The team all met up from different parts of the country at the Washington D.C. airport and made our way to Nairobi, Kenya via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We spent one night in Nairobi, then headed for the small airport which would fly us to the northern town of Lokichoggio, from which we would drive into South Sudan. This morning we were met by our Ugandan team members, Saphan and Isaac, we made it to the Loki airport without issue, then waited for a few hours on our vehicles to pick us up there.
The rain had hit throughout the night, so the roads were bad. It took us about three hours of driving to make it to the South Sudan border about 45km away. We had a few issues getting stuck in the mud, but the major issue came when we reached the border and discovered the riverbed to be full of flowing rainwater. We sent our facilitator across the river to see if the immigration office would remain open for us a bit, and believing they would, we abandoned our vehicles and the team waded across the river. Our bags came behind us in the hands of some very helpful young guys, for a price of course.
Once across it was discovered that the immigration office was not going to be as helpful as we thought, and Heart of God Africa Director, Denise Matthews had a fight on her hands to get us accepted into the country that night. After our luggage was across and Denise had won her battle, we hired new cars to take us the last hour drive to Narus, South Sudan; our home for the week.
Throughout this first night and the next morning much of the team was very discouraged, as things did not seem to be coming together according to plans and expectations. But through an intimate and powerful time of prayer, everyone’s spirit was rejuvenated and ready to reach the Taposa people with the Gospel of Christ.
Believing that the book of Joshua was setting the theme for the trip as we travelled into the unknown, and having very little idea what we were getting ourselves into – pioneer missions at it’s finest – we decided the first day we should send only a small group of people out of the compound to ‘spy out the land’.
When those of us who went to spy returned, it was only with strong confirmation that God was at work. The team greeted many of the Taposa who we had been told do not greet visitors well, and especially do not like their photos taken, yet we were greeted with smiles and waves, allowed to take many photos of and with the warriors, and one lady even threw down her pile of firewood to invite us for a drink of water. As we entered a small hut, we instead told her about the living water and she, along with a couple of other women, gave their lives to Christ.
The next day, the whole team ventured out into the village with the same results. We were greeted very warmly, as we went around telling anyone we met about the love of Christ and praying for blessings on them.
The third day we decided it would be good for us to visit the homes of the 15 members of the church, pastored by Joseph, our trip facilitator. Joseph is a Ugandan missionary to South Sudan, trained by Youth Ablaze, and has been in the country now for around a year, I believe.
As we walked past the tree under which the church meets, there was a blind man sitting in the shade. The team prayed for the man who said he could only see shadows passing him, but nothing more, and as we prayed he began to be able to see distinct shapes and colors, identifying skin color of team members and saying he could see the color of the dirt and leaves of the trees. Though there was not a complete healing in our time with him, the report came later from one of Joseph’s assistant pastors that the man was up and walking by himself around the village. The team also prayed for blessings on the homes of most of the church members, and prayed particularly for many women to be able to bear children. We are believing that next year we will see many toddlers around, confirming that God heard our prayers.
On Saturday we drove a little over an hour to another, much smaller village, called Korjip. The village elders had heard that our team was in Narus and that God was moving among us, and inviting us to come, had already determined amongst themselves to donate land for us to build a church on, as well as any other project the Lord leads us into.
We sat in a circle under a shade tree and exchanged formalities with about 40-45 people there, then I was given the opportunity to preach the Gospel. I began by asking the people, “when I say the name Jesus Christ, how many of you have heard of Him and know what I am talking about?” Out of the whole crowd, only one person raised their hand. Relating the message as best as I could in a way they would understand, there were obviously a few who walked away not wanting to hear what I was saying, but by the end of the message, between 30-35 of them accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I also told them that God was not just a God of words, but also of power, and told them how we had already seen God improve the sight of a blind man and prayed for barren women, and that we would like to pray for them as well.
