- The typical Taposa house design -
Julias and I jumped in the little white and blue Cessna siting on grass, still fresh dew at the Eldoret air strip. Peter was outside running through some final flight checks before we could take off. We took off just as the sun was coming up, and just like that we were on our way to South Sudan. The flight was great, flying over the Kenyan rift valley we could see the morning mist rising from thick forests and giraffes running from the planes shadow. The plane was such a blessing, cutting out 2-3days of hard driving over rough roads and past police checkpoints (that we would very much like to miss). Maybe one day would would have an airstrip next to the base we were planting, allowing us to fly the whole way, but for now we would still need to rent a taxi and drive across the rough South Sudan roads and pray for safety from bandits and raiders.
Once across the boarder we saw that everyone carried the infamous AK47, men women, boys and girls, most of whom are nomadic shepherds trying to protect there flocks of goats from being stolen by thieves. We hear from Julius that just yesterday there was a gun battle in the village we were going to visit. Turkanas had come over from Kenya and stolen the villages cattle, 7 Taposa were killed, and 14 of the raiding Turkana warriors were killed. We wondered how long it would be before the Taposa went back to claim there stolen cattle and there would be more death….
As we drive the 15km over “no mans land“ (disputed territory between Kenya and South Sudan) we see the area where Stephan, one of the GFI team members had been shot by bandits a few years ago and we were reminded of the dangers that could lie ahead.
The drive goes well and we soon see Mark Keter waving us down, welcoming us to the village of Naliel. Mark, a Kenyan, was commissioned 3 months earlier by GFI to start work in this region of South Sudan. In this area you can drive over 250km without finding a single church. There are tens of thousands of Taposa people who have never heard the gospel. Mark and 3 others were sent out to pioneer a base. The goal is to plant over 100 churches in less then 5 years. In the last 3 months Mark and his team has managed to plant over 17 fire side fellowships that meet every night under the stars, they sing songs and listen to stories from the bible. Mark visits a different fireside every night to share and explain the stories they have been listening to.
- Some of the faces we met (click the arrow above to see all the pics) -
We were able to raise some funds for a bore hole well before we left (The typical bore hole well costs between $10,000 - $15,000), whilst in the village we were able to see the well team build and finish the bore hole. Brining clean fresh water to the community. This was the first key part to the new base Mark was building, once he had a well he would be able to start building homes for the 4 missionary families, a supply store and begin works on a basic school as well as many other projects. As well as providing water for the for 4 families the well would also provide for the community and their livestock.
One day, as we were resting trying to avoid the mid day sun, the village elders approached us to point out there were 2 other wells in a 10km radius that had not been working for many years despite there being water underground, was there anything we could do to help? We took this information to the the team building the well and asked if they could take a look.
We were told that if we went through the official channels and booked these in for repair it could cost around $3,000 to have them repaired. We told them we were not in a position to pay for their repair, could they consider repairing them out of a sense of charity? After some negotiations including the villagers having to provide a “big goat” for dinner, the team set to work on their days off and were able, after many hours to repair both wells.
We were praying for the funds for one well, and instead we left with 3 wells in good working order, providing fresh water to countless people and there animals, who would've otherwise struggled greatly. God is good.
- Clean water (click the arrow above to see all the pics) -
In the evenings we joined Mark around the fire to share some bibles stories, taking it in turn to act them out and explain the meaning and principles behind these stories. We were told that in some of the villages upwards of 500 people would gather for these fireside fellowships! As we talked under the stars Mark explained that to help manage all these fireside meetings, he was working with 32 desiciples. He had given them solar audio bibles and every night they would fall asleep listing to these stories. Once a week he would meet with them under a tree and work with them to explain the stories, asking them how the stories had impacted them, what the point of the stories was and how it was relevant today? In this way they intern would share this new information in there villages at their meetings, and re-tell it until them until they heard new stories. There was such a great hunger and desire for the word like I have never seen before. When it came to the story of John baptising Jesus, everyone immediately saw the importance of this and requested to be baptised immediately....
- Wildfire meetings under the stars (click the arrow above to see all the pics) -
Stuck in the bush
On one day we went to visit a village deep in the bush, off all the main roads, in fact there were no roads. We traveled about 15km creating our own path through bushes tying to find dry diver beds to drive down and pick gaps through trees that the car would fit in, it was amazing to see where this little Toyota Probox could go. We arrived in the village at mid day and like so many villages, when we jumped out we were swarmed by children. In each village the majority of people do not were any cloths, the women will often where a goat skin around there waste with their necks covered in brightly colour needed necklaces that lift their chins. There skin is covered from head to toe with body markings where they have scared them selfs for the sake of beauty.
We did our rounds, met the village leaders, prayed over the fireplace fellowship and then decided to head home to get out of the heat. When we got to the car it would not start, the automatics battery was flat and we could not bump start it. We were stranded out in the bush in a very basic village with no water, no food, no communication and no clear way of getting out! We tried to bump start the car by attaching rope to the flywheel to see if we could force the engine to turn...... with no luck. It was very hot and there was no shade. The villagers could see that we were in a pickle and 5 ladies offered to walk the 16km back to Marks house get his spare lorry battery that he was using with a solar panel for the house and bring it back so we could jump start the car. 32KM all in all !!! So off they went.
- Mark Keter, outside his house at night -
Once people knew we were going to be with them for some time they jumped no the opportunity and requested to be baptised. We considered it and asked the leader if they had teaching on baptism and fully understood what it was all about, we also asked how many people have requested to be baptised ? He informed us that yes they had been running baptism classes he had a waiting list of around 1800 people but felt there were at least 250 that we should baptised that day!!!
We went down to the mud hole and found there was hardly enough water for a baptism, but
Mark ever the optimist began to dig with his hands to create a deeper area that we could use as a baptismal pool. We continued to baptise 41 people before we began to loose light.
Once the light was gone we went back to the village. The lack of water was beginning to take its toll and the villages brough us some water that we had requested to be boiled, after inspecting the water and failing to see the bottom of the pan due a swilling brown cloud in the water we felt we better save this as a last resort. They then brought us some boiled milk and milk that they had left to sower over the week. Seeing as this had come from a cow we felt slightly safer drinking this, rather then the water, and boy it it quench our thirst. Not to long later the ladies returned with he car battery, we were able to jump start the car and head home for some well deserved rest.
- Baptizims in a mud hole -
South Sudan really touched our hearts, there is so much hunger for the gospel, these fireside meetings are spreading like wildfire. There seems to be a real blessing in Kenyans beginning to send out missionaries. There is a real need for us to continue partnering with Mark and help him see development come to this region.
If you would like to help with GFIs work in Sudan then please click here or if you would like to see in greater detail what the vision, goals and plan for Mark in South Sudan are, then click here to read GFIs newsletter. The cost of visas, fuel, food, water and gifts is also high so if you feel like you would like to support Jess and Is' efforts out here then please click here. We have left our hearts in South Sudan and will defiantly be going back soon. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to know more.
- A few of my favourite shots (click the arrow above to see all the pics) -