"It started with seeing a photo"
A little girl's terror turned Kilian's life upside down. Now his humanitarian aid organization is devoted to helping her people. Back in 2007, Tom Kilian was Googling the word "humanitarian" and came across Mia Farrow's photo of a little girl in Darfur (a region in western Sudan on the African continent). She was running from a man trying to kill her. The photo affected him deeply. He printed the picture and began to pray for her.
It was the beginning of a journey that would take him to South Sudan over and over, negotiating with the militia, building camaraderie with tribal chiefs, overcoming his squeamishness about blood to provide health care to those in desperate need, building churches and a school, and so much more.
In 2008, after learning more about the genocide in Darfur, Kilian put together an art exhibit to raise awareness. In early 2010, Kilian traveled to Darfur to work as an educator at an orphanage for displaced children. A few months later, he came to believe that the mantra of many humanitarian aid organizations was that "Education is the answer." To Kilian, this mantra was not true; people needed basic assistance in housing, healthcare, and spirituality rather than education alone. Kilian went back to North Carolina and founded MERCY PARTNERS, a humanitarian aid organization not affiliated with a government but an aid organization alongside the Church to provide lasting change in conflict zones.
"Abdullah saw the worst of humanity"
"My identification tag reads 'Darfur Christian Mission' [Now MERCY PARTNERS]. The organization's purpose is to 'Provide relief for those that have seen the worst of humanity.' So the night Abdullah shared his story, DCM had become an active solution to his need. Abdullah's lungs searched for air as he told me of being the sole survivor of his family. In 2003, his unborn sibling had been carved from his mother's womb, his sister vaginally mutilated to death with the barrel of a gun, and his father executed. He survived after his throat was slashed and left for dead. These atrocities are all too common by the hired militia, the Janjaweed (Arabic for "Devils on horseback"). Abdullah's trachea bypass had gone unmonitored for seven years." - Tom Kilian
After prayer, MERCY PARTNERS wrote a promissory note to the surgeon for the operation's cost and arranged transportation for a replacement surgery.
"William's letter to you and the world"
William D., a sixteen-year-old, Darfuris boy, pressed this letter in my hand the night before my departure. He fully knew I was the only link to YOU. It is my privilege to share his letter with you...
"I would like to tell you more about my background and people of the world to hear these. I will start when
I was small, not even knowing how to crawl on knees. We were three in number, grandmother, me, and my aunt. That is when the ▉[enemy] came to kill and watch by force. My grandmother was the one who took care of me and ran with me when there was fighting. My father was killed in that year the ▉[enemy] decided to kill me; my grandmother and aunt agreed to die for us but father was forced to carry a box of guns to war, and when they reached destination, he was shot dead, as some others that were slaves with him told us of his death. When my grandmother and aunt heard the account, they cried and shouted, shouted. My aunt was married by other people who had conflict among themselves and quarreled because they had not known Jesus. When they were sleeping, the ▉[enemy] came and burned their house; there my aunt died because of the fire. Then I was about six years old, and my grandmother had no power to care for me, so I took to the bush to collect firewood for others so I would have food to eat with my grandmother. Sometimes I would go to the bush with the big people and hunt for animals to get meat to eat. In 2001, my grandmother took on disease, and in great pain, she told me to get away. In 2003, an evangelist had made an announcement of meat. Later, I became a member of the Christians, thanks to the Evangelists in the world and missionaries at work. I would like to be with you in the future; I feel pity when I see disease and killings. We need help, prayers, and the support of the people in the world. Without you, we have no medicine. Thank you for your partnership in helping the ministry."
"Children have been sacrificed by men fighting"
Raymond T., age 11, shared about the woes of war. "Children have been sacrificed in my village of Gudele by men fighting for the chair of the president." Raymond, now with tears, states "If you want to be the president then you work and wait but know you have killed, what kind of president is that?" Later that evening, Raymond took cover after shots were fired in his village. One boy his age when losing his brother in the war and exclaiming to his attackers "Just kill me now, so I can be with my brother in heaven - It will be better than here." The candor of such a statement is sincere and sobering. MERCY PARTNERS has responded to the need of these boys by providing the safety of the school, church, and the provisions collected through the “Orphan Care" project which helps endangered children like many friends of Raymond.
