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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

November 25, 2017

The last day of building, Michael and his father are killing a goat for the construction workers to have for lunch.

Last week, on one of our regular trips to Torit for shopping and business, I had another great talk with Paul.  We were listening to worship music in the pickup and the song “Great I Am” came on the radio.  I was singing along with it, and then thought “I wonder if this is confusing?”  We often talk about what the words to our Christian music are saying and how they lead us to see God in a certain light, so I asked Paul if he knew what “Great I Am” meant.  That’s something we really take for granted isn’t it?  Hearing things like the names of God in so many different contexts, but Paul had no idea.  It really is confusing that a state of being verb is used as a proper name isn’t it?

I asked Paul if he knew the story of the burning bush.  He told me that he had read the story a few times, but it wasn’t one of the stories he had told and taught in the church, so he was only somewhat familiar with it.  I probed him through retelling me the story (Where was Moses?  Why wasn’t he a slave?  What did he see?  What did the voice say to him?  Etc.) until we got to the last part where Moses asked “When they ask who sent me, what should I tell them?”  Here Paul couldn’t remember God’s response.  How could he?  It doesn’t make any sense…”I Am” isn’t something that stands out as someone’s name, especially when he’s reading English which is not his first/heart language.  I started talking to Paul about what it means that God answered “Who are you?” with “I Am that I Am.”  Sure, God has tons of other names in the Bible that focus on one or a few of his specific attributes, but any name or word used to describe God effectively limits our description of him.  God isn’t defined by a name, or a certain personality type, or a race, or anything else, he is “I Am that I Am.”  He defines Himself.  He defines everything else.  He is the self-sufficient, selfexistent, all-authoritative and powerful creator of reality.

Then we moved on.  Something I’ve strongly believed since I started doing this, and that has been reinforced by a few key co-workers and teachers, is that any lesson/story/ sermon/discussion about the things of God can and should end with the gospel.  So I asked Paul if knowing this “Name for God” made him think of anything in the New Testament.  He couldn’t think of anything, so I handed him my phone and told him to read John chapter 8.  Again, as we talk about walking alongside pastors in discipleship and the day-to-day teaching relationship we want to have with these leaders whom God has put in our lives, think about how much of Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 is just lost in translation! 

In John 8, Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees about Abraham.  Jesus is greater than Abraham.  In fact, Abraham died, but those who repent and believe in Jesus will never taste death, Ever!  Actually, Abraham rejoiced when he saw Jesus’ day!  The Pharisees couldn’t take it, they said “Jesus, you’re not even 50 years old yet!  You’ve seen Abraham?”  And then we have Jesus’ climactic response, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.”

The Pharisees knew what Jesus meant, they tried to kill him.  As I drove the pickup and Paul read John 8 out loud to me, his face lit up as well.  I said “Paul, what is Jesus saying about himself in that story?”  The remaining 2 hours of the trip home was packed.  Was Jesus claiming to be God?  Yes he was.  Was Jesus claiming to be eternal?  Yes he was.  But it’s even more than that.  God appeared to Moses in the bush and named Himself, and Jesus said “That was me.  That IS me.”  He didn’t say “I was,”  He said “I Am.”  There’s lots of good speculation about God’s relationship to time, but if the way we’ve put it all together is true, when God was talking to Moses in the bush, He was also present with Jesus hanging on the cross.  When God told Abraham that his descendant would be a blessing to all nations, the very descendant about whom God was talking was there, present, pronouncing the promise that He Himself would fulfill in His broken body on the cross.  The cross wasn’t an accident, it was God’s perfect redemptive plan from the very beginning.  He’s the one who would crush the serpent’s head, and He was there from the beginning orchestrating it all so that “The one who hears my word and keeps it will never taste death – ever!”

Paul had a new appreciation for the vastness of God’s plan in the gospel on Tuesday and, as happens with lots of preachers and teachers, so did I.  Talking through the little, well-known, taken for granted fact that Great I Am goes back to Moses, I learned a lot about just how deeply God, Jesus, the Great I Am, cares about our souls and has planned for our deliverance.

