Wednesday, December 5, 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:


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

December 5, 2018

 This is a snapshot of the page in our kids’ devotion book from last night.  The story was about Joseph meeting Pharoah’s cupbearer in prison and the lesson was, “God brings people into our life for special reasons.  He always knows what we need.”
          A year ago we were on our way back to South Sudan after a period of time when I was here building our house and Amy and the kids were in Uganda.  We stopped for lunch on the way up and saw another American family with children, so we started visiting with them.  We happened to see the same family at the same restaurant twice after that, it just turns out that all of our trips happened to coincide.  A few weeks ago, our family was headed home after training in Kenya and we stopped to visit our new friends for lunch on the way.

While our family was headed home we started having car trouble, again.  While we were in Kenya our mechanic was working on the transmission and injector pump, but it turns out that the problems weren’t completely solved, and we were halfway back to Lohutok before we found out – the hard way.  We stopped in Kitgum, where we normally overnight on the way home, but instead of just spending the night we spent five.  The mechanic came from Kampala with a transmission in the back of his car, installed it in our LandCruiser, it still didn’t work, he went back for some kind of computerized control unit that was required and he didn’t realize was missing from the car when he came, brought that back to Kitgum and installed it, and the transmission still didn’t work.  While at the hotel Caleb got a bacterial infection that kept him up at night, and Ezekiel went on antibiotics for an ear infection.  At this point I (Justin) was just ready to give up.  How much time are we going to spend on car trouble and sickness?
          When the mechanic told me he had to go BACK to Kampala again to get a new control unit, I told him to just go in our vehicle.  It was drivable but not shifting right, so if he could get it back to Kampala he could finish the work there instead of doing more back-and-forth for spare parts.  He agreed, left me with his vehicle (a funny little Suzuki that looks like a roller skate) and left with our LandCruiser.

          The next problem I had to deal with was where we would stay.  We were already way over budget on car repairs, and the hotel stay that was supposed to be 1 night had turned into 5 already, and who knows how long it’s going to take to actually fix our vehicle?  We have a place in Kampala, but that means having the kids in the car for an extra 2 long days of driving, and our place was being used.  We messaged a few other friends just to see if there was anything available that was cheaper than where we were staying, but doors just closed left and right.  Finally, Amy decided to message our friends whom we had only met on a few short occasions (and who lived just an hour away from Kitgum) to see if they had any ideas.  It turns out, they have a guesthouse and, although they normally charge per night for people to stay there, they wouldn’t ask anything from people like us having an emergency. 
          We ended up staying in the guesthouse for the next seven nights.  Amy got to meet some new missionary wives/mothers while Ezekiel and Caleb got to make some awesome new friends, and Justin got to go back to Kampala to get the car…and then spend the night again on the way back because the alternator/battery weren’t charging! 
          Last night was our first night home getting back into the routine of family time/devotions.  When I opened the book and realized what story we were on, we talked to the kids about how God used all of Joseph’s problems to bring about something really awesome, and God put people in Joseph’s path who could help him later when he needed it, just like our friends in Uganda were there when we needed them.  Praise the Lord for his kind provision!

Now that we’re back it’s time to get going on language learning again.  Pray for us that we make good progress in language and homeschool over the next stint in Lohutok, and that God would protect us from more car trouble and sickness!

Thanks for praying as always,

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October 30, 2018

There has been a consistent theme in our last few newsletters if you haven’t noticed.  At the end of July we asked you to pray about some strategic relationships in our village and the potential for spiritual warfare now that we are focusing on language study and a long-term plan for the gospel in this village that seems to be so hard to reach.

