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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

My Ebenezer Box: Sudan Sam

by Marilynn Chadwick

After the events of 9/11, I felt compelled to pray for a world in trouble. I specifically asked God to break my heart for the things that break his. One by one, he put different nations on my heart for prayer. A few weeks later, after reading about the massive genocide of Christians, I put the Sudan on my list.

In my Ebenezer Box is this excerpt from my journal dated October 11, 2001: Confession: Lord, I have not prayed for the suffering of your people worldwide. My view has been so narrow. The great persecution of your people in the Sudan is staggering. Show me how to pray.

From the moment I wrote down this prayer, I began to stumble on reports about the Sudan everywhere. The situation in their country was staggering. I had committed to pray. But how could I get my arms around such a huge nation? How could the prayers of one person possibly make a difference?

One evening I watched a documentary on the Sudan and was struck by the plight of so many refugees. I was especially burdened by the tragic story of people still wandering in search of their families. I decided I would pray for one specific man and randomly nicknamed him “Sudan Sam.” I prayed that Sudan Sam would be reconnected with his family. From then on, the Sudan wasn’t just a huge nation. It now had a face. I prayed for Sudan Sam, whoever and wherever he was.

Years later, and much to my surprise, a door eventually opened for David and me to travel to the Sudan. While in the Sudan, we grew especially fond of Zaki, our Sudanese interpreter and a member of the Samaritan’s Purse team. A survivor of the brutal war, this joyful man was the son of the very first convert to Christianity in the Nuba Mountain region. His clipped British accent gave a clue to years of schooling in England. He had recently returned to Southern Sudan to oversee Samaritan’s Purse’s church rebuilding efforts. One evening, around an outdoor campfire, Zaki asked how I first became interested in the Sudan. I casually mentioned that I had been praying for the Sudan for seven years and had even nicknamed someone to pray for whom I called “Sudan Sam.”

Zaki looked startled and grew very quiet. He then blurted out, “That’s got to be me! I am Sudan Sam,” he said in amazement. “But I thought your name was Zaki,” I answered. He smiled and said, “Ah, but my full name is Zaki Samwiil” (Arabic for Samuel). My father was also Samuel. There’s even a book about his life called Sam of Sudan!

Zaki and I practically laughed and cried all at the same time as we realized that my prayers for “Sudan Sam” to find his family were probably most intense during the time he was making the difficult transition from England back to his homeland to help his people in the Nuba Mountains. We were amazed that our lives had been connected by a simple nudge from the Holy Spirit to pray for the Sudan, and especially for Sudan Sam.

I reflected on the odds against such an unlikely encounter. For a moment, the world seemed very small. “Zaki,” I said quietly, “can you believe that halfway around the world, God alerted me to pray for you by name before I ever knew you?” At that moment, the love of God for two very different people from very different parts of the world seemed enormous.


Adapted from: Marilynn Chadwick, Sometimes He Whispers, Sometimes He Roars: Learning to Hear the Voice of God (New York: Howard Books, 2012)

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