Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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Justin and Amy Culp: Reaching the Lopit People of South Sudan

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“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…” – Revelation 7:9

From 2010-2011, Justin spent over a year in Southern Sudan doing evangelism in some very lost areas, and helping disciple some of the local pastors.  While there, he came face to face with the great need for the gospel in many parts of this new country.  After Justin and Amy got married in 2011, they raised support and went back to South Sudan to work on church planting and discipleship.

Pioneers believes strongly in reaching unreached peoples, church planting movements and a passion for God.  Justin and Amy have been working with Pioneers to start reaching the millions of unreached people in Southern Sudan with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Their goal is to disciple local believers to be strong leaders in their local churches and to start reaching the rest of their own tribes and fellow Sudanese people.  This happens mostly through relationship and Bible Study as we seek to avoid dependency-building “platforms.”

The Lopit people live in and around the Lopa Mountains in South Sudan.  The people group is approximately 76,000 people according to the Joshua Project, with almost no Evangelical Christians.  With no Bible translation and very little church planting activity, their eternal outlook is rather bleak.

Justin and Amy plan to spend however long it takes in Sudan helping bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to these unreached, hopeless people.  We are working in the villages with a few believing people to try and spread the gospel and teach Bible stories to those who are believing.  We believe firmly that the Sudanese church can stand on its own without outside, western aid, and we fully intend to partner with the Sudanese church in a way that will empower the locals, while not being afraid to stay as long as it takes to build real disciples and see a growing, thriving, reproducing church in a tribe without their own Bible. 

Would you be willing to pray and/or financially support us as we follow God’s call in this endeavor? 


Use the link on the right side of the page to donate, or support can be sent to:



Pioneers

c/o Justin and Amy Culp - 111886
10123 William Carey Dr.
Orlando, FL  32832

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

April 25, 2018

Caleb helping lead worship.


               Language Study.  That’s the story of our life right now!  Everyone knows that learning a new language is hard work, but what about learning how to learn a new language?  In the USA we take French, German or Spanish classes in middle and high school, and maybe college, where we learn using printed materials and classroom lessons.  In Lohutok, learning Lopit, there are no printed materials, no classroom lectures, and with a language like this one which is learned and passed on orally, those things wouldn’t even be helpful!  Everybody pronounces things differently, phrases things differently, uses different words for the same object…and when you learn something from one person, everybody you talk to wants to tell you that it’s wrong and you should say it their way! 

               We have a set of material that we’ve decided to use, and are just sticking to that one for now, there are a lot of options out there.  I spend the first half of every day just pointing to things and listening to Michael say the Lopit word, and then switching to him saying things like “Where is the frog?” or “Put the comb under the bench.”  I then respond by pointing to the object he’s asking for or doing the command he’s giving me.  We’re a few weeks into the process and it is working, but sometimes it’s stressful trying to decide what to do each day!

               We had a visitor this month from the USA.  We met a single girl at the Pioneers headquarters who is interested in moving to the village, learning the local language, and doing discipleship/church-planting.  That’s perfect for our team, but we are not using her name or any specific information until we know for sure that she is deciding to come and join us.

               Ezekiel and Caleb have also been working a bit on learning Lopit.  They run around the house and point to things and Teresa or Susanna will say the Lopit word.  Caleb will listen to us doing our language lessons and try repeating what we say.  Keep praying that God would free us from distractions and help us learn to speak the local language well so that we can effectively communicate the gospel!

Thanks!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Caleb was mad that we wouldn't let him play the drum!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

March 29, 2018

 Our visitors from Mississippi went to Lalonga one day and showed the Jesus film.  Most of the people who came were from the church but there were a few new folks there as well.

              We’ve had a busy month!  Many of you who get our emails saw the updates about the pickup.  I was leaving the house one day to go to Torit, and the alternator in our truck was bad, so we tried to pull-start it and somehow ended up with a seized engine!  After a trip to Uganda to get the mechanic and three days breaking in my new shiny workshop, the truck was fixed and we were able to make our scheduled trip to Uganda.  If you didn’t get the details and want them, write me an email and I’ll send them to you.

