Friday, July 7, 2017

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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

July 7, 2017

Or What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!  Matthew 7:9-11

This newsletter is a bit longer than I usually like them to be, but hopefully it’s worth the read!

Two weeks ago I came back to Lohutok to start working on our house.  The goal is to get the work on our house finished before Amy and the kids come back, so when we are here together as a family we can be focused on language and culture learning, etc.  As is par for the course when managing a building project in South Sudan, nothing goes according to plan!

Before we even left to come back, I had been meditating on what it means to be sons/daughters of a good, benevolent father.  I talked a bit about justification in the last newsletter, but another side of that truth is this example from Matthew 7.  I was talking once with a group of recruits for our organization, and some of them were anxious about the appointment process, the length of time it will take and some of the difficult requirements they were given.  I was encouraging them that after 8 years as a missionary, I can look back at all of those times when things didn’t happen as fast as I wanted them to happen, and I can say “Okay, I see what you were doing there!”  I reminded them that God is not going to give a snake, He’s not going to give a stone, so we can trust that our Good Father in Heaven really is making things happen in the best possible way for us, even if it seems painful or hard.

So now I’m in Lohutok.  Before I left Uganda I was able to arrange all of the materials I need to do this work and have them shipped up to South Sudan.  The truck bringing my things was delayed for a few days because of rain, and was late reaching Torit (the town 50 miles from here).  The second truck, who had agreed to bring my things the rest of the way, then had mechanical problems, so by the time he got that fixed he couldn’t ship my materials anymore because he had a pressing job with UNICEF.  We were supposed to have building materials a week ago and now I’m still waiting.

We have a few friends here from South Africa who know how to do things like pour cement and build buildings, things that I’m not particularly good at.  Scott is one of them, and he was planning on being around until July 10th.  My goal was to finish a few of the things that I really need his help/advice on before he leaves, but on Sunday Scott received tragic news about his father and left the next day for South Africa.

I went to Torit the day after I heard that the truck was going on a different job so that I could intercept him on the road and talk to him, and also to bring cement back from town for the work on our place to continue.  I found the driver and talked to him, and then on my way home that night I got hopelessly stuck in the mud, spent the night on the road (after digging for 6 hours or so trying to get out) and ruining 4 bags of cement because the water from the puddle flooded the back of the pickup.

In addition to all of that, there have been other irritations with getting the internet working, extra trips to other villages, donors (large ones) who have come upon financial hardship and have had to stop giving or stop giving as much, being separated from my family, not ever getting a chance to Sabbath, etc.

                                                           Charles, the technician who came to install our
                                                                                               internet (and 2 others connections) sprained 
                                                                                               his ankle while he was working.  A frozen water
                                                                                               bottle was the only way we could get ice on 
                                                                                               the swelling!
The funny thing about all of this is, I feel pretty good about the whole situation.  Normally I’m the task-oriented, impatient guy who needs everything to go quickly and according to plan, but this time around it just…feels different.  I keep meditating on the fact that God is not in the business of giving snakes and stones, and so I can trust that even though the materials aren’t here, our cash is getting low, I’m tired from driving and digging myself out of the mud, and the things/people I was putting my trust in for help aren’t around now, God is still actively controlling and providing for my circumstances.  He is good, He knows what the end looks like while I can only guess.  In the same way that I long to be back with my children and love on them and bring them gifts, God is passionately looking out for and providing for my needs, but in an even greater way!

Philippians 1:3-4,
Justin (for all of us!)

