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Lots of things have been happening around here lately! Not sure I can fit it in just one post, but will try. Our clinic is running very smoothly. Monday through Wednesday is here in Siguiri, and on Thursday the team travels out to Fodela to the Outreach Center there. We are blessed to have Jeff Schulte working with us since August. He has been instrumental in getting things organized and up and running, praise God!!
Yesterday was the feast of Tabaski here. Muslims celebrate this as a very important day, the day when Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael. Our stories differ a bit of course, but for Muslims this is almost like Christmas. People buy new clothing and usually a sheep is purchased and slaughtered for the occasion. Meat is eaten and shared around, people visit each other and greet. We learned the festival greeting and wished many people a happy day. They loved it.
This year we were invited to join Daye and his family for the celebration. Daye has been working for the Lutheran Mission for many years, almost since the beginning. It was a joy and priviledge to spend time with him and his family yesterday.
Following the celebrations last night we took Jeff out to a nearby village to spend a few days living with a Maninka family. He was excited for this experience as were we. We are hoping to get more into the villages and are starting to make contacts here and there. When we arrived we all sat down for a visit, as is tradition. The chief talked about how happy he is to have this visitor come. Never before has a white man come to stay in his village. We also thanked him for opening his home like this for our visitor.
After all the discussion they showed us where Jeff will be staying. The chief’s son has offered his room for the weekend which will be just perfect. As we were sitting and visiting a group of women came in. As I said, Tabaski is like our Christmas, and the clothing we saw yesterday was stunning! Hair is all done up special, make up applied. They looked beautiful!
Once we felt Jeff was all settled in we got ready to go. During the time there Tim and the chief had been playfully bantering because of their “family names.” The chief is a “Magasouba”, the family that traditionally founded and settled Siguiri. The family name that Tim has taken is “Kourma”. The two families are against each other, so if one meets the other they must “insult” each other. Anyone that knows my Tim knows that he loves to banter in this way. So before we left there had to be some ribbing and teasing!
In Africa, making relationships is extremely important. We have lost a lot of that in the West as we breeze by people, “Hi, howareya?” “Great”. Then you’re gone. It means a lot to people when you take the time to visit, sit down as if you have nothing else in the world to do that day, and just visit. You ask about the person, their family, their health, as if they are the most important person in the world to you. It’s a wonderful part of the culture, and one that I hope they never lose.
We pray that as we make these relationships, God will open doors for the Gospel! That millions may find that personal relationship with Jesus, their Savior. To Him we ARE the most important person in the world!
In my bible study today I was stunned at a section I came across in Acts 13 concerning Paul’s visit to Antioch in Pisidia:
Vs 42: “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” (emphasis mine)
Vs. 44: “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” (emphasis again mine)
Grabbing my attention, I decided to look at the verse a bit more in context and find out what I could concerning these incredible words. Paul and Barnabas are visiting the synagogue in Antioch where Paul often went to preach the Good News. As he often does, Paul gives a history of what God has done among the Jews in the past, and brings in the final act: Jesus’ death and resurrection. The response from the Jews was mixed. The response from the Gentiles, however, was immediate and imperative: please, come back and teach us these things!! Why? What was it that struck them so?
One of the hardest (my opinion) thing for human beings is change. This was no different for the Jews of that day. It was incredibly difficult for the new Jewish believers to let go of their past tradition: the idea that in order to follow or know God you had to continue in the old ways: become a Jew. This meant circumcision, following the Laws, etc. The idea of dumping all these traditions that had been with them and part of their lives and culture for literally thousands of years, was blasphemy. Even Peter was loathe to follow the command given to him following his dream of the animals in the sheet to “Rise, kill and eat!” replying, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything unclean or common!” (Acts 10: 14-15)
Yet here was Paul, preaching to the people that it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that salvation comes! Not through circumcision, and not through obeying the law! This was exciting news among the Gentiles. They weren’t required to give up their heritage or culture to be saved. I imagine this will be exciting news also among the Maninka people with whom we are working! It is not through following rules that you are saved; rules such as obligatory fasting, obligatory prayer, and all the other rules Muslims follow in order to work their way into the good graces of Allah. No, there is one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ. Nor do you cease to be a Maninka if you love Jesus! Oh to have people begging to hear that message!