Let me tell you, our enemy does not disappoint, but neither does our Savior!  This month we went to Kenya for some required training, and we have been blessed by the fellowship and teaching, but it’s been a trying time as well.  Amy has had trouble sleeping at home because of a mold problem in our house that has to do with the way rain runs off of our roof, so I have been working on a plan to solve that.  I went to town to get some supplies for that project, and Amy and the kids went along to get a few days’ break.  On my way back home with a truck full of supplies, one of the wheels started falling off of our truck.  The lug nuts/studs just started breaking!  I’ve had problems with that particular wheel lately and was glad that we were on our way to Uganda where we could get it looked at (It’s cheaper to fly from Uganda so we were planning to drive there first), but all of a sudden I had to make a decision.  Do I drive to Uganda with the family in a vehicle that insists on losing a wheel?

I started writing emails to people who might help me get Amy and the kids to Uganda by air so I could drive down slowly and without the worry of having them in the car.  At first I was told that it wouldn’t be possible to get there from here, but in the end our friends at MAF were able to make it happen…the email I got said “We can pick them up, it will be tomorrow at 9am!”  So we rushed to unpack from our trip to Torit and repack for Amy and the kids to fly the next morning.  Since I was home for a few days by myself, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do some things I’ve been putting off like spraying our house for mosquitoes.  The first night I was home, I got up into the attic space to look at the roof structure and make a plan for the mold/water problem, and as I was climbing down from there my ladder collapsed.  With me at the top.  I laid on the floor and said “Ow!” for a while and then messaged our friend Scott who came down and helped me.  I’m pretty sure my heel is broken and I know a few ribs are, but I wasn’t able to get an XRay and it is all healing slowly, but for anyone who knows me, not being able to walk is a bit of a trial.

Amy went to Uganda with the kids, and the first day she was there she decided to go to a hospital and get some labs and vaccinations that the kids needed.  While they were in the waiting room, she noticed a funny-looking rash on Caleb’s legs.  She asked the doctors at the hospital to look at it and they told her it was just some sort of viral rash that she shouldn’t worry about, but Amy thought it looked different, like bruises, so she kept exploring.  After messaging a few friends at home and some who live nearby, Amy went to another pediatrician who confirmed that Caleb had HSP.  It’s some kind of auto-immune issue that causes bleeding and has other potential complications.
I managed to drive myself to Uganda after a couple of days.  Scott helped me do the mosquito spraying and packing for the trip.  It wasn’t very easy to make the 2-day drive with a broken foot and ribs, and even though my family flew out so that I could come in the pickup, in the end I had to bring a different vehicle since I couldn’t drive with the clutch.

I got to Uganda and had a few days to potentially get my foot looked at and get the mechanic started on what we needed him to do.  I never got a chance to go in for my foot because Caleb was awake all night, miserable that his tummy hurt, and was at the hospital for part of most of those days.  One night Amy took him to the Emergency Room for an ultrasound because of a possible blockage/intussusception, but in the end there weren’t any major concerns.  We flew to Kenya to head to our training conference, and spent those weeks trying to manage two crazy kids in a hotel with basically one functioning parent (Amy) who has been taking care of all of us!  Ezekiel was sick for one night as well, so Amy has been the only well person and has been a nurse for our whole family!

With all of that going on we’ve still managed to get a lot of good insight from this training.  We have been learning more about African culture, traditional worldviews and other things pertinent to our work here.  We have also made lots of new friends and the kids have had lots of fun.

Language study has been going well, I have made some major strides in storytelling, hearing and vocabulary and Amy is studying regularly but is struggling with balancing language time with homeschool.

Ezekiel turned six while we were in Kenya!  He had so many of his new friends giving him drawings, treats and presents all day long…I don’t think he minded all of the extra attention! 

Would you keep praying for us in this endeavor?  We are sold on the fact that ministry here is going to take some time to get going and show fruit and are dedicated to “sticking it out” but it gets pretty tiresome after months and months of one sickness, injury, car issue or village drama after another!  Pray that God would give us endurance, eyes fixed on Jesus, and joy in His love for us.  Pray that we would do a good job taking care of ourselves and each other, that Satan would not succeed in driving wedges between us in our family, our team or with the village.  Pray that we would use our time well as we manage everything that is being thrown at us and still strive to learn the local language well enough to share the gospel, and pray that God would open doors for the Gospel and His power to be known in Lohutok and in the Lopit tribe as a whole.