I fixed the broken tank, had no leaks in it at all, pumped it full of water, used it all day, and the next morning it had sprung a new leak! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017

               Lately I’ve been meditating on the idea of “spiritual growth” in the life of a believer and what that really means.  I think we often use that phrase in reference to growth in obedience to a set of rules or in adherence to a set of disciplines (prayer, contemplation, Bible intake, evangelism, etc.) but that definition, when tested, is found lacking.  When I fail, am impatient with my family, covet what other people have, or even more blatant sins that happen in public or private, my first response is “I should be praying more!  I should be reading the Bible more!” but is that really a Christian response?  I think the self-reliance that is exposed in such responses is a form of pride so subtle that we often miss it, but is quite profound. 
               As I’ve gone through a study on these ideas with my pastor from Lawrence, I’ve realized more that “spiritual growth” really involves a growing realization and understanding of the depth of my sin (even my spiritual disciplines come from proud self-reliance!) and at the same time, growing in my understanding of God’s holiness and “Otherness” as one who is so far removed from the depravity that so subtly makes up my character. 
               The danger I’ve noticed in myself as I meditate on the widening realization of this gap is that it always brings me back to self-reliance.  I should be trying harder!  I should be … what?  The only answer to the broadening, infinite gap between my sin and God’s holiness is a broadening, infinite understanding of the cross of Christ which still bridges the gap.  My response to my failure and sin should be to run back to the cross and cling to it, and grow in my love and appreciation for what Jesus accomplished on that cross!  My obedience, discipline, striving for a growing sanctification, all come out of that relationship that Christ forged on the cross, but those things never make me more or less acceptable to God…Jesus has already finished that work.

Family Update

               We’ve move out of our Kansas City house, traveled a few thousand miles, got all of our belongings packed in trucks or disposed of, and are ready to go!  We’re staying with friends in St. Louis until our departure on June 6th.  We’ll get to Uganda where Amy and the kids are going to stay for a bit while Justin works on our home in the village.  Pray that:
  •            God will provide for all of our “last minute” expenses that are impossible to plan for!
  •         The work on our house will finish quickly
  •         The kids will do well with the time change, new places, new friends, new sicknesses (especially Caleb who’s never been to Africa!)

Lopit Update

               Lately we’ve been hearing more news about famine and starvation in our area.  It’s a problem all throughout South Sudan, and seems to happen on some scale every year, but with the ongoing war things are exacerbated.  Aid gets spread thin and hyper-inflation makes it impossible for people to pull themselves out.  One report suggests that up to ¼ of the people in our village have left to refugee camps because of food shortage.  Pray that:
  • The gospel would change our country's leaders
  • God would provide a way for the Lopit, especially the church, to stay in their homes.
As always, thanks for praying and feel free to share this!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 29, 2017

This is a short update, with lots of last-minute preparations there just hasn’t been a lot of news to report!

We’re leaving Kansas City on May 11th.  We have a lot of traveling around to do before we go back to South Sudan.  Justin will be in Chicago for a couple of days at an Orality conference, and then we’ll be in Orlando for a week where we’ll be trying, again, to recruit new members for our team.  After that it’s back to St. Louis while Justin goes to Kansas City to finish cleaning the house, and then on June 6th we’re leaving! 

Justin’s surgery has been a pretty big success so far.  Since surgery he’s lost over 125lbs and is in the best shape of his life.

               Ezekiel got tubes in his ears on April 19th, please pray that he is recovering well from that.  We have lots of transitions this month with packing, moving around, visiting family, returning vehicles, saying goodbye, and more.  Please pray that our kids do well and stay healthy during this time, and that God provides for what we need! 

Thanks for praying for us!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb Culp

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 30, 2017

We’ve done lots of travelling lately.  Caleb is getting a little big for the “Infant In Lap” option though!

               We’re finally going back to Lohutok.  After lots of waiting and talking with our leadership about security issues, we finally got the clearance to go back this week.  Of course, the best we can do is to say, “As things stand now, it’s okay to go back” understanding that it could change again any time.  Regardless, we bought our tickets and are departing from St. Louis on June 6th.  That gives us a few weeks to close up the house we’re staying in, pack our things, say goodbye to family and friends, and make one last trip to Orlando for team recruiting, and then we’ll be off!

