by Ryan Peter.
Hennie Keyter is heading off to Sudan in March (11 March – 16 April) – a six week trip that promises to open up a whole new aspect of the Kingdom to those who go along. In short, this is the kind of trip where you’ll see God work in truly miraculous ways. It’s also the kind of trip where you might really die for the Gospel. Here, persecution really means persecution – not just a bad word thrown out in your general direction.
I sat down with Hennie over a cup of coffee, looking to probe his heart and mind on why, and how, he does what he does. Very soon he gets very serious and, in his rather customary way, begins to relate some of his experiences.
“You don’t come to Sudan to do a bit of ministry and stay afterwards for a holiday,” he says. “You can’t come on this trip with a bunch of romantic ideals in your head. If you think the Dakar Rally is hard, think again.”
Already I feel as if I’m nowhere near tough enough for this sort of thing. In earnest I ask Hennie what someone like me can do about that.
“If you don’t feel tough enough, you’re probably not,” he says. “You’ve got to come if God calls you to this. You don’t come because you feel guilty. If God calls you, then you must come.”
Something about that appeals to me as a man – the roughness of it. The stark reality. The fact that I would be walking in the footsteps of the Apostles from the Scriptures. This is living out what Jesus taught in Luke 9, to “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” You just go because you must. Because people are dying without God.
Sixteen days of solid travel, coupled with the knowledge that the base from which Hennie is working from is often ransacked, the fact that your life will probably be in danger, and that you’re going to spend every day in scorching heat in a malaria infested zone. Welcome to Sudan.
Hennie has been working into the country for twelve years. When he first arrived in one area in Sudan he had no idea of the difficulties he would encounter. He discovered that the only form of the Gospel the area had received was from a man called Archibald (possibly Archibald Shaw). That was about 100 years ago in the early 1900’s. No one else had come since then.
“They were offering a white bull to make atonement for their sin,” Hennie says, relating how the form of the Gospel they received had become so distorted. “When we brought them the whole Gospel we made a huge impact. So much so that many Church leaders in Sudan heard of it. And they wanted to kill us.”
And this from Church leaders, of all. It really sounds like something straight out of the Bible. Hearing that, I realise just how few of us really go. It took 100 years for someone to go to the same area! Surely this is the kind of work God greatly rewards. Those that go live up to the scripture of not loving their lives even unto death (Rev 12:11).
Because of the price on Hennie’s head, the President got involved to protect him and his team. This meant that for several years Hennie would go with the military wherever he went with the Gospel. It’s how NCMI got registered in Sudan (and other churches, who had a price on Hennie’s head, got de-registered).
With the change of government in Sudan, Hennie no longer travels with the military. He now has relationships with various pastors in the area who he works with.
“If the world is not your parish then your parish will become the world,” says Hennie. “David Bosch said ‘there is a Church because there is a mission’. The Great Commission is why we’re here.”
As with most of Hennie’s trips into Sudan, this trip will mainly be about getting Bibles to the communities he works with. Last year, 30,000 Bibles were brought in by Hennie and his team. He will be taking two vehicles into the country, which has come at a cost (the diesel alone is in the hundreds of thousands) – and the printing of the Bibles also has a cost.
“But God has provided for the needs of this trip and will continue to provide,” he says. “When you make the decision to go, that’s when you see Him provide.”
Feel called to go?
I ask Hennie what we must do if we want to go along with him.
“First, make sure God is calling you to it. Then make sure your passport is sorted. The day after they get saved, a Christian should sort out their passport,” he says.
It’s also a malaria zone, of course, and Hennie says he and his team will sort all that out for you. There is also a cost which will be decided upon relative to the cost of the trip.
For more details, chat to your church’s elders first about the trip. They can put you in contact with Hennie’s team.
Hennie was at EQUIP last year and was interviewed in one of the sessions. Read that interview here or download the mp3.