The Christmas Story Is Needed In Africa

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Light of the World

Do you ever imagine what it would have been like to be there when Jesus was born? What would it have been like to hear Gabriel explain to Mary what was going to happen to her; to hear Joseph explain what the angel told him in his dreams; to be with the shepherds in the field? What would it have been like to know that the Messiah was coming, but not know how or when? It’s hard for us to imagine since most of us were born into a world where Jesus came a long time ago.

It is not nearly as hard to imagine if you live where we live in Africa. The “world” our neighbors live in is essentially a pre-Jesus world. One could say the Light of the World has not been seen here yet. The evidence is everywhere…

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I just talked to a neighbor on my porch. He came with his toddler son. I could see amulets on the child, to protect him from the spirits or jinn. All the children here wear them. A “powerful” one can cost as much as enough rice to feed a family for a month. But because they are afraid, they find the money somehow. I wonder what they think when they see our children not wearing them.

I have another friend who lives in a village nearby. One day he told me the story of how his village was founded by his great-grandfather, a man said to have the ability to see and talk to jinn. When he first came to the area and recognized its agricultural potential, he could also see the many spirits all around.

They did not want to leave, but he was able to negotiate a deal with them specific to his family and not others – a covenant sealed with the sacrifice of nine rams. As he told me the stories, I couldn’t help compare his covenant, made by his grandfather and sealed with ram’s blood, with our covenant, made by Jesus and sealed with His own blood.

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And then there is Mariama. Her father brought her to us several months ago. She was suffering from all sorts of physical ailments and couldn’t sleep due to scary voices she attributed to jinn. We prayed for her and gave her a copy of Matthew in her language. We heard no more until her father sought me out again.

He doesn’t know what to think about us Jesus-followers, but he does know the spirits don’t bother us. He had taken her to various healers, but nothing helped. She looked much worse than when we’d last seen her, utterly dominated by unclean and evil forces quite beyond her ability to resist. Her face was the picture of absolute hopelessness. I’ll never forget it.

I wonder how many like Mariama lived in Palestine before Jesus came. The Scriptures say that people were astonished to see evil spirits obey Jesus and His disciples. In their “pre-Jesus” world, did they have any idea that someday they would be delivered from darkness through the blood of the Lamb of God?

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As you celebrate Jesus coming to Bethlehem this Christmas, remember those whose eyes are not yet opened to the Light of the World and pray they come to know Him! On behalf of Pioneer Bible Translators, we thank you for your prayers and financial support.

Come quickly, Lord.

Used by permission from Pioneer Bible Translator’s monthly eNewsletter.  If you would like to receive this monthly newsletter, click on this link “PBT eNewsletter” and subscribe to it.

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Taking God’s Word to Africa

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The Trek Up North….

(A true story from one of my PBT colleagues.)

This year began with an amazing trip to our friends in North-East Africa.  After spending a nice Christmas with our son and family in Europe, as full as ever with memories, my wife and I flew to N.E. Africa.  There we met up with our first full-time team who are living and working in that region of Africa.  We flew up to their new home and enjoyed encouraging them and getting a feel for that “neck of the woods.” 

This is an extraordinary outreach into new territories that merits our most fervent prayers.  Together we explored 5 different language groups on motorcycles and found an amazing openness to our work of literacy and translation.

From that area I caught a ride in the back of an old truck (used as a bus) to another people group that I had heard about.  They had the New Testament, but wanted to begin translation of the rest of the Bible.  I studied their language and trained 10 men in translation principles for a week. 

The stories they shared of surviving a long civil war and then eventually taking refuge in Ethiopia were sobering.  Pray for them as they re-establish themselves in their homeland and prepare for a future that does not promise to be easy.

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The next part of our adventure consisted of an hour-long plane ride to an unreached people group that we had already visited once.  This time we went bearing gifts of new Bible story books in their own language, fruit of our labors from the last visit. 

The people were elated to finally see something written in their own language; it was a first for them.  It is hard to believe the impact that a simple Bible story book can have on a group of people.  We dream of the day when we will deliver the whole of God’s Word to them.

After a logistic nightmare, we finally arrived on the western side of the country.  We spent some time looking for accommodations for our next colleague to move on site.  She will develop the literacy projects that God has enabled us to begin in an area covering at least 5 different language groups.  We’ve already prepared primers and taught literacy teachers in these areas, but the fire needs to be fanned.  Our sister will have quite a job on her hands; please pray for her.

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During our many visits to this area, we have also facilitated the translation of a book on “Trauma Healing” based on Biblical principles.  For a war-torn country, that is quite a necessity.  We had several manuscripts that we took back so that they could be proofed before we publish them in the various languages. 

[Editor’s Note: whether we are translating Scriptures into the local language, or other educational/medical information booklets, many different kinds of checks are done to make sure the message is clear, natural and accurate for the people of that receptor language.]

Our final destination brought a special joy to our hearts.  This was our fourth visit to this isolated people group, and this time we finally had a significant gift for them: the Gospel of Matthew.  Once a year the leaders of this people group gather together for a time of reflection about their people’s needs.  They spent an entire day reading the test copies of Matthew that I took to them and they were amazed to hear God’s Word in their own language. 