Donatello (Ezekiel) wielding a broomstick with one of his birthday presents from grandparents.  Caleb really wanted to be swinging a weapon too, so he got out the backhoe…

Construction Update

 The house is done.  I am writing this newsletter from Uganda, I got here yesterday to get some pretty major repairs done on the pickup, pack up Amy and the kids, drive them to Arua where they can get a flight back to the village, drive myself (and their luggage) back to South Sudan and be there to meet them when they arrive.  We should all be back home by the middle of December and this year we will have our first Christmas all together in our finished house!  Thank you to everyone who has prayed, encouraged, written and given during this trying time of separation.  I’m thrilled for it to be over, and I know the kids are too.  This morning I was snuggling with Caleb on the couch after he woke up and Amy walked by.  He sat up and said “Momma!”  She looked over and said “Yes sweetie?”  and he just smiled and pointed his finger at me like “Look what I found!”


- Pray that All of the packing and final travels will go well and that we won’t forget anything! - Pray that, as we’ve just finished all of the construction on the house, that God would provide for some recent major repairs that have come up on our pickup. - Pray for our reunion as a family as we all re-adjust to being together again.  I’m not a “bachelor” anymore, there are two parents at home, two people who need space, etc.


Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb 

Friday, October 20, 2017

October 20, 2017

October 27, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I was riding in the pickup with Paul on the way to town.  I’ve been helping Paul come up with various ideas to support himself financially while doing ministry, and on this day it involved transporting his ground nuts to Torit to be sold.  The long car rides with Paul are always rewarding.  Sometimes we talk about things like Lopit prepositions to improve my language skills, sometimes we talk about Sonship and the gospel, and other times we talk about some real nuts and bolts ministry stuff.

On this day we had been talking about some of the issues going on in the Lopit church, and were brought to conviction about loving people in the church who are hard to love (or even be patient with), and I was thanking God for such good opportunities for discipleship on this trip…I thought this trip couldn’t get any better!

Then the trip back home happened.  About halfway home Paul said “I need to get your input on something with the church.”  I had no idea what he might be talking about, so I just said “Okay.”  Then Paul said “Our church is starting about four new churches, but in two of the places there are no men.  Can those groups be led by women?  Or should I be leaving my church on Sundays to lead those groups?”

It was a good question, but my response was “Wait, you’re starting what?!”  So often we feel like nothing happens here unless we are the ones to initiate it, and here is Paul breaking it to me that they have Bible study groups meeting in four of the surrounding villages, and he is struggling with the doctrinal issues involving leadership!  Paul also has a small group of men (and boys) whom he is discipling, so I encouraged him to urge those guys to take some leadership in the new groups.  Praise the Lord that His Spirit is working in our absence.  Nobody told Paul that he should be starting churches!

Paul also asked me recently to start doing some kind of “Bible School” with him.  He said he doesn’t want to leave the village to go to Bible School in Kenya or Uganda, because he wants to be here in the village with the church.  He asked me to do some informal Bible training and asserted that “I don’t need a diploma or certificate, I have enough of those that don’t help me.”  Even so, we’re working with some other missionaries in the area on a way to train pastors in the village, but do it through a local Bible School so it will be officially recognized.

Pray that God gives us wisdom about encouraging and training guys like Paul in a meaningful way, and that the churches he’s starting would flourish and have organic leadership!

The work on our house is almost done!  I’m hoping to be finished and have everyone back here learning language by the end of November.  Pray that God provides for the work (I don’t know how to do most of what’s left!) and that we have the funds we need to finish everything without delays.
My mom used to ask us every year what we wanted for our birthday supper, I remember always picking the same thing…her home made pizza.  For Ezekiel’s fifth birthday he really wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…

Thanks for your partnership!

Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb 

Friday, September 1, 2017

September 1, 2017

September 1, 2017

The Sunday morning offering in Lalonga.  It was so big that she had to get help counting it this week

In the few years that I’ve spent in Lohutok I’ve had more contact with dead bodies than I ever have in the rest of my life combined.  In the USA we are pleasantly separated from a lot of the gross realities of death most of the time, people die in hospitals or are covered and carted off quickly if they don’t.  Here it’s different.  There are stories I could tell that would just scare my mother, so I won’t, but with the lack of healthcare and cultural violence/civil unrest here, encountering corpses has just become more of a reality.

