Introduction / History The Gule are a sub-group of the Shilluk, who are the northernmost Nilotic-speaking people in Africa. The original homeland of the Nilotic peoples is believed to be somewhere east of the Great Lakes in Africa. The Shilluk homeland was near Rumbek, but as their population and herds increased, they migrated northward. By the late 1400s, they had reached their new location along the banks of the White Nile River. Today, they still live there in open grasslands not affected by the river's annual floods.
Throughout the 1800s, the Shilluk and other tribes in southern Sudan were raided for slaves and ivory. Slave stations were established in many territories, but the Shilluk were well organized and able to deter many of the raiders. During the early 1900s under the Anglo-Egyptian rule of Sudan, the Shilluk way of life was drastically affected. The introduction of medical services, irrigation, road-making, and the European style of government led to many changes in their culture and organization.
What are their lives like? The Shilluk, including the Gule, are primarily herdsmen. They raise small herds of cattle, along with some sheep, goats, pigs, and hens. Since they are so important to the Gule, cattle are given the utmost care. For example, they are tied near fires at night in order to keep insects from biting them.
To supplement their diet of dairy products, the Gule women grow crops in gardens outside the settlements. Among the crops cultivated are millet, maize, sesame, beans, and tobacco. Other responsibilities for the women include preparing the food and making the cooking utensils. Gule men hunt hippopotamus, antelope, buffalo, and giraffe. They are also considered to be expert fishermen by their neighbors. Through spear fishing, the Gule men take advantage of the bountiful species of fish found in the White Nile.
Gule communities have been likened to beads on a string. They are spread out along the banks of the White Nile with a space of about 200 yards separating each community. Small settlements representing a lineage contain thatched-roofed huts made of mud. The settlement is headed by a chief, who handles disputes and keeps order in the community.
At the center of Shilluk country is the capital, Pachoda, where the reth (Shilluk king) resides. The reth is believed to have spiritual powers, and he is often referred to as a divine king. Each reth is believed to be a reincarnation of Nyikang, the first king. Today, the reth has ritual rather than regulative or executive powers.
The Gule possess a unique style of dress and tribal markings that set them apart from neighboring groups. Very little clothing is worn by either males or females. The men wear ivory or wooden bracelets on the wrists or upper arms. In addition, six of the lower teeth are removed at a young age (except in the royal family). This practice is also characteristic of most other Nilotic peoples, thus separating them from other ethnic groups. Gule men and women have have three to five rows of dots or scars on their foreheads, indicating their distinct tribal markings.
What are their beliefs? The Gule are primarily Sunni Muslims, but most of the other Shilluk groups follow traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-human objects have spirits). The Shilluk believe in the power of the "evil eye" (curse caused by an intense gaze). Envy or anger may cause a person with this power to bring misfortune to others. Prayer, sacrifices, and magic are used to safeguard the people from this power. Although many African tribes feel that the birth of twins is a curse, the Shilluk consider it a blessing. Twins are considered to be "children of god."
What are their needs? The great majority of the Gule have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, but there are some Christian resources available in their language. More evangelistic work and sustained prayer are needed for God's love to reach the hearts of these people.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of governmental leaders to the preaching of the Gospel.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to powerfully anoint the words of the Gule believers as they share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strpmg and growing Gule church for the glory of His name!