Transformed by the Power of Jesus
“Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You. I will praise Your name, for You have accomplished wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Isaiah 25:1
A neighbor woman often came to the house of an American missionary family. She suffered from palsy and her life was difficult. The missionaries received her warmly, offered her water and practiced their newly acquired vocabulary with her at each visit. On the wall of their home was a lovely cloth that told stories of God’s Word in pictures and the neighbor would ask about the pictures. Sometimes she almost felt too bad to make the effort to go, but she always felt better when they would pray for her in the name of this “Issa” (Jesus) that they talked of so often. One day as they prayed, the heat and tingling left her face, and she felt cool relief. She knew Issa had heard their prayers. Before she left the house, she took off one of the fetish bracelets she wore, purchased from the local healer. She promised to destroy her other fetishes when she went home. Today this lady is studying God’s Word and says she follows the “Jesus Way.”
Fulbe Futa Toro
A Lesson from a Donkey
When my husband Clint and I traveled to Bauchi State one day for a couple of tasks, I enjoyed the opportunity to get out of town and see the countryside. I love watching people. Here in Nigeria I especially love watching people go about their daily lives - the way they do things and overcome obstacles. We saw a Fulani man who was migrating to a new area with his cows and a donkey. Now that the rains have started, the Fulani (who are herdsmen) are moving again. This Fulani man had his goods tied on the back of the donkey and one of the cows. The donkey was being uncooperative. The man was wanting to go one way and the donkey clearly had another idea, so she was proceeding in the other direction along with her load. I could just see the little donkey’s attitude coming out in the way she was walking. The Fulani man was smiling and gave us a big wave. God must be as patient as that Fulani man with us when we puff up and go our own way, even when He is trying to send us in a direction that is for our own good.
Multiple People Groups
A Good Son
Salif is a painter, an artist. When I asked him how he learned to paint, he said that it was just something he knew ... un cadeaux (French for "a gift"). His materials are canvas, pencil, paintbrush, acrylic paint, hand, glue, styrofoam, and ... gasoline. He makes three-dimensional paintings of African life. Salif lives in a hovel along a three-foot-wide alley surrounded by goat skins, flies, and lots of family and friends. It is shaded and dark where he lives ... in so many senses of that term. He relies heavily on days with a "good sun" to dry his paintings in a timely fashion and it appears that he rarely gets it. The light of truth (the Good Son) is coming to Salif as we share stories from God's Word. Will he ... can he be saved? God's truth can shine just as easily into his world and heart as it did mine, for faith still comes by hearing.
The Strength and Power of the Saints
"If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." - 1 Peter 4:14
Quite possibly the most difficult thing about language learning is looking stupid. No one really enjoys looking ignorant, but when you are learning a new language, you appear that way most of the time.
While most West Africans are very kind and helpful, they are also human and cannot help but chuckle as we stumble through our pronunciations. We look and sound ridiculous and so we are often the object of some good-natured ridicule. C'est la vie (French - "That's life").
Some of those who follow the Son will be the object of some serious ridicule and insult. What about them? How do they keep going? According to Peter, with the insult comes a blessing "because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on" the one who is persecuted. Behold, the strength and power of the saints.
"Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth's sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won." - Louisa May Alcott
Multiple People Groups
"Le Bon Berger" (The Good Shepherd)
"For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." 1 Peter 2:25
In West Africa, about the only way to tell the difference between a sheep and goat is the tail; otherwise, they look about the same. A goat's tail is short and sticks up while a sheep's tail is longer and hangs down.
Now, which one is more intelligent? I am not sure, but I have heard that sheep are pretty stupid and if one loses its way, it will remain lost until the shepherd leads it back to the flock.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd (in French - "Le Bon Berger"). He is also the Guardian of our souls. Sheep are a great picture of lost humanity. Those without Christ are utterly lost and in need of a Shepherd.
Multiple People Groups
"Instead, as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, rejoice, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory." - 1 Peter 4:13
Soon after we arrived in our city, we were informed that the country was now requiring U.S. citizens to have resident visas. We, along with five of our colleagues, spent an entire morning at the police station while a member of the staff worked on securing our "Titre Provisoire de Sejour (Provisional Title of Stay)" and visa stamp. If we are stopped by the police (a frequent occurrence in our city), then these documents indicate we are legally in the country.
If someone asked you to provide your "Christian" papers, what would you show them? Why, the glory of God in Christ, of course ... as it is revealed by His abiding joy in the midst of tribulation, trial, and ministry. This is the Christian's "Titre Provisoire!"
Multiple People Groups
Praising Jesus, All the Time
Malnutrition joined hands with disease, and a little Bambara boy died. Last year’s harvest just didn’t stretch all the way to this year’s, and children are hit the hardest. But that boy’s father found Jesus a few months ago when they were all hungry. His neighbors had been slandering him ever since. He hadn’t wavered in his new faith. He wasn’t wavering now, even after his child was buried.
Steve drove up to the family’s village a few days ago with “Hama,” a Bambara Christian musician. They were there to teach, but as soon as they stepped out of the truck, other believers told them about the child’s death. “We need to go greet the family,” Steve said. “Hama, leave your ngoni here.” (An ngoni is a guitar-like instrument made from a tree limb attached to a gourd.) Hama is an expert. He had come to play for the believers, but music just isn’t appropriate for a grieving family in Bambara culture. “No, take it! They need it,” the others urged them. Steve and Hama shook their heads. No, they were going to comfort, not to sing. But then another spoke. This time, it was the boy’s father. “Take it. We need to praise Jesus today. Take the ngoni to my house.”
And so, sitting on benches and bamboo chairs in the dusty courtyard, they sang. More than a dozen new Christians shooed the chickens out of the way, lifted their voices above the bleats of the goats and praised Jesus, accompanied by Hama’s ngoni. All over the village, people stopped to listen. Women put down their pestles, left their pounding and came to gawk. Men stood up from conversations around hissing tea pots to go see who was singing in the face of death. Boys pocketed their sling shots and leaned on the low mud-brick walls around the courtyard. And so when Steve began to teach about a Christian’s victory over death, they all heard.
As Steve and Hama walked away, another believer told Steve, “He needed that. That family really needed the encouragement. His neighbors have given him nothing but grief about his new faith.”
Praise God with us that new Bambara believers like this father are standing firm in the face of tragedy and persecution. Ask God to encourage them all deeply! Pray that this family’s witness to their neighbors will bring many to Christ. Pray for the farming cycle in Mali. Each year Bambara farmers wonder if the rains will last long enough to provide sufficient millet for the year. Pray that God will supply their needs.
The Beginning of a Harvest
During a recent phone conversation, one of our close pastor friends in Benin shared, “God’s work is growing very rapidly in our area and it’s because of the Biblical education by Bible stories that we’ve been teaching in Fon (the local language). The men who have been in training have been returning to their towns and villages and using what they’ve learned to teach people what the Bible really says. Many people are saying that they are understanding what God is trying to tell them in the Bible, now that they are being taught by trained men who themselves have been taught how to glean what God is saying to them in the Bible, through learning the stories and learning how to analyze them in their heart language. People are realizing that the Bible has a lot to say to them, and they’ve been coming to our Bible studies and young churches to hear more. It’s very exciting. And it’s all because of how we’ve been training these men. God is working mightily here..”
We worked in Benin for 12 years in the early part of our missionary ministry in West Africa. Oh, how we worked to try to show our young pastors and leaders how Chronological Bible Storying could help them get God’s word out more effectively. There was a lot of opposition from men who had been taught only in French, and used only American methods of teaching. These men were convinced that Bible storying was a step backward and was an embarrassment to Baptist work. But we persevered, asking the Lord to open their hearts to this new idea. A few men began to realize that there was potential for kingdom growth in storying. In recent years, a small Bible school was established, that taught an organized series of several hundred Bible stories to pastors and leaders using only their local language. An important part of their education has been to learn how to thoroughly analyze what God is saying in each story. They come to the school for one week a month, returning to their homes with lots of homework and memorization to complete before they return to the school three weeks later for their next week-long training.
Although we’ve been keeping up with our dear friends and God’s work in Benin since we left it to minister in other West African countries, it was particularly thrilling to hear the excitement in this pastor’s voice as he described the growth of God’s kingdom in the Zou region of Benin. Please pray for God’s continued help and guidance for the young men who are involved in this program of Biblical education by Bible stories. God is truly at work, and it’s a great blessing to us to see the fruit that is beginning to ripen 20 years after the first seeds were planted.
Multiple People Groups
A Malian Thanksgiving
Mitch – a newly arrived journeyman among the Bambara people of Mali - sat down for lunch on Thanksgiving day. His hostess brought him the meal and set it before him – not on a table, but on the ground. Goats wondered past. Chickens had to be shooed away. And there, in the midst of mud huts, an ocean away from his family, Mitch dipped his hand into the bowl of rice with his host. Both of them shoveled it into their mouths with their fingers – the Bambara way. Mitch looked around the village at the women pounding and the babies crying. Shea nuts were roasting on the fire, and their sickening odor filling the air. Shea nuts are great for making skin cream, not so great for aromatherapy. “So, this is Thanksgiving in Africa,” Mitch thought. And he was satisfied.
