Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 14, 2016

We’ve been married for five years, and this is the first time we’ve had a Christmas tree!  It’s only 4ft tall, but it’s ours!

On November 30th I flew to Mexico and on December 1st had the surgery that I talked about in my last newsletter.  The surgery went well and the pain was only the normal after-surgery aches for a few days.  Now I am recovering, still on a liquid diet for a while, and then after a few months of learning how to eat again, we’ll hopefully return to South Sudan.

  The trip home from mexico was an interesting one.  I went through the line at Customs/Border Patrol with a few other people who were patients from the same clinic, but when my turn came it was different.  I’ve always been the subject of “random” extra searches and security on international flights because of my travel history, but this is the first time I’ve crossed into the USA by land.  When the border agent started thumbing through my passport and saw some of the countries I’d visited, including South Sudan, I got moved to a different area.

  After 2.5 hours I was finally cleared to enter the United States.  During my time with the agents I was questioned on all kinds of stuff: my family, my job, hobbies, names of people we work with, etc.  One of the agents even looked through my laptop at my pictures, while another one actually opened and read a page from my journal!  In the end they were surprised that I wasn’t impatient with them and that I was doing so well even though I’ve never been detained at a US border before.  I guess that training was worth it!

 Once I got to the airport I found out that I had 3 minutes to spare for check-in.  I rushed to the gate, got on my plane, and about 45 minutes later, the whole plane was emptied because of a mechanical issue.  I spent the night in San Diego and flew home the next day, only to find out that my bag was still somewhere in Dallas!  This morning (a whole week after I got home) I had an email that said my bag was delivered at 2:35am, and I found it on our front porch.  People always make comments to me about how hard it must be to travel so much through Africa, but some of my most difficult experiences have been right here at home!

Merry Christmas!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Sunday, November 6, 2016

October 27, 2016

Ezekiel blowing out his 4th Birthday candle at Indian Avenue Baptist Church.

                Anyone who has been around missionaries for a while, especially missionaries in a place like South Sudan, will understand that no matter how much we try to prepare and plan, all plans are tentative.  For months we’ve been telling people our travel plans.  I (Justin) would go back to SS in November to work on the house, and come back about a month later to get Amy and the kids to return later in the year or early January.  Well, that has changed!

We will be going back to Africa a few months later than planned, the delay is a result of a few things that have happened.  The first is medical.  I have been thinking about getting bariatric surgery for a while, and have had a few doctor friends suggest that it would be a good option for me.  With that in mind, I met my biological father for the first time (by phone) a few weeks ago, and when he told me his medical history I decided that having the surgery sooner than later would be a good idea.  We were praying about how to get surgery and still return to South Sudan as planned when the next thing happened.

The Pioneers African leadership met last month and decided that they did not want to allow families with children to return to South Sudan until further notice.  This wouldn’t affect our plans so much.  I was planning on leaving Amy and the kids in Uganda (where it’s safe) for a while and making trips back and forth to Lohutok.  This way we could decide when it was safe to go back as a family. With the decision coming down from our leadership (It’s not my call anymore, we’re waiting on a green light from them now) AND the new urgency behind surgery, we decided now would be a good time to get the surgery done.

I am flying to San Diego on November 30th and will have surgery on December 1st.  That will leave about 4 months to recover before our leaders meet again in April, and at that point we will *plan to* either go back to South Sudan or leave the family in Uganda while Justin goes back and forth.  Please be faithful in praying for us during these extra transitions.


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 28, 2016


            Last month we wrote about the conflict that has recently broken out in South Sudan.  The two parties who have been fighting with each other for the past three years had a new “flare-up” of fighting about a month ago, so we are closely watching the news as we decide what to do next.  Here’s what we know right now:

  • There has been some fighting that involves the army and/or the rebels in two places near us (Lafon and Torit).
  • The situation with the government army, the rebels, and possible third-party intervention is still pretty nebulous, nobody really knows what to expect next.
  • Other organizations in our area have started bringing their missionaries back to their homes, but the advice we’ve received is that families with small children should wait until the rebel plans become more apparent.