                Last month I wrote about a visitor we had who helped get a motorbike and grinding mill for Paul and the church in Lalonga.  A week after those visitors left I flew to Juba to meet and escort another team from a church in Mississippi who wanted to come and see what we were doing, help us with some work on our house, and encourage our family.  It was a great week with the team and we even went and showed the Jesus film to the church in Lalonga.

                The week after the team left, I was in the office with Paul working through the last weeks of his first term of Bible School.  I have been going through a Theological Education by Extension course with him, and he just finished the books “Following Jesus” and “New Testament Survey 1.”  At the end of Following Jesus there are a few lessons about evangelism, ways to do it, who should be doing it, and where it can be done.  This went well with the final lessons in New Testament 1 which were about the book of Acts.

                Paul started expressing to me his wish to be doing more outreach, evangelism and discipleship than he is already doing.  He is already as busy as he can be with his family obligations and the work he’s doing through the church, but he sees more needs and feels bad for not meeting them.  I encouraged him that we should be praying that the Lord of the harvest would raise up more workers, and then I told him a story.  In my story, I came to South Sudan at a time when there was a lot of activity going on to try and start churches.  Over the first couple of years most of that work just fell apart.  I came back last year and did mostly building, but there was this one guy (it’s Paul) who was growing and even starting churches, and asked me to teach him Bible and Theology.  I spend every week preparing lessons that are meant for a group, but I’m preparing them for that one guy.  Sometimes we meet and I’m not completely prepared or he hasn’t finished his homework, but we just keep doing it anyways.  The last few weeks my thoughts have been filled with “What are you doing here?” and “You’re wasting your time and not accomplishing anything” but we’re continuing on because God is working through this one guy.  Then, last week we went to that one guy’s church and showed a Jesus film, and even then I was wondering why we were there, why this team had come to visit, and if I was really doing enough.  Then, at the end of that film, when the team got up to greet the church (as people always expect them to do), something happened.  After the team shared their names and greetings, some of the women from the church stood up to speak.  The first woman said “It is good for you to come here and encourage the missionaries.  There are two ways that we can follow in this life, the Way of Jesus and the Way of Satan, and we need to be repenting, following Jesus, and sharing the gospel while staying on the Way of Jesus.”  A second woman stood up and said “We all have to be sorry for our sin, confess our sin and turn away from it, and the missionaries are here helping us learn how to do this.”

Another thing the team did while they were here was helping us with some work at our house.  This is a picture of the bars we built for our kids that week.  Danny said he knew how to weld, but I’m pretty sure Scott did most of it! 
             
                Both of those things are great to hear from members of the church, but for me there was something special about it.  You see, all of that stuff that those ladies said to the team were word-for-word quotes from the material that I have been going through with that one guy.  That means that, even though sometimes it feels like we’re working harder than we should for something so small, that one guy is going back and teaching what he is learning to his wife (the first woman to stand up), who three years ago was too timid to say anything to the group, and to the other people in his church.  We want to see big results and numbers from our hard work, but lots of times God starts movements with these seemingly small-scale things, so let’s be faithful to what He’s given us to do for now and make sure we’re doing it well.

               I had asked Paul a few weeks before that if Lopit people every cry when they’re happy and he told me no.  We had asked a few other people the same question and they were surprised at it…crying is for sadness and shouting is for joy.  But, at the end of that story Paul had tears…then we laughed about it.

                Will you keep praying for us?  As we enter into our language learning season I will continue doing classes with Paul, but there’s always the danger that the “tyranny of the urgent” will take over and our time will be consumed by things like visitors, car trouble, sickness and the endless list of needs with which we are constantly approached.  Pray that God would give us clear vision to stay the course, press on with the handful of disciples He’s given us, and learn to communicate well in the local language so that new people can start hearing the gospel through Bible stories.

Thanks as always!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Ezekiel and Caleb on a boat at the Source of the Nile in Jinja. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

February 25, 2018

       
Paul posing with the new/used motorbike.  He is still learning how to operate it, but I think he was pretty happy to have it around to use! 

