Launch Beyond!

If we launch our boat into the sea
but hug the shore, not daring to leave
the place known best, the incoming waves
will rise and roar and crash on our heads!
So instead of the calm we thought we’d find,
we get battered and tossed instead.

But if we put our trust in the Pilot
to know the way to the place in his plan,
whether close at hand or a far-off land,
we will find we were made to bounce on the currents,
with freedom to fish or to speak words of peace
and blessing to those we are with.

Let’s leave fear behind and follow his plan!
At first we’ll face giants, those crashing waves,
but we’ll keep on going, doggedly rowing,
holding firmly to hope and Messiah’s goal,
eyes fixed ahead to where it is calmer,
ready to launch into the beyond!

It was like the blessing of whipped cream on chocolate cake when we got to spend a couple of days beside the beach before flying home!

Two days after the dedication of the Nyarafolo NT+OT portions, we had to leave for Abidjan to get our pre-flight COVID-test. That gave us two days to wait for results, then take our flight back to the U.S. on August 5th. Knowing that this might well be our last visit to this beloved country, we chose to go to one of our favorite hangouts, a hotel in Grand Bassam along the coast. Sitting near the shore was rest, much needed after the hours crammed with interactions, precious as those had been. There is not a long shelf of sand there, so the waves rise out of the deep and crash close to shore, providing glorious splashing fountains and dangerous undercurrents. It is not a place to swim, but you can soak in the view.

Watching the fishing boats make their way out past the tumult into the calmer deeps beyond gave rise to some deeper thoughts. If those boats had stayed close to shore, they would have been destroyed. And they could not have caught fish. Sure, they were still being lifted and dropped, bounced around by the formidable ocean currents. But they were far safer than if they had been closer to shore, and out in those depths they could fish.

Since we had just been processing once again the story of our mission adventure, forty-plus years of experiencing similar ups and downs, it hit home: if we had stayed in what seemed a less distant location closer to where family lived in Michigan, we would not have been able to experience what the Lord had planned when he called to us to go: “Serve where I send you!” For us, that meant Ferkessédougou, Côte d’Ivoire, among the least-reached Nyarafolo people.

We were exultant during this visit as we celebrated the arrival of two-thirds of the Bible in the previously unwritten Nyarafolo language and worshiped with the growing community of believers from that ethnic group. When we had arrived in 1979 there was just one small group in one remote village. Now there are a few hundred who know Jesus. We had two Sundays there, which gave us the opportunity to visit the church we had planted and the church they had planted, two village churches constantly reaching out to tell others the Good News. And Nyarafolos now form a significant portion of the Ferke town church congregations.

Being there this time was like bouncing on the currents further out on the ocean on a sunny day. But as we look back, we remember the first years when we were struggling just to greet people properly in their language and to know how to dress and interact in respectable ways. We remember mistakes we made. We remember the storms that nearly toppled us. But look at what has been accomplished because we said “yes” to the Pilot and let him direct the boat and take us where he wished. It was so totally worth it! He brought in the “fish,” calling many into his Family. He brought us through the storms.

I write this now to encourage all those who may be hearing that Voice that says to launch beyond the shore. Don’t be afraid to go! And the message is also for parents whose children may be considering that kind of calling. I have known families that have discouraged their offspring from going overseas because they longed to be close to their grandchildren. The longing is normal, but putting up that barrier is really asking the young ones to close their hearts’ ears to the Master’s Voice. Who knows what he might accomplish through them (and in them) if they would just launch out?

Not everyone is a fisherman. Some work in the market and at home, getting out the Word where they live, keeping the fires burning and the light shining there as well. The key is to do what the Master says.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mk. 1:17 NIV)

Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20 NET)

Be Servants of the Word

This is indeed our calling,
that when we follow Jesus
we are “servants of the Word.”
He is the Word! He speaks to us,
through his Word that's written down
and also through our Guide,
the Counselor within.

My inner ears will learn
to carefully discern
that precious voice
that worms its way
through all distractions
and life’s noise
to direct my daily actions,
footsteps, and my words –

to guide my growth
in this profession,
this divine and pure obsession,
that I might learn how I can be
a servant of the Word!

Being a “servant of the Word” can take different forms (cf. Luke 1.2, Rom. 1.2). The Scriptures were written by prophets, scribes, record-keepers, apostles and others. But each one had one thing in mind: to pass on the Truth that God was impressing on them.

