July 30, 2022

Finding Freedom in South Sudan

A nutrition education ministry is changing lives and bringing people to Christ.

Wyatt Johnston, FARM STEW

Deep within the South Sudanese region of Bahr el Ghazal lie large swaths of swamp and stony plateaus. This large series of valleys is home to several diverse subsistence-farming tribes, largely Dinka (who are primarily cattle herders) but also Luo and Fertit. The land is beautiful and full of potential, but other powers are at work. 

Shrines erected to appease dark forces adorn more than 80 percent of homes in Bahr el Ghazal. Strongly rooted witchcraft and voodoo beliefs keep communities in poverty, regardless of education, making development nearly impossible, despite the region's bountiful resources. Among the beliefs are that if your farm exceeds half a hectare your land will be cursed, children who become educated will be killed, and if your business begins to flourish, death is soon to follow! As a result, the difficult living conditions that engulf the region have captured the attention of many foreign organizations, which has driven the people of the region into further dependency on outside aid. 

In June 2021, however, FARM STEW sent trainers accompanied by 17 pastors, one from each district of Bahr el Ghazal, to the city of Wau. A total of 56 attendees from the local communities participated in FARM STEW’s week-long training event. Training focused on self-reliance, latrine construction, sanitation practices, farming, agribusiness, and attitude change.

It was the first time the people in the region had experienced an outsider who believed that the local people could create positive change. When church pastors shared messages after each FARM STEW training, the message of Christ emboldened many of the villagers to destroy their shrines and no longer seek witchcraft. These FARM STEW messages were new and exciting, and they challenged the magic-steeped traditions of the area. 

Lives were changed and shrines were torn down, but the effect on the region as a whole seemed minimal. People were scared. Only a handful of families in each village decided to expand their farm or establish businesses. The remainder preferred to protect the safety of their homes from the dubious threats of the local witchdoctors.

The effect of FARM STEW’s efforts in the region seemed null until several months after the initial training. The small groups of men and women in each village who decided to expand their farms and businesses began giving testimony to their neighbors on how God was protecting them and their families when they expanded. They shared with their communities that if they trusted God no demon could hurt them or kill their children.

This message reached many of the people who had previously hidden in fear and has convicted several new families to develop their resources. God used FARM STEW, the local church, and the power of testimony all together to bring abundant life to the dark place of greater Bahr el Ghazal.

Testimony is a microphone that shares God's work in each of us. The testimony of a few bold villagers gave entire communities the strength they needed to challenge the dark forces that for so long held them captive. This same God stands ready to work in your life and give you a testimony to share as the people of Bahr el Ghazal have done.

The original version of this story was posted by FARM STEW.

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