Heartbreak and Hope for Hannan

HannanI have spoken before of Make Way Partners and our sister Kimberly Smith and recommended them as a worthy ministry to support. But this recent letter about a girl named Hannan in Sudan (who Kimberly met on a recent trip), touched me on multiple levels. One, the plight of children; two, the hope in the hearts of many of these same children; and three, the concerted efforts of Christians all over the globe to help such children. And finally, the frustrating, nonsensical and evil hindrances to delivering children that are faced daily by those working to deliver them. So I ask you to pray for this precious girl Hannan, to pray for Kimberly Smith, to pray for millions of children like Hannan, and thousands of faithful believers like Kimberly who are devoted to rescuing those children.

I appreciate Kimberly’s honest words, “Once upon a time, I believed anything was possible if I just tried hard enough, fought long enough, and trusted God. Not anymore. That Kimberly is dead. The nails of the promised death birthed from the sin of the Garden of Eden have crucified her. Today, all I know to do is cry out for the power of the Resurrection. I failed to save Hannan. By God’s might, I pray she’ll be delivered soon.  My steps are those of a dead woman, who can now only wait for the resurrecting breath of Christ.”

But read the whole letter, because you’ll see this recognition does not stop Kimberly from working hard to deliver the needy. On the contrary, it motivates and empowers her all the more. And the letter is not entirely despairing, There is hope in it; a hope not centered on ourselves but on God. I’ve also included the most recent update Kimberly sent about Hannan’s situation. Praise God, there has been good news for this precious girl since Kimberly sent her original letter, but we must remember that there are countless other orphans in Sudan who continue to face heartbreaking circumstances. (Just this past week there was machine gun fire near one of the Make Way Partners orphanages and local bandits attempted to storm their gates; see Kimberly’s blog for the latest.)

Please do pray for Hannan and Kimberly and the children of Sudan, but also ask yourself this question, as I am asking myself right now: “What more can I do—whether liquidating assets, downsizing, eliminating more of my recreational spending—to make my own smaller sacrifice to free up significant funds that I could send to become a greater partner in supporting Kimberly and Make Way Partners or one of the many worthy like-minded ministries doing Christ’s work?

We are committed to give more. Will you join us?

Dear Friends,

After first landing at the wrong airstrip [in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan], where Arabs had recently shot down five planes, we finally landed at the right air strip and found our waiting team. We spent the next several hours jostling across treacherous terrain, navigating flash floods and swelling rivers until we finally made base camp.

Once we were set up we found a beautiful orphan girl, Hannan, at our camp. She’d been attending the only high school in her area, but now the school is closed due to the bombing. Hannan is heartbroken not only because she wants to complete high school so that one day she can help younger orphans, but also because the immediate consequence is she has no place to live.

Children hiding under rocksThousands of children have fled their villages, and are hiding in the mountains. When the bomber planes fly over, they hide under the rocks.

Although she barely knew us, Hannan begged us to take her with us when we left. She’d heard about Lual Atak’s great work at New Life Ministry (NLM), and wanted to go there. However, we have no secondary school at New Life, or in that entire region.

We called Romano at our Hope for Sudan (HFS) orphanage. While we do not have a secondary school there either, there is one in our community. We asked Romano if Hannan could live at Hope for Sudan and go to the local school if we paid her school fees.

Romano was excited and assured us that he would provide not only a safe home for Hannan, but that she could also work one-on-one with our teachers and orphan-care providers, who would help train Hannan toward her long-term dream of working with other orphans.

Hannan was so excited, she tied up her one little bag and was ready to move hundreds of miles across country within five minutes. Her tattered bag and expectant smile reminded me of story-book pictures I’d seen as a child of Little Red Riding Hood with her hobo stick propped across her shoulder dangling her one polka dot knapsack of earthly belongings as she set out on a new adventure.

A local contact worked behind the scenes with officials to make sure we followed protocol for taking Hannan from the Nuba Mountains (which the Arab government of Sudan claims is still in the north of Sudan) to Barh al Gahzal (home of NLM, which is now a different country, the new Republic of Sudan) for a visit with us, and then onto Eastern Equatoria (home of HFS). We were assured all would be well.

After much good work, both running a medical clinic under the trees and seeking an indigenous director for the region, the morning came for us to leave the Nuba Mountains. We set out before sunup to drive several hours back to our dirt airstrip. Heavy rains had fallen the night before so we doubted our plane could land, but we were unsuccessful in making satellite-phone connection with either our pilot or a contact person at the airstrip, so we set out in doused hope.

The rains had made such a mess of our jungle-covered roads, we had to climb out of our vehicle and trudge through muddy passages sinking above our ankles into what is called black-cotton mud before we finally reached our unlandable airstrip. (Click here for video.)

