Story Provided by the Wintermantles
The Laarim people in South Sudan (SSD) live in a mountain range named after them. Like many tribes in SSD, the Laarim are cattle keepers. They have little interest in accumulating money, land, or possessions. Their only real desire is to do whatever is required to get more cows. In the US if a farmer or rancher wants to acquire more cattle he can do one of two things: he can buy them, or if he already has a bull and cows he can patiently let nature take its course.
In South Sudan, there is a third option. Cattle raiding is a time-honored practice among nearly all of South Sudan’s cattle-keeping tribes. The Laarim’s primary target for rustling cows is the neighboring Taposa tribe. The Taposa provide an especially profitable target because they have more cattle than any other tribe. Historically the Laarim would take their bows and spears and set out for Taposa cattle camps where they would relieve the Taposa of a few cattle. Today, things are different. The raiding has become even deadlier. Bows and spears have been replaced with AK-47 rifles. In recent years, many raiders, as well as the victims of the raids have died in numerous gunfights.
But as always, God had a plan. Part of His plan included two young boys, one Taposa, and one Laarim.
If Laarim children desire to go to school, they walk a few hours to the town of Kapoeta to attend a boarding school there. Kapoeta is the only town of any size in the southeastern corner of the country. Kapoeta is also “ground zero” for the Taposa tribe.
Angelo, a nine-year-old Laarim boy, made the decision to leave his family in the mountains, and go live in Kapoeta so that he might go to school. There, he met Benjamin, a young Taposa boy. From the beginning, Angelo knew there was something different about Benjamin. Yes, he was Taposa, but he wasn’t mean or angry, he was kind to Angelo. Benjamin told Angelo about Jesus, and he invited Angelo to go with him to his church. The pastor shared the Good News that the only true God had sent His Son Jesus to save people. Because of what he had seen in Benjamin’s life, and because of what he heard from the pastor, this nine-year-old boy Angelo decided to follow Jesus.
In a few short years, Angelo left Kapoeta and moved to our town of Torit to attend secondary school. He got involved with the youth in one of the local churches, and his faith continued to grow. In time he returned to his home and his people in the Laarim mountains. The missionaries serving there introduced him to Discovery Bible Studies (DBS), the evangelism and discipleship method we wrote about in last month’s letter. Once Angelo learned DBS, he ran with it. Today, as a 25-year-old young man, he helps to oversee the 15-20 DBS groups meeting in the Laarim mountains.
Angelo has watched many tribal chiefs receive Christ, and then begin leading DBS groups. Many of these chiefs are illiterate, so Angelo teaches them chronological Bible storytelling so that they can then tell the stories to the groups which meet in their homes/compounds.
Recently Angelo came to Torit and joined us for supper at our home. He told us that today, roughly 30% of the Laarim people are following Jesus. Those who follow Jesus are no longer going out and participating in cattle raids. The chiefs who have become Christians are speaking out against this time-honored and respected practice. After all, taking cattle from a Taposa hasn’t been stealing, and killing a Taposa hasn’t been considered to be murder until . . . now. Now, the love and law of Christ rule in the hearts of a growing number of Laarim men, women, boys, and girls.
God is at work in the hearts, lives, and tribes of South Sudan.