by Brad Phillips This past July 4th holiday was very special for me. There were no hot dogs and barbecue. No pool parties. No fireworks. Nevertheless, I will never forget it, because I was in Southern Sudan with my good friends, Stephan and Iris Matusik - real pioneer missionaries.
Steve and Iris run a small mission in the Lopit Mountains of Southern Sudan. They live in an old, 1950s mission house, where they raise their five beautiful children.
Having traveled to Southern Sudan for 13 years, I have been to almost every corner of this vast territory (twice the size of Texas). But I can count on one hand the number of missionary families I have met who have chosen to raise their children in such a difficult environment.
Most missionaries to places like Southern Sudan are either single, retired, or if they have children, they send them to boarding school in more "climate controlled" environments. Precious few families make the sacrifice to live in a very hard and even dangerous area, where loneliness can be as fatal to your ministry as malaria. But Southern Sudan desperately needs Christian missionary families like the Matusiks.
I can't tell you how encouraging it was to see the Matusik family working together to be a witness to the Lopit people. Steve was involved in a massive agricultural project when I arrived, and he took me to see the farm he has planted to provide food for his community, which has suffered under severe drought conditions for years.
When I met Steve, I saw several men in military uniforms holding AK-47s standing nearby. I asked Steve if they were soldiers in the SPLA. Steve responded, "No, they are my farmers."
Steve went on to explain that this particular tribe has been at war with another tribe that lives across the plain in another mountain range. So, the men have to carry their weap0ns when they go out to the fields every day in case of a surprise attack.
It reminded me of our own American ancestors, who had to carry their weapons to their work, or even church, because of the threat of attack from Indians.
While Steve was working in the fields, Iris was back at the house, baking bread, homeschooling the children, and managing her large household.
During the evenings, we sat around the table, eating delicious food and talking about ways we can partner together in the future. I decided then and there to do what I could to support families like the Matusiks, who are sacrificing so much for the people of Southern Sudan.
Please add the Matusik family to your prayer list. They are a true pioneer missionary family, and sacrifice a great deal to provide the people of Lopit with an example of a Christian household in action.