  February has been a busy month for us!  With Amy and the kids settling back in to our house in Lohutok there has been lots of transition, joy, unexpected challenges and work!  Amy has been doing a wonderful job of getting into new routines, learning where everything is and how everything works, anticipating new challenges with the kids (Caleb actively seeks out ways to injure himself…), practicing language, discipling Teresa, meeting new people in the village and dealing with a constant influx of people (she loves that part!).  Ezekiel and Caleb have made a couple of new friends, found new places to climb, animals to chase, villagers to charm, and some sickness.  Justin has been doing Bible and Theology courses with Paul, managing the “Honey-Dos” that Amy has found since she’s arrived, traveled to Uganda for some much needed car repairs, and then traveled to Uganda again to get some things for the church. 
          Last month I updated the project list with two new ideas for Lalonga.  Paul was struggling with coming to Lohutok every week for our class meetings (It’s a 3-4 hour walk) and it’s just not possible to meet at his house because of constant interruption.  We thought it would be a good idea to get a motorcycle for him to use for ministry, and coming to Lohutok for class.  We had also been discussing (Paul and I) ways for the church to be more self-sustaining.  They had decided to save the money they were getting from the church garden (using the offering money to help plant it) to eventually buy a grinding mill, but since the offering money is being consumed by their building need I decided to add the mill to our project list as well. 
          This month we had a couple visit for two weeks (He had been here before, she hadn’t) and when they came, they had raised the money we needed to finish out both of these projects.  We drove to Uganda and spent 2 days buying and loading the motorbike and mill, and now Scott is taking the lead on helping get the mill installed and running for the church.  Now Paul has a way (once he learns how to shift the gears…) to get to class without consuming the whole day, and the church is on its way to having an income-generating, job-creating resource for the building, pastor support, and to help with other needs that always come up! 
          The busyness hasn’t ended yet.  I’m writing this from Juba where I’m awaiting a team of visitors from the USA who are coming to explore the church’s long-term relationship with the ministry here, and at the end of this month we have someone coming who is looking at the possibility of joining our team long-term.  Pray for us as we manage our time and resources while God is meeting all of these needs.  Pray that God will provide some long-term team mates to help us shoulder the load.  Pray that we would find good language helpers and start to take off in our language study.  Pray for Scott who works tirelessly when he’s away from his family to complete his own projects while also helping with(or more accurately, just completely doing) whatever we throw at him.  Pray for our family time and health as the “tyranny of the urgent” tries to take over.

Thanks as always for your love, prayer and support!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb
The grinding mill sitting in our workshop.  Scott is building the mount that he will cast in cement to hold the engine and mill.  He’s also surrounded by spare parts for the motorbike…my workshop doesn’t stay as organized as I’d like! 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

January 27, 2018

We celebrated Amy’s birthday this month.  That cake was more like a meatloaf (crumbles being held together…) and is mostly icing, lol. 

        This is another one of those months where lots has happened, and I’m going to break the “one page only” newsletter rule…sorry!  I’ll use headings so you can feel free to read selectively! 

Twas the night before Christmas…and we slept on the road in a broken truck.

          Well we’ve had an eventful month.  Amy and the kids got back to Lohutok with a few days to spare before Christmas.  I had the whole house ready, Christmas tree set up, presents wrapped, meal planned…it was our first Christmas in Lohutok.  
          Two days after everyone got back, we decided to go to Torit for a night.  There are some new (to us) missionaries there whom Amy hadn’t met and there were some things Amy wanted to do in the market, so we went to Torit.  We would spend one night in Torit, have some cool family time, and drive back the next day which was December 23rd…still time to get ready for Christmas!  
          On the way to Torit we stopped to pick up Paul, he pretty much comes with me every time I go to Torit now, there’s always grain to sell or things to trade.  About fifty feet away from Paul’s house I heard a funny noise on the pickup, so while Paul was loading his grain in the truck I looked and saw that one of the sway bar links was just gone, the ball joints in the link had given way and the link had popped off.  In the process of that happening the CV boot had also been destroyed.  
          Since I’m a novice mechanic at best, I thought “Well it’s just a busted boot” and we finished the remaining 3.5 hours of driving to Torit.  When we arrived in Torit I mentioned the issue to another missionary who looked, saw the torn boot, and told me I shouldn’t be driving like that.  So for our evening in Torit, Amy got to spend time resting with the kids while I spent the evening in the workshop helping replace the broken CV boot.  

