Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Developing a Strategy

I have taken nearly a year without posting so though I cannot touch on everything, I want to share briefly about the direction our team is going and some stories about a few individuals.
Discovery Bible Studies.
In May our whole unit in South Sudan went out to Lokichoggio, Kenya where we joined together for fellowship and training for starting Disciple Making Movements through Discovery Bible Studies. Disciplemaking Making Movements refer to training self-propagating followers of Jesus.  Discovery Bible Study is a method used for making disciples which emphasizes obedience to God's word in a supportive group setting by which the learners read together a selected bible passage and talk about what it teaches them and how they will commit to obeying it.   Most of us were familiar with the Discovery Bible Study method and had talked and read about Disciple Making Movements, but it was helpful to see and hear from our teacher at the retreat who was practicing and seeing churches formed through such a method in East Africa.  We had a lot of good discussions and our Laarim team decided that we wanted to begin implementing many of the principles we learned.  Though we cannot hold a study with text for a group to read and follow because very few are literate, we are able to share the Bible stories and teach people to memorize them. And we believe that through such means the Holy Spirit can speak to hearts, teach, and empower people to obey and follow Jesus.  Some team members are currently working on a set of Bible stories in chronological order to be translated into Laarim for sharing orally during such meetings.
In the meantime, our team has begin implementing some of the principles of the Discovery Bible Studies.  Some days go better than others, but each time as a group meets God's truths are being presented and a number of people make a commitment to obey what what they are learning from God's word.  One by one, lives are being changed and more people are coming to know Christ.    
A New Season for Andrew
My first team member to join me, Andrew, has finished up his two-year commitment to serve among the Laarim and has returned to England.  I thank the Lord for bringing Andrew to South Sudan and using him effectively in ministry.  Andrew impacted many lives, including mine, by demonstrating Christlike character during his time with us.  He really made the most of the opportunities God gave him and was an example and encouragement to us all.
Last January was a difficult month for me with the loss of my friend Loduko whom I had known for two years.  Loduko was about 16 years old.  He stood out to me as the one in the group of children and youth who would speak out for what he believed was right, sometimes in my defense and other times harshly against my decisions.  But I enjoyed spending time with him and we grew closer over the months as he patiently helped me with the Laarim language and I spent time teaching Laarim literacy lessons and Bible stories to him. 
Over time I noticed that Loduko became more respectful toward me and others even if he did not agree with our decisions.  I also observed that Loduko did his best to be honest with me even if it was not to his benefit.  Whenever we had any activities or prayer times together Loduko was usually there with us.  Eventually Loduko trusted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  But a few months later I noticed Loduko had not been around for a some days. When I asked someone about him I was told he was sick.  I quickly went to his home and found Loduko on his sleeping mat in his house with a high fever and without the strength to even walk.   I prayed for him and took him to the clinic with his mother and brother where Loduko tested positive for malaria.  But sadly the treatment he received was not adequate and he died two days later. It was a painful time.  I learned from his mother that Loduko was the one she could always count on to be of help in the family, even though she has two sons older than him.  I pray that Loduko's mother and siblings will also come to know Jesus as he did.  
Our friend and brother Loboi
I had first become acquainted with Loboi, a Laarim, in Torit when I came back to South Sudan in 2011.  We became friends and I would visit him regularly.  A couple of years later Loboi trusted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  Though I had moved out to Loryok by that time, I still would see Loboi during my stays in Torit.  During one of our conversations Loboi told me that he wanted to be a pastor.  Loboi was still in school, but we would still meet and pray together when there was opportunity.  A number of times, Loboi had volunteered to come out when different needs arose.  One time he came and helped me put up a fence around a compound I was working on.  Another time he and I went out with a group to help build a new house for Kenyan missionary Jacinta in the village of Farasika when hers was destoryed by termintes.
Loboi continued in school until he finished his final exams in March of this year.  After finishing, he eagerly came out to work with our current team of 10 adults helping us with language and ministry outreach.  Now that  Loboi stays with the team, he divides up his week spending a couple days at each of our three locations.  During his free time, Loboi has been visiting his friends and family, often sharing the gospel and encouraging those whom he has led to Christ.   