Viewing Christmas Through a Cultural Lens
A member of the Maninka Team shares: “When we first moved to our city several years ago, I asked a young Maninka woman to explain her understanding of Christmas and its customs. She saw it as a time when we Christians prepared food as a sacrifice and then shared it with our friends as gifts. A worker had once given her baked goods at Christmas and that is how she interpreted the gift, even though the worker had shared the Christmas story with her. Often the message we share is seen through a cultural lens. Maninka Team has many opportunities to share the story of the Savior’s coming and the hope that it brings during the Christmas season. As we talk about Christmas with our friends and with university students, pray that our message will be clear and God’s Spirit will speak across cultural barriers.”
Compelled to Tell
I made a visit to the Mamprusi women in a local market this week and had an interesting conversation with the taxi driver on the way home. After about 10 minutes of silence, we talked about the upcoming Presidential election in Ghana, and I told the driver that we needed to pray for a peaceful election. He said that he did pray, that he was a member of a prominent evangelical denominational church here, and a student of a local Bible college. So I asked him, “I was in your taxi ten minutes before you started talking. Why didn’t you tell me about Jesus?” The driver seemed embarrassed, but told me I was correct in reminding him that he should have witnessed to me. I reminded him that God put people in his taxi who might never go to church, and he agreed.
How many of us are like this Christian taxi driver? We know the Lord and we are faithful to pray for the lost, but we lack boldness to share our faith. May the Lord continue to remind us of this incredible privilege and responsibility we have, to know Jesus and share Him with others.
Multiple People Groups
Sharing the Word Yields Abundant Fruit
In July 2008 IMB missionaries Pat and Peggy Ozment joined one of their former students, a graduate of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an outreach endeavor. Pastor M. was so excited to introduce his teachers to his family and friends! While in southeastern Ghana, the Ozments did training in the "Creation to Christ" presentation, Peggy taught the women using the chronological Bible storying method, and during one short weekend, three churches were planted.
Pastor M. recently reported that the membership in these churches is growing. In the village of Gidikpui, up to 30 people now attend; in Srekpe, more than 20; and in Ahunda between 25 and 35. Another exciting development is that these new believers are planning to plant even more churches in the surrounding villages. Pastor M. said that he is compiling a list of the names of those who are actively involved in chronological Bible storying groups.
We serve an awesome God! Look at all He did with one couple, one weekend, and His truth. As you pray for these new believers, ask God to continue to give them a heart of evangelism, a burden for the lost, and boldness to share His message.
Multiple People Groups
A Hunger for Spiritual Things
"I don't want to die, so please tell me how I can be taken to heaven, like Elijah, without dying," the African man said, one Tuesday while we evangelized on the streets of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. We told him Bible stories in French and, with another missionary's help, talked to him about other spiritual matters. He is just one of the many people we've met while evangelizing. Many people here hunger for spiritual things.
When we arrived in West Africa six months ago, we spoke no French, but now we can carry on long conversations with people in French. We are learning first hand that Africans are aware of spiritual matters, but are also blinded by their tribal religions or Islam. We continue to form friendships with Africans and enjoy their hospitality. We work with an African pastor and his new church. These things are possible as the grace of Christ works through your prayers.
Continue to pray for new and experienced missionaries to be bold in their witness. Ask the Lord to give them ears and hearts that are sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as they share Jesus with those who are so hungry to hear His story.
Multiple People Groups
Teach Me to Tell the Stories of Jesus
Recently a missionary couple, serving under the IMB’s International Service Corps (ISC) program, went to a small village in Northern Ghana. The husband said he didn’t have a sermon to preach, but he had a story to tell. But before he could begin to share what God had put on his heart, one of the men in the group stood up and said he’d had a dream. In his dream he asked God to send someone to help the people go out and tell others about Jesus. He said that the missionaries were the people in his dream! As this ISC missionary told the story of the demon-possessed man, translated into the local language by the pastor, the man who had shared his dream was radiant. The man did a great job as he repeated the story.
These missionaries have been asked by this pastor in “Village K” to return and teach their people how to tell the stories of Jesus so that they can share them with others. Pray for these missionaries and for the members of the church in “Village K” as they go out to share the wonderful stories of Jesus. Pray also that God will prepare unbelievers’ hearts to hear the message.
Multiple People Groups
Have You Been Sharing?
An IMB missionary has been teaching refresher courses at a pastors’ school in Northern Nigeria. He will return there in October to do some follow-up to see if the pastors have been using the information that he previously shared about teaching their people God’s story through the Chronological Bible Storying (CBS) methods. This missionary’s dream is for these students to begin CBS groups among the unreached people groups near the school, but so far, this has only been done on a limited basis. Pray for this missionary as he goes to teach, and ask the Lord to open the minds and hearts of these student pastors so that they will catch the vision of presenting the gospel in a way that oral preference learners will understand.
Volunteers Minister Through VBS and "Prayerboating"
In late August, a passionate Springfield Baptist Church mission team of sixteen volunteers from Springfield, Tennessee, made an impact for Jesus and for eternity in the Ouémé Valley, working together with Wémé church members in one-day Vacation Bible Schools and prayerwalking.
More than 2,200 children in six village churches attended Vacation Bible School, eagerly listening to Bible stories and learning about Jesus and his love. They quickly learned the theme verse and song taken from I John 4:10, "God loved us and sent His Son." They memorized the meaning of the wordless booklet in the shape of a heart, with colors of black, red, white, green, and yellow teaching the children how Jesus' blood sacrifice cleanses our hearts from sin. When challenged to follow Jesus, many older children sincerely accepted Christ, their names now recorded in the Book of Life. What joy! Please pray that the Holy Spirit will protect their fledgling faith of these young believers and strengthen them to be faithful to come to church and grow in their new life in Christ. The children heard that Jesus is concerned for our health, and they watched intently as team members demonstrated how to care for cuts and sores, stressing cleanliness. They were delighted with simple art projects and sports such as soccer.
As the prayerwalkers trekked village paths, God provided “divine appointments” for them to witness, and several individuals prayed to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. One man asked us to come to his home where he carefully placed two benches under a shade tree, invited us to sit down, and then said he wanted us to help him know how to accept Jesus! Many villagers appreciated the prayers offered up for them, their hearts touched by the love and concern shown by the volunteers. The afternoon soccer matches were a hit and offered the opportunity to make friends and share the gospel message using the evangelistic soccer ball.
During the rainy season this year, rains were heavier than usual, and the Ouémé River quickly overflowed its banks. One day the prayerwalkers found Kessounou village homes, although built to withstand flooding, completely inundated by the Ouémé River! Since it was impossible to walk anywhere, they went “prayerboating” instead, going from home to home in dugout canoes and praying for families suffering under these terrible flooded conditions. A local pastor reported that the local Baptist church had a swift-moving current flowing through it, with the floor completely under knee-deep water. He asked special prayer for the young Kessounou children, petitioning the Lord to protect them from falling into the water and drowning.
We praise God for the Springfield team and give Him glory for all that He did here as they ministered in Jesus’ name. Souls were won to Christ, seeds of the gospel planted, churches encouraged, the love of Jesus shown through hugs, smiles and play with the children, and in the heartfelt prayers for individuals and families.
Witnessing, One Story at a Time
I have been talking with a welder in town since the first few days that I moved to Senegal. My language competency in Wolof is still not good enough to communicate with him well, but I do enjoy his company and greeting him. One day when a group of volunteers was working with our mission team, I took the men to this welder’s shop so that they could meet him. He asked each one of them what type of work they did. When he got to Justin (the group leader), Justin told him that he teaches the Bible to his students. My friend responded, "Can you teach me? I want to learn." I was elated! So we set up a time to come back to the shop and teach my friend when he was free.
When the appointed day came, we began with the creation story and continued with Adam and Eve's fall from sin. My friend knew the story well enough that when I struggled with the words in Wolof, he would tell the story to us. He had obviously heard these stories before. I asked him where he had heard the stories, and he said he's always been told these stories. Then I remembered that Muslims and Christians include many common Old Testament stories in their respective religious teachings. After sharing, he invited us to eat supper at his house later in the week.
A few days later we returned to share a meal with my friend. While we were eating, I wanted to offer him a Wolof New Testament so that he could read it for himself, but he politely refused. When I told him that it was a gift from the volunteer group, he did accept it. An experienced missionary colleague later explained to us that my friend did not want his Muslim peers to think that he might be interested in following Christ. When he's alone with me, he'll be glad to hear stories. But when he's with others, he probably won’t want to be perceived as being too friendly with Christians.
So this is a contact that I will definitely follow up on. I have made a goal to practice one story a week, and I'll continue sharing with him, building our friendship together, and practicing my Wolof with him. Pray that the Truth my friend hears from God’s Word will penetrate his heart and cause him to seek a relationship with Jesus.