My life story fits into that puzzle somewhere, as does yours if you are a follower of Jesus. For example, we each “must tell a future generation the praises of the LORD, His might, and the wonderful works He has performed.” (Ps. 78:4 CSB) Silence is not an option. And some of us he called to take his Word to a people not yet blessed with access to his Word. When Jim Gould, the first missionary to the Nyarafolo, died in 1965, I felt my heart nudged: “You need to carry on this work someday!” But I dismissed it; I was “just a girl.” In time the Lord made it clear that he was going to make it happen anyway.

When we went back to attend the celebration of the printed Nyarafolo Scriptures (NT + OT portions), July 31, I knew that one step I should take was to speak to the crowd in Nyarafolo. Why? Because every time I did something like that, those who did not yet know that this language was respected, written, even learned by a white foreigner, were astonished. It honored the Nyarafolo people; it delighted them. So I drafted a message, worked with my former Bible co-translator Moise to edit it, and wrote it in French for Glenn to use as my translator. Yes! It had that impact — Nyarafolos responded as I spoke, and afterwards a government representative told one of my friends how it wowed him. Often this is great publicity that draws new people to want to learn to read their language and use these Scriptures.

I posted a video of my speech, and you can watch it here, but only a few of you out there would be able to understand either language. So I have translated it into English below the video for you (I inserted an asterisk wherever there was a break for Glenn to speak). Here is the point I wanted to make: God loves the Nyarafolo and would not let them be left out — he has done all this to call them to himself!

I greet you: all of you who come from far away, and all of you who come from here in Ferkessédougou, as well as all of you who are the dignitaries —  all you who came here to celebrate with us. *

Maybe some of you know that I was here in Nyarafololand during my childhood. My father and mother worked at the hospital here. When I was thirteen years old, God showed me that some day I should share the Good News with the Nyarafolo. But me, I thought that I could not do such work since I was female. (laughter in crowd). *

After all that, when my husband Glenn and I presented ourselves to the mission and said that we would be willing to go anywhere they would choose for us, they said they would send us to Ferkessédougou because Glenn would be able to direct the laboratory at the hospital there. When they told us that we knew that this indeed was God’s own will for us. *

When we arrived here in Nyarafololand, we began to learn Nyarafolo so that we would be able to share God’s Good News with them in their language. Wow! Nyarafolo is difficult! (laughter in crowd) But it is also really great! Glenn began to do his work at the hospital. I put myself doggedly into continuing to learn Nyarafolo. *

Now, forty years later, you have seen what God has accomplished among the Nyarafolo. The Nyarafolo language is now written (clapping). And there are lots of books available to help people who want to learn to read Nyarafolo. And God’s Word has been translated (clapping). This is it!  (Printed Scripture book lifted) The Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the New Testament!  (clapping) God’s Word is sweet. It helps people to know God, and shows them how they can walk the Jesus Road. Every day it truly helps me! *

As it is written in God’s Word, in the Book of Romans:

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4 NIV) *

I thank God for all of this! He is the one who prepared the road, who chose certain people to be his servants who would translate his Word into Nyarafolo and teach people so that they could read it and know his Word.  God, he is the one who made it happen that SIL personnel would help us accomplish this work. It was God who called out to believers in America and showed them how they could help this work to go forward, so they took up our load and provided funds. This is because God loves the Nyarafolo! And that is why he is calling them to come believe in Jesus. They must come and become his people! *

I also give thanks to God for placing me here among the Nyarafolo. It was precious to me to study Nyarafolo and to learn their culture. It was all a rich benefit for me.

As it says in God’s word, in the Book of Philippians:

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Phil. 4:1 NIV) *

I am praying that God will call out to many Nyarafolos to come and buy his written Word, to know the Truth.  May God put his good hand of blessing on you!  May it be so!  (Amen!)

I See His Fingerprints!

When I trace his distinct fingerprints
on the lives of partners, Nyarafolo friends,
on the victories "somehow' achieved in time
over insurmountable challenges,

all I can do is to offer thanks.
These are the songs in my heart that hum
when I see the woman set free from the curse
of barrenness, cast out of jealousy --

when I dance with the widows once unseen
now given honor and status through jobs,
when I hear the eloquent preaching on texts
in Nyarafolo, once brushed aside

as irrelevant, its speakers marginalized.
Our dear Lord loves all peoples! It's true!
So he called them "beloved," and opened the path
to give them his Word. We all give thanks!