Loboi's baptism, January 2016
(Andrew standing at the far left. Loboi standing second to left. Loduko standing at the far right.)
Home Assignment
As of late August I have been on home assignment in the US and plan to be here until January 2018. I have been enjoying seeing friends and family as well as having the time and space to focus on tasks with minimal interruption.  Now that I have access to my blog I hope to post again before too many months go by.
How you can pray
-Please pray for team members as they continue to reach out by sharing Bible stories at different family compounds in the villages.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and open hearts as the word is shared.
-Pray for Loboi to continue growing in his love for Jesus and his fellow Laarim so that he would continue to be effective in ministry.
-Pray for me to be refreshed and encouraged while in the US so that I will be prepared to return and continue joyfully serving among the Laarim.

Friday, October 7, 2016

In the latter part of July this year we, who were in the Kimotong at the time went out to Kenya because of conflict in certain areas of South Sudan.  Considering that the conflict was unlikely to reach our area, a short while later we were given permission to return. So two weeks after arriving in Kenya, I returned to Kimotong and was warmly welcomed by many in the community.

As of the beginning of September, the full team of AIM missionaries to the Laarim has come and begun the ministry of learning language and culture.  The team consists of 12 adults and 6 children representing five nations: Australia, Holland, Rwanda, the UK and the US.  Many of the children in the village have been especially excited to see the little ones on the team who have come from abroad.  We have begun our weekly team meetings which consist of a time of prayer, worship, Bible study, discussion over assigned readings, and team business.  This month, most of the team is in Kenya for a three-week orientation while our team leaders are visiting their home country.    

Through late July and August the days in the village were quiet as most of the children would wake up before sunrise and head out to their fields.  These children in their fields would sit up on stands erected from cut wooden poles and spend the day protecting the ripening heads of sorghum from the birds.  As birds would land in the field the children would shout and sling balls of clay at them.  This continued each day until all of the sorghum was harvested. After the heads of sorghum are cut off, many of the stalks which are like a type of sugar cane are harvested and consumed.  Often, as those who were coming from the fields would pass by our compound, they would also share with us a few sorghum stalks from which they harvested the grain.  In the evenings after sundown we would hear the children returning home laughing, chattering, and playing their bamboo flutes. We are thankful that this year the harvest was satisfactory.

We praise the Lord for two boys and one girl who have expressed that they have made a commitment to follow Jesus and trust him as their Lord and Savior.  Two of these youth have gone to other locations for a season: one off to school and the other to the cattle camp.  Pray that we would make the most of each opportunity we have to disciple and mentor the youth and children and pray for these new believers wherever they go to continue growing in their trust, love, and obedience to Jesus.

Many months have passed since I started teaching mother tongue literacy in the village.  The process still feels rather disorganized.  One group shows up to learn and the next day it might be a different group. Most of the time I would have a mix of children who were all at very different levels of learning.  But those who have continued to come are learning well and I am encouraged by their eagerness to keep learning.  This also gives me opportunity to share from translated books of the Bible, pray, and share Bible stories with the children.  Many in the group also like memorizing bible verses.  Even some adults in the community are expressing interest in learning how to read.  Please pray that those who are learning will develop a desire to know the Bible more and read it themselves.

Our Laarim friend and brother in Christ, Angelo, continues to be with us over the school holidays.  Over this last holiday, he joined us for three weeks and spent time helping team members with language, translating a script for a Christmas program written by Andrew, and meeting with youth and children to share the word of God.   During that time, our unit leader came to Kimotong by air.  He and the pilot stayed for three nights to make some repairs on the electrical systems and water systems on the compounds.  Since Angelo need to return to Torit and I was ready to go there for a break, we were able to catch a ride on the five passenger plane that was taking our unit leader back to Torit.  Being his first time on a plane, Angelo was quite excited and enjoyed the 30 minute flight. I did not enjoy it so much as I had gotten airsick.   Praise the Lord for Angelo's love for Jesus and his willingness to serve and share the gospel with his fellow Laarim.  Pray for more Laarim to come to Christ and have that same passion.

Friday, July 15, 2016


(This update was written to be posted at the beginning of July, but due to problems with our internet I was unable to send it out.   Currently our team has come out to Kenya due to the conflict in South Sudan, but we are hopeful that we can go back soon.)

It can be so easy to react to the pressures of expectations surrounding us. Most of us at times feel pressure to hurry because of others expectations or the perception of what is expected of us. I find in many instances that I can easily get anxious when others are waiting on me.  And when I rush through that which is important, whether it is my quiet time in the morning or a task which I know I needs my careful attention, I often find myself frustrated. After a struggle though I know that I must quiet down and come to the Lord in repentance, admitting my sin.   This does happen more often than I would like to admit. But I am thankful for God's mercy and grace which brings me back to the point of quieting the competing voices and being able to hear Him through His word. Over the last few months, I have been brought back to the passage in Isaiah 40:31 which says, "Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength."  I am comforted when I remember that it is the Lord who not only guides me into my activities for the day, but also gives me the strength to accomplish His purposes through them.

