Tuesday, July 27, 2021
“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
The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of travel and other things. We spent most of July in Georgia. Some people from a great organization in Atlanta helped us with some speech and language evaluations for the kids and the rest of the month we spent visiting Amy’s parents and some supporters and churches in Columbus. We had a nice break visiting the family, and even got to do the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum on the way home.
We’ve had a lot of news and updated plans for the future in the last couple of months. We are waiting for some answers from Pioneers and a few other people before making final decisions, so more will come about that later. If you are one of our regular financial partners, I will be reaching out to you personally over the next few weeks (unless you are one that I’ve talked to recently already!), please keep praying for us as we trust in the goodness of the Lord and this season of family development in which he currently has us.
I (Justin) am trying to plan a trip back to Africa in the next couple of months. Right now Uganda is on another lockdown and there are some restrictions in South Sudan that would make a trip back impossible. I could get there, but then wouldn’t be able to move between places to meet Teresa and teach the pastortraining courses we have in the queue. Thank you for your prayers for our family and for the Lopit people, keep praying that God will open doors for me to continue traveling, that pastors and churches would grow and that the gospel would go out among the Lopit tribe and the rest of the world’s newest nation!
Since I wrote last, we have helped Teresa get into a program for new mothers. She will be able to go to school while also learning some vocational skills and basic parenting things, and is much better taken care of than she was in the old arrangement where she was staying at our place and having visiting teachers. I also talked to Paul last week and he is continuing with his course work and with discipling Michael. He said that they have had a terrible drought again this year and that lots of people haven’t even planted crops…another thing for you to be praying about!
Feel free to reply to this email and reach out if you want to connect. I’ve been making lots of phone calls lately and I can add yours to the list! As always, thank you so much for your prayer and support! Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb Culp
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Teresa has been part of our family since soon after we came to Lohutok. She came asking Amy to teach her the Bible, and has been with us ever since! Her family is a tangled web of difficult relationships, most of them abusive toward her, and a few of them who actively mistreat her because she is close to us and wants to follow Jesus, so for most of the last seven years Teresa has either stayed in our home (when we are gone) or in our guesthouse. She is with us for supper, evening Bible time, she watches our kids, and even cares for our house when we are gone.
Teresa has always been the top student in her class, but after she finished primary school her options were limited. There isn’t a secondary school in Lohutok, so continuing with school meant traveling. There is a friend in the USA who has visited a few times, and always gives to support Teresa, and who really wanted to help her with going to school in Uganda, so on this trip I got her there. It took two years to get her passport straightened out, so even though Teresa is 20 years old, she is ready to start Senior One (the US equivalent to ninth grade). We got her settled in Uganda the same week that Chuck flew back to the USA. We were praying for a good gospelpreaching and Bible believing church for her to be a part of that was within walking distance of where she is staying, and God provided that for us on the first try.
Because of some unfortunate but understandable decisions, Teresa found out after being in Uganda for a few weeks that she would have some difficulty in starting secondary school. She has some exciting but difficult months ahead of her, and it kills us to leave her there alone. We’ve encouraged her to call certain people and make friends, and even to make friends at the church, but she is so used to being mistreated and alone that it is hard for her to do. There are lots of people around her who want to help, but you can probably understand the reluctance to feel like all you ever do is ask, so sometimes she needs help but won’t ask for it.
Pray for Teresa, that God would keep providing for the details of her schooling and other difficult situations she is facing. Pray that God would surround her with people who love and care for her, and that she would have the humility to receive that love and care. Pray that She would find her place in Uganda, and that the power of the shame-killing, life-giving gospel would overwhelm her life. Also pray for us as we see our daughter struggling, and long to go back to her, but wait for God’s timing in our current process.
Thanks as always!
Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb
Monday, April 26, 2021
When we left in 2019 Michael was asking lots of questions about the gospel and following Jesus. He and I had been studying the Lopit language for a while, and translating Bible stories. Listening to one of Paul’s sermons and translating it got Michael angry and asking questions. I left having encouraged Michael to keep reading the Bible, talking to Paul, and studying a book called “Following Jesus.”
When I went back last year, Michael had finished the book and was working on it with Paul. He said that he definitely wanted to leave the village system and follow Jesus, and I had encouraged Paul to keep working with him.
I got back at the beginning of February and talked to Michael early on. Paul also sat with Michael and talked to him about the gospel and how to repent and believe in Jesus. We found out that Michael had recently been elected as one of the leaders of the monyimiji. The monyimiji are the ruling class of initiated men in Lopit culture. They are the ones in charge of enforcing rules and culture in the village. They are also the ones in charge of keeping the traditional customs, including many forms of ancestor veneration and traditional medicine or spiritual appeasement. I talked to Paul about how someone could be in this position of leadership and still follow Jesus, and Paul told me that it would be really hard to do.
