By Francesca Carnuccio
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Could you say you would be able to? I had to honestly ask myself this question as I was in South Sudan living with the Toposa people. I was able to witness the powerful move of God amongst the Toposa people which I believe is happening because of this foundational verse.
Let me give a little bit of background on the Toposa tribe in South Sudan: -micro population of people in a remote area mainly in the eastern equatoria county -primarily cattle herdsmen -only speak/ understand taposa which is an oral language only -no access to the Bible in their language -mainly animistic
They recognize and accept Jesus as God from being introduced to the gospel 80 years ago but His ways are foreign to them. Although they believe in Jesus, there was a lack of true discipleship because of 40 years of civil war. All they know are their deep rooted cultural practice in animism and traditions which consist of: -witch craft/witch doctors -polygamous marriages -child brides -murdering people and raiding (stealing) cows -idol worshiping -deep rooted tribalism and hatred for enemy tribes
It’s a tough background but in the hearts of each person we met is an overflowing sense of celebration, resilience, hospitality, and unmeasurable kindness. The most unfortunate fate is being misunderstood as people who are violent because of the hard history they come from.
They have a deep desire to access the Word of God and are in desperate need for long term discipleship. The people who have come to meet the need, is their enemy tribe. The Turkana tribe from Kenya speaks a similar sister language and has access to the Word of God in their language. Their languages are similar enough for Toposa and Turkana to understand each other and there has been a movement of Turkana missionaries who decided to meet the need of the decades of prayer from the Toposa people.
My team mate, Alley, and I got the opportunity to go with a small group (including the chief of the village we were staying at, Elijah our translator, and Josh Rex our contact for Global Frontier Mission) to drop off a Turkana missionary named Lino to a Toposa village. I was so intrigued to see how or if the Toposa people would accept him. We drove deep into the bush and pulled up to a tree where all the elders of the village were sitting. They were eager to have someone teach them the word of God. There had been months of prayer leading up to this moment. Lino was going to be dropped off with nothing but his little suitcase of belongings and left to live amongst people who are labeled as his enemy.
The chief and Lino had spoken to the elders about why he was willing to come. The elders welcomed him in and had expressed their desperate prayer ; the need for rain. It was supposed to be the rainy season but it had been months since the last rain had come and they were in a drout. People were starting to die.
Alley and I got to watch as the transaction took place. I was so honored to even be there because women are not typically welcome to sit under the tree with the elders. Even greater, we were given an opportunity to speak and encourage them after the chief, Lino and the elders had agreed to welcome Lino as one of their own.
Alley stood up and in faith declared: “God hears your cries to Him. He cares about your people. The rain will come!”
Not even a minute later it starts to rain. You can imagine the eruption of praise that came from under that tree. It was as if God was affirming that His hand was on Lino laying down his life to live with his enemies for the sake of the gospel. I can only image the peace Lino felt as we drove off into the distance leaving him there, with the evidence of God with him.
I learned a new dynamic of the kingdom from Lino and his surrendered obedience to go. The command for us to “love our enemies” came to life and it forced me to reflect on my heart, as I pray you are inspired to reflect on yours.