I find that having a rest day each week is also important, but I have also found that I need to occasionally withdraw and go to a different place where I don't feel the pull of my usual responsibilities in my location of ministry. Recently I tore a muscle in my thigh and I decided to go to Nairobi for an MRI and to see an orthopaedic specialist.  I flew out to Nairobi and after a doctor looked at the injury, he decided that surgery would not be a good option.  Except for the first three days after the injury, I have experienced little pain and have been recovering remarkably well.  Though my injured leg tires a bit more quickly, I am able to walk well now.  During the time in Nairobi, I got some good rest. I also had some time reading the Gospel of Luke in Laarim for practice as well as expanding my vocabulary with words I had collected in writing, but never learned well.  I got to see some friends as well, one from Omaha, and a couple from Loryok, which was my home in South Sudan for three years.  It turned out to be a time of rest and refreshment.   Just days before my injury, I was talking to my friend Lotao on the phone, who was brought to Kenya to study and stay with a Kenyan family in the Nairobi area.  He asked me when I would be coming and I said it would probably be awhile, perhaps the following year.  Two weeks later we met in Nairobi and he reminded me that God sometimes has other plans for us.

A Growing Interest

Ministry among the Laarim has gone well and the boys have continued to eagerly come in even larger numbers to play football, hear a Bible story, pray, and sing together.  A number from the group often come in the afternoon for a literacy lesson.  Most attend irregularly and are learning very slowly, but two youth who come regularly are moving ahead more quickly.  I am greatly encouraged by their desire to keep learning God's word and how to read.  Recently, our team member Andrew started a class at the primary school to help the students develop Laarim songs in their own language.  After the first day, Andrew showed us a video of the class enthusiastically singing a song they developed in Laarim about God creating the world.  The children in the villages during the Sunday meetings learned the song and also sing it.  One Sunday recently, Linda invited women in the community to come over for tea and watch the Jesus film in the Murle language, which can mostly be understood by the Laarim because of their language similarities.  Seven women came and watched very attentively expressed much excitement during the scenes with women.  Because it was getting late, they had to stop half way through, but they hope to come back on another Sunday to finish the film. 

Meeting with children for a Bible story after playing football

We are thankful to the Lord that the required support has come in for all of the team members and they are set to come in this month.  Also, the construction of the houses is complete so that families will be able to move in upon their arrival.

Ways you can pray:

Pray for the nation of South Sudan during this time of conflict.  Pray for the door to be open for missionaries to continue to serve there.

Pray for a continual hunger among the Laarim for Jesus.

Pray for good connections and relationships between the missionaries and community members in each area we settle.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Ministry here seems to have its months of being in routine and out of it.  I have experienced much transition over these last few months.  Many of the changes have been good, but the frequent adjustments do take energy and add a degree of stress.  Yet I praise the Lord for the many wonderful things he has brought about.

December was the beginning of school holidays and we had two Laarim students, Angelo and Lotao, stay with us over those past six weeks.  For Christmas we joined together with some adults and children in the community to share the Christmas story and have a time of singing and prayer.  At the end of the program, we passed out sweets and biscuits for everyone to enjoy. 

In mid-January we had a team of youth come out from Torit for evangelism in the area.  It was a bit of a surprise to the team to find fewer people in villages because of dry season and lack of food in the area. But those who remained in the villages heard the gospel as our group went home to home to share the message.  During the dry season, many people migrate to different areas where there are larger sources of water and food for themselves and for their cattle.  They usually return in April after the rains have come and they begin planting.

On the last day that the team was with us, I had the privilege of baptizing two Laarim youth, Lotao, and Loboi.  It has been a great joy to see them growing in their love for Jesus and take this step of obedience.  I have known Loboi for several years and would see him regularly during my visits to Torit.  I have seen Loboi over time grow in his boldness for Christ.  Over this last year, I have spent much time with Lotao in the village and have seen him rapidly grow in his love for Jesus, knowledge of the Bible, and his ability to share the good news with others.  Lotao has started attending school in Farasika, which is at the southern end of Laarim territory.  There he will be staying with a couple of Kenyan missionaries who are teaching at the school.  We will miss always having him around, but we trust that the Lord will continue to grow him and use him as he continues to be discipled by the missionaries there.

