God works incredible miracles and wonders in our lives. That reality permeates Sudanese Pastor Bernard Suwa’s incredible story of overcoming the odds, pushing past suicidal thoughts, and finding Christ.
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Suwa was a “homeless orphan contemplating suicide” by the time he turned 16, according to Premier Christianity. But the outlet noted, “God had other plans.”
Now 66, Suwa has lived a fascinating and, at times, difficult life. He spent his early years in southern Sudan, but became a refugee of the Sudanese Civil War in 1964.
“The first Sudanese Civil War reached our village, so I fled to Uganda with my sister’s family,” he told Premiere. “We began our 22-mile journey on foot, but because the main road was infested with soldiers, we had to access the border another way.”
Suwa continued, “When we crossed the river into Uganda, my brother-in-law put me behind his head, my baby niece was over his shoulder, and his right hand dragged my sister through the raging waters.”
During the journey, Suwa was separated from his parents and had to build a mud hut to survive.
Over time, he described the horrific — and deadly — conditions his family faced.
His father, Patricio, died from an asthma attack when Suwa was only 12, underscoring the horrific circumstances refugees so often encounter.
“The Ugandan authorities had decided that refugees living near the border should be moved to another designated refugee camp. The military went from door to door removing refugees,” he told Mission Aviation Fellowship of Canada. “My dad had severe asthma and was unable to leave, but soldiers still bundled him into a lorry to take him away. He died from an asthma attack.”
His mother, Antida, was later found dead after trying to return home after the war subsided. Her charred remains were found by the family under a bush.
“As she crossed the river from Uganda into Sudan, she fell into the remnants of the military hiding in the bush,” Suwa said. “They caught up with her and did whatever they wanted to do — probably raped her and left her for dead so that she would not tell her story to the world.”
Suwa said the pain and trauma of it all weighed on him, causing depression, sadness, confusion, and other emotions to rage.
“I tried to pick up the pieces of my life,” he said. “I got a free place at secondary school, but with over 500 students, I felt lost in the crowd. With no proper home, I boarded at school during weekends and holidays.”
Suwa soon came to feel as though life wasn’t worth living. But everything changed one day when he was contemplating ending it all.
“One Sunday, when I was wondering how to take my life, I heard a song coming from the nearby chapel,” he said. “When I heard ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, I felt that I was being called, so I left my tree, walked in, and sang with the rest of the students.”
Rather than ending it all, Suwa said this was the start of his new life. He eventually got married, started a family, and moved to Australia.
Over time, he faced additional challenges and lost his marriage, but always came back to his faith.
Suwa returned to Sudan in 2005, after the second civil war concluded, where he founded Grace Community Church, a house of worship that helps equip missionaries to rebuild the war-tattered area.
Read more about his story here.
Suwa serves in South Sudan, a nation formed in 2011. It’s a country that has faced multiple crises over the years, according to watchdog Open Doors.
“South Sudan has endured crisis after crisis since 2013. Many had hoped that tolerance, democracy and human rights would flourish in the majority Christian nation,” Yonas Dembele, a World Watch Research analyst, said in a statement. “However, the clash between the two main ethnic groups (represented by the president and the vice president) led to a civil war that resulted in hatred, death and destruction.”
Continue to pray for South Sudan, Suwa, and all he serves.
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