Two Sundays spent with fellow believers in village churches, a week of days filled with visits morning through evening, a dedication of translated Scriptures in Nyarafolo (the New Testament, Pentateuch and Psalms) — all of these precious moments incite gratitude! In the photo above, people are lined up to purchase their copy; Abdoulaye Ouattara, director of the translation project these past 4 years, is signing them. Excitement is everywhere!

When we began ministry in the Nyarafolo region over 40 years ago, we had absolutely no idea that it would result in so many wonderful outcomes. We were just “doing the next thing,” one step at a time. But looking back, we have to give God all the credit. He made us his servants, much loved and encouraged along the tough path. He brought others into our lives to work with us. And now there are so many stories to tell that we cannot condense them into one. There will be blogs to come! But we have to express the thanksgiving that is in our hearts, and this is what we can offer back to the one who has written this narrative.

Yesterday we had our Covid tests done, since we are to board our flight back to the U.S. on Thursday. It was a two-hour wait under four sets of canopies outside the testing center down in the oldest section of Abidjan. We were sitting next to a family with two boys, and I saw the youngest one showing his mother several pages of cartoon-like scribbles he had put in her little notebook, telling the stories behind them. I told the woman that he reminded me of my son Bryn (who was beside me, 34 years old) when he was that age, and we began sharing about our families and why we were visiting this country again. She is Ivorien, married to a Frenchman, and they had spent two weeks visiting family. When she heard that we had come for the Scriptures dedication, she burst into excited praise: “Rien n’est par hasard! C’est le Seigneur qui fait ceci!” (Nothing is by accident! The Lord has made this happen!) She said that she had become a believer in Jesus just two years ago, through a friend, and she was so thrilled to meet one of his servants. As we talked and I learned what her mother tongue was, Jula, I told her that our friend Moussa Diakite had translated the Bible into that language. She was overwhelmed with excitement! I gave her his phone number, and we hope that some day she will even be able to own one and hear the Word in her heart language.

It is a precious thing, to be able to hear the Lord speak through his Word in the language that is in your heart. What a blessing it is, all the Scripture translations that we get to choose from in English! May we never take that for granted, but read and meditate and be nurtured by his Word. And I pray that the Nyarafolo and the Jula will do so as well. It is not for nothing that the Lord made these things happen!

Present to God a thank-offering! Repay your vows to the sovereign One! Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me!” (Ps. 50:14 NET)

He Did It!

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)

Because You Hold My Hand

You hold my hand; you love me:
King of this whole world, you lead me,
making my right hand your chosen tool
so that each act becomes
a holy service
in your master plan.

You hold my hand; you love me:
Lover of my soul, you treasure me
and nurture every gifting given
and make each weakness
a new way 
to intervene with strength.

You hold my hand; you love me:
Father-love that cares for me
that clears the rubbish from the path
that grasps me tight
when gale-force winds 
would sweep me off my feet.

You hold my hand; you love me:
Spirit-love that fills me up
and squeezes out the selfishness
so that instead your love and joy
reach out with grace
to spread your peace.

And you are God:
     the One who made me
     the One who sent me
          always with me.

Remember what it was like to have Daddy or Special Uncle hold your hand when you were small? That is one of my treasured memories. When my dad took me exploring, whether it was nature or a new town somewhere in the world, I would reach up to his strong hand and grab at least a finger, and he would clasp mine in his. Yes, I did have to learn to lengthen my stride to keep up with him, or sometimes run. But it was worth it, and taught me a confidence and a love for walking ahead that has stayed with me.

Yesterday we arrived back in the land of nine years of my childhood, and over forty years of mission service, the Côte d’Ivoire. We are still in the huge city of Abidjan where our flight landed, but already the memory triggers are flooding my smiling soul: moms with babies wrapped on their backs with colorful cloth, a young girl and a toddler “helping” Mom sell attieke (manioc processed so that it is like tapioca beads) at the side of the road, sons hauling sheep by ropes down the road while they try to keep up with their father who is walking ahead in a hurry. Traffic is roaring by, but each of the kids is safe with that trusted adult.

