Jan. 15, 2010
I remember when NBC would annually air the Christmas special Amahl and the Night Visitors. It was ages ago, but my parents loved the Hallmark Hall of Fame. This beautiful story of faith and hope was the first opera ever composed especially for the new medium of television. We watched those Christmas specials every year when I was growing up.
Half a century later, I sat next to Amalthe first man I ever met to bear that name. Amal is one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. And Amals visitors were not Wise Men searching for the Christ child that they might worship Him. My friend Amal gave his testimony to my Mens Bible Study last Saturday. Amals visitors came by day. And they sought to kill eight-year old Amal and all his fellow village boys who were tending their cattle herds in rural Sudan.
The day visitors were soldiers of the National Islamic Front (NIF), the cruel jihadist government of Sudan. Amal had never heard the sound of a rifle before. The first time he ever heard a shot from an AK-47, it was pointed at him.
Amal spoke quietly, almost in a monotone, in perfect Oxford English, to a group of ten of us men. His voice indicated no fear, no excitement. Only his expressive hands conveyed the drama of his words. With dozens of other little boys, Amal began to run. His group could not go back to their village. It had been overrun by the jihadi soldiers. They were killing boys and capturing girls. The girls would be taken into slavery, used as concubines. The boys were being slaughtered because they might grow up and become warriors against the NIF.
All of this took place near the headwaters of the Nile River. We have heard before about wicked rulers who ordered the killing of the little boys. Three thousand years earlier, a child named Moses had to be hidden in the bull rushes of that very same Nile.
Amal said he and his fellow Lost Boys ranfor years. They were going East, seeking refuge in a place they thought safeEthiopia. It was in a refugee camp that Amal first heard of Jesus and gave his heart to the gentle Savior, the one who said Suffer the Children come unto me.
In that Scripture passage, in the King James Version, suffer means let, or permit. But hearing Amals testimony, one cant help think that in the case of the Lost Boys, suffering is suffering in every sense of the word.
Amals journey lasted more than a decade. His story included horrors of lions grabbing his playmates and dragging them into the bushes by night. Once, when government soldiers caught a large band of escaping boys by a river, they charged into them, swinging swords. The boys broke and ran to the river. It was infested with crocodiles. Many of these boys couldnt even swim, but they took their chances with the raging waters and these voracious reptilesrather than face the jihadists. Man is wolf to man, they say. Or some men are, at least.
Amal would eventually come to America. Christians would sponsor him and help him.
Amal now lives in a group home with four other young Sudanese Christians in Annapolis. Amal has become a naturalized American citizen. He has completed his AA degree from Anne Arundel Community College and his BA degree from the University of Maryland.
When I heard him, he had just come off a 16-hour shift at Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he works and where our Mens Bible Study meets Saturdays. Perhaps that is why we had to lean forward and strain to hear his every word. But what a testimony!
Amals story is not from 3,000 years ago. His is a timeless story of today. These horrors are happening right nowto Christians around the world. Listening to Amal, I could certainly agree with Brit Hume: If you mention Jesus Christ, all hell breaks loose.
But we know that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.