Gina Wintermantel and her husband Steve have been serving in South Sudan since 2018. They moved from Minnesota with their four children to follow the Lord’s leading to Torit, South Sudan. Gina tells us about the work they are involved in.
Steve grew up on a farm in Kansas, and has enjoyed planting and harvesting since he was a young boy. I grew up with a love for animals, and graduated with my degree in veterinary medicine. We both wanted to use these passions and gifts from God for his glory. When God called us to our role with AIM of making disciples in South Sudan, it was obvious that we could use these skills and abilities to encourage the community and to equip disciples.
Since arriving in Torit in 2018, Steve and I have done quite a bit of learning about what it means to farm and raise animals in our new environment. Steve has hauled in countless seeds and plants, while I have brought in chicken eggs and duck eggs for hatching. We have had successes and failures as we learned about caring for our plants and animals.
Equipping disciple makers
We have been working with a group of pastors from different churches in Torit who have a heart to equip and send out disciple makers to the unreached and under-reached peoples of South Sudan. This September, we began training our first class of 10 students for the Kingdom Builder School (KBS). This is not a traditional school setting, but rather a school that meets in small groups (or Cadres), and includes a practical training session weekly in which we go out into the community and lead Discovery Bible Studies in homes of willing people of peace. Our students are those who believe that the Lord is calling them to go out as disciple makers.
As these Kingdom Builders go out, we also want to equip them with possible ways to help support themselves and to give to the community. Many of the people groups around us in South Sudan keep sheep, goats, and cattle, as well as planting crops to supply their own food. As Kingdom Builders go out to villages, they can build relationships through helping people to improve their agricultural skills, harvest and take better care of their animals.
KBS has secured a piece of land for a demonstration farm. This land will be used to plant and harvest crops that will help the students, and to share knowledge and techniques with the community. The KBS students are able to work at the farm to pay their enrollment fees if they choose to. As they work, they learn, and pay their fees for school at the same time.
In regards to animals, I have been bringing in chicken eggs from Kenya and Uganda, and hatching them via incubator. These chickens have a faster growth rate, increased body size, and better egg production than the local chickens. Something as simple as distributing roosters of improved genetic stock can make a difference in production and use of animals here in Torit. If our Kingdom Builders are sent out with small flocks of these improved chicken varieties, they could help their communities to improve the health of their poultry as well.
Our good friend Juma Lokung helped to build housing and raise up my last batch of chick eggs. Juma is from the Lotuko people group, and has been weekly visiting the village of Imurok where he lived in his early childhood years. He shares Bible stories with many young people, and is currently in school to become a teacher. Juma has a great passion and heart for his people to know Jesus. After he finishes his teacher training, he plans to move out to Imurok to teach in the school, and make disciples. Juma has started his flock from the chickens he helped me to care for. As he goes out to Imurok, he can also share what he has learned about raising chickens, and he may find that helps to open up opportunities to share about God.