The sixth of the ten Luke 10 Exploration Trips in 2022 went out October 10-21 to South Sudan, with a team of six from EFC-Rwanda and EFM. Thank you for praying for this team and EFM’s Luke 10 Initiative as Evangelical Friends discern where to launch new mission fields as part of EFM’s Five-Year Goal. See more information here.
The following is a report which Brad Carpenter, EFM Missionary to Rwanda, helped prepare.
|Who Was on this Trip?
The team included four pastors from Rwanda:
- Team leader Jean Paul Nsekanabo (Assistant General Superintendent of EFC-Rwanda),
- Gerard Munyanganizi
- Nicodeme Basebya
- Theodore Uwiragiye
And two representing EFM:
- Brad Carpenter
- Matt Macy
|Where Did We Travel?
We arrived in Juba, South Sudan on October 11. We were blessed through a friend of Jean Paul’s to connect with a South Sudanese pastor (William) and missionaries from Uganda (Jane, Luke, Veronica, and Faisal) who are living and serving in South Sudan. These leaders helped us find a place to stay, find transportation options and gave us insights we used in choosing which people groups and locations to visit.
|What is the Need in the Area?
According to the Joshua Project, there are 80 people groups in South Sudan. There are some unreached people groups and many who are under-reached (according to various Christian leaders we talked with). The groups we visited on our trip are: Dinka-Bor, Nuer, Murle, Olubogo, Mundari, and Cholo. We also met many from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, and others.
Some areas of the country were inaccessible at this time because of marshlands that are flooded from heavy rains at this time. South Sudan has suffered through very difficult times since 1983, with much war and many consequences of violence. In each place we visited we found friendly people who were ready to share with us about their culture, beliefs, and their lives in general. Our observation is that there are many people who are open to spiritual things and who desire transformation, peace, and new life that comes from Christ.
|Highlights of What We Learned
- We visited two large refugee camps on the outskirts of Juba. These started during wartime of 2013/2014 and lack of security in their home places have kept them in the camps up to this point.
- One camp had 30,000 people in it, a community built from simple stick frames with tarp coverings, with UN presence. This camp had 95% from the Nuer People Group. We had a nice visit with a group of students and teachers who were on break from school. We shared from John 3 and heard many questions about various denomination’s claims about the Christian message that have come into their camp. We learned about some cults who are working in the area.
- Another camp had 7,500 people in it made up of Murle People as well as Dinka and Nuer Tribes. The community leaders we spent time with were Murle who discussed the dynamics and culture of their remote home villages where there is no cell phone service or electricity, security is scarce, and they are particularly isolated during wet season when roads are not passable. We learned about their tribal god, Nyadit, and the common reasons that people go to witch doctors.
- South Sudan has strict protocol about visiting any community, which requires letters of permission before visiting. Most of this work was done in advance of our visits to communities, but the work had not been completed before we visited one town towards the end of our travels. So in this town, we spent time sitting with police officials at their office, who then took us to the county commissioners office to spend time with him, who upon learning about the purpose of our visit, sent us to an Episcopal church to meet with the leader of the local council of churches, where we received the warm welcome and blessing we needed in order to move about and visit with people in the community.
- Everywhere we were able to go to on this trip we heard of churches in the area.
- We heard about many tribes who have Christians who also go to witch doctors or worship their local tribal god, sometimes making animal sacrifices to their local god. Due to wet season, we were not able to travel to distant villages where there are no churches among communities of unreached peoples.
- We also met some people in towns and villages whose knowledge of scripture, church leadership and discipleship demonstrated that there must be some good churches in their community.
- We received many welcomes for a new mission and church work, due to under-reached peoples locally and much need for whole-life discipleship and community development.
- Most strangers that we walked up to and asked questions were quick to offer a chair and open to a conversation to tell us many things about their tribe, cultures, community and religious practices.
- Most places we visited on this trip, including remote village locations, people spoke English for great conversation without a translator. Otherwise their common trade language is Arabic and each tribe has their own tribal languages.
- We saw hundreds of villages full of small mud huts with grass roofs. Some of us were drawn with a desire to know these places and people for potential of taking the Good News.
- Each tribe we met had different scar markings/cuts on their foreheads and different patterns of teeth removed to identify with their tribe. The cutting occurs as they approach adulthood in the villages as a right of passage and they are very open to talk about their tribal identity and customs. There are some who no longer practice these customs, especially in the cities among the youngest generations.
- A group of Mandari men selling cattle and goats under a shade tree told us about custom of making sacrifice of a cow to their god, hanging the skin on a tree, then pouring milk into the river, in order to get the protection of their god for their cows when they take their herd across the river. They also shared about a more complex approach to marriage proposals and dowery in their tribe.
- One item that came up regularly among tribes was their dowery customs and they were unusually open about how many cows or goats were paid to the families of their wives, commonly 100 cows or more there. One group was baffled that we didn’t give dowery in the U.S. as if we don’t place high value to make a big sacrifice for our wives and their families.
- We heard many stories from various people groups and communities throughout the trip who were afraid of one particular tribe attacking them or stealing from them or killing them. This particular tribe is an unreached people group that we would like to learn more about.
- When we visited people in one town near the Ugandan border, we heard many R-rated stories of tribal conflicts and difficulties with lack of security. The Olubogo People talked about having babies taken from their women from one particular tribe and their crops destroyed by another tribe bearing guns that come through during the first couple of months each year. They were in a pretty large town, but with no local school they send their kids to Uganda for school, where they also flee to during certain months of the year for safety.
- It was a joy to hear the Rwandans on several occasions offer much encouragement and hope for reconciliation and tell their own story of tribal conflict in their past which has changed to peace and reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ in their home communities and churches. It was an honor to stand with the Rwandans and pray with villagers asking the Lord Jesus to draw them to himself and bring hope and peace to their families.
- South Sudan is a fascinating place of many tribes, customs and lifestyles that left an impression on our team. We pray for peace and hope for them in Christ.
|Please Pray for Discernment and Next Steps:
As a team we sensed affirmation that EFC-Rwanda is being called to be on mission in South Sudan. We ask that you continue to pray for us as we keep discerning God’s plans. We think the next step will be for another, much longer trip to happen in the dry season. The purpose of this trip would be visit places we were not able to visit and to work toward narrowing down our focus toward a specific place or two that we would then seek to deeply understand.
Thank you for praying with us for this and the other Luke 10 trips. May God continue to lead us into his plans. May his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Luke 10 Exploration Trips continue into 2023 as teams explore potential sites with first trips and/or follow up trips. Our next benchmarks include hopes that the EFM board will approve a commitment in November 2023 to launching at least five new fields.
How Can You Join?
Are you interested in exploring missionary service? Do you know of anyone of any age who might be interested in exploring the idea of serving as a missionary overseas for two or more years?
EFM is currently looking to contact and connect with people about opportunities to explore serving as missionaries with the Friends Church!
We look forward to sharing more news as it becomes available about what we are finding and discerning in EFM’s Luke 10 Initiative as we continue to explore where EFM may launch new mission fields.
Director of Mobilization