Tomorrow we will fly to the north to “our” town of Ferkessédougou. We became “Maman” and “Papa” to lots of kids there, and seeing some of them again, more grown up of course, is something we are eager to do. Glenn is especially good with kids, and when we entered the village of Tiepogovogo where we were learning language and culture and eventually planting a church, several would run up to hold his hand as he walked through, greeting people. That relationship was one of feeling accepted, loved, belonging.

And on July 31, there will be an Event, the one we came here for. We will be joining the Ferke community in celebrating the Scriptures now available in print in the local Nyarafolo language, a language that had not even been written before the Lord brought us to that region with that people group on our hearts. Many others joined us along the way, each one adding their gifting and background to accomplish the task. I didn’t know, growing up, that my Father was getting me ready to be part of his plan for this linguistic work and Bible translation! It is when I look back that I can see how very kindly he was holding my hand, often pulling me along, comforting me by tightening his grip, pulling me back on the path when I stumbled or took a faulty step. And it was indeed because of his loving hand guiding me and others too that now two-thirds of the Scriptures are in a printed Bible book for them: the New Testament, Pentateuch and Psalms. It was, after all, what he intended them to accomplish, that he empowered them to do!

I am so glad that this is what our Father is like, and I can only shout my praise and gratitude — so I will, in this blog and soon in the company of Nyarafolos and friends as we sing and dance and thank him in community. We may come from different earthly nations, but we are all one Family, and he holds his children’s hands.

And he is not done yet: he is holding out his hand to many more people, inviting them to slide their hand into his and let him be their loving guide and protector. May they accept the privilege!

Ahhhh . . . Africa!

salt waves pummeling your beaches
high winds whipping up the sand
rainstorms thundering on tin roofs
sunbeams bouncing off flat land

bulbuls signaling the sunrise
lean dogs howling to the moon
bat calls beeping in the darkness
cattle moaning at high noon

hand plows scooping out a corn field
pestles pounding grain to flour
axes felling scrub and forests 
hammers forging metal power

djembes tamping out the downbeat
thrumming balaphones at night
bare feet thumping round the circle
dancers clapping in delight

may your rivers know their Maker
may your mountains leap with glee
may your palm fronds wave in greeting
may your people finally see
that the love of the Creator
that the strong song of his Son
made the music they are singing
formed the land they dance upon

breathed the whirlwinds and the breezes
gave them pineapples to grow
welcomed death to give them freedom
sent his Word so they can know

that the One who holds the ocean
in the cupping of his hand
wants to make them his own children
wants to recreate their land

so that all the crops are healthy
so that war’s explosions cease
so that every single rhythm
births a canticle of peace

Ahhhh . . . Africa!

In just five days we will board a jet plane and take off for that beloved continent where the Lord sent us to serve on mission for so many years. The excitement is building. We will smell the aromas of the markets, of wet earth, of fruit we’ve been missing. We will hear the drums again (“djembes” in the poem) and the balaphones, get to move in community with worshipers. We will see friends that have become true Family to us.

And best of all, we will have the privilege of joining these brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters, in the celebration of the Nyarafolo Scriptures that they are now receiving in printed form: the New Testament, Pentateuch and Psalms!  That is actually two-thirds of the Bible, significant portions that can be right in their own hands, food for their souls as they digest the Word of God in the language that speaks to their hearts!

Those decades of digging into the meaning of the Word and working with Nyarafolos to express it in their language have come to this precious moment, a conclusion. But the work is not finished – may many more people become able to read their language, especially those who never got to go to school, who cannot read in any other language either.

That brings me back to the words of this poem that came through my pen nine years ago, a peon of gratitude for the beauties of the land and prayer for the Word to be known by its people. May it be so!/Amen!/Amiina!/ Ki- taa ki puu bɛ̀ ! (That last version of “Amen” is Nyarafolo.)

Thank you for joining us on the journey – I will share highlights! That is, I will blog or post photos on Facebook when I actually have an Internet connection. But eventually we will connect!

Waiting

I’m running toward goals,
panting as the marathon
takes on new twists and turns.
I thought it would be
a straight run, one goal
in sight, but now it seems
I need to run four roads 
at once, keeping close track
of miles run, things done.
I’m not sitting back!
I’m moving ahead with purpose,
doing what you set before me.

But forgetting to listen.
Without your guidance
I’ll lose my way, get tangled up
in circular paths leading nowhere.
So now I stop, breathe in, 
breathe out. Listen.
The Word planted in me
puts out new leaves, fresh buds.
I hear you reminding me
that your timing is always
best! You hold my hand
and will lead me forward.
I can walk ahead, assured.

