We just came back from our two week trip to one of the tribes here in South Sudan. And what should I say …? I fell in love! Let me take you along and show you why I feel this way. And who knows .. maybe by the end you will like it too .. :)
You will find
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Matthew 7:7-8, NIV]
God promises us something. If we really look for him, we will find him. Not maybe, not we might, not some will … we will find him! This month I got quite a few sad news, both from Germany and South Sudan. It made me really thankful for the hope we have in Christ, that there is Good News. We will have eternal life! But it also made me sad thinking about the many people, again both in Germany and here, who don’t have that hope. People I know very well, who don’t live in a relationship with their creator, who have not said yes to Jesus. I can’t imagine what these news must have triggered in them. This verse gave me hope though. I prayed that they would ask, they would search for and they would knock at the door. Because then, they will find! God is stretching out his loving hand and all we have to do is to just grab it and say yes.
The journey begins
7:30, the car is all packed and we’re taking off. 70km ahead of us. Estimated travel time: 4h. I was driving a lot myself which was fun, but also exhausting. Because of the many potholes, your brain is constantly at work, trying to find the best route. Eventually, after 5h and without any breakdowns, we made it to Iboni, one of the 56 villages in the Lopit mountains. This would be my home for the next two weeks, together with half of our team. The others would stay up the mountain in Ohilang, about a 40min walk from us.
The villages are established at the foot of the mountains, beautifully blending into the landscape. Apart from the one “road” leading to the villages, there are no roads. People walk everywhere and so within the village, there are many cute little alleys. The compounds are separated by fences made out of wood and bamboo. Rocks are used to keep this hill from sliding down and build the path. Their huts are made of brick, clay and strong wooden poles, as well as palm leaves for the roof. The roof lasts a good 20-25 years until it has to be replaced. The scenery is just breathtaking. Mountains, beautiful villages, no busyness or rush hour and the feel of a warm community.
The Lopit are farmers. They do keep livestock, like cattle, goats and chickens, but their main occupation is agriculture. Sorghum, Milet, Peanuts and a little bit of Cassava, Sweet Potatoes and Tomatoes. They also have seasonal mangoes, papayas and coconuts. A stone is used to mill their grains into flour and their peanuts into peanut butter. To keep away rats and other animals, the sorghum gets smoked and then stored in storage huts (mugu / ibati).
Every village has a leading group of men, the Munyumiji (Youth). They reign for 22 years and consist of men from 20 to 42 years of age. They are responsible for any project in the village, its protection and any decisions. The elders (former Monumiji) still function as advisers.
The men are responsible for building houses, farming, protecting, hunting and leading. The women manage the household, raise kids and carry water and firewood. It amazed me how they carry 30kg on their heads for kilometers and kilometers up a mountain! The kids usually look after the animals and watch the cattle, if they’re not in school.
But there is also a lot of different games they play. In “Goat and Hyena” they have to protect one player (the goat) from another (the hyena). There is a hunting game, where the kids have to throw a stick (speer) through a rolling disk called “Ikodi kodi”. But they also build their own music instruments. They build a xylophone out of bamboo which they tune by wedging in stones.
Need for the gospel
The Lopit follow their traditional belief and have an animistic worldview. They believe in one Supreme Being, many minor spirits and that their ancestors still have influence in their lives. Certain people in the village, e.g. the Rainmaker, have a special ability to connect to the spirits and are therefore consulted whenever something happens. Rituals are a big part of their lives.
I have gotten to know a couple believers and was encouraged by their endurance and faith. It is hard to separate yourself from these traditional practices and follow Jesus wholeheartedly, when the entire village opposes you. They endured a lot of afflictions and hardship! And they are on their own. There are only 1-2 believers per village, no one to encourage or build you up.
The Lopit need Jesus! I saw a lot of hopelessness in many different areas, despite the beautiful surrounding. How should they believe, if there is no one to tell them? I love these people and could see myself living there longterm. (Prayers welcome!) We are looking for more team mates, people who are up for an adventure and have a passion for Jesus. You can find a list of open opportunities HERE. So, what about you?
I had about 2 weeks at home in Torit now. Good to catch up with people, work on our car and learn more Juba-Arabic. Next week we’re heading out to Uganda to meet our office personnel, have a one week vacation and go to conference. I’m really looking forward to all of that!
Thank you so much for enabling me to be out here! I would not be here if it weren’t for your support! God bless you,