The King of Glory
“Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.” Psalm 24:8 (HCSB)
Since our arrival in Senegal six years ago, we have been praying for “U,” our village brother, to come to know and accept Jesus as His Savior and Lord. He has heard the stories about Jesus countless times, but had never shown any signs accepting what he was hearing and learning as the Truth – until just a few months ago.
Recently, while traveling during a survey trip, we were listening to music from our MP3 player in the truck. Our friend and brother, leaned forward and asked, “Do you have that music from the group called Third Day, the one that we have listened to many times?” We answered, “Yes, why?” He said, “I want to hear my favorite song that talks about ‘the King’.” We searched through the music until we came upon the song that he was talking about. The words from this Third Day song, “King of Glory,” go like this:
Who is this King of glory that pursues me with His love
And haunts me with each hearing of His softly spoken words
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need
Who is this King of glory who offers it to me?
Who is this King of angels, O blessed Prince of Peace
Revealing things of Heaven and all its mysteries
My spirit's ever longing for His grace in which to stand
Who is this King of glory, Son of God and song of man?
Who is this King of glory with strength and majesty
And wisdom beyond measure, the gracious King of kings
The Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
Who is this King of glory - He's everything to me!
His name is Jesus, precious Jesus
The Lord Almighty, the King of my heart
The King of glory
As we listened to the words of this song, he smiled and said, “Yes, that’s it – that’s what’s in my heart!”
After the song finished playing, I asked him, “How long were you actually a believer in Christ before you came forward to tell us?” He replied, “For about two years I have believed in Jesus, but I was afraid to tell you or anyone else because you know how it is in our culture – if anyone in my family or my village finds out that I believe in Jesus, they will make me leave my home and my village and they will never let me come back.”
“U” is the only person in his village of more than 5,000 people who believes that Jesus is the only way to God. As a translator, he travels with us to many parts of West Africa to help us with survey work and with volunteer teams and he will have many opportunities to be a Christian witness to other West Africans. Please pray that God will continue to encourage “U” in his faith and give him the wisdom, the courage, and the boldness that he needs to proclaim the name of Jesus to others who have been blinded by false religions. Pray that God will use him as a faithful disciple who will lead other West Africans to salvation that is found only in Jesus!
"John the Baptist" - Taxi Driver
Recently I took a taxi to Nima market in Accra, Ghana where I’ve been witnessing to some Mamprusi women. After coming to an agreement on the price, I got in the taxi and began chatting with driver, John. I asked him if he attended any church, and he mentioned a mainline denomination which is growing very quickly in Ghana. I quoted Romans 10:9-10 to him and asked if he’d ever confessed Jesus as His Lord and Savior. He told me he did know Christ, but he had a shocked look on his face. He said, “Madam, I’ve carried so many people in my taxi, but you are the first to ever talk to me about Christ.”
As my taxi ride came to an end, I challenged John to witness to every person who got in his taxi. I reminded him of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Christ. I said, “John, I want you to bring people to a knowledge of sin and repentance, new life in Christ, just as John the Baptist did.”
Ask God to give missionaries who regularly travel by taxi boldness to witness as they go. Pray also for Baptists in West Africa, that they would use daily opportunities like this to share the gospel message, to bring people to a saving faith in Christ and to encourage those who already know Him.
Multiple People Groups
Adjusting to God's Agenda
As we drove to our chronological Bible storying group recently, my co-worker Susan said, "Can we pray that these women will become our friends and not just be a 'project' to us?" So we prayed. Two of the women eventually came and they were both tired from having attended no less than five weddings the day before. In fact, they were so tired that they asked if we would we like to go visit one of the new brides instead of the having a story. Remembering how we had prayed, we said, "No problem, let's go." After visiting the bride, the women invited us to a wedding on Sunday. Susan and I felt the Lord was saying, "OK, I'm giving you the opportunity. Now go for it!" Not only did we attend the wedding, but we dressed in the customary matching outfits worn by the bride's family. Already we sense a change in our relationship with the women in our Bible storying group. Ask the Father to open the hearts of other women so that they will be interested in joining our storying group. Please join us in praying that we will respond to further ministry opportunities.
A Fruitful Day in the Market
I was walking through the market with a friend to do evangelism. On this particular day, I saw "M," a man selling in front of his booth. It was early, and business had not started for the day. I walked over to him and started speaking in French. He immediately stopped me and told me he did not understand French very well, could I speak English? That was music to my ears! I asked if I could share a story from God's Word with him, and he agreed. I shared the “Creation to the Cross” presentation with him. He listened very intently and at the end, I asked if he believed what I had told him. He said that it was the truth. I asked him if he wanted to accept Jesus as his Savior. He said "yes," so I led him in the sinner's prayer. A new believer entered the Kingdom! Pray that "M' will find a church to attend and grow as a believer in Christ.
Multiple People Groups
Completing the Task
"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:8-9, NIV)
I was reminded of these verses recently when I was sitting in a worship service. Seven years ago when I was working in a village, two men there decided to follow Jesus. We began meeting on Sundays - just four of us (there was already one man who was a follower). Two women would sit in the compound, but away from where we were. The children were not present.
Now, seven years later, I sit in a grass hanger in one of the men's courtyards and a child begins the service in prayer. There are at least a dozen children and two women sitting on a mat. The men are on benches. Songs are sung from memory and then one of the men reads scripture and expounds on it. These same men that heard the truth of the Gospel just seven years ago are now leading a service each week. On this day after the service, they discussed a brother in town who was discouraged because of the persecution he was facing and decided to go encourage him.
The Lord is not slow about His promises. He is being patient for our sake. There are still so many people who need to hear the truth of Jesus. My neighbors. Your neighbors. There are entire people groups around the world with no one to share the truth with them. May we be faithful to do our part of "The Task" that God has given us.
Multiple People Groups
Freedom from Fetishes
“What has Jesus done for me?” Andrew exclaimed, laughing. ‘Oh, there is so much.” He proceeded to tell us about his life before he became a follower of Jesus. “I needed money. I needed a job. Whenever I needed anything, I would go to the owner of the fetish. I would give him money and he could tell me where to go to find a job. He could tell me if I should go on the trip or not. The fetishers would tell me to bring them shells and then they would read them. After that I would have to sacrifice a chicken or some other animal for the fetish and the fetish would help me to get money. If I did not go to the fetish, then I could not know if something bad would happen to me on my trip. I had to go to the fetisher all the time. I was poor and I needed help to know what I needed to do to get money. That is how it is for many people here. But Jesus freed me from that. I do not have to go to the fetish now. I am not afraid to go on a trip because I know that God loves me and can protect me. I go to God now when I need to know what to do. He guides me and helps me.” The OneStory Malinké (Maninka) team members are encouraging Andrew to share what Jesus has done with his people who also need to know that Jesus can free them from their dependency on the fetishes. Pray for Andrew as he learns how to share Jesus with his family members and neighbors. Pray that many more Malinké people will hear and understand how Jesus wants to set them free.
Bringing Living Water
A Muslim-background believer recently told a missionary the story of his grandmother who is very near the end of her life, yet still hanging on to darkness. The last time he visited her, she told him that the only thing she has against his belief is that Christians do not face the east (toward Mecca) when they pray. His last words to her before returning to the city were in the form of a story. He said, “If there is no water in a village for kilometers around, and the people are dying, will not at least one man travel to find water? And when he finds this water source, should he not return to his village to share it with his people? That’s what I have done. I have found the true Water, and I have come to share this with you.” His grandmother remains in the dark, still in need of Living Water. Pray that she will recognize and receive the true Source of Living Water before it is too late. Ask God to give Muslim-background believers in West Africa passion and courage to share the Living Water with their family members.
Multiple People Groups
Mop Buckets and Evangelism
Twenty-five students from the School of Theology and Ministry in Ghana recently spent a Saturday morning ministering at the local community health center. Changing their school attire for work clothes, and leaving their books at school, the students took up mop buckets, scrub brushes, brooms and plenty of soap for the work at hand. The students went into action scrubbing the halls and walkways as well as cleaning the latrines and washroom facilities. After the clean-up exercise was completed, the nurses asked the people who were patiently waiting to see the doctor to give Rev. Robert (President of the Students Representative Council) their attention. At the conclusion of a brief evangelistic message, several patients indicated that they wanted to give their lives to Christ, and almost everyone present asked for prayer to be healed of their illnesses. The pastoral students talked one-on-one with patients who wanted to receive Christ as their Saviour and prayed for them. Pray that those who accepted Christ that day will be discipled and trained to bring others into the kingdom.
Willing to Go to the Hard Places
Recently I preached in a village church where one of the seminary students is the pastor. “Pastor P.” enrolled in the seminary two years ago, and graduated in May of this year. He stepped out on faith to attend seminary, enrolling in school with no money for tuition. He told the director that God would provide money. There was only a month for God to do it. Not only did God do it, but “P.” was the first student to have his tuition paid in full for that semester! A man who was passing through P.’s village stopped to worship at his church, heard his story of faith, and paid the tuition, saying that it was a “gift from God.” During his two years in school, P.’s small church was not able to help much, but they made sure that his wife and four children had food. Now that he has graduated from seminary, Pastor P. plans to use his education to reach the villages in the upper Northern Region of Ghana where there is no evangelistic work. Many of these villages are remote and small with extremely poor living conditions. Even the Muslims have no mosque there. Pastor P. feels God calling him to tell these people about Jesus. He is willing to go and share the Word from the One True God with them. Ghana needs more men like Pastor P. who are willing to go into the hard places. Please pray with us as we lift P. up to God, asking for his safety and everything he needs so that he can take the Gospel to the Northeast Region of Ghana.