Running is not always a “must.”

This has been a year of waiting, right? We wait for pandemic restrictions to be lifted, for second vaccinations, for open borders, for news that the rate of infections and deaths has truly fallen. We wait to see loved ones who are not even that far away. And we wait to see how the next phase will turn out. What will be the changes in our jobs or personal goals? What should we do first, second, third?

I’m sure you, like me, can think of other times in your life when you somehow kept busy but were not sure you were doing the most important things. For me, the pandemic shut-down started out like that. At first I just tried this and that, read some books, wondered how to use my time. My mother-in-law requested a book of my poems. I gave her a personal collection for her birthday, then Christmas. Sorting the hundreds into themes took some time, but it felt productive.

Then I broke my ankle and for three months I was mostly chained to a chair. That was when a firm “prompt” came, to put together poems that talked about how I had learned to spend more time listening to my Lord. Selecting them, choosing images to underline some themes, and doing all the editing made my ankle-recovery time productive.

We were also dealing with a variety of other concerns that required much prayer and correspondence. And our ancient house (100 years old) needed renovations. Plus our second year of retirement was nearly over – which of the ministry opportunities we had had in mind were the ones we should or could pursue? It was very much like when you are on a journey and the first flight on your itinerary encounters problems and delays; it finally lands safely but you have missed the connecting flight. There you are, stranded, waiting for a different flight that may have room for you ten hours later. You pace the shop-lined halls, grab coffee, wait for news about where you need to go to catch that flight, but it’s hard to understand the foreign accent making announcements. You wait.

This spring when I wrote the poem above, I was realizing that although I was sharing in my book what the practice of listening had meant to me during my years on mission abroad, I was not putting it into practice currently.

As I began actually listening with intention, priorities became clearer. Certain proposed ministries were now closed doors since those possibilities were shutting down (church plants in the city that unexpectedly dissolved). But others began opening up! For instance, lately we’ve been amazed at the new connections the Lord is putting in place with African immigrants. Three young people in this category, all from Côte d’Ivoire, have already been a key part of our lives as we’ve shared our home, our love and some English language coaching. Now some friends have brought us into contact with an immigrant from Congo. While getting to know him we discovered that there is a church in the suburbs made up of French-speaking African immigrants! It looks like a new door is opening!

Day by day, we pray and ask the Lord to show us the way forward, to guide our words and actions for his purposes. And he does! I hope you are encouraged in your walk too, motivated to listen more intently as you navigate the tricky paths and daily choices.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Prov. 3:5 NLT)

Hurting Humans Have His Heart

Bulbul songs in syncopation,
dove moans sifting down from trees,
coucal riffs descending, rhyming,
roosters greeting dawn with glee,

I’m surrounded by the music
harmonies of melodies.
In it all I find I’m waiting
for the One who talks to me.

While I’m waiting, here comes stillness,
then a distant toddler’s shout
and the noise of rumbling motors—
busy people heading out.
And I know that you are saying
hurting humans have your heart.
May each step that I am taking
lead to healing, a new start.

You, Creator, make the chorus.
You, Musician, plant the songs.
You, the Alpha and Omega,
speak the words that right the wrongs.

In that place set aside for worship and listening by the choir of birds that morning, I did not expect that message to come: “hurting humans have his heart.” But as I silenced the noisy thoughts still taking over in my brain, stilled my heart and picked up my pen, the description of the songs turned into a realization that Abba is the Healer, and he cares about everyone who is hurting. It might be that toddler I heard, or the motorcycle rider whipping by. It might be someone the Lord would make me “bump into” that day. My job: to follow the prompts, and to speak his words to the hurting people he brought my way.

Back in Côte d’Ivoire, one day I noticed a colleague slumped over their desk. I almost passed by, but instead stopped and asked if he was all right. Sure enough, he was facing a real dilemma. Another time, a friend’s daughter died suddenly of kidney complications. I accompanied her female relatives to the morgue, where they bathed the body and prepared it for the burial service that afternoon. The problem was that her body was so swollen that none of her best shirts, chosen by her family to give her dignity, could fit around her chest at all. That morning the Lord had been reminding me to respond to those in need. I pulled off my stretchy striped shirt, and it fit her. One of the women unwrapped her extra pagne (a two-yard wrap), offered it to me, and I wrapped it around my body as a covering until I would get home to get dressed again. The corpse was not aware of that “act of kindness,” but her worried sisters were!