"They would come and rape the women
and pillage the villages"
Paul D. and our colleague Peter R. are from different nations but the same tribe of Nuer, from different wombs but the same family. They share the same heritage as brothers and having the same grandfathers. Paul D. shared, "Our grandfathers decided to reorganize themselves in Pagok (South Sudan) and Lare (Ethiopia). When the Arab Janjaweed (Devils on Horseback) came and cut the breasts off the women, it was bad times. To this day, the Janjaweed are in the Upper Nile, and you will even find them here in Pagok and Lare."
Peter R. reported a similar account when "the Sundanese People's Liberation Army (traditionally ▉[enemy tribesmen]) would come and rape the women and pillage the villages of Upper Nile... Nuer country." The Nuer have a series of parallel scars around the entire skull to differentiate them from other tribes. The ▉[enemy tribesmen] have intersecting chevrons. These scarifications happen as a rite of passage.
MERCY PARTNERS' team has seen with our own eyes tribe against tribe. We witness different tolerances, beliefs, and mindsets from each, yet when Christ comes, the differences vanish after all; we are the King's children. Paul D. tells us, "before we die, we will see the church without walls..." What Paul is referring to is a time that there will be true unity among Christians in the Sudans and Ethiopia based on the worship of God in Spirit and Truth. Paul's dream of "the Church without walls" has been spurred on by MERCY PARTNERS' teaching. Unity is never found in tribal markings, nationality, pigmentation, creed, nor the will of man. Unity can only be had when we sacrifice our own "mark" for the image of Christ.
"women, along with their children, incarcerated for not entering a forced arranged marriage"
MERCY PARTNERS entered Juba Prison four times in 2011 to meet with women prisoners and document human rights violations of children and infants in prison along with their mothers, as well as the women incarcerated for not entering a forced arranged marriage. In the general male population, we preach and pray for the innocent to be released. On one occasion, five men became released the next day. We are told that we are the first of European descent ever to have entered a prison in Sudan, and we have been granted access to all prisons throughout South Sudan, unchallenged, and we are able to carry cameras.
"babies to be killed according to traditional belief"
In 2013 Director of MERCY PARTNERS, Tom Kilian, met with the Republic of Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission's Chief Commissioner and Ambassador, Teruneh Zenna, in Gambella, Ethiopia (pictured above). The discussion topic centered on the need for people of traditional belief to embrace the love of the Creator, an act that requires us to view each life as sacred. In the particular region where they met, tribal decisions to kill children in the Omo River Valley is straightforward. The sacrifice of one infant for the good of the entire tribe is a rite that some elders witness hundreds of times throughout their lives. There is no other reality. Ambassador Teruneh shared, "Bad health of a baby is to determine if the top teeth come in before his bottom teeth, the baby boy is cursed and will need to be killed according to traditional belief."
When Tom asked what Mercy Partners could do to provide help to the Human Rights Commission, the Ambassador's reply was simple.
"Non Governmental Organizations and Missionaries are positioned in the city centers and urban areas, but not many are found elsewhere."
Tom responded, "You mean nothing practical is done in the bush?" The Ambassador sadly nodded and said, "185 children have been killed this year, some tossed in the river."
MERCY PARTNERS is penetrating remote areas with the Good News of Jesus, places of no roads, electricity, or safe water, literally, the ends of the earth.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR...
Thomas Kilian III, as Director of Communication, has personal relationships with our Global Partners having traveled to most of our mission points. He is degreed with a Bachelors of Science in the school professional studies, with high honor, majoring in biblical studies, general ministries, and biblical exposition. He's an ordained Evangelist and is the author of the forthcoming book Start being, Stop Doing (www.startbeing.today).