Missional Lessons from an African tribe: The Laarim, South Sudan

It was a cool evening in South Sudan. The sounds of cows mooing, and goats bleating, as they walked home from a day out in the bush, filled the air.
My cousin and I were hiking into a village to stay with the family of a new believer, “Laboi”. His name was given to him as an adult, it means, “the healthy one.”
Indeed, Laboi is one of the healthy ones here. He was blessed with the opportunity to go to school, one of only two people in his compound of several hundred. Furthermore, he is one of just handful of believers here, out of thousands of Laarim there are only a few Christians in a people group that was recently considered, completely unreached, with no sustainable local church community existing. 
Laboi speaks some English, and tells us stories of leopards and cattle raids as we walk.

When we arrive at his village, it is already dark. His father meets us just outside of the compound, and walks us in. I gain new insight into the story of the prodigal son, this Father had waited for his son for hours, as we were late. 
We walk up into the village, a scattering of mud huts with thatched roofs, surrounded by wooden fencing, held together by mosquito nets that well meaning people had donated, yet were too foreign for the people here to use.
We are invited to sit, and one by one Laboi’s family members come out to greet us. We trade stories of our family members and our animals, I share photos of kangaroos and my wife and kids. “She is beautiful”, one man remarks when he sees my wife, “I agree”. Many of the men have several wives, Laboi later tells, me, I explain that I have just one.
As the stars shine overhead, in the most beautiful display of God’s glory, we begin to hear a local story of a rabbit and his wives. It doesn’t make too much sense to us, but we listen intently into the night. Laboi translates and we laugh along at the rabbit that swapped it’s head with a hiena and then got married to an elephant.
We talk for hours. Laboi explains to us that just last night the believers in this village had gathered in this family home to worship Jesus. He explains that he has just started sharing Bible stories with his village, and that some have already chosen to follow Jesus.
I am amazed at God’s great work and thankful for this man’s witness. The Laarim are cattle raiders, they kill and are killed by their neighboring tribe regularly, for the sake of expanding their herds. Revenge killings are also common, and indeed the cycle of killing and revenge has been going on for generations. Without the concepts of grace and forgiveness that Jesus brings, these killings will not end, but there is hope for the Laarim.
The gospel is being shared from home to home, and Bible stories are being sung under local meeting trees. 
The Laarim have had Christian churches come to them before to reach them, but the gospel has never truly take root. Sadly, many of these churches demand the people “dress up” for church, and gather where the bell is rung. Consequently my friends here who are sharing the gospel locally tell me, “Some don’t believe they can come to church because they do not own nice clothes.”
Yet here we are, siting and singing praises to Jesus. Some have no clothes on at all, others are in traditional attire, others wear rags, one man beind me, holding his AK47 is wearing a hat. No one is dressed up, all are welcome, and the Jesus of the Bible who invites His children to come as they are, is on display.
As I reflect on my time so far with Laboi and the Laarim, I wanted to share three missional lessons I’ve been reminded of that I believe can be applied across the globe.
1. Missions is both global and local. Many believe they need to go across the globe to be a missionary, and indeed there are people here sharing the gospel that have come from Europe, America, Australia and other parts of Africa. Yet missions is also across the road, Jesus was clear about this in Mark 12 when He highlighted our need to love our neighbors as ourselves. For Laboi, living on mission simply meant going home. He shares with those who know him best, and who he cares for most. Who better to share Jesus with than the ones you care for, who have also watched your transformation unfold? You already have trust and history, now you can share His story!
2. Missions works best in the context of a home. I know, for centuries, that the church has been the focus of missions. We say, “bring them into the institution of church, transform them, and then send them out into the world”. We gather in sacred spaces in the hope that we would influence secular ones. Yet Jesus modeled for us what it is like to gather in secular spaces, and transform them into sacred ones. (Some would call this, “demonstrating the Kingdom”). He used the “everyday” of life, to show people the truths of eternal life. Jesus was constantly found eating and drinking and sharing in homes, to the point that people accused him of being a glutton and a drunk! (Matthew 11:19) We can continue to seek to gather people together for an hour and half of “church” on a Sunday, making this the pinnacle of a Christian’s week, or we can emphasize being the church wherever we live work and play, and share Jesus in homes on any given day, and well into the night.
3. Missions works when all the saints are equipped for ministry. Laboi is surrounded by “missionaries”, many whom have gone to Bible College and studied at Seminaries. However, he is the frontline of the mission here, and he is seeing great fruit. Why? Because those around him understand the importance of equipping the saints for ministry, not doing all the ministry themselves. An African Pastor said to me the other day, “equip one, reach many.” The moment the global church wakes up to this reality (that Jesus modeled in equipping 12 to reach the masses), we will see a harvest like we haven’t seen since the equipped saints lived on mission in the book of Acts! Dear Pastors and ‘professional missionaries’, we must lay down our own egos that want to do all of the ministry on a Sunday and want credit for all the “work”, and equip the saints around us, and send them out for God’s glory!
Let me leave you with this thought, “be the church you want to see in the world.”
What are you learning about missions and the missional way?
I’d love to hear from you.
-Andrew
PS- You can get further equipped in this subject through purchasing my book, “Where Rivers Flow”, available on almost all digital platforms and hard copy through Amazon and Lulu.com

This blog originally appeared at pastorandrew.blog

2 thoughts on “Missional Lessons from an African tribe: The Laarim, South Sudan

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