James and Lisa serve in West Africa as missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators. In a newsletter written April 16, 2011, James shares an exciting story about how they have experienced God at work in West Africa. He writes:

I’d been feeling for some time that God wanted me to go visit a certain town a few hours north of us. I knew there are people there who don’t like what we do, and to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to meeting them. Also, I thought a certain thing needed to happen before I went, and as it hadn’t happened I felt OKAY waiting.

Meanwhile, I’d been wanting to get back up to the town where we prayed for all the mute people a couple of months ago. I wanted to get some Scripture up there and was pretty sure they’d let me sell some in their weekly market.

So yesterday, Thursday, Lisa, [our daughter] Laura, and I went to sell. Normally, selling 40 or 50 pieces of Scripture at a market is considered a pretty good day, but this was the first time we’d done it on our own and for some reason I packed several times that much.

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Things are a little different here. You have to ask official permission to do things like this. I decided to start at the top, by stopping at the regional capital and asking the governor. He’s not usually there, but he was this time. He was OKAY with us going, but informed us the weekly market in the town to which we were heading wasn’t on Thursdays. It was on Sundays. How embarrassing. I’d gotten the market days mixed up!

So there I was, way up there with a carload of Scripture and no market! I asked him if there was a town in his jurisdiction that held their market on Thursday. It turns out the only one was – you guessed it – in the town I’d been putting off visiting. So off we went, now in a new direction, on what you might call a “cold call.” We’d never been there and didn’t know anybody there. But we had that excited-but-slightly-creeped-out feeling that God was putting something together in which we were about to play a part, and we were trying hard to convince ourselves that we felt good about it.

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We found the road and picked up a hitchhiker on his way to the market. When we got there he took us to the local leaders, as we needed their permission too. But things didn’t go really well at first. They wanted to see what we would be selling before they gave permission, and even afterward they didn’t seem very enthusiastic and I wasn’t sure they were going to let us sell.

Then one of the leaders who’d been quiet spoke up. Six years ago while working in another town, he’d met a white guy who carried books from town to town. He asked if I knew him. Of course I did! It was my trekking partner! That changed everything. Because of his testimony regarding the character of my friend, they let us sell.

There were probably two thousand people at this market, and I think every one of them came by to watch us set up and find out why we were there. Often in markets like this people are so afraid of what others might think that only the very bravest will approach our table. But not this time. As soon as we explained that we’d brought books of God translated into their language, things got crazy. We were surrounded by a crowd of people four to five deep the whole time we were there!

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We sold so much Scripture so fast we literally couldn’t keep track of it. With our still feeble language skills, we couldn’t have given the explanations, answered the questions, and done the transactions quickly enough to keep up, but no problem. God took care of that. Three older men came by (one was even in uniform!) and did crowd control for us, strategically positioning themselves around the table.

Before long they too were selling for us, carefully making sure we witnessed each sale, and telling people what the different books were. It was all we could do to keep the money off the table and scripture on it…. As we drove out of town, I saw a man reading some Scripture he’d just bought to six or seven others.

On the way home we tried to figure out how much we’d sold. Our best estimation was that we’d sold between 350 and 400 books! (I’ll bring more next time.) We got home just as our friends here were gathering for our mid-week prayer meeting. What a treat it was to report what God had done: how He’d used my fumbling of dates to get us up there in the first place; how He’d arranged to have the governor turn us in a different direction en route; how He’d arranged to have someone at the leaders’ meeting who knew my friend; how He’d sent the three older guys to help us; and most of all, how He put hundreds of pieces of Scripture in the hands of people for the very first time, and all of it in their own language.

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After an amazing story like this, what can we say except “Praise God.”

  • Praise God for how He worked in ways far beyond what James and Lisa thought or imagined.
  • Praise God for how He got a reluctant missionary to the very place where He had prepared the people to eagerly receive portions of Scripture in their language. Pray that much spiritual fruit will result in the lives of all those who are now reading the truth of God’s Word for the first time.
  • Pray for God to abundantly bless this family in their continued ministry for Him. Pray for Him to protect them from burnout as the stresses of living in such a remote area are many.
  • Pray for all PBT missionaries to be open and obedient to God’s leading, even when it seems a little scary to do so.
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