It may seem like I’m trying to be shocking or morbid when I write this, but bear with me for another few lines.  Today during my 7 hour round trip drive to Torit for supplies I was meditating on the death of Jesus Christ (with the help of an online sermon from a friend).  Have you thought about that?  We have some nice, sanitary pictures of Jesus (with a loincloth) hanging on a cross, and then we see the sealed tomb, and then it’s empty, but there are a lot of intermittent steps there! 

Paul says that Jesus, who existed in the form of God, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, and I don’t want to miss just how humbling and humiliating that kenosis was.  Someone, perhaps Joseph of Arimathea, had to pull the metal spikes out of Jesus’ broken bones and flesh and take his lifeless, heavy, floppy, cold body down from that cross and carry it to a tomb.  Have you ever carried an unconscious person?  There’s a reason we call it “dead weight” because it’s difficult!
Today when I’m struggling with that same recurring sin, or self-doubt because of my failures, or worried that maybe God won’t provide this time or that He doesn’t have my best interest in mind (you know, because things don’t go my way…) I’m called back to the morbid reality of Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent victorious resurrection which accomplished for me the adoption to Sonship and a privileged position in the Kingdom of God.  Not because I earned it, or because I deserve it, or because I’m better than anyone else, but because Jesus thought I (and you) were worth paying the ultimate, humiliating price.
The building work is going about as expected (for South Sudan), lots of delays and hang-ups, but still some progress.  Amy has started doing Kindergarten with Ezekiel and that seems to be going well.  The church in Lalonga is growing in numbers.  Paul has been meeting with a group of people from the church to rehearse a gospel set of Bible stories, and then he’s having them go into the village and tell these stories to different people and bring back reports!

Keep praying for us during this trying period while I try to get the house finished so that we can all be reunited back in South Sudan! 

Philippians 1:3-4,

 Ezekiel wrote his name by himself.  It was quite the exciting accomplishment!

Justin (for all of us)

Friday, July 28, 2017

July 28, 2017

This is one of those months where, instead of saying “What can I possibly write about?” I’m saying “What can I leave off to make this thing short enough to read?!”  Since this is a longer letter I’m putting in a few headings in case you want to skip the parts you’re not interested in!

Church in Lalonga

A few weeks ago I went to Lalonga for Sunday morning prayers.  I had malaria and probably shouldn’t have gotten up and driven, but I did.  When I got to the church they all told me that Paul wasn’t around.  He had been summoned to town by the commissioner or something like that and had been gone since yesterday.  The ladies in the church all started looking at me and asking me to lead the singing and preach something.  I was able to tell them that I didn’t have anything prepared, my language is bad, and I had malaria (I got up to vomit twice during worship!) so they should just do what they would have done if I didn’t come.  I probably could have done something, but I think that sometimes good discipleship means not taking charge and just seeing what happens, so that’s what I did.
Teresa got up after a while and started leading a song, and during that first song a young boy came over to the tree.  I have never seen this boy before, but this was only my second time back at the Lalonga church since I got here.  I thought he was just visiting, but then he got a chair and sat up front facing the rest of the group.  When Teresa was done with the song she had started, this boy started leading other songs.  He was obviously struggling and uncomfortable, but after a few songs he got out a Bible.  Paul has been reading through and preaching on the book of Luke, so they had a short discussion trying to remember which chapter and verse Paul had finished last week.  The boy then started reading (which was funny to me because he started in the middle of a story!).  When he finished reading, he asked the group a few questions about what they had read, and then was done.  At that point, I offered to share something with the group.  I talked about what God had been teaching me in my devotions lately (the snakes and stones message of last month’s newsletter) and then we closed with more singing and prayer.

