Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier
I first met John Deng in 2003, while leading our first medical team to Akot, South Sudan. We were helping an American missionary start churches by holding bush clinics in communities around Akot. John was the first of several young men being trained to tell Bible stories which would lead to church plants. John and the other young men acted as the translators for the doctors and nurses. John shared his story with me about how he had become a follower of Christ. He had served as a soldier in the South Sudanese army fighting against the Northern Sudanese in a civil war that had lasted many years. John had met the same American missionary, who introduced him to Christ. After praying, he requested to be discharged from the army. John said everyone considered it a miracle that his commander understood that John wanted to become a church leader and not have to fight anymore. He was allowed to leave.
A few years later John came to visit me while I was working at the newly built hospital. A disarmament of civilians by the government soldiers had become very violent, and the hospital was under threat of attack. Mustard Seed International Hospital was accepting and treating wounded soldiers as well as wounded civilians. John offered to guard the hospital, as he was allowed to be armed. When I asked how that was possible, since the other civilians had been disarmed. He said, “once you are a soldier, you are always a soldier.”
After Living Water CT opened two primary schools in Akot, John was hired as a school nurse. He had received some limited medical training while he was in the military. His job performance proved to be acceptable, but he was frequently absent. On one occasion he was missing for over a month, without informing anyone of his whereabouts.
John’s oldest son, Machiek (name means deformity in Dinka), had a cleft lip. We had made arrangements to fly him to Juba for surgery. These plans had to be cancelled due to John’s disappearance.
I learned later that John had a problem with alcohol. He did eventually return to work and was very remorseful about his actions. He returned to work for LWCT and had no further problems.
The following year we were able to schedule Machiek for surgery at Samaritan’s Purse annual cleft clinic again. John accompanied his son to Juba. After the successful cleft repair surgery Machiek’s name was changed to Jacob. John rededicated his life and became a soldier for Christ. He became a model employee. I received so many reports from parents and staff about how compassionate he was, and that he went far beyond his job description to care for the children and staff’s health needs, making follow up home and hospital visits.
Two years ago John’s wife passed away, leaving John with 6 children to care for. Without a wife to haul water, prepare food, etc, a family cannot survive. John quickly had to find another wife. He married a young lady named Atheen Makur.
The last time I saw John he looked unhealthy. I requested that he be taken for a medical exam. On April 22 I received word that John has passed away in a hospital in Rumbek, the state capital.
Young Atheen now has 7 children to care for, and she is pregnant. She and the children have left Akot to live with her mother in Paloch.
This situation breaks my heart, but I reassured that John died as a soldier of the cross and he is victorious over his enemy.
Please honor this loving father by praying for his widow and his 8 children.
Your Sister in Christ,
“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” Psalm 146:9