Our original plan was to speak in churches until the end of October and then, in November, (Justin) would go back to Lohutok to do finishing work on our house.  Then, after a month or so of doing work on the house, I would come back to get Amy and the kids to go back together.  We have prayed about how to respond to this, and discussed the situation with a few people.  Since November is still a few months away, and that is lots of time for things to change, we are going to keep moving forward.  If we wait to take the Gospel to the people of South Sudan until there is no fighting or insecurity, the Gospel will probably never get to South Sudan.

The tough question is, what do we do if November/December comes around and it is still unsafe to return?  We know that there are Lopit speaking people in Kampala (the capitol of Uganda), and there are good places for us to stay there if we need them, so language-learning and other training opportunities are available to keep preparing for our return while we wait for the security situation to resolve itself.  We strongly feel like God has called us to work with these unreached people, and until He’s made it clear otherwise, we will keep looking for ways to prepare ourselves and make that possible!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21, 2016

If you keep up with the news on South Sudan, you’ve heard by now that more fighting has erupted in the country. Until now the war has not affected us at all as it’s been so far away. After several days of the most recent shootings and looting all over Juba, the capital, we’ve heard that there is also unrest in Torit – the town nearest to us. One of our co-workers heard rumors that the warring sides might be using the Lopit area as a place to hide. This is our tribe. We have been investing in the Lopit since 2013. If the rumors are true, it’s possible that fighting will reach our villages as people from each side go to look for their enemies. We are praying that this doesn’t happen. The last three years of war have shown us that major military activity in any town or village means utter ruin for the people (especially women and children) who are not even involved in the conflict.

We are praying for a quick resolution to this conflict. South Sudan has been in some kind of war for more than fifty years, and the biggest outcome has been poverty, human suffering and little to no real development to help the people with their basic everyday needs. As we hear of all of this news we fear for the lives of the people we’ve spent years pouring our lives into, “the least of these,” who have become the pillars of the Lopit church that God is raising up. Please pray vigorously over the next few weeks and months that war doesn’t come to the Lopit Mountains – or that if it does, that somehow God would use it to raise up His church, for His glory, among the Lopit. Pray that the people would be able to find safety and that ultimately Christ’s church would grow.

As you remember our past newsletters and the stories of what God has done, please pray for our houseworkers, Deborah and Teresa, and their families, that they would be safe. Also pray the same for both of our guards, Michael and Moses, and their families. Finally, please don’t forget to pray for Paul, the pastor that Justin is discipling, his wife Isayye, and their son who is about 1 year old now; as well as the church he is pastoring and for the other believers in Lohutok. Please pray that all of these people, and their families, are able to find safety if it is necessary.

We are still committed to bringing the gospel to the unreached people in South Sudan. Our return to Lohutok is planned for the end of this year, and so many things can change (for better or worse) in that amount of time. Pray that God would give us clear direction as the time gets closer about how to move forward with our family, and the best way to see the gospel go to this area of great need.


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 11, 2016


          The last six weeks have been crazy with travel and speaking engagements.  First Ezekiel and I went to Mississippi for a week, then, after 14 days back home (in St. Louis) I went to Warren, Arkansas for a few days.  I got home from Warren on a Monday and on Friday we flew to Orlando to visit Pioneers’ base and try to recruit new team mates.  We got home from Orlando, and a week later we spent 4 days in Springfield, MO and now we’re back in St. Louis again.  On Monday we’re driving to Kansas City for Ezekiel and I to see a doctor, but we’re coming back on the same day, and then in less than two weeks we’re moving out of our home in St. Louis and hitting the road.  We’ll be in Columbus, GA for a couple of weeks to visit Amy’s parents and a few partnering churches in the area, and then we’re back to Orlando for a week of debriefing, speaking in Panama City, and then driving to Kansas City where we will settle for our last three months of home assignment.  I am speaking at a church in Kansas City on July 24th, flying to Orlando the next day to try and recruit more team mates, staying for 4 nights and then flying back to Kansas City to continue visiting friends and churches there.
                God is good in the midst of all of the stress and travel.  When we went to Orlando a few weeks ago, Amy told me that she wanted to take Ezekiel to Disney since we were already there. I told her that I thought it would be fun, but the parks are expensive and we’re spending all of our money just to get to Florida and back.  Amy, as unreasonable as ever (I’m saying this like it’s a good thing…you’ll see) said, “Well, I’m just going to pray that we get to go somehow.
                We got to Orlando on a Friday, and on Saturday we met with a friend who lives two hours away.  Our friend had come to visit Lohutok to see the work in South Sudan, and spent a few months there looking for ways that he could be involved and help.  When he heard that we were in Orlando, he drove two hours to hang out for the afternoon, and before he left (we never talked to him about Disney) he gave me a check, saying “Use this to take your family to Disney.”  Amy may have cried a little when I told her.  The pics in this letter are all from our day at Magic Kingdom.  God is good!
                If you are in Georgia or Kansas City and would like to come see us speak, I’ve been putting the schedule in the Prayer Calendar, or you can email me.

