Ohilang village, South Sudan
Ashley, a Social Worker from urban America, served for two years among the very remote Lopit people of South Sudan, as part of Africa Inland Mission’s TIMO (Training In Ministry Outreach) program, designed to equip new missionaries for long-term ministry and to share the Gospel with Africa’s unreached and least-reached peoples. Her team was led by a Kenyan couple, and included team members from around the world: New Zealand, Brazil, Kenya, and the United States.
“God can use us all, in different ways, to carry out His greater purposes.”
In her own words
A VISUAL JOURNEY
“You kind of feel like nobody knows this place…”
The Lopit live in villages tucked amidst the slopes of the densely forested mountains of South Sudan. “It kind of feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” says Ashley. “It’s very remote – you kind of feel like nobody knows this place. And then when you come here it is a little community of people. They’re very friendly – every time you walk along the path, people greet you and you stop and have a conversation with them.”
Ashley enjoys a conversation over the fence with a Lopit neighbor. The Lopit people live in conical shaped homes made of sticks, mud, and thatch. Pathways weave throughout the village are lined with fences made of sticks and vines.
Ready for Jesus
“It’s a place that’s definitely ready for Jesus,” says Ashley of her Lopit community, “but [there’s a need for] people to dedicate their time for the language and building relationships.” Ashley and her team were privileged to see a number of Lopit put their trust in Christ during their two-year outreach – including a village witch doctor.
Use your head
“The harvesting of sorghum (a Lopit staple) occurs between September and November,” says Ashley. Lopit women cut the sorghum and stuff it into large canvas bags before transporting it back to their village for grinding. “They carry the gargantuan bags of sorghum back to the village on their heads. Notice my not so gargantuan bag…”
A life outdoors
Lopit women grinding Sorghum in the village. “The Lopit love living in their outdoor space. Here in [the] village, it is rare to find someone inside their home. Even to sleep, the Lopit will use their outdoor space during the hot season in hopes to find some sort of rest with the cool evening breeze. In essence, all the action, every day, takes place outside.”
The Uncomfort Zone
“[I’m]a person who squirms at the very word ‘needle,” writes Ashley on her blog, so when she discovered an unmet need for assistance at a local clinic, she winced a bit before stepping forward to help. “The staff taught me many things about the life here,” says Ashley, whose role with the clinic included visiting in the villages to assess and assist in community health needs. “[The experience helped me discover other] unmet needs in the community [and to] build deeper relationships with people and share the hope of the Lord with them.”
In this together
Ashley and some of her teammates in their team leader’s pole and thatch banda, where the team would meet to worship, pray, review their team curriculum, and develop ministry strategy.
The Gift of a Child
When an elementary school student in the U.S. learned about Ashley and her team, he decided he want to bless the lives of the children in Ashley’s community. A lemonade stand yielded enough to purchase four soccer balls, two volley balls, two air pumps and a full set of soccer uniforms. When they learned of the coming gifts, the Lopit children worked all week to cut a soccer field by hand in preparation to receive them. “What a huge joy this has been for the children!”
Life at home
“We’d go shopping in a town about 3.5-4 hours away from us about once every 1-2 months,” says Ashley. “ My roommate and I mostly ate cabbage, tinned tuna, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, rice, pasta, canned peas, and peanut butter. [We also had] an amazing farmer on our team who [kept] us supplied with eggplants, pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, green beans and a few other fresh goodies.”
“I’m really praising God, that when He commissioned us to go and tell the nations and disciple people, He also said, ‘I will be with you,’ and that really feels real to me in this place.”