We waited. And we waited some more. Helicopters flew over us, driving us to take cover in the bush and breaking up the monotony of slow crawling time, until we finally made contact with our pilot. His message wasn’t a happy one, “Too much rain last night. No plane today.”

After nearly eight hours of bone-jarring driving and trekking through foot-sucking mud only to end up in the exact same point we had begun before sunup, Hannan kept great spirits. She quietly prayed that the rains would hold off during the night, and she could head to her new school in the morning.

Late that night, our pilot told us they were working on coordinates for a different airstrip, hopefully one with a more rocky base. He would confirm with us before sunup the following morning.

The predawn call brought great news! Our pilot was on his way and the airstrip was much closer than the one they’d sent us to the day before. It was on a mountain top, and reportedly no rain had fallen on it the night before.

Little Red Riding Hannan was the first to climb in our Land Rover, knapsack in tow. There is no fuel in the Nuba Mountains, so we had brought our own drum of diesel. After stopping once to hand pump some into our guzzler, we made a straight ascent up the mountain.

A clear sky and light breeze made the lush green plateau of our mountain the perfect place to land. It seemed smooth sailing from there. We’d all be on our way to NLM within the hour.

Dr. Karen and Hannan chatted under a shade tree while I strolled along the sprawling flattop. Lual Atak and Matt spoke with military leaders guarding the landing strip. While we all admitted that we each had one ear set for the promised propeller, the unacknowledged ear tuned in for the drone of a bomber plane that might find us in waiting.

A uniformed man broke bad news to Lual Atak, “I cannot let the orphan girl go with you. A new ordinance has been declared, and no one from the region is allowed to leave because so many have run from the war that we have no one left to fight the Arabs. So, my friend—that Commander over there—will take her seat on your plane.”

Hannah on the airstripHonestly, I could write an entire book about what went on over the next hour. Lual Atak, Matt, and I all interceded on behalf of Hannan. It was a weighty battle with Hannan crying on the sidelines while Dr. Karen comforted Hannan with the only thing she had to offer—aching, love-soaked prayer.

Of course, it is pure insanity to think that a little orphan girl can’t leave the region to be placed in a safe home with loving care, healthy food, and the provision of education because an army has passed a decree to keep enough bodies on the front line to ward off an enemy.

Truth that may elude an army, but is simple reality to the oppressed, is that hunger, thirst, disease, homelessness, and being deprived an education are all well-armed enemies against children, especially the orphan.

Finally the uniformed man committed to Lual Atak that he would personally ensure Hannan would get the appropriate permission to follow us in a few days, but we needed to give the Commander her seat on our chartered plane.

An hour earlier I couldn’t dream of many other sounds more lovely to me than the putter of our winged Caravan approaching our mountaintop airstrip, but more than the winds had shifted in the past sixty minutes. Now, the noise was as beautiful as the thud of nails being pounded into a coffin.

I knew I’d have to leave Hannan behind. My only solace was that Lual Atak never forgets a promise, and he committed to do whatever it took to rescue Hannan.

With the uniformed man barking orders to board the plane before the Arabs realized it was on the ground, we tore ourselves away from Hannan. I can’t quite describe the despair of leaving behind a helpless orphan on a dirt airstrip with a handful of machine gun-clad men who begrudged her a seat to freedom.

I will never know if I did the “right” thing... So many more orphans waited for us at our next destination. We’d created a stir by questioning the uniformed man; he—and his many soldiers—were angry with us for daring to stand up for Hannan. We’d clearly lost the battle, for the day. Would Lual Atak be able to get her out later, or were the uniformed man’s words nothing more than a lie to lure us on the plane? Should we have just turned our eyes away from the injustice of it all? Did we cause Hannan to be hurt after we left?

Once upon a time, I wanted to do good. Once upon I time, I thought my life could make a difference. Once upon a time, I believed anything was possible if I just tried hard enough, fought long enough, and trusted God.

Not anymore. That Kimberly is dead. The nails of the promised death birthed from the sin of the Garden of Eden have crucified her.

Today, all I know to do is cry out for the power of the Resurrection. I failed to save Hannan. By God’s might, I pray she’ll be delivered soon.  My steps are those of a dead woman, who can now only wait for the resurrecting breath of Christ.

What can we do in such a dark time for a helpless child some ten-thousand miles away?

Pray for Lual Atak as he is trying to get her on the next plane, headed to a safe home, loving care, and a bright education at Hope for Sudan.  And, pray for Hannan to not lose heart.

I will let you know as soon as I know anything.

Kimberly Smith

Update on Hannan

Praise God, Kimberly received word on September 28 that “Hannan made it safely by plane to Juba! Her caretaker has met her, and tomorrow they will travel by road to her new home at Hope for Sudan.”

She asks that you continue to pray for Hannan as she settles into her new home, meets many new faces, and soon will start in a new high school.

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over fifty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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