The men moved to one side to pray for men and the women stayed under the tree, as it is offensive in their culture for women to touch or pray for the men. The very first man who had greeted us in the village, an elderly warrior who had walked in with use of a walking stick, was the first to come up for prayer. He told us that his knees were bad and that he wanted us to ask His new Savior to heal him. I and another team member, Paul, placed our hands on the old man’s knees and prayed. When we had finished praying I asked him, hoping-ly, to test it out. He said there was no improvement. As little discouraged at what I had got us into, I told him we should pray again (see Mark 8:22-26 where Jesus prayed twice for a healing). We put our hands back on his knees and began to pray, begging God to prove Himself with power, that these people would know we weren’t just coming with some new teaching. After a few minutes, I asked the man to try walking again. He took two steps, took of running, the leaped high in the air; completely free of knee pain. I may have been even more excited than this man was, and now we were rolling.
The next man came up with the same exact problem, and he was healed the same exact way. Prayed once, and nothing; prayed again, running and jumping.
There were so many that we all split up and I ended up praying mostly with just an interpreter at my side. We prayed for a third man with excruciating pain in his side and lower back. Once we had prayed he was able to bend and move pain-free. Another old warrior with bad knees was in line behind this man. I prayed for him once and asked him to test it. Out of excitement at seeing his friends leaping around, he followed suit, and took of running and jumping. The problem was that he hadn’t been healed. He came limping back toward us barely able to walk, causing Denise, upon seeing his limp, to tell another lady that if this man walked out healed, she’d kiss the tree. Well…
While we were still praying for people, the village Chief arrived from a meeting he had been attending, and so we regrouped under the tree. He made a formal presentation giving us the land and asking us for help with water. As you know, we have been fundraising to drill a water well in relation to this trip, and Denise told him yes, and that we would be sending someone to test the water before we drill.
The team returned home overjoyed with what God was doing in us.
On Sunday we attended Joseph’s church under the tree. There were many new faces in attendance, and a small handful of them received Christ as their Savior in this service, after hearing the Gospel of Hope and the testimony of our team.
Then in the evening we met the church members in the central marketplace for an open-air outreach meeting. We sang and danced. Most of the team members shared their personal testimonies with all who gathered to listen, then I was again given the opportunity to preach the Gospel to them. Although we could not get a formal count, in looking around I saw a group of around 30 people praying to receive Christ. It was an awesome day for the Kingdom of God.
On Monday the team again divided, some staying at the compound to pray, while others went to visit the two small hospitals in Narus. We were shown the conditions people are treated in and told of the needs they have, and had the opportunity to pray for all the patients there that day: 4-6 suspected cases of measles, one epileptic boy, one girl with malaria, and a man badly damaged in a motorcycle accident. We also prayed with the hospital staff for God’s provision and blessing on their work.
On Tuesday, our last full day in Narus, we went into the local prison – something, as we were told, that no other missionary group has ever done for them. We were met by every police officer and security guard on the force, in full uniform, and the 14 prisoners currently residing there. There were cases of theft, adultery, and one murder in the crowd. Saphan, the Heart of God Africa Prison Ministry Director from Uganda, preached the Gospel to these 13 men and 1 woman, and all of them accepted Jesus as Savior. I then had the opportunity to share my testimony of how God changed my life, and Isaac shared a word of encouragement to them on the power of God now at work in them.
The prison director confessed to us the difficulty of his job in being honest and kind while trying to rehabilitate the prisoners, and the temptation to beat or even kill some of them. I laid my hand on his shoulder (apparently something you should not do when praying for someone in uniform, but love covers a multitude of sins) and I prayed for him and all the police standing around us. As we left, many of them took a group picture with our team, though I do not have a copy at this time.
Sadly, the next day our time in South Sudan was over. We prayed one last time as a team, then loaded the cars. After a short stop in the local Commissioner’s office to tell them goodbye and pray for them, we made our way back to the Kenyan border, and on to Lokichoggio where we would spend some time in a nice little hotel to debrief as a team before the long flight home.
I can honestly say that I am overjoyed by the fruit born on this trip and am hopeful for the future there through Joseph and his church. I cannot wait to return and see how things have progressed, and how all the people saved – roughly 100 for the week – have held to the new truth they have been shown and carried it forward.
This was only our first push into the 10-40 Window, but as God continues to open doors to the unreached, we will be there to step through them. If you would like to support my evangelistic works through Heart of God, like this one and others, you can click the ‘Donate’ tab, or you can learn more about Heart of God and how you can get involved through any of our various ministries at http:www.heartofgodinternational.org.