Pastor Stephen lay asleep at home after a day of open air evangelistic ministry in one of the slums of Darfur, a mainly Muslim area of Sudan. He had prayed with 56 new believers who made the decision that day, 1st March, to leave Islam and follow Christ.
Soon after 1.00 in the morning six Muslim extremists, their faces masked and carrying machetes, broke into the family home, rousing Stephen, his wife and daughters. They asked Stephen why he had continued to preach about Jesus although they had warned him several times to stop. Stephen’s answer was simply to tell them about the Lord.
The furious intruders kicked him, beat him and tried to force him to have sexual relations with his two daughters, aged 21 and 24, but Stephen refused. Then the Islamists tied up the whole family with ropes and began to chop off their limbs until they died. The daughters, Rachel and Priscilla, were the first to be butchered, and then their mother, Beatrice. Stephen saw it all, and sang throughout “Hallelujah Hosanna”, a song much loved in the churches of Darfur. Finally he was beheaded and his hands and legs cut off. All this was seen by another member of the household who had managed to hide in the roof and thus survived.
The six killers then moved on to the church building, a large but temporary structure in which 130 Christians, mostly women with their children, slept every night. All of them were converts from Islam who had been rejected by their Muslim husbands and had nowhere else to live. Sprinkling petrol first, the Islamists set fire to the building, which was burnt to the ground. Many of the converts inside were injured and dozens were hospitalised, but by the grace of God none died.
At the funeral of Pastor Stephen and his family, a Ugandan pastor preached a powerful message that led to another 214 people giving their lives to the Lord Jesus.
Cold, sick and dying
The converts now sleep in the open air, despite cold and heavy rain. Disease has set in and six children have died.
There is an urgent need for blankets, warm clothes and proper housing.
The Christians have already started to rebuild their church, not least to provide shelter for the homeless converts. This time it will be a permanent structure which cannot be so easily burnt down. The Sudanese Church community is very poor and they have asked for funds to buy roofing materials, including iron sheets, timber and nails.
Mass baptism on Good Friday
While the physical church building is being constructed by God’s people, the Lord Himself is building the Body of Christ. “The killing of Pastor Stephen made the Darfur Church grow very fast,” said a Sudanese church leader, “There are 468 new members in the church; that makes a total of 1,368 members. We are planning for a massive baptism on the day of Good Friday.”
Christ who died to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)
Tomorrow, Good Friday, Christians in Sudan and around the world will focus their thoughts and prayers on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, as He died in agony on the cross at Calvary, to save us from our sins.
Tomorrow, Good Friday, 468 new believers, who have come to Christ in the last four weeks as a result of the death of Pastor Stephen, will be baptised in Darfur. By publicly declaring their faith like this, they risk rejection, violence and martyrdom at the hands of their families and the Muslim community.
Tomorrow, Good Friday, more than 120 homeless Darfur Christians will spend yet another cold, wet night under the trees, some of them mourning the recent deaths of their children.
“Stephen, together with his wife and family, went to the Lord in great pain,” wrote a Sudanese church leader. “They were cut in pieces as though they were cows,” said the Ugandan pastor who preached the funeral message.
Stephen’s courageous faith has brought many to a personal relationship with his Saviour. His death has resulted in new life for others. Good Friday gave way to Easter Sunday with the joy, hope and new life of the Resurrection.
Barnabas Fund is helping
Barnabas Fund has sent help for Stephen’s church members from our East Africa Hope project. Their immediate needs are clothes, blankets and a roof for their new church building. There are also medical and other needs.
Donate now to help these and other brave and faithful suffering Christians in East Africa.
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