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Monday, May 2, 2016

We’ve been “in the baby cave” for a few weeks now.  At the end of March things got really busy all of a sudden!

On March 30th around 3:00 in the morning, Amy woke me up and told me that it was time to go to the hospital.  We spent most of the day there, and at 9:36pm Caleb Charles Culp was born.  He was 10lbs 3oz and 22 inches long.  I (Justin) keep saying “That’s my boy” because, although most babies take a week or more to get back to their birth weight, Caleb had gained a pound before his 2 week checkup!  Everyone is doing fine, for now we’re all just trying to sneak in naps until Caleb decides to make sleep a priority!

On April 3, Amy was discharged from the hospital, but on April 3rd I also had my first speaking engagement at a church.  I drove to Hillsboro, MO that morning and visited our friends there while Amy was discharged from the hospital, and I picked her and Caleb up on the way home!  Since then I’ve been speaking in churches 3 times or more per week, and Amy has been working on her new routine with Ezekiel and now Caleb!

A few weeks ago Ezekiel and I spent a week in Corinth, Mississippi visiting some of our friends and ministry partners there.  Ezekiel got to do fun things like ride horses and go exploring in the woods, and we got to make a lot of new connections with people who are interested in South Sudan.

Our schedule is pretty full with places to visit and speak.  If you get our prayer calendars, you’ll see that I’ve listed on each Sunday and Wednesday the churches where I will be speaking.  If you’re not sure whether you’ll see us, or would like to get together while we’re home, give me a call or write an email and I’m sure we can work something out!

Currently we are trying to add to our monthly support, and get some one-time gifts to finish out our house.  If you’ve already seen the presentation, you know what our goals are.  Please pray that God will provide new monthly partners to help us meet our budget and get back!


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Friday, January 29, 2016

January 29, 2016

January 29, 2016

Last time I sent out a newsletter it waspictures of our smashed up pickup. Since then I spent 3 weeks in Uganda waiting for the truck to get fixed, drove back to Lohutok, we spent two weeks packing up the house, drove back to Uganda, spent a week in Uganda with friends for Christmas, flew to Brussels and then to St. Louis. Now we’re here!

As soon as we got to the home where we are staying in St. Louis, Ezekiel clearly told us that he did not want to travel and stay in different places for a while, so it’s a good thing we’re here for six months. Right now we are calling churches to schedule speaking engagements, visiting with friends and family, and getting ready to have a baby in March! Amy just found out that she has gestational diabetes again, so pray for her encouragement and health for the rest of the pregnancy.

Our plan is to be in St. Louis from now until the last part of June. After that we’ll spend a couple of weeks in Georgia visiting churches in the Columbus area (and Amy’s parents!), and by the end of July we will be in the Kansas City Area. We’re trying to reconnect with our supporters and prayer partners. We also want to get into some new places to speak and try to expand our support base. Anyone who wants to visit with us while we’re home please send me an email.

Also keep praying for Paul and the church in Lalonga. When I left South Sudan, Paul had started to help with a Lopit Bible translation, but he’s also pastoring his church and learning/teaching new Bible stories on his own every week. He told me that he needed some other men in the church to help him when he is away, so I challenged him to be the one to seek out some guys who want to follow Jesus and to start discipling them. When I left he had met twice with another man from his village for Bible Study, so pray that through Paul there will be more men in Lalonga who want to follow Jesus and who have a heart to see other people repent and believe!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and New Baby