               The last month has been a pretty busy one for us.  We went to Orlando for a week in March to try and meet/recruit new members for our team.  At the end of that week we flew back to Kansas City, and I (Justin) left the next morning with our sending church pastor to drive BACK to Orlando for a Church Partner Forum.  We had to drive because of some medical issues with the pastor, it was a really good trip.  We spent three days thinking through Indian Avenue Baptist Church’s role in international missions, and how they could be more involved in the South Sudan work and in the Great Commission overall.

               Two days after we got back from Orlando, I got the call from our leadership saying that we could plan on returning to Lopit in May.  I immediately started making plans for our return, and it ended up being the first week of June just because of the difference in ticket prices.

               There are still some things that we need in order to function well as a church-planting team in the Lopit, mainly team mates.  Will you join us in praying that the Spirit would raise up some people to come to Lohutok who are willing to stay for a while, learn a language only spoken by 70,000 people, and start doing evangelism and discipleship with us? 


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb Culp

Ezekiel insisted on going to “Big Church” this week, probably because daddy had been gone for a while and just got home.  Antioch had a couple of kids getting baptized that Sunday, and Ezekiel had lots of questions.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

March 2, 2017

               Last Tuesday I got back from a short three-week long trip to South Sudan.  In the newsletter I sent out a few days ago I told you about my goals for the trip and a brief outcome for each of those things.  Today I wanted to write again to tell you more about the church in Lalonga.
               One of our regular prayers is that God would provide godly men in Lalonga for Paul to walk with, disciple, and eventually to help with the leadership of the church.  When we left South Sudan a year ago, Paul asked me what we were planning to do with the church planting and Bible study efforts now that everything had dried up, and I told him that we should pray about that while I’m gone and decide what to do next when I get back.  My goal in this is that Paul will ultimately be the one to make the decision, and that I would simply be there to help him.
               We got back to Lohutok on a Saturday night, so Sunday morning we got up and drove to Lalonga to see the church.  I wasn’t sure what I would find, but was pleased to see a large group of people gathering when we arrived.  They sang like they usually do, and then Paul got up to teach, but before he started, a man named John got up and told the Bible story that they were discussing that day.  I don’t remember ever meeting John, but Paul says that I have.  I later asked Paul what was going on with this new guy, and he told me that he has been doing Bible study with John and another guy for the last year, but the other guy has been losing interest.  We talked again about what it means to be born-again, and Paul assured me that he thinks John is a believer.  If this is true, what a huge answer to prayer!
               I also asked Paul for his thoughts on our next moves in the church planting area.  I expected to have a long discussion about whether we should keep going to the expense of driving to far away villages, but that didn’t happen.  When I asked Paul what he thought we should do next, he simply said, “We’ve been discussing starting 2-3 new Bible Study groups in the small villages of Lalonga, we have some of the places picked out already.”
               Some of you have been asking about the food situation that I wrote about last month.  I went back to South Sudan with a little bit of money (we had to take it from one of our other projects) to help Paul and the church ladies with their shortage.  Thanks to some Diguna missionaries in our area, we were able to put 1200kg of sorghum on a truck and take it from Torit back to Lohutok, and later we added another 800kg that we bought locally.  I talked to Paul about the best way to distribute this without everyone seeing it as coming from me (and deepening the dependency issues we’ve been struggling so hard against) and he already had an answer.  We stored the food in Lohutok, and the “executive committee” that the Lalonga church had formed to make decisions would decide how the food would be distributed, and it would be given away from the church.  Thanks to a couple of you who helped give toward helping with this.
               We’re still waiting for word on when we will be clear to return to South Sudan.  God is at work and the way seems to be paved, so we’re working hard to be ready as soon as we get the okay.  Please pray for the church in Lalonga to continue to grow and disciple each other, and for God’s clear direction regarding our return, its timing and our focus on finishing our language/culture learning when we return.


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel, Caleb

This is John about whom I wrote in the letter.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 25, 2017

This is Veronica, one of the ladies from the church in Lalonga.  She named her baby “Eemieh” after Amy.  The word means “lion” but also sounds a lot like “Amy” which is why the Lopit people call Amy “Lion” (yeah…that’s why!). 