Our ducks had more babies.  We have quite the farm going here with ducks, rabbits, antelope, kittens and puppies! 

          The next morning we got up and started getting ready to go home.  As it usually goes traveling with the kids, we got on the road a bit later than daddy would have liked.  We had a pretty smooth trip and were going to get home at a good time, but then about 2.5 hours into the 4 hour trip my steering wheel just stopped doing what it was supposed to!  I got out and looked under the truck, and the whole axle (the one we had spent all yesterday evening working on) was laying on the ground in the dirt.  Apparently I didn’t get one of the bolts tight enough, it rattled out and the wheel came loose which allowed that side of the axle to just…come out.    
          Paul was able to find some of the missing parts by walking back down the road, I was able to put it all back together since, fortunately, I had a drum of gas in the back of the truck and could clean all of the dirt out, but the problem was that the bolt was missing and couldn’t be found.  I decided that if I got the other one tight enough, we could probably go home slowly and maybe just stop to check for tightness occasionally…that didn’t work.  Eventually the axle came loose again and while I was stopping the truck (which I couldn’t control) we got high centered in a rut…we were stuck!  
          By then it was almost dark.  Paul decided to walk up to the next village and borrow a motorcycle to ride back to Lohutok where he could ask the local pastor to come and get us in the big truck.  Amy and the kids started getting ready to sleep in the truck for the night and I, since I’m incapable of sitting still, put the truck back together again, started jacking up the truck, finding stones to put under the wheels, and trying to get the back differential free from the ground so I could get out of the rut while we waited.  It didn’t work.  

Our dog Jax, I’m pretty sure he catches more rats than our cats do…I guess that’s why we feed him more! 


          At 4am I was dreaming about headlights when I realized that there were actually headlights pointed at us.  Apparently Paul found the guy with the motorcycle who graciously refused any sort of help for our stranded vehicle, so Paul walked all the way to Lohutok.  He reached Lohutok at 1am, roused Sabba (the pastor/driver) who got the “mechanic” and left to come and get us around 2am.  At 4am we pulled the truck out of the rut, transferred all of the shopping (we always come back from town quite full) to the truck and started the ride back home.  We got home at 6:30, unloaded the truck, got the kids resting, and then I started the mission to recover our stranded vehicle.  
          By the end of the day all of the vehicles were back in Lohutok, then there are more long stories about getting spare parts, the truck being unusable, the other vehicle having carburetor problems, another changed boot getting broken, and finally 2 days ago I was able to fix it!  Lots of time was spent this month just trying to get one of our vehicles into “reliable” condition again! 

Ezekiel the perpetual patient (and the rest of us were sick too) 

       

          Last month we wrote a bit about Ezekiel’s appendicitis scare.  He’s been complaining about stomach aches for a while but a CT scan and a few ultrasounds cleared him of any chronic appendix issues.
          That being said, our poor guy has been some kind of sick for more than half of his time back in Lohutok.  He’s had a few fevers and vomiting episodes, most of which are expected with the transition back to the village and new viruses, etc.  A couple of weeks ago Ezekiel had a fever and other symptoms that led us to treat him for malaria.  After the three days of treatment his fever was gone and he seemed to be feeling fine, but then two days later he started complaining again, so we check and sure enough, he had another fever.  Since he had just finished malaria treatment (and I had too) we decided to wait a day or two and see if it was just a virus that needed to go away on its own, but in the process a doctor friend of ours suggested that we have him tested for typhoid.  I ended up with a second case of malaria, and we treated Ezekiel for it again too because that’s what he seemed to have, but while mine got better with treatment, Ezekiel’s didn’t this time.
          Yesterday Ezekiel woke up with an abscess on his neck, so Amy took him to our local clinic and sure enough, he tested positive for typhoid fever.  So now, he gets to have a cannula in his hand for 10 days of ceftriaxone injections.  When I took this picture of him this morning I said “Smile like you’re happy about it!” and he responded, “I am a happy boy today!”


