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Evangelism effort in Sudan hits concerns over Muslim extremists

WASHINGTON (BP)–They managed to gather once, yielding 5,000 decisions for Christ, before the Sudanese government pulled the plug. Members of the All Sudan Council of Churches had invited evangelist Sammy Tippit to Khartoum to hold a series of evangelistic meetings, as well as a pastors’ conference, Oct. 31-Nov. 4. All the necessary permissions and visas had been received from the government.

But following the conclusion of the Oct. 31 outreach, which some 20,000 people attended, government security guards told the Christian leaders if they tried to continue the meetings they would be arrested. Officials explained that permissions were being canceled because Muslim extremists had threatened to attack the stadium if the Christians attempted to carry on.

“Government leaders have investigated the threats thoroughly and believe they are credible and there is a potential for bloodshed at the stadium,” evangelist Sammy Tippit said, according to Crosswalk.com, “so as a safety precaution, they’ve canceled the meetings. But we can be encouraged that in the opening meeting 20,000 people attended and 5,000 people responded to the invitation to receive Christ. Counselors stayed for two hours after the meeting ministering to those who came to receive Christ into their lives.”

The most recent U.S. State Department Report on Religious Freedom, released Oct. 26, states that the government of Sudan continues to restrict the activities of Christians. Non-Muslims are forbidden to proselytize, and “apostasy” is a capital offense. The Sudanese government restricts large religious assemblies, and the treatment of Islam as the state religion contributes to an atmosphere in which non-Muslims are treated as second-class citizens.

“Exacerbated by the civil war, the government and government-supported forces were responsible for intentional bombings of civilian targets, the burning and looting of villages, and the killings, rapes, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of civilians, most of whom were practitioners of traditional indigenous religions or Christians,” reports the State Department.

Although the evangelistic meetings were canceled, the pastors’ conference continued with heightened security. Tippit, of San Antonio, Texas, reported that while all the Christian leaders were disappointed that their freedom of assembly and worship through the evangelistic meetings was halted, they displayed “deep love and joy” in the midst of difficulties.

“These men have been such an inspiration to be around,” Tippit said. “They have gone through so much and continue to face great difficulties.”

Samuel Nyawelo Ador, director of evangelism for the All Sudan Council of Churches, spoke to the group at the close of the Oct. 31 meeting. “They cannot stop us,” he said. “They may be able to stop our meetings, but they cannot stop what God is doing in our country. Our churches are on fire for God. And that fire will continue to burn in our hearts.”

He then turned to Tippit and said, “Don’t be discouraged. The gospel that you have preached has been mightily used of God. Thousands have come to Christ. And now that gospel will be multiplied through these leaders. The leadership of the churches in Sudan is present in this meeting today. Now every church will be set aflame by your message.”

Tippit was initially invited to preach in Khartoum by three Sudanese pastors who attended a conference hosted by Sammy Tippit Ministries (STM) in Cairo, Egypt, last November. The pastors represented the Anglican, Presbyterian and African Inland churches in their nation. After reporting back to their leaders in Sudan and much prayer, the All Sudan Council of Churches in Khartoum, representing all the major Christian denominations, extended a formal invitation to Tippit.

Before agreeing to hold meetings in any part of the world, Tippit’s ministry requests a broad base of churches representing a cross-section of the Christian community to commit to being involved in the meetings and participate in organizing the event. STM also wanted pastors to commit to Operation Andrew, a prayer initiative, spearheaded by pastors, where individual congregation members are each asked to pray for 10 people, by name, who need to know Christ personally.

“When we presented these things to the pastors, they were excited,” Tippit explained. “They’d been looking for a catalyst to bring all the churches together in a unified effort.”

During the planning stages, excitement continued to grow. “This event will bring together all the Christian churches from Catholic to evangelical, charismatic and mainline Protestant,” said Tippit in the weeks leading up to the outreach. “The Sudanese leaders tell us this is the most combined total church organizational experience they’ve had. They were even going to have, for the first time, combined choirs from all the churches leading the worship at the meetings.”

Response from the churches organizing the event had been so great that the Sudanese pastors secured 150 buses to bring people from refugee camps and outlying areas to the stadium.

Before he left for Sudan, Tippit said he believed this was a historic moment in Sudan’s history and that “God was going to do mighty things.” He cited a front-page headline from the Khartoum Monitor, an independent English newspaper, stating that the country’s religious affairs minister was working to curtail religious prejudice in Sudan.

The accompanying article went on to say that “policies were being created which would allow Christians to perform their religious rituals.” At the bottom of the front page was an advertisement on the evangelistic meetings, showing Tippit preaching.

Despite their disappointment in the cancelation of the evangelistic meetings, approximately 400 pastors, evangelists, bishops and other church leaders gathered each day for the pastors’ conference.

Speakers included Tippit, his son Dave Tippit, who heads a discipleship ministry called Ambassadors for Christ, and pastor Greg Williams of New Hope Fellowship in Blairsville, Ga. They were joined by Joseph Karasanyi, STM African coordinator, and a film crew from Brazil.

Tippit said those who responded to the invitation to receive Christ the first night represented a broad base of people from various backgrounds. “I’m thrilled at what God has started here,” he said. “I pray that God will continue to work in reviving the churches so these pastors will be able to feed all these new sheep and capitalize on what God’s doing.”
Chismar is the Religion Today editor for Crosswalk.com. Used by permission.

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  • Janet Chismar