In our village there are a couple of boys who have been regularly coming to us to hear a story or message from the Bible.  It is exciting to see them increase in their understanding of God's word and desire to learn more.  I am looking to spend more time working with them over these coming months, but I really need to keep improving in my Laarim language ability to effectively lead these young men who have no English.

Andrew, my fellow missionary, continues to improve in his ability to communicate in Laarim.  He continues to work hard at the language and he has even begun sharing simple Bible stories and having discussions with the listeners in the Laarim language.  Praise God for Andrew's progress!  Recently he has agreed to start teaching at the nearby primary school and lead devotions there.

I am also thankful that our leaders for the team, Phil and Linda, have arrived. They  eagerly began the language learning process and seem to be enjoying it.  For these coming months, Phil and Linda will be settling in, building relationships and taking time to observe before they assume the team leader role.  Phil was serving as the South Sudan unit leader for AIM when I first came out in 2009.  Later he took on leadership of the Central Region which includes South Sudan and five other African nations. Now he is here to lead our team.  Praise God for their arrival!

I am also thankful for Clement who is working with the housing setup and preaches on Sunday mornings at two of our building locations.  Clement is Laarim though having grown up away from home, he had not learned the language.  Over these past months he has been learning how to communicate in the Laarim language.  Clement loves Jesus and really desires to see his people come to Christ.

How you can pray.

-Please pray for Phil and Linda as they are learning language, culture, and building relationships.  Pray that God would guide them through these few months as they observe, learn, and transition into role of team leaders.

-Please pray for Andrew to continue to progress in language as well as fit in well to his teaching role.  May Christ use him to impact many lives at the school.

-Pray for the Laarim students, Angelo, Loboi, and Lotao that they would continue to grow in the love for Jesus and obedience to him.  Pray for Lotao to adjust well to his new environment in Farasika.

-Pray for the boys who continue coming to our place to hear the word of God.  May they come to faith in the Lord Jesus.  Pray that I would continue growing in my ability to communicate in Laarim so that I may train them well to be disciples and disciplemakers.

-Pray for Clement to continue well in his work as well as communicating the gospel as he preaches on Sunday mornings.  Pray for him to keep growing in his ability to communicate in Laarim.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

August was a big month for me as my first teammate, Andrew, arrived to South Sudan.  Andrew came from England and has committed to working with the Laarim for the next two years.  Language learning and relationship building are a priority for him for these first six months of ministry.  He has gotten off to a great start and is picking up the language at a much faster pace than I ever have.

The beginning of September had me and a team of four youth on their school holiday traveling from Torit to the Boya Hills area for home to home evangelism in Yei village.  Three of the four youth had never been to the Boya Hills.  From Torit, we boarded a crowded Land Cruiser and travelled on a bumpy road for four hours to Loryok.  After reaching we spent the evening planning for the week of evangelism.   Early the following morning we started our 13 mile journey by foot. We reached our compound in the village tired, but looking forward to the following days. That week the team visited homes and shared the gospel with families throughout the village.  Initially when planning the trip I was uncertain how it would work out, but everyone did a great job.  One of the team members was impressed by the respect shown to them while they shared the gospel at each home.

One of the Laarim boys from the area, Lotao, joined us for the week.  Lotao gave his life to Christ early this year so I have been spending a lot of time with him.  Having this group of youth come was good opportunity for Lotao to spend time with other young believers to be encouraged and learn from them.  Towards the end of the week, Lotao commented that he is no longer afraid to share the gospel with others.  

It seems like I have been able to follow a weekly routine for awhile now.
Since the evangelism group came, Lotao and I have been meeting twice a week with children playing games and sharing a Bible story, which Lotao usually leads.  For several months we have also been meeting once a week for Bible study at the primary school in Kimatong with a few other youth and children. Twice a week I go a few kilometers outside the villages to the riverbed where the young boys and youth take their cattle for water.  Together we talk, sing, and pray, and then I share a Bible story.  I find nearly everyone at the river eagerly participating and listening intently during the story as there are few distractions in such an environment.  On Saturdays I am usually in Loryok doing shopping and meeting with the youth in the evening.  On Sunday mornings we gather together for worship and then I go back to the village on my motorbike.  There are a couple others in Loryok who are involved in the church and they are a great help, but we are also praying for someone to come who can stay permanently in Loryok to pastor the church and continue evangelism.

