she needed to suffer more than a quick death by bullet, so he set the bush on fire with Mary and her children inside. Satisfied they were dead, the slave master rode home.
Mary survived, however, and painfully crawled out of the fiery bush. She pulled her nursing baby and toddler out. Sadly, her daughter had already died in the fire. Mary lay on the desert ground passing in and out of consciousness for some days, too badly burned to move. Finally her sons – whom she had sent off in another direction, knowing they would have a better chance of survival – circled back around with a man whom they begged for help.
Both babies died in those days of waiting beside the burning bush under the flaming Sahara sun. Mary’s sons carried her all the way back to their village. In the weeks to come, her eldest son heard two local men sharing Mary’s story and shaking their heads sadly. One said, “They should take her to those Christians who built that orphanage, school, and clinic; they’ll help anyone!” The young boy’s ears perked, and he wasted no time finding Make Way Partners and bringing Mary to us.
By the grace of God and the financial gifts of many people, we were able to medevac Mary to Kenya where she underwent complete reconstructive surgery. Today, more than a decade later, she continues to serve faithfully at the same orphanage, school, and clinic where she sought refuge. Mary is a living example of God’s love as she walks side by side many other women who suffer similar horrors. For more of Mary and her friend’s amazing stories of faith and redemption, read my book: Passport through Darkness.
After more than a decade of service in Sudan and South Sudan, I have suffered multiple physical attacks; survived months of bombing; and faced many dark, lonely nights in the desert. Still, I have only but a taste of what these women and children are forced to suffer every day of their lives. That taste, however, opens pathways for me to understand how they feel, as well as gain an insider’s knowledge of what it takes to sustain – and ultimately heal – their hearts and bodies, for it requires the same to heal mine.
It was VOM who originally introduced me to both the suffering and joy of serving in Sudan and South Sudan so many years ago, and now it seems God has brought us full circle. I am both deeply honored and greatly hopeful to announce our new partnership with VOM Canada. This exciting new partnership will allow our Canadian partners to more easily help with the “One Orphan, One Widow at a Time” project through the joint efforts of VOM Canada and the ministry of Make Way Partners.
In June 2018, VOM Canada will host a multi-Province speaking tour – including Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan where I will share more about life “Outside the Camp” and how you can help through this “One Orphan, One Widow at a Time” life-saving ministry. If you’d like to invite me to your church or community while I am in Canada, please contact us today!
Important Note for Canadian Partners: the name of this life-saving partnership between VOM Canada and Make Way Partners is: “One Orphan, One Widow at a Time”. In order for your funds to reach these widows and orphans and for Canadian citizens to receive a tax credit, your donations will need to go to VOM Canada and must be designated on your check or noted online specifically for “One Orphan, One Widow at a Time”.
- Mail checks to: The Voice of the Martyrs, P.O. Box 608, Streetsville, Ontario L5M 2C1, Canada, and designate for: “Make Way Partners: One Orphan, One Widow at a Time”
- Donate online at: https://www.vomcanada.com/donate/donate2.html and designate for: “Make Way Partners”