Chosen to Lead: John Poth’s Story
“The whole town of Akot was set on fire by General Riak Machar, so we had no school for 2 years,” said John as he relayed his life story to me many years ago. It was a story I won’t forget. Riak Machar was serving as the Vice President of South Sudan at the time of my hearing his story.
John is the 7th born child of farmers who managed to survive 2 long civil wars. In 1996 a mass mandatory recruitment of soldiers forced John’s father to have to make a difficult decision. He was required to send one of John’s 2 older brothers to serve in the army. John explained the predicament, “my brothers were very valuable to the family. All of our relatives refused to let either of them become soldiers because they had already been initiated”. These sons had gone through the rite of passage for Dinka sons to become warriors. From that point they were expected to be the protectors of their families. John was considered to be inferior to his brothers, and therefore was allowed to go to school. “It would not be a great loss to the relatives and parents for a school boy to die or stay away, because boys who were in schools in towns were considered as criminals, according to the culture at that time,” John explained. “So I took up arms from 1997 till 2001, in order to solve this problem for my father.” John served in the South Sudanese government army from age 13 to 17 years. Upon discharge he was allowed to return to primary school.
John became a believer in Christ in 2004. I met him that same year. John immediately began training with a Baptist Missionary to become a church leader. He was taken to Rumbek to help start a church there after fighting broke out in Akot in 2006, between the Dinka Agaar and Dinka Atuot clans.
John enrolled in secondary school in Rumbek in 2007. In 2010, after 3 years of secondary school, John was forced to return to Akot. The whole town had been burned down by the government army. His cousin was shot to death and thrown into the fire. John left school to return to home to help his family. His father was quite old by this time. John was hired to work as a translator at Akot Medical Mission. He was able to provide food for his family with his small salary. It was then that I grew to know John better and admire him for his character.
A sponsor helped him return to Rumbek to complete secondary school, and provided monthly family support to his family. Upon graduation from secondary school, John took a job as a night guard at a bank in Rumbek. When he heard of LWCT’s need for a Director of Pastor and Church Development, he left his job to come to Akot and work for 1/3 less salary amount than he was earning in Rumbek. John provided pastor training while translating a two year pastor training curriculum into Dinka Agaar.
Eventually, through donors of LWCT, John was able to earn a 4 year degree in Agriculture from the Catholic University in Wau, South Sudan.
In June of this year, John returned to work for Akot Christian Ministries in the dual role of Agriculture Ministry Community Education/Outreach Director and Administrator of Christian Leadership. Since June, John has led Christian leadership training conferences for Chief’s and Administrators in 3 different communities. He has provided the same training for Pastors and Church Leadership in Akot, Atiaba and Paloch. John also was instrumental in the highly successful food distributions conducted in July and August in the same communities. In a word, “he’s killing it!”
It is so obvious that God has chosen and prepared this young man “for such a time as this”. Esther 4:14
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” John 15:16