Multiple People Groups
The Great Adventure of Faith
"Sign up for the great adventure of faith; I can promise you'll never get bored."* I thought it sounded pretty great. Fresh out of college, I was contemplating law school, but I wasn't really sure if that was the right path. So, I started doing a study about faith and really asking the Father for direction in my life. And I wound up asking the Father to let me sign up for the great adventure of faith.
Now, about a year and a half later, I know the Father heard my prayer. Never has life felt so fulfilling; I can certainly say I have never felt more blessed. When people ask about life here, I simply say, "Everyday is an adventure."
My teammates and I recently took a sunset camel ride into the desert and had a worship service on the Sahara dunes. The next day we took a boat up the river to search for hippos (and saw 11 hippos!). I felt like I was a National Geographic explorer. The whole visit was such a blessing to us and perfectly timed to give us some much needed encouragement. Our Father never overlooks the smallest of details.
The weather is definitely warm here. Some days have hit 115+ degrees. We are now sleeping on the roof of our mud hut. It is great! I really love it. Every morning we awake to a beautiful Saharan sunrise. It is there that I spend time with the Father. It couldn't be sweeter. But not only are we awakened by the sunrise, sometimes it is to the village children who think it's fun to run around our hut yelling our names until we get up to greet everyone! Talk about a new way of life!
A few weeks ago the Muslim community celebrated the birth and naming of their prophet. Everyone had new outfits made, and the night they celebrated the naming, the religious leaders went to the mosque to study the Koran and pray all night, until early in the morning. This event gave me a picture of how deep the roots of their religion run here. It makes our task seem more and more impossible everyday. However, we have begun to parallel ourselves to the story of Gideon and the Midianites. It looked like such an impossible task, but the Father had purpose in it all. He had a perfect plan then, and we know He does even now.
*Believing God by Beth Moore. Published by LifeWay Press, 2007.
God's Word for All People
As the Hispanic Team sat in a large circle beneath the shade of a big tree in a Senegal village, a large group of both Catholic and Muslim men, women, and children gathered to hear the stories that they had come to tell. They listened intently as each member of the team took turns sharing various stories from the Bible. At the end of each story, time was given for questions and discussion. An elderly man sat quietly, soaking in all that was being said. As the end of the storying time drew near, many people were expressing their thanks and appreciation for the time that the Hispanic team from the United States had spent teaching them more about God. Sitting quietly, the elderly man continued to listen. At the end of the discussion, the elderly man decided to share a thought. He said that as an eight-year-old boy, he had been taught (by his Catholic father) the same stories that he had heard from this team today. He said, "These stories must be true because both the Mexican and the American people that come here to our villages are teaching the same stories that I was taught." What a great testimony for this "mixed" group of people to hear! God's Word is the same – everywhere!
Multiple People Groups
Growing as a Servant
All of our seminary students are expected to take a leadership role in a local church while in school, but as you can imagine they minister in various ways. One example is Rev. K, a student from Sierra Leone, who is leaving his mark on campus, as well as in a local church and the community where he and his family live near campus. This young man, a real leader among his peers, can sometimes be seen nailing roofing sheets back on the dorms after a big storm has tried to rip them off or cleaning out the gutters or painting the washrooms with paint left over from some other job. He is resourceful and not afraid of work. In addition to leading the youth of a nearby church, Rev. K assists the senior pastor in evangelistic ministries. When his landlady’s teenage son accidentally drowned, Rev. K was on hand to minister to the bereaved family. It is a joy to see God using our students and see them growing in their faith. God has put a burning desire in Rev. K’s heart to return to Sierra Leone to evangelize the lost after he completes his studies here next year, and we believe he will do it!
Knee-deep in the Sweetest Pool of Dirty Water
Standing knee deep in a small pool of brown water, our village brother stood with his African brother. He answered the question, “Yes, I believe Jesus is God’s Son” as he was then immersed in the water. Praise God! We sang a song, “Jesus came to save lives.” Jesus came to our village to save the life of our brother. Reflecting back, sitting under our shade covering, we told our brother (who has been our faithful language helper since day one) a story of one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip, and an African man. After telling this story, we discussed what we liked about this story. I liked the part where God’s angel tells Philip to go to the road, knowing that the African man was coming. Just like today, God’s Spirit tells us where to go as He has told my teammate Krystal and me to be here now. Our brother’s eyes lit up as he answered, “Yes, just like God told me to come back from the city and be here in the village. God knew we would be here together, in this moment, studying His Word and telling His Story.” We then asked, “What does this story tell you to do?” He answered, “If I believe in Jesus, I should be baptized.” As the weeks progressed, God was amazing in the way He painted the picture of our brother’s baptism in a way that His glory just burst out. All within one week, we traveled with our brother to a nearby village to share in the joy of a friend’s baptism. This reinforced our brother’s desire to also show the world the new life he’d been given. He wanted to be baptized. As complications arose, it seemed that it might have to be postponed. We told him to go home, pray about it and God would show him when he would be baptized. He called. “I want to be baptized now.” It didn’t matter that some people couldn’t come. God would provide the water and would put His perfect plan in place. We praise the Lord for our brother’s faith and boldness, and for working out plans that allowed Christian brothers and sisters to come from town to celebrate with him. More than 30 of his family and friends in the village also came to witness this day. After a twenty-minute walk in 100+ degree temperatures to a small pool of brown water that the cows drink from, he stood in front of his family, a family who may ridicule him, not understanding what he’s doing or why. Having told his Muslim father that he has chosen a different road, his own father was not there this day. But the knowledge of where this other road leads and the joy it brings in walking down it, led our brother to take this new road, the Jesus road, which he knows leads to eternal life with God. After singing praises until reaching the creek, a story was told of how Jesus has the power to change lives. He offers us new life, a life spent with Him, a life spent going out and telling others of what He has done. Our brother then boldly told the story of Philip and the African man. After finishing the story, he said, “I believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Now I am this African man. I will be baptized, like him.”
The Compost Pile is Heaven
"The compost pile is Heaven!" I heard my children call out as they worked on their Saturday chore of picking up leaves in the yard. Of course I was curious, wondering if their composting dad had anything to do with this. As I got more into hearing range, I began to understand better what they were doing. They had decided to make a game out of picking up leaves and were pretending to be missionaries all over the world and the leaves they picked up were the people God redeemed because of their work. I was fascinated to hear Paul say he was in a hard place where folks were persecuted for their faith, when he was gathering leaves out from under the rose bush. Rebekah compared picking up leaves where there were not many leaves and where it was a little more difficult, like under bushes, to language learning, and she insisted that everyone had to do some "language learning" before they moved to a different country, or area of the yard. Soon I heard Sarah Catherine call from the other side of the yard for someone to come help her in Asia. How poignant that call was! That is the call of every missionary I know. The work seems so daunting at times. So many people are without Christ, dying all around us. How can we ever make a difference in such a place? I wish it was as easy as picking up leaves. Our children realize that it is not, but in this game they can see the whole world redeemed. When my husband Robert told them they could stop because they had pretty much picked up all the leaves, they did not want to stop because there were still some "people" in hard to get to places that needed saved. May we have such perseverance in our work. Andrew said it was hard work, and he is right, but it is not without its rewards. Just like the leaves had to die to be "saved" and taken to "Heaven" or the compost pile, we also must die to self. We can be thankful though that Jesus raises us from the dead to bring glory to His name, and these leaves will be resurrected again as they provide wonderful nutrients for new plants.
On March 2, 2008 Roland Asabrim, one of our young pastoral students, had a divine appointment to be with Jesus. We did not expect it. It was divine. God worked out a message in me about the importance of being what God wants you to be, where He wants you to be, when He wants you to be. I used Roland and his "divine appointment" as an illustration. I preached it the Sunday after Roland's death, and God moved in the hearts of many people. Two weeks later, after our team meeting near Accra, Jeff and Barbara Singerman (IMB missionaries who live in Benin) kept their appointment with us, and we took them shopping for cloth and souvenirs at the Tamale Culture Center. There, Barbara meet a young Muslim man who was curious about Jesus. She made an appointment for me to talk to him after Easter (the next Sunday). My appointments continued to increase. One of our students had shared my message with his pastor in a village 30 miles away, so my next appointment was to preach it there, at Yong Baptist Church. Meanwhile, back at the culture center, I had an appointment. I went to find the young Muslim, but he was traveling. I was met by his younger brother who said, "Tell me what you would tell my brother." I did. I shared "Creation to Christ" with him. "Creation to Christ" tells, in story form, many of the events from Creation to the Resurrection, in 15 minutes. I made an appointment to see him again, and the next day I took him his first Bible. I encouraged him to read the Gospel of John, and promised to visit him again. On Wednesday when I was shopping in Tamale town, the young man appeared unexpectedly. He asked, "Are you coming?" I told him, "Friday I will come." When I met with him a few days later, he had read John's Gospel, and several other books in the Bible. On Tuesday night he had found a believer in the area where he lived, and from that appointment, he found Jesus. Watch for your divine appointments.
