Tuesday, July 10 – [West African City] – Week Number Four Completed in Africa
One month ago today we left US soil on early Sunday morning flights. And now we have just one week and a few hours left here before we start our return. With the freedom from jobs and our normal schedule, we have had time to just take in the new experiences of West Africa.
Here are some of the people of the past week.
This is the young family man our friends, Rob and Judy Panza, met here in 2007. He has three sons and a wife from the Congo. Hospitality is embodied in Africans, but listen to this: Daoud and his wife are hosting the six tribal folks to whom we are giving the community health training, Daoud’s cousin, “Barnabas” (more on him later), Daoud’s mother-in-law (who is temporarily there), and Daoud’s brother who is helping this week by making the daily tea and serving it for two hours for 16 of us. We went to Daoud’s house on Saturday night and it was a steady flow of six languages, pantomiming, laughing at each other’s attempt at impossible pronunciations, tea and foods. For a party with zero alcohol, it was amazing how loose everyone was. We brought gifts for the three boys … two Yo-yos and a Frisbee. The Frisbee was a big hit on the dirt street in front of the house among all the neighbors who were also finishing off a wedding that day and the constant soccer ball going all around. Even the austere looking Muslims in robes and turbans came out to take their turn at throwing the Frisbee … and they did great. Daoud seems to constantly be thinking of his people, the Teleqans, and how to improve their difficult lot in life. He is the first follower of Christ in his tribe of 300,00 and has translated Genesis into their language. Genesis is the first book to be printed in the native language, Teleqan.
“West African Missionaries”
This is another great, young couple with three children living here in West Africa. We originally met [the missionary] in Guatemala on our first extended work trip in 1996. At the age of 19 he was the official guide for 10 of us going into a remote area of the “Ixil Triangle” (made famous by the controversial, I, Rigoberta book). The civil war was still officially on but having grown up there, [the missionary], blond and blue-eyed, handled every roadblock with complete confidence and flawless Guatemalan Spanish. So you could predict that he would be a “shaker and mover” here and he is. [The missionary] heads up the national relief effort of an entire US denomination. We not only enjoyed an evening at their home but some of us joined him the next day for a four-wheel trip to villages that included a dugout canoe ride and hike. (Facebook has a picture of that Classic boat … “Sydni, the boat is leaking, not sinking.” … ) [The missionary] was a steady flow of projects and plans in our five hours of conversation. He is putting the people themselves in the place of power by taking the role of Consultant, not Patron. He is coming to us on Thursday to meet some village leaders who are part of our training. We are putting them together in hopes of seeing his skills move them forward. The chief of the village recently came to know Christ and boldly rejected Islam in the presence of the local [leader].
In fact, this is the above mentioned guy. But he is also the man I (John) sat on the mat with at Daoud’s home where we laughed as John pantomimed and then tried to pronounce his impossible word for the mammal, bat. He is also one of the tribal people we are giving medical / health training to all this week. He coordinated the digging of the well we financed in his area in the only way it could have been done in this unique circumstance. This week he told us of the local [radical] leaders coming to him with a $140,000 bribe for his support and to “quit cooperating with Christians”. This [leader] took them to the well site and said, “This is the gift of the Christians to my people and I will not betray that relationship. All I want from you is peace, so leave in peace or kill me now.” They left. All we could say to him was that God honors such faith. Last year the [leader] told us he now believes Islam and Christianity are both true. He needs more information on this subject but it is quite a concession for such a Muslim leader in the area. Everyday with him he says some surprising word of friendship toward us. And everyday he is curled up in laughter on his mat over some thing that just gets him going (today it was “gingivitis”?) Pray for us to speak more truth in love to his heart so this good-hearted man can know Jesus completely. He could lead a whole region (3,000 people) to become Muslim Followers of Jesus.
This is Daoud’s cousin whom we mentioned before. He is the second Teleqan to come to know Christ. He is with us this week as a learner on the sidelines, and a general servant to the Trainees. We find ourselves drawn to his warm smile, quiet service, and his attempts at English with me. A few months ago, Barnabas went for us into the Refugee Zone to deliver and sell our discounted grain. The local [radical] heard he was there and began to ask how to find him so that Barnabas went into hiding. The people themselves faced his violent pursuers and shamed them for threatening such a good man on a good mission. Unbelievably those [radicals] asked to see Barnabas to ask for his forgiveness and to pledge themselves to his safety. Barnabas has some Bible School training so we talked to him today about pastoring some day. We mentioned the need for a pastor for a new group of Christ-Followers in the area where God protected him but that same bashful smile came out. He is just the kind of humble soul that God is using over here among the people we met this week.