Bible Class with Paul 

          In the midst of all of this, I have started a Bible training program with Paul.  He asked me a few months ago if there was anything we could do to get him some more “formal” type Bible training without him having to leave all of the work that is happening with the church in the village.  I had a few ideas, but as I started asking around, I found one better.  We started using a series called “Theological Education by Extension” that was designed for Paul’s situation.  He enrolled through a Bible school that is nearby (but too far for him to attend while still living at home) and is now doing the courses by extension.  
          Every day Paul has to complete a certain amount of coursework in the first two books, “Following God” and “New Testament Survey 1.”  Then once a week on Saturday Paul and I get together and discuss the week’s material and go further into how to apply that material to his life, family and ministry.  We also work on Bible stories that he can use in the church and village to help teach the material he is learning.  Paul has taken this up with great excitement and is learning a lot of new things about the gospel and what it means to be a follower of Christ.  Yesterday we were in the truck going to Torit and listening to our friend Chuck preach on the radio, and Paul was excited to hear some of the things he’s learning being preached and applied.  Things like “The Holy Spirit gives us the power to repent” and “The Holy Spirit gives us new life” seem so basic, but for Paul they are exciting truths that he is just starting to understand. 

           Thank you for praying with us as we go through all of this transition, spiritual warfare and stress.  We have been unreasonably and illogically joyful through each day’s new challenges!  Pray for us this next month as we receive a few visitors in about a week, Justin has to go to Uganda to get the other vehicle working again, we receive another team at the end of the month, we pick language helpers and start to begin that process, and as the newness of everyone being back wears off and things start to become more tedious.  God is good and loves his children, and is doing some pretty exciting work here that we just get to be a part of, we appreciate you and the time and energy you put into keeping up with us, supporting us, writing with encouragement, and holding us up in prayer. 

Because Jesus is King, 

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb 




Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29, 2017

Amy and the kids getting off the plane in Lohutok!


On December 7th I left from Arua, Uganda to drive back to our home in Lohutok.  I had been in Uganda for two weeks helping Amy pack up the house there, and driving Amy and the kids to Arua (9 hours from where we were staying), where they would be able to catch a flight.  I left a week before the flight, I needed to travel back by road so I could bring all of the luggage, but Amy and the kids were taking a flight which would be faster (2 hours instead of 18), more comfortable and safer. 

The day I left from Arua I got an email saying that the flight would be moved from the 14th to the 15th, and then later from the 15th to the 16th.  I thought, “No big deal, that gives me a couple of extra days to get things ready.”  Saturday was a nice quiet day for them to arrive, a day when there were no builders at our compound and not much activity. 

By Wednesday of that week, Ezekiel was complaining of stomach pain.  He’s been having stomach aches for a few years, but Amy thought they had been getting worse and wanted to have him checked before coming back to South Sudan.  After lots of back and forth decisions, It was decided that Amy would skip the Saturday flight, fly back to Kampala (where they had been staying for the past six months) to get a CT Scan of Ezekiel’s appendix on Monday, and if there were no issues, be back in Arua for another available flight on Wednesday. 

Isura (left) and Amoya (right), two of the leading women in the Lalonga church, all decked out in their Christmas Clothes. 


The day after we made this decision, Amy jumped into a swimming pool with her phone!  All of Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, I sat at our home in Lohutok not knowing whether I was leaving in a few minutes to drive to Kampala for Ezekiel’s appendectomy or unpacking the vehicle to get ready for them to arrive Wednesday morning.  I spent those 4 days begging Jesus that we wouldn’t have to do a surgery like this in Uganda after waiting so long to get everyone back home.  We had lots of varying advice on Ezekiel’s “Grumbling” “Smoldering” “Chronic” Appendix…whether that was his problem or whether such a thing actually exists, but in the end the CT Scan showed no abnormalities, and everyone arrived back in Lohutok on Wednesday with 5 days to spare before Christmas! 

3 days later we were driving back from Torit and an axle fell off the pickup so we got to spend the night in the truck…but that’s another story!

- Praise Jesus with us that the work is finished and we’re back in Lohutok as a family.
- Pray for us as we get settled in and adjusted to new routines, culture, family life and language.
- Pray that God would provide for the extra travel/medical expenses involving Ezekiel, and the axle repairs on the pickup.

Philippians 1:3-4,

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb Culp