Multiple People Groups
Worshipping in the Presence of the Lord
Our week started out with my husband, Pat, preaching at a village church on Sunday. The church was Yong Baptist Church. The building is about the size of our living/dining room area. Many young families were there, with a total of more than 50 children. The building was full. Many of the children and some of the youth had to stand outside. The choir marched in singing a song in Dagbani, their "heart language." The only instruments they had were a set of rusted, ancient drums, two sticks of wood which they struck together, and a gourd covered with small shells that made a musical sound when shaken. The choir’s specials were sung in beautiful, harmony. The service was all spoken in Dagbani, so when Pat preached, the pastor translated for him. When the offering was taken, everyone came forward and placed small coins in the plate. These people are farmers, and they have little, but they gave their coins with smiles of joy. When I left, I knew I had been in the presence of the Lord. I had worshipped Him, even though I did not understand the words to the music, the announcements, or the prayers. My Spirit was at peace with their spirits and God’s Spirit as well
Multiple People Groups
Opening the Door
When I think about how great our God is and how His power overcomes all we face, his strength lifts me when I feel like lying on the floor. How faithful He is to answer our prayers! Not long ago we were blessed as we saw God’s hand working in our "village dad." Two of our friends from the United States came to see us and meet our village family. This was a wonderful time; they were able to meet our closest friends, family, and people of influence in our village. We were able to joke, laugh and have a good time! Most importantly, through all of this, our village dad stayed around just to meet and greet our friends. Our dad is one of the few practicing Muslims in our village who truly prays and follows the Islamic practices. He was leaving for a different village, but decided to stay for our friends. After a little while we were able to share with our friends how important our dad is to us. They then turned and thanked him and shared with him how important our Father in Heaven is to us and then shared with our dad, our “village brother,” and another villager the “Creation to Christ” story. Our village dad agreed that Jesus is only one way to God, and our "brother" admitted that he believed and was following the "Jesus Road." Through this time that God gave us with our friends, a door was opened to share a story. We were able to explain that the reason we have come to Mali is to learn the Supyire language so that we can share stories from the Bible. After a slight pause, our dad turned and told us that we are welcome to pray for him and share stories with him as the Lord leads us! Wow! This is huge for us because from the very first day we tried to begin chronological Bible storying in our village, he has openly walked away. We truly believe that he is the gatekeeper to the Muslim faith in our family and possibly our animistic village since he is so influential. However, our dad, (“A”) is still fasting, praying, and following Islamic practices. Pray that our Lord will show Himself to our dad in a dream or vision. Pray that the Bible stories he has heard will deeply impact his heart and life and that our Lord will draw A to his Son like only he can!
Following God's Plan
I led three men from a team sent by First Baptist Church of California, Missouri to a village where we had the opportunity to share the Gospel with many, many people. On our first night there, I gave a gospel presentation to several elders who came by to visit us. The next evening we were able to show the “JESUS” film. The following morning, we went to visit the chief and talk about the film. With him were many of the village elders, as well as several other people. They asked many questions about Jesus, based on what they saw in the film. Sadly, they said their religion was the same as ours except that they believed the way into heaven was to follow their prophet. This allowed me to give another Gospel presentation and to clearly show in Scripture where Jesus revealed Himself as the only way. As we left that meeting, I was very discouraged because it did not seem that the villagers were willing to change their ways and follow the One True God. However, a little bit later, one of the young men who had seen the film and listened to our Gospel presentations was able to go aside and talk privately with the volunteer team leader. Afterwards, this young man committed his life to Christ! One of our Jula lay leaders and I later talked with this young man and prayed with him for a while. Later that night, another young man also decided to become a follower of Jesus! One of the men had commented that several years ago, some Christians had come into the village and wanted to tell people about Jesus, but the chief would not give them permission. Yet here we were doing just that! He was amazed that the chief and the others actually let us do this and that they also sat there and listened with the others. Praise God for giving us this opportunity! What had started out as a very disappointing day ended with seeing two brand new Jula men enter the Kingdom of God. That very morning I had been reading in Isaiah 55 the verses where God declared that His ways are higher than our ways and that His Word would accomplish what He desired, in the manner that He sent it. What an accurate description of what we witnessed that day. All along we had focused on the chief and the elders of that village; yet, God in His sovereignty chose to save two young men whom He brought to hear the Message that was being given. Praise God for these two new believers! Ask Him to bring them together so they can start to pray and worship as one body. Pray that they will quickly grow in their new faith.
More Believers, More Discipleship
In recent months Pastor S has been BUSY! He has continued to share the gospel in several villages on the outskirts of Ghana’s second largest city. As he shared Jesus with his people, those from Northern Ghana working in her large cities, several came to know the Lord as their personal Savior.
This pastor also asked his church members to invite friends to come and watch the soccer games during the Cup of Africa Nations tournament which took place in February. Church members and their friends enjoyed watching the game together, and during half-time the television was turned off so that Pastor S could give a gospel presentation. Many accepted Christ during those times of invitation.
Pray for this pastor as he works to disciple those who have come to Jesus. This pastor is attending seminary, pastoring his church, and has family responsibilities – his schedule is already full, but he is committed to discipling these new believers.
Multiple People Groups
Learning an Unexpected Lesson
After being in Senegal for two months without getting a consistent language instructor, I was willing to try anything. An English teacher at a local high school suggested that I register for a free Wolof class that was being taught at an elementary school in our village. He assured me that the class would start at the beginning. Boy, he wasn’t kidding. During the first lesson the teacher spent an hour going over ‘a’ versus ‘aa’. Unlike English vowel sounds, which can be long or short, there is no distinction between the “A”s in Wolof - the best way I can describe the audible difference is Morse Code ("beep" versus "beeeeeeeep"). The next hour we spent writing numbers 0-3, tracing what the teacher wrote as she went around from desk to desk to admire our work. Obviously this class is intended to teach people how to read and write what they can already speak. Although I could not keep up with the conversations, I could easily do the written work that this group struggled to do. This lesson reminded me of the blessing of an education that I received as an American. I will never take that for granted.
This lesson reminded me not only of my academic knowledge, but my spiritual knowledge as well. While in seminary, my fellow classmates and I were often scratching our heads as the instructor left us pondering points that theologians have debated for years. Even with all that knowledge, I felt as a child would feel, not knowing the answers. Here in a foreign country I feel like a child trying to communicate in a foreign tongue. And quite often I feel as though I cannot answer all the theological questions that may come my way when I do get the chance to share Bible stories with others. I’ll never have all the theological answers and I’ll never fully master the Wolof language. The greatness in God’s story is that as complex as it may seem to a theological student, it can be understood by a child. I can share a simple story and let God’s Spirit do the hard part. As I continue to learn the Wolof language, I will strive to remember that it’s not how much I know, but what I know and what I can share that will impact the hearts and lives of others.
The thumping started before I opened my eyes, laying on my mat in a hut in S-village. "Oh!" I thought, rolling over, "It can't be morning yet!" But I knew the "thud, thud, thud" meant that indeed it was, for pounding millet is a Bambara woman's first chore. The women in my host's courtyard were all at work. One was chopping wood for the fire to cook breakfast, a sugary millet soup. A couple of them were carrying bucket after bucket from the well to the metal barrel they were filling with water. And there isn't any pulley on that well. They haul the water out of it by sheer arm power and then hoist their buckets on top of their heads.
About an hour later, they paused for a moment to eat, while balancing nursing babies on one knee. And then it was time to wash dishes and pound and sift more millet for lunch. The peanuts had to be ground for the sauce. And today was shea butter day. Mounds of cracked shea nuts lay around, and all day long they pounded and washed and kneaded the shea paste. They'd pile the sticky stuff into enormous gourd bowls, sit the bowls on the ground and stand up stiff kneed, bending from the waist for hours, churning the butter with their hands. Then, they'd haul it to the well to wash it, and then to the metal barrel to boil it, stirring it until after dark. All day long. Pound. Kneed. Hoist. Bend. Churn. Slosh. And again, and again, and one more time as well. Well after the sun had set, they skimmed their reward off the top of the barrel -- pure shea oil. They can cook with it, make soap with it, sell it to make skin cream or even use it as kerosene.
They stopped work only to eat or to nurse a child.. They didn't have time to talk to me. They didn't even want me to help. "Just go sit down!" they'd tell me every time I tried. "You don't know how to do this!" I was clearly in the way.
After dinner had been cooked, the children had been washed, the men's bath water had been heated up and the dishes had been done, then the women came to sit around my fire and listen to me teach them about God. But what I had to say didn't seem to sink into their hearts. They were too tired, and I was just a little too foreign.
