Emerging from Decades of War—Part 1
Story and Photos by Tom Price
Far Reaching Ministries Teaches the Gospel in South Sudan
In Part 1 of this story, we share how Vicky Bentley, wife of Far Reaching Ministries (FRM) founder Wes Bentley, teaches and disciples the women of South Sudan. Click to read Part 2, which describes FRM’s work training chaplains to serve in South Sudan’s military units, preparing them to protect their country and spiritually change it for Jesus Christ.
Vicky Bentley of Far Reaching Ministries (FRM) shares the Gospel with a women’s group in South Sudan, one of 10 she teaches weekly. The women built the church and even baked the bricks themselves.
Women in brightly colored skirts ran out to meet the vehicles bringing missionary Bible teacher Vicky Bentley and the team of translators, guards, and helpers. Welcoming smiles adorned each face as the group greeted their biweekly Bible teacher with native worship songs. Several ladies erupted with high-pitched shrieks of ululation—sounds of joy that pierced the afternoon calm. Waving branches of leaves, they danced as they led the group into their newly built church.
“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” they cried to Jesus, each woman singing and clapping; babies carried on their backs bounced about unfazed, a drum pounding out in a frantic pace. The songs and joyful celebrations continued for 20 minutes. The translator commented, “We are giving thanks to God for bringing you here to us.” Vicky thanked them warmly and encouraged the ladies as she settled down to her teaching task.
South Sudanese women joyously welcome Vicky Bentley as they worship God. Vicky is the wife of FRM founder and Calvary Chapel Pastor Wes Bentley.
“Remember in our last lesson, how Jesus rejoiced in His Spirit?” Vicky asked excitedly. “This was the only time in Scripture, my sisters, that it was recorded that Jesus rejoiced.” The women nodded in agreement. Vicky continued, “Jesus thanked His Father that He had revealed the truth of the Gospel; not to the mighty, not to the powerful, not to the rich, not to the kings and famous people, but to the babes, those who were unimportant in the eyes of the world, to those new in their faith. Did you realize that Jesus was talking about you and me?” The room erupted into cries of joy. She shouted over the applause and attempt of the translator to complete Vicky’s words, “They might say we are not important; we don’t have any titles or authority, but Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, rejoices over each of us!” Several startled sleeping infants awoke during the deafening ululation that erupted.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” Luke 10:21a
Vicky went on to explain many key areas of Jesus’ ministry. After an hour, women shared their personal stories of how the Lord had affected their lives since they had been together last. Testimonies were powerful and intimate, telling how families had been bettered and marriages restored.
No one is fazed either by the dirt floor or the chicken walking in front of the pulpit during Vicky’s teaching.
“The fruit is genuine,” Vicky exclaimed later. “It is so powerful to see the Gospel changing lives in these villages.” Several months before, the women’s Bible study had lost the facility for their gathering. They prayed and asked the Lord for His power to construct their own church. Vicky added in amazement, “These women made the bricks and baked each one in the curing ovens.” Mortar was then used as the women put each brick in place. Now, no one seemed fazed that the floor was dirt. Neither did anyone seem to have any concern when a chicken nonchalantly walked in front of the pulpit during the teaching and then exited on its own.
“The women and their families had previously fled the brutal fighting that had engulfed Sudan for decades,” Vicky said. “They have been through so much but yet are filled with so much joy and excitement for God’s Word.” When it was discovered that there were no finances to put a roof on the building, Vicky offered to pay for it through the FRM budget.
Calvary Chapel Bibia’s service time is Sunday from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Its members were refugees from the fighting in South Sudan, which lasted for many years.
The FRM compound, which is only a few miles away from the newly built church, has been bombed several times during the many years of fighting.
Vicky and her husband, Wes Bentley, founder of FRM, share an apartment in the compound during the rare occasions when both are there. “This is home to me,” Vicky added. “I feel that God has called me to share His message of hope to the women in as many villages that the Lord allows us to reach.” Vicky teaches a minimum of 10 Bible studies to women each week, spread over a vast area of tough and often dangerous terrain.
Vicky (far right) enjoys fellowship with women from Nimule, the home of the FRM compound in South Sudan. They meet every week for Bible study and discussion and have grown spiritually in their relationships with Jesus. Vicky shared, “I feel that God has called me to share His message of hope to the women in as many villages that the Lord allows us to reach.”
Coming to Sudan
Vicky traveled to Sudan for the first time in 1998 on a short-term mission trip. “I immediately knew that Sudan was where God wanted me to be!” Vicky remembered. “When I returned to America, I couldn’t get Sudan out of my heart.” She had been working for Sowing Circle, an organization dedicated to African missions, where she used her administrative and accounting expertise to set up nonprofit statuses for ministries. She had petitioned her supervisors to send her to Sudan, but they considered it too dangerous for a woman. Weeks later, a contributing agency which was drilling for safe drinking water there needed to send a technician. The only tech available was female. Vicky convinced her superiors that they shouldn’t send a woman there alone, so Vicky was soon on her way to Africa.
Vicky met Wes Bentley in 1998 in Sudan. He was in the process of resigning from Safe Harbor International to start Far Reaching Ministries to begin training chaplains. Wes needed legal expertise to set up FRM’s nonprofit status. Vicky volunteered to set it up and take care of all the legal aspects. Then Vicky asked Wes, “If I do all of this, can I be FRM’s first missionary?” Wes prayed and agreed that Vicky was indeed called to be a missionary there.
“Wes said Yes ! But I don’t think he was really very happy about taking me on as a missionary at that time,” Vicky confided with a laugh. By 2001, both realized their relationship was more than just to be co-laborers. The couple was married in 2002. She continues to travel with Wes to other lands where FRM has impact. “For Wes and me, South Sudan is where our heart is, as a couple. But Wes has a greater vision for the world,” Vicky said. FRM is in 25 countries. “Wes has a big heart, so he’ll go anywhere.”
Vicky is passionate about discipleship, and the compound in South Sudan feels like home to her. “But I would go anywhere God sends me.” Vicky had just returned from three weeks in a former communist country with Wes as they ministered in churches that FRM had helped build. “Wes and I both have a great passion for the continent of Africa. It feels so largely unreached,” Vicky said. Many Africans have not heard the Gospel or have heard so little, while at the same time they are open. “We are happy to pour our lives out here in South Sudan to raise up a generation of missionaries, who, in turn, will go out and reach the entire continent for Christ.”
Click to learn more about Far Reaching Ministries
Click to read Part 2, which describes FRM’s work training chaplains to serve in South Sudan’s military units, preparing them to protect their country and spiritually change it for Jesus Christ.
Vicky first met her future husband Wes in 1998 in Sudan. Wes, in the process of starting Far Reaching Ministries, needed legal expertise in setting up the ministry’s nonprofit status. Vicky volunteered and then asked if she could become FRM’s first missionary—and Wes agreed. “I immediately knew that Sudan was where God wanted me to be!” she remembered.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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