Recently I had an urge that seemed straightforward but odd: I felt it important to participate in a church event that I had never attended before. It was not what I expected. A very hurting person ended up debriefing with me, a person I had only just introduced myself to, and we made a connection that may go much further. I’m just glad that I was there. Once again, I saw that the Lord knows who is hurting, and what he has in mind. When he can use me, even just to listen and encourage someone, he will send that message to “go.”

Wherever we are, there are hurting people, and Abba cares about them. How should we reach out? Where should we start? We can pray. And as the Lord wishes, he puts contacts in place at the right time, in his way.

So let’s be on alert to hear that prompt to reach out, or to respond when someone is suddenly in our space. Abba is at work, and we are his co-laborers, reflecting his Light and Love to those he puts in our path. We are all to be on mission as he directs!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col. 3:12 NIV)

REMINDER: If you want to dig more deeply into how the Lord was teaching me to listen while overseas, my book When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey can be found on these websites:

Direct from the publisher, WestBow Press: https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-He-Whispers-Learning-Journey/dp/1664224106/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=when+he+whispers+learning+to+listen+on+the+journey&link_code=qs&qid=1620606002&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-he-whispers-linnea-boese/1139300248?ean=9781664224100

Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/when-whispers-learning-listen-the-journey/linnea-boese/9781664224100

Abba’s Scribe

I am but a scribe,
my fingers the feather
 in your hand,
my eyes dependent
on the light 
that you shine
on truth and error.

I am just your servant,
my body the vehicle
you sent here,
my health the strength
you provide
to do my service
for you and your Kingdom.


But I am also your child,
your daughter, chosen
to be adopted,
to be loved and treasured.
Abba, your arms
hold me tight;
your purpose
is the beat of my heart.

———-

This past Sunday our sending church celebrated the completion of forty years of work in linguistics and translation: the printed Nyarafolo Scripture portions (the New Testament, Pentateuch and Psalms). It was a day of joy on this side of the Pond; on July 31 there will be a much bigger celebration across the Pond in Côte d’Ivoire in the north, where the Nyarafolo live.

I am looking back on the hours spent along the way analyzing the sounds and tones of this complex language, the interviews that informed us about the culture and its values, and the research we did on the original meaning of biblical terms and their application to various contexts and to the Nyarafolo understanding. The piles of pen-and-ink papers led to piles of computer-printed papers and eventually to actual books — some for literacy, and some that were the biblical books as they were completed, one by one. And now this Book!

I realized I was Abba’s scribe, given the particular task of contributing to writing what would become this people group’s sole access to literature in their mother tongue, including two-thirds of the Bible. The scribe is behind the scenes, not the author but the transcriber of the words. And more: when we were getting ready to translate a book assigned to us, I would spend hours researching the original language (Greek or Hebrew) and its meaning, clarified by commentaries and dictionaries. I was the exegete. I would explain what I had learned to my coworker Moïse, who would propose Nyarafolo renderings. We would sometimes dig into the possibilities at length, especially when an expression or new word posed a challenge. Then I typed the words into the computer, ready for more editing and checking.

In this day and age we often think of a scribe as a kind of copyist, but in biblical times a scribe was recognized as someone who also had studied the ancient texts to the degree that they were regarded as specialists in the content of those writings. Jesus said, in Matthew 13:1: “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”  (ESV)

Wow! When I realized the kind of research that was required of me, and the wisdom and knowledge required in editing and checking, I began to understand why God had made me a perfectionist. That trait had often made me feel like a failure, ever since first grade. I just could not be perfect and do perfect work! But God makes each of us for his purpose, and this trait made me persevere to do the very best possible. I

The truth is that he has prepared certain tasks for each of us to accomplish for him: “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” (Eph. 2:10 NET)

When I think about what the Lord empowered us to accomplish as we worked on this translation, and the part he led me to play in it, I see that he created me for this purpose, to be his scribe! I loved the requirement of study, of correcting the work in its stages, of making sure that it communicated to the Nyarafolo people. And he had given me a love for his Word, which was essential.

That is my story.