Please intercede for the women of S-village as well as Bambara women all across Mali. Pray that they will see God as a God who cares about their daily lives. Pray that they will understand that He cares about their aching backs, their crying children, and about their power struggles with their mother-in-laws and co-wives. Pray that they will realize that the God who made the shea nut knows their hearts.
Learning to be Content
One day recently I was a grump; for a nickel I would have gone anywhere but here. We ran out of water - we ran out of electricity - we ran out of everything. I ran out of patience. That old saying “You don’t miss it until it is gone” was true. Then Lucy, our house helper, came over with her baby daughter strapped on her back. Lucy was in the kitchen, singing and dancing. “What are you so happy about?” I asked, trying not to sound overly grumpy. “Just praising God, for all he gives me, and for how much Jesus loves me,” smiled Lucy, continuing to sing praise songs while working. I thought, “Thanks God. Thanks Lucy. I am humbled again.” Lucy doesn’t have half of the possessions that I am provided with, yet she is content. Now we still don’t have much water or electricity, but we save up. Besides, showers are over-rated! And I am content as well.
Multiple People Groups
Teaching for God
While driving up to a church we attend in the village, we heard the Sunday school teacher giving his lesson. We quietly crept into the church, hoping not to disrupt his class. But no one else was there. We remained and listened as he continued with his class; gradually others trickled in and sat on the benches. They opened their Bibles and followed along. He smiled as those who entered but never missed a beat. He continued with the lesson until he was finished. Then we prayed and church began. He was teaching for God, and when no one else was there, he was doing it unto the Lord. What an awesome testimony of obedience!
Multiple People Groups
A Birthday in the Bush
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a schoolteacher, then an astronaut, next a musician, and at another point, a basketball player. And then came another childhood dream – to become an engineer (not the train type). By age 30, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to have had two kids, and be working on their 3-year-old birthday party, complete with clowns and inflatable bouncy games. So much for that! I’m now 30 years old and living in a hut in Africa. The only ladders I’m climbing right now are not the corporate ones, but the ones to get up on the hut rooftops to dry out the crops. I’m not married, but I live in a 10’x10’ hut with a teammate who shares her cans of tuna with me. Instead of having two kids, I have a village full of them. The only parties I’m throwing are not my children’s, but the village ”fete” (party) at the end of rainy season. I turned in the keys to my 2-seater BMW convertible to drive around in beat-up Toyota trucks or on the back of open-air donkey carts with the wind in my face! It’s the all-new convertible for the 21st century third world developing country. Who knew that on my thirtieth birthday, I’d wake up in a world of Senufo Supyire people who don’t know Jesus Christ with the desire, heart, and motivation to pull them into the boat of believers who are heading for eternal life with Him. All this to say, my thirtieth birthday was not what I had expected, but was so much more (including pancakes over an open flame!). I was told repeatedly that “the best is yet to come.” Spending an eternity with my Father and seeing a Senufo Supyire friend standing next to me —everything else on this earth will pale in comparison.
From Death to Life
P.*, a student at the Ghana Baptist Seminary was born into the royal family of a chief. At a young age, P. became very sick and appeared to have died. His family prepared to bury him. In the area where he lived, a person might not be buried in a coffin. Instead, a grave was dug; the corpse was laid on a bed of sticks and then covered with sticks before the dirt was replaced. P. was placed into the grave, but a lady who came to pray noticed that he was alive. Even today, P. has a scar on his head where he was thrown into the grave.
A few years later, P. became a Christian. He also became chief of his village, but he began to feel God calling him to the ministry. He gave up his position as chief to his brother and became pastor of a church. He is now attending seminary because he feels God has more for him. His vision is to go into villages where people are unreached by the gospel. He has said that he came to seminary with faith that God was going to open up doors for him to complete this journey. P. has a vision for the people of Ghana, not just for the people in his village. He wants to see the men take on the responsibility of their families as instructed in the Bible and follow the leadership of Christ. These are his people and God has given him the vision and the desire to help free them from the hold of Satan. Pray with us as we intercede for P.
*Name withheld for security purposes
Reaching His People for Christ
The life story of Pastor S.* is similar to those of other pastors in West Africa. S.and his brother did not have an opportunity to go to school when they were young boys. After their parents went to bed, the two boys would sit by the light of a fire trying to teach themselves how to read. S.’s family followed Islam, but as time passed, S. became a Christian and felt God calling him into the ministry.
He wanted to attend the pastors’ school in Northern Ghana, but he had to learn to read and write English first. This was a challenging time for S., but an older pastor encouraged him by saying, “If God called you, He will make a way.” God showed His provision by touching the heart of a friend who hired a tutor for him. One year later S. could read and write English.
S. completed his studies at the pastors’ school and then went on to get his seminary degree. God has led him to many of his own people near the seminary, and has used him to begin a church among them. This man has “northern people radar” and continues to find pockets of his people living in and around Ghana’s second largest city. At first, since many of his people are Muslim, they ran from him. But as he shared God’s love and His story of salvation with them, many became believers.
Please pray for Pastor S. Thank the Lord for his life and obedience to God’s call. Ask the Lord to continue to lead him to his lost people, and to give him guidance as he disciples these new believers.
*Name withheld for security purposes
God's Word for the Fulbe Fouta
I stood trembling and speechless as I held in my hand the beautiful leather-bound version of the book that has had such a significant impact on my own life. Waiting for God's Word to be available to share with the Fulbe has been tough. It has been such a long wait! I was impressed with the ornate blue and gold cover design that I knew my Muslims neighbors would like. When I opened the book, it was like time and eternity filled the room. Overwhelming! So many years trying to tell His story! So many lost and unaware! The introduction was written so personally to the Fulbe in their heart language that I wept when I read it. Their language and culture has found its way into my heart. I thought of what God could do in the coming days.
For the eight years we have been in Guinea, we have tried to tell people Jesus' stories and parables as they apply to everyday situations around us. The Fulbe have been touched by these stories' profound truths and application to their lives, but they have not known where they came from. When I tell them "in the Linjiila" (the New Testament in Pular), they say, "That's what I want!" Praise God that it is now here!
Recently I discovered this Pular proverb: "Words fly away, but writing remains." We are asking your prayers for the written Word to remain in the hearts of the Fulbe people. Pray that they will be open and excited about getting their own copy and sharing it with others, especially those who can't read. Pray that they will respond to God's Word in faith and obedience and produce lasting fruit.
Standing Firm for Christ
D.*, an alert, knowledgeable fellow far beyond his seven years of age, met what could have been a major challenge with grace during the Muslim Ramadan fast. After being abandoned by his mother shortly after birth, D. was given to his grandparents by his father. Although they were Kotokoli (a people group that is predominantly Muslim), the grandparents were devoted Christians, having been led to Christ through the ministry of missionaries Ray and Patsy Eitelman. D. didn't know his birth parents, but considered his grandparents his real parents.
When D. was seven years old, his birth father, a Muslim, with his new wife, moved into the family house. D. didn't think of him as father and even called him 'brother.' The family hoped that D's father and new wife would also become Christians since they were moving in with a Christian family. But during the Muslim month-long fast of Ramadan, the new wife prepared a special room in the house where the children would be taught the Koran and learn the Muslim prayers. D. was invited and urged by the new wife to attend and learn the Koran. However, D's attendance in the class brought momentary tension into the family.
When asked later how that class was going, the grandfather said with complete ease that, "It wasn't a problem. D. was straightening them out and evangelizing those in the class." Evidently the Lord turned the tables.
*Name withheld for security purposes
Corn Cobs and Dust
The women arrived after lunch, carrying a tub of freshly-picked corn. We sat in a circle, forcing the grains off the cob with our thumbs, laughing about how poorly the Americans did this chore! In just a few minutes, the two women from First Baptist Church (FBC) in Orlando and I all had blisters on our thumbs, while the Bambara women shelled on there in “B-village*.” Corn right now is life. The millet isn't yet ready to be harvested, and when it is, the harvest will be poor. The rains have been scanty this year. So corn is golden. They pound it into powder and make "toh," a dish served with sauce for lunch and dinner, and they make it into a soup for breakfast.
When we finished, it was time to teach again. The two FBC women did a fabulous job sharing the gospel through an interpreter, but still, the Bambara women weren't understanding. It's hard, when you've never been to school, when you've never been asked to grapple with a difficult, abstract mental concept. The Bambara have been told their whole lives that heady stuff is for men. I was about to despair of ever getting our point across.
But God sent First Baptist to B-village*, and He Himself chose the team members. I realized that when one of the American women knelt in the dust and drew a line there. "This line is all people, " she said. "And this," here she drew a circle far above the line, "is God." She reached for that pile of discarded corn cobs and piled them in the center of the two lines. "These are our sins! And we can't get around them to reach God." The two First Baptist women used what was in front of them -- corn cobs and dust -- and I saw the light of understanding in the Bambara women's eyes. Praise God for the wisdom and creativity of volunteers!
