He did it! The God of the whole world, who loves all of its peoples, he did it! He called, and they heard, and some answered with joy and came! It started with three then added two more – it began in a village nobody would choose as a key place to start. He chose it! He knew who was ready to seek him, to know him, to follow no matter the push-back from others. We taught them the Truth; they shared it. And now the Family has grown, the magnetic gospel drawing them in. He did it!
When I compare “now” with how things started, four decades ago, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord who loves all peoples of the earth.
Sunday morning we attended church in Tiepogovogo, a village out in the middle of cashew groves, cotton and corn fields and granite outcroppings in the wilderness. The village is still a small gathering of women’s huts and men’s rectangular houses. But the church itself now welcomes people not only from Tiepogovogo but also other nearby villages. Who but the Lord would have chosen this place to begin his work in that eastern region?
When we started studying Nyarafolo with a monolingual helper from that village in 1980, we had no idea why he “just happened” to come from a place where other young men his age were looking for Jesus. One of them, Lacina, had laid to sleep one night only to see a man in shining white standing at the foot of his bed. Shocked, he asked who he was. “I am Jesus,” he said, “and if you follow me many others here will too.”
Long-story-short, he and another friend began their search, not understanding what was said about Jesus in other languages. Then one day we walked into the village with our language helper, to meet the people there, and knowing we were from the mission hospital the two young men said, “Ah! We are chosen!”
They waited until they knew us better, then asked to be taught. They were joined by some friends, and little by little the group meeting at night by a campfire grew. They built a small open shack, which worked for a while, then a small cement church as yet more people came – especially wives of the men. And now there is a congregation that can fill this large church if everyone is there.
We did not expect this growth. Stumbling along in the language, relying on translators when preaching or teaching, learning the culture and the complex language, we were just doing what we could and it was not what anyone would call powerful. But the Lord can use anyone who is just willing to be his messenger. And he sure did!
The two young men who were the first to seek Jesus are elders there, one of them a lay preacher whose youngest brother is now the pastor. The son of the man who saw Jesus is now pastor in another village, planting a church there. Once again we can see that it was the Lord who was writing this narrative!
And because of that village’s welcome, and the need for God’s Word in their language that became clearer every time we tried to teach it, their people group, the Nyarafolo, are now receiving a printed book that includes two-thirds of the Bible in their language. That is the New Testament, Pentateuch and Psalms.
In Paul’s words, adapted slightly to express our testimony:
Yet [we] dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through [us], bringing the [Nyarafolo] to God by [our] message and by the way [we] worked among them. , , , 20 [Our] ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. 21 [We] have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (Rom. 15:18,20,21 NLT)