Michele shares love in the face of fear
By Mike Wiltshire
2007: A Norfolk audience listened in amazement as a 29-year-old woman told of modern-day miracles in war-torn Sudan.
Michele Perry, who is under 4ft 9ins tall and who was born with only one leg, is today a much loved 'mama' to 70 orphaned or abandoned children in one of the toughest areas of a country that has struggled with tribal wars for the last 50 years.
Amid all the challenges, Michele says "we laugh a lot. God takes care of us – I'd be in trouble if He didn't."
Michele's cheerful attitude – despite having faced 23 operations before the age of 13 – helps her cope with a life on crutches, bringing radical "mercy ministries" to a region littered with mines and unexploded bombs.
"I believe I'm one of the most blessed women on the planet – and a most unlikely candidate for the task: a little white girl with one leg!" she says with a smile.
As a Christian, she tells of amazing answers to prayer in Sudan, such as "total physical healings" plus food provision and even "miraculous multiplication" of scarce resources. For example, when supplies of rice, beans and seldom-seen vegetables were exhausted, a vehicle and two tourists arrived through the desert with fresh supplies – even though no tourists visit that troubled area where life expectancy is between 30 and 35 years and few people have ever met a westerner.
Another time, after the children said they longed to play football, along the pot-holed roads came an aid truck with, surprisingly, 20 footballs – plus 20 sports shirts. "Can you use them?" asked the driver.
“The children love soccer,” says Michele, "and even I can kick a ball OK, so don't let the crutches fool you."
Village chiefs had prayed for more than 20 years that "someone would come and bring the light of Jesus" to their devastated areas. Now Michele and her team have been offered 100 acres of land for the "mercy ministry" to one day expand a centre for 1,500 children, whose ages range from seven weeks to 20 years.
"We learn to love in the face of fear," says Michele. "Out of the place of intimate connection with Jesus, blessing flows."
Last Christmas in Sudan, they were able to feed nearly 1,000 people who came to the centre.
Michele's parents were often baffled by their daughter's faith during her teenage years. Having a sharp mind, she qualified at university in the USA in business studies and communications.
Michele admits to being "something of a Christian mystic" and was inspired during a recent visit to the Norwich church that was residence of Lady Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), the religious writer who is considered to be one of the greatest English mystics.
The Sudan work is part of Iris Ministries which serves in 25 countries. Among Norwich churches supporting the work is St Mary Magdalen, Mulbarton, where Michele shared her story.
Michele worked in India for two years, before she felt the call of God to Africa, despite contrary advice from doctors. Her favourite "life verse" from the Bible, is found in 1 John 4:16 which, in the New Life Bible, reads: "God is love. If you live in love, you live by the help of God and God lives in you."
When Michele returned to the Sudan, the children leapt around shouting joyfully, "Mama ja!" (meaning "mama's come) - "I was so, so happy to be home," she said.
Pictured above is Michele Perry in war-torn Sudan.