*Name withheld for security purposes
In the doorway of a little dark shop was a man who greeted us and began asking us to provide him passage to the United States. This is common when I have mission volunteers from the United States. The man asked if my guest was here to find a wife. This is also common! We did some light-hearted banter about marriage, but I wondered how to guide the conversation to spiritual matters. The man wanted me to get him an American wife! I said I would ask God to give him what he needed. The man who ran the shop turned to him and said with a grin, "Did you hear? He said he would pray for what you need, not what you want." We talked for a while and in the end he let me pray for him in the name of Jesus for God's will to be done in his life. Afterwards he said, "Now will you help me get an American wife?" I said that is all in God's hands, and I left thinking that he had not understood a word I said.
Two weeks later, this little man came to my house for the first time. He was wide-eyed with excitement, making me wonder if he was half crazy. He said his family arranged it and he had gotten a wife. After mentioning a few of her character flaws, he wanted to sit right down and pray for his new wife. I wanted to chuckle, remembering our last conversation about God giving us what we need, not what we want, but instead we talked about God being the only one who can change character.
We prayed together again in the name of Jesus. Then he started listing family members with various needs that he wanted me to pray for in Jesus' name. He almost shook my hand off when he left. He was so full of hope. The next day he came by early to say he was going to respect his in-laws with the traditional gift of cola nuts. He came by that evening with a bag of corn and peanuts freshly harvested that they had given him. He in turn wanted to give them to me. At first I did not catch the significance of this gesture, but soon I began to realize the growing respect this man is having for the name of Jesus, whom I serve.
May God use this experience to draw this little man (let's call him "Zacchaeus") to Himself. Pray that "Zacchaeus" will put his life into the hands of Jesus. Pray that he will love his bride like Christ loved the church (giving himself up for her). Pray that today the Lord will bring salvation to his household and that a new outreach group will start there.
Recently we attended Tarikpaa Baptist Church in the Tarikpaa village. At 7:00 am that morning my husband Pat received a call asking him if he would preach during the morning worship service there. The church was about 40 minutes from our house, and when we arrived, the building was already packed. The members “sang us in.”
We both were treated like royalty and placed on the stage at the front of the church. Then the fun began. The singing, dancing and praising God was only a part of the service. The choir, made up of 13 young men and 3 women, was awesome - the director gave them a pitch and off they went. The only instruments were drums and tambourines. It sounded like angels singing. They were singing parts and all of them were swaying from left to right together.
Then there were the children - at least 50 or more of them inside the church sitting on the cement floor or on benches. All of the children were at the front of the church with no parents with them. Some of the older ones were taking care of the younger ones. They danced and sang with the adults and were well behaved.
It was only 110 degrees inside the church. In fact, it was so hot one of the men in the congregation took off his shirt for a short time but later put it back on, but did not button it.
After the service, we were invited to the home of one of the church's evangelists who lives in the village. (There are several evangelists who preach throughout the community, although the church itself is without a pastor.) We shared rice, soup and guinea fowl with him before leaving the village. When we arrived back at the truck, the children were enjoying seeing their reflection in the side of it - who would have thought this could bring so much fun?
The Lost Hen
“I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd.” John 10: 14-16
Our room in the village is next to the pen where the horses and birthing sheep are kept. The free-range chickens of the compound often scratch around in there, searching for hidden grain. After dark one evening, K*, the chief’s third wife, having checked on her chickens, discovered that one hen was missing. The boy who feeds the horses said he had noticed a hen roosting in the horse pen. “That must be her,” said K*. “Go and fetch her so that I can keep her with the others here for the night.” The young man obediently went to the pen to fetch the sleeping hen, and as he picked her up, the hen clucked. Across the darkened courtyard, K* called, “Leave her there; she’s not mine.” I was amazed. How could she possibly recognize the cluck of one hen from another – in the dark – across a courtyard? K* knows her chicks.
Yet even more amazing, our Heavenly Father knows each one of us and calls to us. Those who hear his voice, obey and follow Him – He gathers them in safety. K* will go on searching for her lost hen. She will go on repeating her prayers five times a day in a language she does not understand to a god who does not hear. K* does not even realize that she is the one who is lost.
Why are we in the village? Perhaps through us, K* and all her family will hear the voice of the ONE who is calling them by name. Pray it may be soon.
*Name withheld for security purposes
Multiple People Groups
I was sitting with a group of women that had gathered the day after the death of a very old woman. Her children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and friends of her children all gathered at the home. It was Friday. A bit earlier we had all shared a meal together. Now the men were washing to go to the place of prayer.
The women started mumbling and talking among themselves about not being any different than the men. The men could go to a place and pray, but they just had to pray at home. Some said they could pray as well as the men and didn’t see the difference. I smile broke out on my face as I listened to them grumbling. One of my prayers has been that they will be dissatisfied with their religion and long for something more! I was so excited to hear them talking this way.
What a joy it was to share with them about my beliefs in a God who looked at the hearts of men and women and not at their deeds or gender. They listened intently. They told me they could not know such things because they were ignorant and illiterate. My heart broke for these women who want so much the freedom that they can have in Christ if they will only hear and believe.
Please intercede for women who are trapped in a false religion and feel powerless to find their way out. Pray for Christian witnesses who will reach out to women and who will find ways of sharing the gospel with the illiterate and poor.
Multiple People Groups
Amina - My Prayer Child
(A mission volunteer recounts an unforgettable experience.)
Amina - a smiling face in a picture. After Amina became my prayer child in the summer of 2005, each night I would look at her picture on the nightstand beside my bed and try to imagine what she might have done that day. Was she well? Did she have enough to eat? Did anyone tell her that she was special and loved? Each night I would pray for her and ask the Lord to take care of her and the specific need that she had. God knew, and I knew that my prayer would be heard in the little town of Jonesville, South Carolina for a little girl across the ocean in Gotheye, Niger. As the months passed, I often thought about meeting Amina face to face. Would I ever be able to travel to West Africa? The Lord opened the door for eleven people from Oakbrook Community Church to travel to West Africa on a mission trip where we would be working in the village where Amina lives.
On our first day in the village, she came to church. I did not recognize her at first, but I had the picture of Amina with me and an IMB missionary confirmed that it was her. There she was! This child I had imagined hugging and talking with was in front of me! We were introduced and she looked into my eyes and smiled. I'll never forget that moment. No translator was needed to interpret love.
The Lord truly blessed me with the opportunity to meet Amina and she will always be in my prayers each day. I hope to return to West Africa to see her again.
“Pray also for me, that to me may be given speech in the opening of my mouth with boldness to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Ephesians 6:19).
I had a terrible cold with lots of drainage that settled in my voice box. For three days I could not speak above a whisper. I could not sing songs of praise to my Savior for three weeks. During this time, God convicted me that I needed to be more verbal about my faith. I am not an extremely extroverted person and find it hard to struggle through speaking what is in my heart in a foreign language. The people that I am sharing with are so trapped in the popular religion here that they cannot grasp the principles of a loving God that we can know personally. I continue to struggle to get deeper into their language so that I can share with them more. What if I lost my voice and couldn’t tell people anything? Please pray for me as I continue to share bits and pieces about my Savior as He gives me opportunity and as my feeble language abilities allow.
Multiple People Groups
I Am Afraid
A missionary has been coming to our village and sharing the stories of Jesus. I have listened to her teachings three or four times. I have not been able to attend all of the meetings because I have much work to do in my gardens. The things I have heard at these meetings are true. I know I am a sinner. The missionary has taught us that God sent his son to die for my sins. I want to accept the way of Iisaa (Jesus) and live for Him, but I am afraid. What will my family do to me? What will my husband do?
The African woman who comes to the village with the missionary is walking the way of Iisaa. Her family has disowned her and has threatened to take her children away from her. She is looking for a place to live and sometimes goes without food. I am afraid. I know this is the truth, but what if my husband beats me for turning my back on his religion or my family abandons me and my children are taken away…….. I am afraid.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-27 (NIV)
Family is everything to the Fulakunda; if you do not have family, you have nothing. Intercede for Fulakunda seekers as they count the cost.
Pray that they will see that people cannot save their souls, only God can. Pray that they will fear God more than man.
Pray that they will put all their trust in God, believing that God will be with them, provide for them, and love them.
Grateful for God's Provision
Abdou, a believer from one of our churches, recently moved to the capital city after getting a job there. He rented a very small place to live with his two early teenage children because this "house" was within walking distance to his job and to his children's school.
I went to see this brother in Christ one afternoon. I was not sure how the family was doing since Abdou would not be paid until Monday, and I was afraid his money ended quicker than the month. I found all three of them at home, happy and well. As we were visiting, Abdou told me something amazing that had happened to him the day before.
He left his work place during the noon break and went to the school where he met his children on their way out from classes. He sent them home and then walked to the ocean, just a few blocks away. He said he likes to go there because it is peaceful and he can relax there and pray. Since most of the shore is full of rocks, there's little sand in that area. As he walked near the water, he saw something very unusual. A large fish was struggling in the shallow waters of the low tide, trapped in the mud between the rocks. He quickly went in the water and caught the fish with his bare hands. The fish was about three feet long, and he said a friend even took his picture holding it.