And in vs 44 Luke tells us that almost the whole city came out to hear the message! People are hungry for answers! They are hungry to hear that their Creator loves them and wants to spend eternity with them. What a great message we carry! May this be so here as well!
Later, back in Jerusalem, a council met to talk about the Gentile issue. There, Paul and Barnabas recounted their experiences. Acts 15:12 says, “Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.” This, along with Peter’s testimony of his encounter with Cornelius and James’s reminder of the prophets’ words concerning the Gentiles (Amos 9:11,12), was pivotal in reaching the conclusion Paul later wrote about in Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28).
We don’t know what God’s plan is for this area. Our prayer since our return has been that God will show us where He is already at work, and let us know what our part is! We’ve already seen evidence of God going before us in wonderful ways. We pray for a day when people are begging to hear about Jesus, and when the whole city comes out to hear the message! What a glorious thing that would be! Pray with us!
I haven’t added anything to our blog for some time and still want to try and do better. Our lives have been in a bit of a topsy turvy for a bit now since Tim’s dad passed away in May. We have always believed that God’s timing is perfect in every way, but we’re happy to be getting back to the work here and excited to see what God has planned and will do.
In my personal bible study this morning I came across the verse in I Thessalonians that says, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.” (I Thess. 1:5) I’m going to print that off and hang it right over my desk so that I see it every day. This is how we pray the gospel will come to the people here.
First of all in word. I’ve had so many people tell me that they just don’t feel comfortable sharing the Gospel. What if someone asks a question they can’t answer? What if their testimony is not “theologically correct?” What if they get tongue tied and mess up somehow?? These are all ideas from the pit. If Jesus means anything to you, you have a testimony. The gospel message is very simple and easy. If we focus on Jesus and Him alone and what He did there should be no problem there. Satan wants us to believe you have to have seminary training to share your faith; that you’re going to look foolish if you don’t have all the answers; that you’re not a good speaker, so you can’t do it. Nonsense. If someone asked you who your favorite football team was you’d probably not have any trouble expressing your feelings and explaining why. If you found out Walmart was giving away free TVs you’d have no trouble telling your friends and family about it. Why not the incredible story that Jesus loves you and died to take away your sins so you can live with Him forever? Simple words, simple testimony!
Second, in power. From where does that power come? From the Word. Some see the Bible as just another book. We might even see it as God’s inspired Word. But not often do we realize the power that is contained in the words there. God can take those words and through His Spirit, work miracles in people’s hearts! This is why we need to be studying, we need to know the word and what God says! Many Christians are biblically illiterate and therein is their fear of not having the words to speak. Be in the Word! Grasp that power and allow God to use it through you!!
Third, in the Holy Spirit. We pray that the Holy Spirit will sweep through this area, opening eyes and ears, and bringing the Good News of salvation to millions of men, women and children! Jesus described the Spirit as a “wind” that blows where it wishes. And there is that power again, the power of God to change lives! May it be so here among the Maninka people!
Finally, with assurance. God’s heart is for the lost. His desire is for all to be saved! We can have assurance that as we share Him, we are in His Will and He always “has our backs!” Our prayer since returning to Guinea has been that God will lead and show us what He has already started here. We believe God is going before us. We are just the instruments to do His will in this place. Look for what God is already doing and join in! He is at work everywhere!
Please pray for us and for the Maninka people, that the gospel will come in word, with power, in the Holy Spirit, and with assurance! And that many will know the promises of God and eternal life!
In April of 2014 we resigned from our positions with the LCMS Office of International Missions and joined on with Global Lutheran Outreach. We’re excited about where God is leading. It took a while to get to this point, but the Lord has been teaching us a lot through books, contacts, prayer and other means. We’ve returned to Guinea again, to the same area. Things were not good on our return. Satan was really at work while we were gone, but we will not be discouraged. He can take things away and try to destroy ministry, but God is ultimately in control. We’re also in Guinea again as the only missionaries of our mission. That hasn’t been so since almost 20 years ago! But we also believe that God is raising up people that have a heart to serve Him with the talents they’ve been given. And so we trust!
Next week we will take a trip over to the clinic that we’ve been renovating and see what work still needs to be done. For me, after we get our house in shape, it will be language work! My least favorite part of overseas ministry, but one we really believe in.
* For stamina as we try and get the house back in working order.
* For changes that will be coming to the church here in Siguiri
* For my language work
* For Tim’s continued language work and the beginning of ministry