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In 2013 AIM sent a TIMO (Training in Ministry Outreach) team to the unreached Lopit people living in the hills of Torit, South Sudan. As some of the team members prepare to go back to continue ministry, Joshua Musuva, one of the team leaders, talks about how the team overcame both economic and social problems to share the gospel with the Lopit people.
South Sudan is considered one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. So what kind of impact did this have on the Lopit TIMO team? The Lopit’s experience of relief aid agencies and NGO’s has created an expectation that foreigners will contribute to their practical development and bring aid and relief. Therefore, acting as a host to a foreigner raises your value and status within the community. One benefit of this was that the team was well received by the villages they were staying in. It also helped them to build relationships and fit into the community.
Transforming grace and power
“Aaron grew up in Ohilang village. He is married to Susan with four children. In 2009 he joined the Thomas Bible School in Lohutok. He was such a committed Christian and passionate to know the Lord more. After the two years of training, Aaron went back to his village. Aaron struggled financially and resolved to join SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army). In December 2013, when conflict broke out between the forces in Juba, Aaron withdrew from the army and came back to Ohilang.
Some members of the TIMO team engaging with Lopit children.
However, Aaron’s life had changed. He would smoke, drink heavily, and often fought with his wife. He got involved with bad company, which resulted in his arrest and he was jailed for two weeks. But many efforts were made through prayer and encouragement to restore him.
One evening God worked in him and transformed him. The next morning he brought a letter of confession, requesting to be restored to the church. He is now a great help to the church and the team. Pray for him to stand firm in Christ.
However, at times it made missionary work difficult. People were used to receiving practical aid and often would demand it as a right. Misunderstanding and conflicts arose from these unspoken expectations and caused some disruption to the team’s work.
Relationships are key
The team spent a week staying with locals in their homes, which helped them connect with the culture, language, and develop meaningful relationships with the Lopit. As the team’s relationships with the community grew, various ministry opportunities opened up which meant each team member could use their various skills and gifts to help them integrate into community life.
In most cases, the social challenges the team faced became opportunities to learn, and avenues through which to experience God. One big challenge was having a multicultural team. Cultural differences had to be navigated both between team members as well as with the animistic culture of the Lopit, all whilst adjusting to the remoteness of the location, having no running water, no electricity, no cell phone signal, and bad roads.
Coming to know Christ!
Through this, the TIMO values and curriculum helped sustain the team’s unity and vision. Additionally, where we see economic and social challenges, God sees opportunities to impact lives with the gospel. Difficulties are put into perspective when we see even one person come to Christ, and some of the Lopit have been brought into a relationship with God! There are still many who are seeking, whom we pray will also come to know and love Jesus Christ as their saviour.