I got back on Tuesday from a three week trip to East Africa.  With the time we needed to shop in Uganda before driving to Lohutok (South Sudan) and the travel time back to Uganda at the end of the trip, we were in Lohutok for about 2 weeks.  I went with Mitchell, a guy from Oklahoma who is currently raising support to come join our team. 

              I had a few purposes for making this short trip back.  My first goal was to get an idea of what the security situation in the village areas is like to inform our decision-making process for going back as a family.  As far as I can tell, after talking to lots of people on the ground (both foreigners and locals) is that the area seems calm, safe, and not involved in the conflict that has closed off work in other parts of the country.  South Sudan is funny like this, with the roads being anywhere from terrible to virtually non-existent and with no other existing infrastructure, it’s possible for there to be war in one part of the country but for other areas to still be relatively safe.

               My second goal for this trip was to simply reconnect with Paul and the church in Lalonga, and to visit some of the areas where we had been doing Bible Study in the past.  I was able to spend a lot of time with Paul on this trip, and was able to do some things to help the church in Lalonga which I will write about in another newsletter.  The church is still meeting, still growing, Paul has a man whom he is discipling and who is helping him with the preaching on Sunday, and they’re still learning Bible stories.

               The third goal for this trip was to take Mitchell on his survey trip.  During our two weeks in Lohutok, Mitch was able to see most of the work we’re doing, make a few trips to Torit for shopping, and get a good idea of what life will be like when he comes to Lohutok to join our team.

               Will you pray with us now that God will be glorified as the Pioneers African leadership decides whether to allow families back to South Sudan?  Pray that God will make His gospel go out whether we’re back as a family, or whether Justin keeps going back alone, or even without us.  Pray that we will accept God’s plan for our family, but really, my desire, is to pray that we all get to return to Lohutok, as a family, as soon as possible!


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

Some of you remember praying for Paul and Issaye and their new son Joseph.  This is Joseph now, he’s not a little baby anymore!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017

Amy, Caleb and Karen (Amy’s mom) eating out in St. Louis when we were there for Christmas with Amy’s family.

               Hopefully you had a good Christmas season with your family!  We had a great time at four family Christmases and lots of travelling and after lots of good fellowship, food and gifts, we’re glad that the new year is here and we can move on to preparing for our return to South Sudan!
               I talked to Paul on Skype last week, it’s the first time we’ve spoken since this time last year, and the news that he gave me was tragic.  As many of you know, last year’s food harvest in South Sudan was mostly non-existent.  People survived through various types of aid and lots more hunger and waiting.  This year the rainy season was good, and the crops were promising, and lots of people in our area were able to bring in lots of food for their families.  For the church in Lalonga the story was a little different.

              Somebody in the village decided to go hunting.  The way they frequently do this is to light a large grassy area on fire, and as the animals run out of the burning grass, the men can shoot the animals and take them home to eat.  Unfortunately, starting a fire in the dry season is never a good idea and there is never much advance planning.  The fire spread to sorghum gardens belonging to Paul and most of the ladies in the Lalonga church.  The report I got from someone other than Paul is that most of Paul’s crop and that of the church ladies was completely destroyed by the fire.  With a bad year last year and the fire this year, the outlook is grim and the ladies are actually considering migrating to one of the refugee camps in Kenya.

               I am going to be in South Sudan soon.  I am leaving the USA on January 30th and will be there with Mitchell, a potential team mate, for about three weeks.  Please pray that God will provide for the church in this situation.  Pray that God would give us wisdom about how to help them alleviate some of their hunger during this time of real tragedy.  Pray that God would give us wisdom as we assess the security situation in South Sudan and how safe it will be to return with the family.  Pray that God would provide for some of the logistical issues that we’re facing as we try to do the building and transporting of goods involved with the projects that you have helped fund.  Pray that Mitchell will get a clear idea about life in South Sudan and his calling, and pray that God would provide safety for us as we travel on the roads.


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb

We were at a show in Branson, Ezekiel was very excited to go and see the show…but he didn’t really know what he was in for!