Abdou sold the fish for the equivalent of five dollars and was very happy to have the money. It would be enough for his daughter to go to the market to buy some rice, dried fish, oil, peppers, and other spices in order to prepare their meals for the next three days, until he got his salary. That night a poor man and his two children were happy. In their small room they sang and prayed, thanking God for His provision.
As we talked the following afternoon, Abdou's face was still beaming with excitement. This brother had experienced how God does not abandon His children and that He still performs miracles, just as those recorded in the Bible. Jesus said to Peter: "Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch." Abdou does not have a boat, a net, or even a fishing pole. So God brought the large fish to the shallow water, near Abdou, where he could catch it with his bare hands.
I came back home encouraged by this miracle that reminded me again that God does not abandon His children and he always provides for our needs. May we be faithful in serving Him, no matter how difficult the circumstances around us.
Two young female volunteers were out prayerwalking in an area of Dakar, Senegal. A young woman approached them and asked them in English for a French Bible. Knowing that the Wolof are devout Muslims, they were shocked and surprised by both her English and her request . However, they were eager to comply. Not having a Bible with them, they said they would return with one. She identified her house.
After checking with their host missionary who also conferred with others, it was decided that the girls and the host should return with a Wolof Old Testament portion book which the missionary had at home. The entire Bible is not yet translated into Wolof. Then at a later time, the host would return with Wolof cassettes and eventually a French Bible. They knew the educated girl probably could not read in Wolof, as the schools in Senegal teach French, but at least they would be able to respond quickly, show the house to the missionary, and also the host would have good reasons for future visits.
Off they went. Once at the house the missionary knocked, and the door was opened by a woman. He did not realize that it was not the same young woman. The American girls did not know how to tell him with her standing there, but their wide eyes said it all. When he offered the Wolof Bible portion booklet to her, she invited him in without taking the gift. Soon a young woman appeared and behind her, an older man. Having deduced that the woman was the mother, and that the father was now present, the missionary was terrified. How had he been so naive as to walk into this trap? What will the father say? Has he ruined any chance of sharing truth with this young seeker? What will be repeated in the neighborhood? How will they get out of this?
The father did not smile or greet the strangers, which is a great insult. He did take the booklet and began to read out loud Genesis 1:1. He went into the bedroom for a few minutes still reading aloud. Minutes that seemed like hours passed before he returned. There was no conversation between the others. Finally, he rejoined the others, handed the booklet to the young girl and said, "It is God's Word. You may read it."
Then he turned to greet the visitors and invited them back for tea.
Mark 13:11 says believers do not have to worry about how they will answer authorities when they are called in because the Holy Spirit will speak to them. In this case, the Holy Spirit spoke through the father as he declared the Bible portion to be the Word of God.
The three left, somewhat numbed by what they had just experienced. God never ceases to amaze those who obey Him.
Imagine the surprise of the missionary as he opened his door to see in front of him a religious leader who was normally locked behind the invisible veil of another world religion. Never before had the two of them met, never before had they laid eyes on one another, but the man had traveled many miles to this house.
Here was a leader face to face with a servant of God. The meeting was no accident; the religious leader had sought it. For over a decade he had been hearing the truths of the gospel transmitted via airwaves. Now he wanted to share his thoughts about the stories that entered beyond the wall. He lived in a city dedicated to the world religion and where no known Christians are allowed to live.
After years of listening to the radio programs with other teachers in this 'holy city,' he was ready to express personal faith in Jesus. He prayed that day for salvation, and testified that there were others 'like him' in his city. When asked where he would go now, he replied that he would return to his assignment of training children in the faith, but now he would teach them about Jesus.
Praise God for His work in this religious leader's life, and pray that others who listen to the radio programs will also come to faith in Christ.
I was orienting our new worker who had just arrived yesterday on the field. We had gone by one of the markets in town to get her a head scarf so she would be properly clothed while moving among our people group. We did not realize until all the mats were being unrolled and men started coming out from everywhere that this parking lot right next to where we were standing was turning into a mosque at prayer time. Since Ramadan, the month of prayer and fasting, had just begun, there was a larger than normal crowd at this impromptu “mosque.”
We two female foreigners tried to make our purchase quickly and get away before the prayers started only to realize that we couldn’t back up our car because they were praying too close behind it. By this time we were in front of all the men praying; in orientation, we had just talked about the fact that we should not walk or be in front of men when they are praying. We ducked behind a large concrete post and tried to hide and did some praying of our own. We felt so trapped!
While praying, we came to a stark realization of how trapped all of these people were by Islam. It broke our hearts. We spent the time praying in our hearts to the One and Only who can provide freedom for the captives. Ten minutes later as the men dispersed and we were driving away in the car, we were holding back tears in realization of what we had just experienced. The spiritual darkness and oppression we felt was overwhelming!
Our hearts’ cry to God is that people will come and share truth and freedom to these trapped in this religion of works. May the veil of darkness be lifted and walls be broken down so that these captives can be freed.
Multiple People Groups
It was a hot, muggy afternoon when my wife and I rode out to the West African village where we had first started "storying" the Bible to a group of Muslims. It had been over ten years since we had visited. We said little as we rode, each with thoughts such as, "Did our effort so many years ago bear lasting fruit?" We parked behind the mosque near the small open market and people turned to watch us as we climbed out of the truck. In a few moments, a woman remembered us and happily led us to the chief. We found our old friend, M.*, lying on a straw mat in his mud hut. It was hot. He had a high malarial fever and was gasping for breath. He motioned for me to sit beside him as he rose with difficulty to a sitting position and kissed me on the cheek. He collapsed again on his mat. We spoke only a few moments and then he rose up on one elbow, lifted one index finger, and said, “There is only one way.”
*Name withheld for security purposes
Multiple People Groups
Enduring Because of Christ
The woman was nervous, yet she spoke with urgency and an increasing confidence as she shared her testimony with a church in Dakar, Senegal. She said that her people did not think that Westerners can even know God. A missionary woman had shared stories from the Bible with her and these stories had challenged the traditions that she had been taught. In a dream God had spoken to her that the stories were true. When she followed Jesus, her children were taken from her and she was beaten. She hid under a bed and her brother tried to make it collapse onto her. She eventually fled her village seeking refuge in the large city. She now travels from village to village telling others. She is often not welcome and people will not feed her. She says that her life is hard, very hard, but now there is joy in her heart because, "He gives me courage and if I have to suffer for my whole life, I know I will endure because of Christ."
Multiple People Groups
It had taken four hours to reach this temporary camp. Warm smiles and greetings welcomed us as we sat on the mat. One of the ladies started to brew the traditional tea. Shepherds were coming in with the sheep and cattle that had grazed all day. The women milked the cows and then started supper. As night fell, the head of the family asked me to begin the Bible teaching cassette. The story was about Noah. As the cassette played, lambs called to their mamas, cows milled around not yet settled for the night, a donkey brayed, and the camp dog announced someone approaching. Some of the women chattered as they cooked and any person arriving called out greetings. I thought to myself “ No one’s listening except me. They don’t have any desire to hear God’s Word. I’ve come all this way for nothing.” I played both sides of the cassette, packed up everything, and went to the truck to put it away. Out of the darkness H.* approached and said, “How can I follow this way that I’ve heard about?” Immediately I rejoiced to know this man was seeking and then I chided myself for the little faith I had.
*Name withheld for security purposes
Multiple People Groups
Imagine the surprise of the missionary as he opened his door to see in front of him a religious leader who was normally locked behind the invisible veil of a world religion. Never before had the two of them met, never before had they laid eyes on one another, but this man had traveled many miles to this house. Here was a leader face to face with a servant of God. The meeting was no accident; the leader had sought it. He had been hearing for over a decade the truths of the gospel transmitted via airwaves. Now he wanted to share his thoughts about the stories that entered beyond the wall. He lived in a city dedicated to the world religion and where no known Christians were allowed to live. After years of listening to the radio programs with other teachers in this ‘holy city,' he was ready to express personal faith in Jesus. He prayed that day for salvation, and testified that there were others like him in his city. When asked where he would go now, he said that he would return to his assignment of training children in the faith, but now he would teach them about Jesus.
Bread of Life
An elderly beggar clad in rags approached the gate with his dirty empty bowl asking for any leftovers that might be lying around. *Mary asked her guard Abdul whether the man had any family living in the village. Abdul replied, "No", so Mary quickly went into the house to prepare something for the man to eat. Abdul immediately began telling the beggar stories from the Old Testament and as Mary delivered some rice to the beggar, Abdul eagerly proceeded to tell the man about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Mary returned to the house to pray for the Holy Spirit to bless this encounter between Abdul and the beggar. As Mary peaked out the door, she saw that the old beggar was weeping and shaking his head at the realization of what Jesus had done for him. As soon as the beggar left, Mary was more than eager to greet Abdul and find out what had transpired. Abdul quietly walked past Mary, sat in a chair, and buried his face in his hands. He began to softly cry at the realization that this 60 year old man, created in the image of God, was hearing about his beloved Jesus for the very first time in his life. "Jesus answered, 'It is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4). "Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'" (John 6:35) Look around you - there may be someone who needs to hear about the "Bread of Life" today. Don't hesitate to share!
Multiple People Groups