Thanks for your prayers and support!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Saturday, September 29, 2018

September 29, 2018

The boys and I were walking down the road, looking for cows when a crowd of women came walking toward us with spears and cow bells, ringing them in our faces and dancing wildly with their spears.  Thoroughly confused, I asked them to explain more.  “The garden is crying,” they explained.  For the next two hours, masses of women walked by us doing the same, some dancing wildly in circles around us.  Between the information I gathered from multiple ladies and our watchman, we learned a considerable amount about the culture that day. 

“The garden is crying” when the crops have been destroyed by insects.  When this happens, they bring their spears and cow bells and have a funeral for the garden.  Each woman who has had crops eaten will cut it at the stalk.  They tie multiple strands together and place them in the middle of the road, as a sign to show what has occurred.  Here is one that we found while driving through another village:

Anyone who lives in the village of the destroyed crop can drive or walk through undisturbed, but those from other villages must pay to cross the barrier. 

After cutting the crops they continue the funeral with dancing and singing.  I have been told they also sacrifice a goat to appease the land.  They carry the garden up to the fuara, which is the community meeting place where funerals are held.  They continue the funeral for the garden there.  The mind blowing thing about this is that at some point, the women get on their hands and knees, crawling a good portion of the way to the funeral.  The path is rocky, unsteady, full of dung (from animals and humans) and often has thorns. 

When they arrive, they beat the drums and dance, just as they would at a normal funeral for a loved one. 

Please pray for us as we attempt to learn the language and culture here, and look for culturally appropriate ways to share the Gospel.  Please pray that we abide well, teach our boys to do the same, and for physical emotional protection for us. 

Justin continues to meet with Paul, and I continue to meet with Teresa.  Please pray for abundant grace for them to abide in Jesus, stand firm, find joy and stay the course.  Paul and his wife would like to have another baby (for the amazing story of their infertility and miraculous pregnancy, ask for one of our earlier newsletters).  They have been unable to conceive, however, and her family has stated that they “have cursed her” because Paul’s family failed to pay all of the cows when they were married.  Cows are used as a dowry, and the husband’s family will often “make a down payment” at the time of the wedding, intending to pay the rest later.  Please pray that in spite of this, she is able to get pregnant, and that the confusion regarding the cows will be resolved. 

Teresa has sent her family to the refugee camp while she remains here, having a house built for them.  Her maturity is beyond her years.  She is also going to school and working for us.

 Please continue to pray for healing for her mother (she has paranoid schizophrenia), and that her family – especially her uncle and grandfather – will repent and follow Jesus.  I have been told that the UN wants to take her mother to the hospital.  I have been trying to track down someone to find out more – about the hospital and for someone in the refugee camp to advocate for them.  We would appreciate prayer for connecti
ons and wisdom to know how to handle this situation – we are still praying for healing for her, and that her children would be able to live and grow in a safe environment. 

We are both studying language and culture, and I am homeschooling Ezekiel while Justin maintains the cars and updates things around the house as needed.  The boys are very slowly learning language (it’s not as easy as it sounds for littles). 

Thanks for praying for us and standing with us, we are truly grateful for all of you!

In Christ,

The Culps

Justin, Amy, Caleb and Ezekiel 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