Now that the airstrip is open in Yei, it is much easier for us to get fresh produce and comfort foods regularly as well other useful things available within the region.  We are still facing a water problem though, as the borehole on our compound failed again after being repaired.

The first two houses are nearly done along with the kitchen/sitting area for Andrew and me.  After completing the work in Yei village, the construction crew including our friends Charlie and Clement, will move on to the next building site in Cauwa village which is about 4 1/2 kilometers to the north.  Andrew and I will remain in Yei.

How You Can Pray

-Pray for us as a team.  Whether we are building houses, learning language, or sharing Bible stories, we want to demonstrate the love of Christ in all that we do towards one another within our team and in the community.

-Pray for Lotao to continue growing in Christ and sharing his faith.  Pray for others who are joining us regularly to grow in their love for Jesus. 

-Pray for wisdom in use of our time.  The possibilities of direction for ministry in the village are numerous.  We must be intentional about seeking the Lord's guidance for what is best.

-Pray for a full-time pastor who can stay in Loryok.    

Monday, August 10, 2015

Getting our Attention with His Word

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."
Colossians 2:6

I spent the weekend in Torit and on Sunday morning, I went to our partner church's English service.   The pastor preached on Colossians 2:5-7.  After the service, as I was walking back home I came by a church of a different denomination which holds its Sunday service at the courthouse in town.  There was someone attending the service there whom I wanted to meet in the evening so I decided to step in to see if I could find him and get his attention.  But as soon as I walked in I was noticed by the man speaking up front.  He welcomed me and gave me a chair in the front row next to the pastor, whom I knew well.  So in not wanting to offend anyone, I stayed for the service.  When the pastor came up to preach he read Colossians 2:6-7, the same reading from the other church, and he preached about them.  Both sermons were biblical, well delivered, and pertained to the verses, but they were done in very different styles.  I feel that perhaps it was more than just a coincidence that I heard these two messages. 

So I have been challenged to keep walking in Christ, which requires daily discipline and reliance on Him.  Circumstances do not take away the need for that discipline and neither does going in to full time ministry.  I believe this really is an area that I need to keep growing in.  I thank the Lord for his word and for the ways he speaks to us.

Preparations for the Team

The first couple of months that I spent in Yei village were quite difficult, but it has now gotten much easier as I have been learning what my responsibilities are and what they are not.  I have decided to take weekends with the church in Loryok and the rest of the week in Yei village.  In the village I am able to share Bible stories, visit families, and read the Bible and have a discussion with some of the Laarim students in Kimatong nearby every week.  And I have been encouraged by the interest expressed in a number of Laarim who want to learn more about the word of God. 

It is hard for me to believe that I have lived in Laarim territory for over three years now.  I feel like I am continuing to improve in the language and yet I do not feel comfortable with it.  Last week I had a very difficult time trying to translate from Laarim to English to the group for the preacher in Loryok on Sunday.  I still have far to go in the language.  But I am greatly encouraged by the fact that my first teammate, Andrew is coming to join me this week on either Wednesday or Thursday.  We are experiencing God's answer to our prayers for the last three years.  Andrew comes from the UK and is willing to spend these next two years to minister among the Laarim.  I am very much looking forward to meeting him and working as a team.

Another big event in the village was the opening of the airstrip.  Charlie who is working with AIM, and Clement, a Laarim builder oversaw the work and spent many days clearing and leveling the airstrip.  Soon after it was considered usable, one of AIM's planes landed on it.  The pilots were very impressed with it and quite thrilled that they can now make flights in and out of the area. 

Part of our construction camp setup

Looking southeast from the camp

How you can pray

-Please pray for Andrew and I as we meet and get to know one another and learn to serve together.  The plan is that Andrew will initially be spending most of his time as a learner of the Laarim language and culture before focusing on other activities.  Pray for him in this process.

 -Please continue to lift those up in prayer who are working with the housing setup.  Currently, we have Charlie, Ron, and Clement.  Ron will be leaving for another assignment in two weeks and handing over the responsibilities to Charlie.  Housing setup is both logistically difficult and an emotionally draining job with there being unrealistic expectations from many in the community of what we can provide.

-Angelo, a Laarim believer in Torit, and I are considering getting a team of youth evangelists to come to Loryok and the Boya HIlls area to share the gospel during one of the school holidays.  This could be in a few weeks, or a few months.  Please pray that the Lord would direct us.

-Please continue to pray for the Laarim people.  Pray for open and hungry hearts for the gospel and pray that we would be faithful in proclaiming.