Monday, January 11, 2010

DTS outreach to the People of the Mountains

The Discipleship Training School (DTS) outreach to Issore, in the mountains of Upper Talanga (southern Sudan), brought new insight, many challenges, and a renewed heart for the Lugot…the people of the mountains.

From September to November 2009, the DTS team ministered in Issore, preaching the Word of God and demonstrating His love practically by working on a road that has been abandoned for more than forty-five years.

Beginning to clear the road -->

Right from the beginning, the local people gathered to assist with the heavy work of clearing the road. The first step was to slash the grass and bushes from Lumarti to the next village up the road called Singli. As they worked, one of the men from Singli village, called Opio, commented, “The light and life has come to Issore.”

After slashing the tall grass up to Singli village, the team went back to begin digging up the roots and clearing away the tree stumps. Now the people of Singli village are using the newly cleared road, instead of passing through the bush trails like they’ve been doing all these years.

The cleared road -->

On their first visit further up the uncleared road to Kamayokong village, the team talked to the villagers about God’s love, and the fact that He sent Jesus to reconcile us back to Himself. Before they even offered an altar call, a man named Okot Richard stood up and said, “I want to get saved now.” So the team led him through the prayer of salvation.

<-- Some children of Issore

On their second visit to Kamayokong, the team began to disciple Okot, and assured him of his salvation. They encouraged him with ways he could remain faithful in his walk with the Lord. Interestingly, Okot was the only man the team came across that had only one wife. All the others had at least 2 or 3. In addition, Okot lost one leg from the knee down when he stepped on a landmine, and now walks with an artificial leg and a cane.

While staying in Lumarti, the team held regular evening devotions attended by the villagers from Lumarti and neighboring Singli. Through these devotions, two women from Singli, called Margret and Christine, gave their lives to Christ. From Lumarti, a woman called Florence and four other youth also accepted Jesus.

Praying for a woman -->

At the moment, there is no church in Issore, and only a Catholic center in Lumarti that is not operating very effectively. In order for Okot, with his artificial leg, and the other new converts to get to church, they have to walk 3 hours to the nearest church, which is the African Inland Church (AIC) in Lobone.

While working on the road and visiting Issore, the DTS team also took time to minister in the neighboring bomas of Palwar and Lobone. Each boma in the payam has a head chief, and the head chief of all of Lobone Payam resides in Lobone village.

<-- Witchcraft is widely practiced in Issore. This is a shrine commonly seen around the area.

This head chief of the whole payam, called Justin Atto Opio, was sick and believed he had been bewitched. So he asked the pastor of the AIC church, Michael, to bring him someone to pray for him. Michael approached the DTS team and asked if they would come and pray for the chief. The team shared and prayed with the chief, and he greatly improved. The following day, the chief went to church for the first time in his life to testify about how he felt after that prayer, and he gave his life to Jesus. Being the head chief of all the Payam, Mr. Opio is a very influential man. He granted favour to the DTS team to work in any of the other bomas in Lobone Payam that they wished, and said he was happy for YWAM to be working in Issore because it was the only boma that no one else had been willing to work in. The chief said, “I promise to be with the church during whatever occasions they hold…I will attend them. I will also seek advice from the church leaders, and will help them when they need me.”

<-- Young boys of Issore

While in Lobone, the DTS team visited the hospital after they were told that children were suffering, and some even died, because there was no medicine. During that visit they met a twelve-year-old boy who was on an IV drip and whose sister had just died. They prayed for him, and many other children. The next day the team went for the burial of the boy’s sister, and to their surprise they found the boy there at the funeral. The boy testified that as soon as the team prayed for him, he was healed and then was released from the hospital. Then he gave his life to the Lord, as did his older brother who had been attending him in the hospital. Nineteen other mourners heard the story and gave their lives to Christ as well.

All of these positive responses to the Gospel message were very encouraging to the DTS team, and assured them that their efforts were not in vain.

Elders of Issore -->

“We survived just by God’s grace,” said Mario, the team leader. “There was no hospital, no clinic. One student got sick with malaria, so we just started treating him with quinine without even testing him, and thanks be to God, he got better. Another time, baby Nicole got seriously sick with a high fever, but we had no treatment for a baby, so we just gave her paracetamol and prayed for her. Thankfully, she also got better. Another student dislocated his ankle playing football, but again, we just prayed and he got better. It was all simply God’s grace.”

Spiritually the team also battled. “People came to attend devotions,” said Mario, “and they would act as if they were gaining something. But then they would go back to the community and resume drinking again.” This discouraged the team, but they would remind themselves that they were breaking new ground, and it would take time for the Word of God to take root and go deep.

<-- A man with his wife and child in their home

There are many questions about the future. The big question asked by both the villagers and the DTS team was, “What next?” The villagers want YWAM to train up some of their people so they can go back and act as spiritual leaders in the villages. Some of the YWAMers have the heart to keep working in Issore, and are committed to a long-term vision there.

YWAM Arua is still praying about the next step, and considering sending the January GO Camp outreach to Lobone for the two weeks of that outreach. There are still plans for continuing the work on the road, but there is a big need to repair a bridge to connect Singli with vehicles. At the moment, the road is only passable on foot.

In spite of all the challenges, the team was very positive about their outreach experience. Mario concluded, “The outreach went to the right place because the people of Issore were left alone and no one was thinking about them, but now the DTS was able to reach them and share the Word of God with them. The Light has come to Issore through the outreach.”