August 31, 2018

This is what the cab of the pickup currently looks like…

This has been quite a month.  Last month I wrote the newsletter from Uganda while we were taking some family time and getting our shopping done and vehicle repaired.  As I was writing that newsletter there were two things impressed on my heart.  First, I thought about how writing the September newsletter was going to be boring and hard because “all we were going to do” for the month was study language.  Second, I was thinking about some of the strategic relationships that God has given us in Lohutok and how, as we start trying to learn how to communicate the gospel to these people, we would be facing some opposition and spiritual warfare.
               Well, now that August is over I can say that I was right about the second thought, but wrong about the first!
               We got back from Uganda at the beginning of the month on a Wednesday, and as is usual, we spent Thursday and Friday getting the kids back into a routine and unpacking from the trip, and then started on language study Monday morning.  That week I realized that we needed groceries from Torit and planned to go on Saturday, so Friday I checked out the pickup to get ready for the trip.  When I got in the truck, it wouldn’t go anywhere!  After a bit of tinkering, I realized that one of the brake drums was locked up with mud, which is an easy thing to fix.  I jacked up the vehicle, and before I could even try to get the brake drum off, the bumper bent and the jack slipped, and the truck almost fell over.  I managed to stack some timbers (as you can see in the bottom picture) and get a jack under it, and finish freeing up the wheel, and I was set to go to town the next day.
               I took Caleb with me to Torit to have some daddy time.  On the way I noticed that the steering wheel was doing something funny.  It would turn randomly and “slip” so when I turned the steering wheel, the car didn’t respond.  By the time we got to Torit it was completely broken, with the car parked I could spin the wheel around with no effect.  I managed to get the vehicle to a compound where I found some friends staying, and the problem we found seemed to be easy and we fixed it within 30 minutes.  The vehicle worked fine most of the way home, but the steering which I thought was fixed broke again about 10 miles from our house.  That portion of the trip usually takes about 30 minutes, but that night it took four hours.  I would stop, adjust the broken spline shaft, drive until it broke again, adjust again, and repeat.  Finally, about 4 miles from our house, the thing broke and I couldn’t get it to work again.
               So, I’m on the road at 9pm with Caleb (our 2 year old) with me in a truck that won’t steer.  I got back in the truck and said, “Caleb, I can’t fix the truck anymore so we might have to walk home, but first let’s pray.  I can’t fix the truck, but Jesus can, and Jesus wants you to know that he is powerful so let’s pray that He helps us get home.  My sweet little boy immediately closed his eyes and said “Jesus please fix our truck amen.”  I started the truck, tried the steering, and it worked.  And it worked for the rest of the trip home.  As soon as I pulled into our home it broke again, but we were home and didn’t have to walk or leave our truck full of groceries on the side of the road.  I might admit that I cried for most of that trip home.

Amy’s malaria test.  I thought it would be funny to post on Facebook to see if people would think it was…something else!

               During the week between getting home and going to Torit, I took our LandCruiser down to the airstrip to meet a plane.  On the way back I noticed a rattling sound, and upon inspection I found that one of the rear shock absorbers had come completely loose.  Someone who installed the shocks before we bought the vehicle had used the wrong-sized washer, and it just came out of the bushing completely (I know some of you won’t understand what I’m talking about, but just know that it was broken).  Since it was loose, probably for part of our trip home from Uganda, the bolt that holds the shock to the frame had bent, and as I was trying to get the nut off, that bolt broke off completely…a problem that requires some serious welding which is a skill I don’t possess.
               So now we’re here in Lohutok with two vehicles that are down.  A friend has let me use his 4-wheeler for a little bit while he is gone, but that doesn’t get us very far as a family!  The spare parts we need are all purchased, but are in Uganda on a truck with a local shopkeeper from Torit who is bringing them to us.  Those trucks usually get stuck in the mud this time of year, but we’re praying that they make it safely and quickly, and that we’re then able to get the parts from Torit to here…somehow!

               In the midst of all of that stuff, Amy got malaria that didn’t quickly cure with the usual treatment and had to go into secondary measures.  Caleb has managed to climb OVER our gate in an attempt to escape the compound, and then climb on the roof of a friend’s house when he found an unattended ladder.  I was trying to finish making a brick oven that was Amy’s birthday present this year (Her birthday is in January…) and while I was drilling a hole in an angle-iron, the drill bit broke and went into the palm of my hand (I learned the Lopit words for “Bleeding” and “Spurting” and I learned that arteries spurt, veins don’t).  Add to that numerous other little concerns with kids’ behavior, school and isolation, and the daily struggles with Satan’s lies (“What are you doing here?”  “This is all a waste of time.”  “You’re not cut out for this”) and this month’s newsletter which I thought would be a struggle to write could actually turn into a book with multiple chapters!