What is yours? If you are Abba’s son or daughter he has prepared “good works” for you to do that align with his purpose. Where has he placed you? What opportunities are out there for you? What has he given you a love for? We have each been gifted for a purpose in God’s community and in his plan to reach all peoples – those in your neighborhood, family, church or region, those who are like you and those who are different. When we are following his direction, he has placed where he wants us, and we are to bloom where we are planted. Wherever that may be, we are to reflect his light to those in darkness around us and show his love to everyone.

May we each be who he wants us to be! May his purpose be the beat of our hearts!

Hand in Hand with God

When the Creator was planning things out,
way back when, before, before,
he carefully thought about Dad's hands.
He knew that he would make them strong,
with long deft fingers, able to hold
onto God’s own hand while staying busy
doing the work he would give him to do.
He watched him grow up in Michigan,
grabbed his heart and made it his,
filled it with love for Barbara
and joined them together to serve as one,
his love pumping from their hearts
to hug the poor, the marginalized
and bring them into his arms.
So God put a scalpel into Dad's hand,
taught his long artistic fingers
how to carve with healing purpose:
cut through barriers, cut out harm,
save a life or bring life from the womb,
even in the dark unknown
of tragedies not seen before.


Dad lived for the praise of the Father’s glory
and in his old age entered into that place
where the beauty and majesty of our God 
will make everything make sense, 
that will make the hardships worth it all:
He now sees Jesus, his precious Lord
who has held him and moved his hand.
I do so miss Dad's long loving fingers
that led me, taught and played with me.
But I know where he is, united at last
with the Master who guided him faithfully
through every challenge as it came.
He knew it was what had been planned for him
and that brought him joy in the journey.

Father’s Day is around the corner, and yes, I am thinking about Dad, Dr. Dwight M. Slater. He taught me in word and action what it means to enjoy daily life.

When I was in eleventh grade I got to study via correspondence from home in Ferkessédougou since the boarding school our mission was running in Côte d’Ivoire had not yet finished adding the last two years of high school to their offerings. It was a very special year for me. Three other missionary came to study at our house, all of us planning to someday go into medical work. As you know, the Lord had other plans for me, but that goal gave me great motivation to spend most of my free time working at the mission hospital with my mom and dad. I learned newborn baby care from Mom. Dad let me assist in surgery where I learned all kind of things about anatomy and surgical procedures.

Best of all, I learned a lot about Dad. He always began a surgery with prayer. He loved his work, and commented step-by-step on the process – a great teacher. But when things were at a routine point his sense of humor would emerge. Once he asked the missionary nurse who was at hand to please try to find him some dessicated water in the storeroom – he knew she was naïve and would go look for it, and eventually get the joke.

Then at dinner, if there had been a particularly interesting case that day, he would grab a napkin or piece of paper and draw out the surgical picture for us. Sometimes visitors found that a bit unnerving!

One night when we gathered for devotions after supper he shared some verses that explained to me the way he viewed each day and its tasks.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness , , , (Eccl. 2:24-26a NIV)

He was a prime example of someone who found satisfaction in his toil. In addition to the scientific drama that energized him, I saw his acknowledgement that this toil – the hard work, the draining hours – was what God had purposefully handed to him to do. And God was with him in it, every moment.

I discovered that my work in mission also often exhausted me, and there were many unexpected hard times. But I tried to put this lesson learned by his example into practice and to be grateful for the meaningful challenge the Lord had assigned me: linguistic, exegetical, and cultural learning as I worked with native Nyarafolo speakers in the process of Bible translation. I often thought to myself: And to think I actually get paid to do this great stuff!

You’ve heard it before: live in the moment! But that moment — the normal daily moment or the tough one — is meaningful in a whole other sense when it is lived with God, “for without him, who can . . . find enjoyment?” This is an enjoyment that goes deeper than just doing work you like; it is enjoyment of working hand-in-hand with the Father, doing what he made us to do, where he puts us, with his purpose as our purpose.

I am in a new phase now, retirement, learning what the Lord has in mind for me in this setting, facing the seeming roadblocks of the pandemic, distances, and misunderstandings but being grateful for food and drink, for each opportunity that comes up and for the presence of the Lord. He is with us, and that makes all the difference! Dad realized that God put a scalpel in his hand for a reason, and served him with joy. My goal is to do the same, with a different tool in my hand but with the empowerment of the same God.

Of course I forget all this sometimes and get grumpy, forgetting where my satisfaction must be found. We all need to turn to the Lord in such times with this petition:

Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. (Ps. 90:14 NLT)

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