It was exciting to see the wise men of the group discuss the various terms that we had used to translate key concepts. We also delivered 150 copies of a songbook in their language that was finished years ago, but which had never been printed.  I was touched as the main author of the song book held a copy in hands and said, “I didn’t think it would ever be published.”  Praise God for your help in reaching out to these people.

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We then spent two weeks with our colleagues in a different country of East Africa.  They are involved in 10 different translation projects in the southeast corner of that country.  Once a book of the Bible is translated by the team and checked in the village, a “translation consultant” goes over the book using a back translation into English. 

As the consultant, my task was to review the book of Romans in 10 different languages, and to try to make sure that the translators had understood and communicated the correct concepts.  The team there continues to make progress; please keep them in your prayers.

Editor’s Corner

It is not unusual for those of us who work with Pioneer Bible Translators to be literally “globe-trotting” as my friend and his wife did in this story.  We have taken Jesus’ words to heart when He said that we need to take the Gospel to “the ends of the earth”.

It is also not unusual for us to experience this same kind of joy as we give God’s Word to different people groups and see how receptive they are to hearing the Word of Life in their heart-language.

But did you notice what else is needed in this story related above?  Many people groups are open to receive the translated Bible.  Missionaries are doing all they can to meet this need.  What we need from people like you who are reading this article is your prayers.

Please keep praying that these doors of opportunity will present themselves to us, that we will make good progress in bringing God’s Word to the nations, and that God would receive all the glory in what we do.

Thank you in advance for your prayers for the Bibleless peoples of the earth.

The Year of Jubilee

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[Editor’s Note: the following letter came to me just last week from a colleague of mine working with Pioneer Bible Translators in Tanzania, East Africa.]

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Year of Jubilee

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. – Leviticus 25:10 KJV

On December 9th, I looked out of a hotel window in the capital and saw the British frigate Somerset that had arrived for Tanzania’s 50th birthday celebration. In 1961 something seemingly impossible happened – an African country achieved complete independence without a war of independence. The UN Protectorate of Tanganyika applied for independence and actually got it! The British administration peacefully handed over Tanganyika’s governance and a nation was born on December 9th 1961.

On the other side of the world, I was a baby girl being born that same day. I think of this concurrence as the first prophetic event of my very blessed life. As Tanzania and I begin this year of jubilee, I invite you to join me in praying for consecration for me personally and also for this country that I love. Let’s proclaim spiritual liberty for all those throughout this land who are in spiritual bondage. God bless Tanzania!

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15 Years in Africa

When I was in Bible College, I was shocked to read the statistic that 75% of missionaries serve no more than one field term (usually 3-5 years). How could I believe that my dream of spending decades overseas would come true? But I did believe. And it did come true, and still is coming true in fact, despite the little I have to do with it. If it were up to my abilities, health and moods, I would not have made it to Africa in the first place, and I would definitely not be listening to monkeys partying on my roof in January 2012. What is the secret of my success? God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV

Lord willing I will arrive in Florida at the end of February to begin what we call “temporary home assignment.” In addition to my heavenly home, my heart has two earthly homes, and other than trip preparations and deadlines, I transition easily between Tanzania and the USA. I don’t often think of my life as being apart from either place. Neat, eh? It is just another example of God’s grace and blessings.

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As I read this letter, it brought home two important spiritual truths for me.  The first is the fact that we live in a world where there is the reality of war, and even though peace treaties may be signed between different parties or nations, that peace can often be a very fragile peace.  We have just passed the Christmas season, which speaks of the hope of “peace on earth, and goodwill toward all men.”  But that kind of true peace can only be found in Christ, not a human agreement.

The other spiritual truth that hit me was the reality that we who are committed to serving the Lord in mission work abroad will often find the same thing as my colleague, that our definition of “home” becomes much bigger.  As stated above, we find ourselves to “be at home” in the places where we work overseas, while still being attached to our friends and families “back home” where we grew up.  And then as we think about it, we also realize that this world is not our true home, but in fact Heaven is where our heart truly is.

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You know, I think that is one of the neat things about being a missionary.  As we continually cross back and forth between our home where we minister abroad and our home back in the country we grew up in, we can often find that the attachments we may have had toward material objects greatly decreases.

Rather than investing in “things” of this world, we find there is a greater joy when we invest in people, wherever they may live.  And that is what our Christian faith is all about; it’s about having a relationship with God and others that is most important.

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I will say that I too am very pleased that there is a structure and the will to have peace in this part of the world where our family also had the privilege to serve God.  But we did live there for 18 months and saw that there are still many problems within the country, just as there are in any country.  Violence, crime, poverty and an unwillingness on the part of many people to submit in obedience to the true God above.

What is exciting is that there is still relative peace and freedom to bring the Good News of salvation to those who need to hear it.  PBT has been able for many years to bring the translated Word of God to a number of language groups in that region of the world.  And that is the key to bringing true freedom to all who have been in bondage to sin.

And so my final word is to say thank you to my colleague who has been faithfully serving God and the people of East Africa for more than 15 years now.  My prayer is that she will find herself refreshed and renewed as she spends time with her American friends and family so that she can  soon return to living among and ministering to her African friends and neighbors.  And may we all be open to be renewed in our hearts by the God above, the true Author of peace for the world.