               It’s a bit easier to go through each day when there’s a busy to-do list full of building projects and logistical tasks.  Now most days are filled with hours of language 
study, preparation for those studies, and review of yesterday’s study, and although we’re making big strides in speaking the language already, the results are less tangible and discouragement comes much faster.

               Will you keep praying with us against Satan’s attacks on our emotions and bodies?  Pray that our kids stay safe and healthy, that our marriage relationship is sweet and free from jealousy and pride, that we have the courage and energy to press on when the days get tedious.  Thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayer, we couldn’t be doing this without you!
                                                                                                             Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb 

Trying to break loose a frozen brake drum, the rear bumper came loose on the truck and the high-lift jack almost fell over!  I had to run fast to get something to stack under the bottle jack to keep the truck from falling.  It’s a good thing the spare tire was there to catch it!

Friday, July 27, 2018

July 27, 2018

Going to Uganda to take our visitors back to the airport…we made it to Lalonga and our rear axle wanted to fall off!  I walked 10 miles back to Lohutok and brought Scott to help me fix it.

So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21

     You’ve probably gathered from our last few newsletters and prayer calendars that the past few months have been crazy with visitors and travel.  For years we have been praying for team mates for Lohutok, in the past six months we have had six visitors and three of them are now going through the long application and fundraising process to join our team!  That is exciting news, but entertaining visitors is a lot of work, even for the low-maintenance visitors we’ve had. 

     Normally we go to Uganda every three to four months for shopping, car repairs, medical care and rest.  With the extra visitors and an extra trip to get a car running Justin has actually made six trips to Uganda so far this year.  Add in a required unit retreat in Kenya, a week in Juba to get our two year residency permits, and supply runs to Torit every couple of weeks and this half-year has been pretty insane, but mostly in a good way. 

     Justin recently drove to Uganda to take back some visitors from our sending church so they could get their flights home, then drove back to Lohutok three days later to pack up Amy and the kids to come back down…although Justin has had to travel quite a bit, it was time for Amy to have a break!  The two day drive is not leisurely, and both times there was some kind of catastrophic mechanical issue with the vehicle (as you can see from the pictures) but the past week in Uganda has been one of incredible rest and refreshment and we are ready to go home and hit the ground running. 

This was two weeks of car trouble!  On our way back to Uganda with the family we got stuck once, had to be dug out by some guys who were there to help, and then when we hit the fast road in Uganda our radiator exploded!  Thankfully we have a mechanic who spent 8 hours on a bus to come and help us fix it! 

     We have been doing language study in the midst of the busyness, but we are looking forward to our next time “in” to really get into a good routine with our tutors, visiting people in the village to practice, and finding new friends and relationships that way.  Please keep praying that we would be able to focus on learning to speak Lopit (we can already see our progress when we go to funerals and homes in the village to talk to people!) and not be distracted by the “urgent.” 

     Last month you read about Teresa and some of the difficulties she is having.  She has made some progress in finding care for her mother and Paul has actually called some of her family members to a meeting to discuss their mistreatment of her.  As I have been talking to people about this whole issue, I’ve discovered some close links between Michael (who is the watchman at our compound and my language helper), Teresa’s uncle, and the village landlord.  We are praying that God will use a few people of peace, people with whom I’ve become friends through the building process, etc., to give me some access to the uncle and landlord and share the gospel with them.  It is a little scary and humbling, but the more I pray about the connections, the more I experience the temptation, self-doubt and discouragement that can only be from the enemy. 

     The past few days I have been struck by 2 Timothy 2:21 as Paul uses it in the context of instructing opponents, and spiritual warfare.  I’m praying for the Spirit to reveal to me things in my life that need to be purified and help me be “useful to the Master.”  Please keep praying for us, Teresa, her family and the spiritual strongholds that exist in Lohutok to keep the church down after so many decades of missionary history. 

Thank you for your support and prayer!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb Culp

Amy and Caleb having fun on their night out together!