The next day we were going to Lalonga for church, and Michael came with us. As we were getting ready to leave, I tried to give Paul the front seat, but he pulled me aside and said “I need to be sitting next to Michael for this trip…next to his ear.” Michael and Paul talked the whole way to Lalonga and the whole way back, and Paul seemed encouraged that Michael would be able to step up to the task of leading the monyimiji in a way that glorifies Christ and communicates the gospel, and said that he would continue to meet with and disciple Michael. We’re praying that Michael is a good person of peace in Lohutok to break through some of the cultural issues that hold people back from trusting Christ.
Pray for Michael. We’ve been praying for years that the gospel would break through in Lohutok, and it’s hard for us not to just lay all of those expectations and pressure on him. Alcohol is a huge problem in the village, it’s a normal part of everyday life usually starting early in the morning, and Michael is not immune to that pressure and temptation. Michael is also closely related to some of the spiritual power brokers in Lohutok, so leaving the traditional practices will be a hard thing for him to do. Thanks for praying! Justin, Amy, Ezekiel and Caleb Cul
Thursday, March 25, 2021
After Chuck left on his flight back to South Carolina, I went back to Lohutok to spend more time with Paul. If you get our prayer calendars you can see the picture I put on the April calendar that came out a few days ago. Front and center is Issaye, Paul’s wife, who is noticeably pregnant. That’s a big deal.
Paul and Issaye struggled for nine years of being marriage with infertility. They had gone through so many things with village healers and other traditional ideas about why they couldn’t conceive. By year seven, Paul had met Chuck and heard the gospel, and decided to repent and believe in Jesus. As part of that, Paul, who was overwhelmed with the stress and shame that comes with infertility and living in the village (rumors, gossip, traditional pressure) decided to publicly repent of his trust in human and demonic powers to control his family, publicly renouncing all of those things and profess his trust in Jesus to provide him with a family (or not, if He so chooses). Paul and Issaye were scheduled to go to a doctor in Kenya (arranged by Chuck) for possible treatment for endometriosis, but a week before that flight, we all found out that Issaye was pregnant with their first son, Joseph.
That was such a joy, but Joseph is five years old and after many more years of trying and failing to conceive a second child, Paul was again sad but was determined to trust the Lord to provide when the time is right. He has sat in my office many times in tears begging God for another child, and now they’re going to have one! Issaye is always kind of a joker, but is also from a culture where one doesn’t get too happy or excited until the baby has come. We do the same thing in our own way, saying things like “I don’t want to jinx it but…”
While visiting with Paul and Issaye, I started a joke with her that always made her blush (I don’t know if blush is the right word with people whose skin tone is so dark that it never changes!). When we meet I greet her, and then I reach out to greet the “new person” as well, and she laughs and slaps my hand away. We did a Bible study on Psalm 139 that Paul was eager to do with his wife. We talked about how God had written all of our days in his book before one of them had even passed. I told Paul that the first day of life doesn’t start at birth, it starts at conception, and that this new life is one for which God has already provided, planned and blessed. Praise God with us that He provides the miracle of life, even when the process of waiting feels hopeless!
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Chuck and Shelly Parker were our team leaders when we first came to Lohutok. When we came, the Parkers had already been here for a couple of years as Chuck started Bible studies in at least five Lopit villages, with occasional meetings in a few more. There is a lot of discouraging potential in working here, lots of people will come to your meetings if it might mean gaining something material from the foreigners. Within eight months of Chuck and Shelly leaving, we saw all of those Bible studies dry up, but God left Paul and Issaye. Paul had been coming with us as a translator, there were a few other guys who seemed involved and interested that eventually faded out of the picture, but Paul persevered. Even when we were driving 4 ½ hours to Lacharok every week just to find that nobody wanted to come anymore, Paul was thinking up new plans to evangelize and disciple the few women in his church who were still coming and hungry. Chuck came back with me on this trip. He was hoping to reconnect with and encourage some of the Bible study “leaders” who had stopped coming, but I think what he got was better. Our initial plan was for Robert, our Kenyan team mate who lives about an hour (10 miles) up the road, to bring two pastors with whom he had been working to my place in Lohutok. Paul was set to do a course on pastoring called The Shepherd and His Work and since Chuck is a pastor (I’m not) I asked Chuck to do a short workshop with Paul and two of the other pastors (Thomas and Clement). When we got here we found out that the pastors from up north refused to come. There has been some inter-village fighting that makes people fear driving through that stretch of road, but Paul was immediately willing to drive to Ohilang and have classes there.
Chuck spent four days talking to six guys (Thomas and Clement brought 2 of their disciples, and Robert was there participating as well) about how to communicate a clear, non-moralistic gospel, and how that gospel affects one’s work as a pastor. He said things like “If, at the end of your sermon, you have not communicated the Gospel, you have not preached a Christian sermon” and “Ask yourself, would this sermon work in a mosque? If it would, you need more Gospel.” The pastors were provoked in some practical ways, and Paul’s fire is noticeably re-lit.
At the end of Chuck’s stay we went back to Uganda and took Teresa with us so she can start secondary school when it opens. She acted tough, but when we got to the busy city she was noticeably stressed. God made all of the details for her needs in Uganda come together despite my worries, those details will have to come later! Pray that Teresa gets into school without any hassles, and for the rest of my time here with Paul!