Next Story:  Yesterday I went to Torit to get some materials for the building work I’m doing.  I remembered that Paul said he was trying to find a ride to Torit, so I stopped at his house and asked him if he would like to come with me.  A ride on one of the “Public Transport” vehicles costs 1000 South Sudanese Pounds, which is about 4 days’ wages right now.  I fully expected him to excitedly come, but instead of taking  the free ride he said:  “I can’t.  We are meeting with the members of the church on Wednesdays to train them how to do evangelism.”  I masked my surprise and excitement and left for Torit.
On my way home from Torit I saw Paul walking down the road toward his house so I picked him up.  I was a little surprised since the church is literally right next to Paul’s house.  He told me that they had started meeting in one of the other villages (Lalonga is made up of like 5 or 6 sub-villages) because they had people from another village coming.  He told me that Some men who used to be part of another denomination before it just fell apart wanted to be a part of a church, and were coming for this evangelism training so that they can try to start a church in their village.  Basically Paul is teaching the people from his church, and two guys from another village a set of stories that they need to know to share the gospel with their neighbors, and then making them go out and do it and bring back a report the next day, and this has spread to other nearby villages too!
These might sound like a couple of random stories about local believers to some people, but we are working in a tribe that has had missionaries for decades and has had very little fruit in the area of church discipleship and reproduction.  When I first came to South Sudan, there were Bible studies going on in five villages which all eventually dried up because they found out that we weren’t going to give a bunch of aid and handouts.  In the midst of a frustrating building project and being separated from my family, I am leaping with absolute joy after seeing that the church we left behind before our extended furlough is not only still existing and meeting, but that Paul is discipling young men in his own village to take leadership when he is not around, teaching his members how to share the gospel with their neighbors using stories, and including people from other villages with a view to starting churches in those villages!  Praise Jesus.

Building Project/House Work
The building project is going along about as expected.  I say that with a bit of tongue-in-cheek because “as expected” in South Sudan involves a few headaches!  If you saw the pictures I included in the prayer calendar email, they were all of various things that I’ve been trying to deal with or solve!  My extension cord melted, the “builders” made part of our water tower with crooked pillars (to hold 5 tons of water 6 meters in the air), part of the fuse panel on the pickup melted yesterday because I drove through a puddle and the fuse overheated and melted instead of blowing, one of our old water tanks (the one I wrote about cracking a while back, which I’ve been patching over and over again) just exploded when I filled it up with water, the cooling fan on our generator melted and ran into the alternator basically spoiling the whole thing, and the burned-up truck you see was an issue of road insecurity on one of my trips to town (I wasn’t ever in danger, it’s a long story that involves a guy travelling at night with soldiers in his truck which are both bad decisions!).
In the midst of all of that, the kitchen has all kinds of shelves and creative storage to make Amy’s days a little easier there, the building is up to “window level” and we are going to put on the lintels tomorrow for the doors and windows, the water tower is halfway up, the materials are all here (which is a big deal, transportation out here is complicated!), and we’ve been doing some evangelism with the guys working on the buildings.
There is still a lot of work to do, but I am confident that it is going about as well as it can go!

Our Family
For the last five weeks or so Amy has been in Uganda with the kids while I am in Lohutok getting this work finished on the house.  There are so many things that needed to be done just to relieve the daily stress of living in a storage facility/workshop with two rowdy boys, and our house is literally set up like a work zone right now with all of the projects, that it just wasn’t possible for us all to be here together.  We could have come back as a family sooner, but it would have meant putting off all of this work until “there is time” which never happens.  We decided to just get it all finished in one go and then be done with it.
Logistically that seems like the best plan, but it is difficult.  Ezekiel has not handled the transitions so well, with the moving and then me being gone, and has had a few behavior problems that are really stressful for Amy.  I have just been away from my wife and kids for a month, but I’m going back in a week and a half to spend some time with them, get some daddy time with Ezekiel to talk about his behavior, and then do a bit more shopping to finish bathrooms and such.  Please pray for our family with all of these things going on.

In the midst of all of that, God has been faithful to us in providing for what we need.  Last month I wrote that we had lost a few donors because of financial difficulties, which has led to a bit of a shortfall in our building budget.  I wrote to a few of you individually to ask for help, and God has graciously provided (in promises at least!) about half of what we were asking to make up.  That’s all I’ll say about money here, please write to me if you would like to know more or want to help make up some the monthly commitments!

There is so much more I could write.  It’s been quite an eventful month, but I’ve already tripled my “one page only” rule for newsletters!  Thank you all for praying, giving and writing with your encouragement.  Both of our email addresses are below if you would like to write, We always love hearing from people!

Philippians 1:3-4,

Justin (for all of us), Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb.

Friday, July 7, 2017

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!