Asule’s many homes
By Amy Bareham Chapman | East Africa
Gifted discipler Asule left South Asia 12 years ago to share the gospel in Africa. Today, her feet are planted in Mali; a piece of her heart remains in South Sudan; and her mind is preparing for a future in Chad.
A missionary’s ability to love many communities and cultures represents the diversity of the kingdom and God’s vast care. However, living in multiple places can also be emotionally exhausting. For Asule, this realisation came abruptly as civil war broke out in what was then Sudan.
She first arrived in the region in 2008. After several years serving in a youth ministry in her country of origin, Asule said, “God was putting a burden in my heart for the lost souls.” She learned about SIM and quickly started an assignment in Sudan. From the beginning, her focus was on making disciples, and she thrived in her new home. At that time, people were enjoying a period of sustained peace. They owned farms and houses, and they were happy. But everything changed in December 2013.
“God was putting a burden in my heart for the lost souls.”
The intensity of the civil war shook Asule and her team. SIM co-worker Tohru Inoue wrote at the time: “The fighting quickly engulfed the SIM compound, and the missionaries were forced to spend two days confined on the floor…as the bullets flew indiscriminately above.” (Read his full story.) Asule remembers this well.
During a break in the violence, the team was lifted to safety. It wasn’t long before Asule was back and working in the newly established South Sudan. “It was really heartbreaking and traumatic,” she said.
“People went through so much pain and suffering to run away from their own homeland. Living with them, I’ve seen how they’ve struggled. Part of me was always angry and hurting and asking why this had to happen. So, it wasn’t easy.”
Asule poured into the refugee women of her town. She led two Bible studies, one for a group of churchgoers, and another for a group of seekers with Muslim roots. She explains: “It was very challenging for me because I had to learn Arabic to be able to communicate. But it really grew me because I had to go deeper in my understanding of the word from the perspective of a foreign language.” In the following years, the local church grew through those studies. Women were transformed by scripture, and they started telling their friends and families.
In 2018, God stirred Asule’s spirit again. The previous decade had seen violence and numerous evacuations. “Part of me was really tired,” she confessed. “Emotionally, I thought I didn’t have the capacity or strength to keep on. I didn’t want to make the decision based on my emotions. I wanted God to speak to me ... But some part of me knew I wasn’t coming back.”
God enabled Asule to return to South Asia for two years. She took a sabbatical to rest. Then, she sensed God urging her to return to mission – only, it seemed like too big of an ask. Asule admitted, “There was a part of me that wrestled.” She was aware of ministries in her home town that could use her help, so she fought the call to leave.
When SIM leaders approached her about an opportunity with the new Faithful Witness team in Chad, Asule was surprised. She laughed as she recalled, “I was like, ‘No way … nobody goes to Chad from South Sudan. I’ve finished my time, I need a place where I have good living conditions, where I’m not afraid and feeling uncertain all the time.’”
The more Asule avoided this move, the more God showed her it was her next step. SIM colleagues told her they needed mission workers in Chad who were willing to learn the language, build relationships, and befriend women. Asule knew this assignment was perfect. She said, “All of a sudden, when I thought about it, there was a fire that came out of me. I didn’t care about the safety of the place or the living conditions.”
Faithful Witness sent Asule to Mali to begin learning French. One week later, coronavirus hit, and the world turned upside down. Language learning is typically completed in a year, but the pandemic has interrupted Asule’s progress. Since then, Asule has tried to discern her purpose. “I just kind of feel like I’m in-between,” she explained.
She has wondered how much to invest in her Mali community, given her stay is temporary. She has also experienced stress and renewed trauma. Stockpiling and making plans for quarantine sent everyone into a frenzy that caused difficult Sudan memories to resurface.
Yet she has pressed on, accepting that God is faithful to give us what he knows we need, even if that looks remarkably different from what we wanted. So, Asule is allowing God to carry the pain of the past and trusting that the joy set before her will be worth everything.
• Asule as she finishes language learning to work diligently and persevere to the end.
• Faithful Witness team in Chad to clearly share the gospel and love their community. Pray they soon can welcome Asule.
• The Lord to continue healing Asule from past trauma and to provide her confidence in her calling.