We wanted to fill you in on some of the neat things that God has been doing in the lives of some of the Tobo believers as well as in ours.
As you might imagine, checking Scripture is no simple task, but one that requires attention to detail and good concentration. My helper Kips was feeling quite sick before our check of Romans 1-3. We prayed, and God answered in a great way. Not only was Kips completely better the next morning in time for the check, he was better the rest of our time out in town and going back into the bush. You should have seen how happy he was. He related to me, “I was so sick, and I thought, how can I do God’s work of looking at his True Talk tomorrow and be able to think well? But now I see that God has answered our prayers and healed me today so that we could do that important work together! God is truly real!”
During our time at the translation workshop, Tingon as well was rejoicing at seeing God’s hand in his life. Just before leaving for the workshop, he was told of a problem in the clan dealing with some immorality that was going on. The young woman’s offended clan had said that the situation needed to be resolved by the middle of the week, or right about the time we were to return from the workshop, or steps would be taken. Obviously, this was heavy on his heart and he was beginning to struggle with worry over it. I was able to get word to them to tell them to wait for us. This still did not ease Tingon’s concern for his family back in the village. As Tingon shared his struggle of worry with Kips and me, we were both able to encourage him that having sent word back, the main thing to do was to pray and put the problem in God’s hands. We decided to pray for him right then and there.
That next day, it did seem as if Tingon was a different person with a weight off of his back. He said, “I also had decided to pray and ask God to help me not be worried about my family and the problem back home, and listen, God did help me. From that time, I wasn’t worried any more, and I haven’t been up to now! God gave me easy insides (peace) and I had easy insides and still do!” And the neat thing was, just a few days before we returned, we got word that the situation had been resolved without the need for him to be there. So God answered that prayer before we even returned. Recently, as Tingon shared some more struggles with another worry of his, he and I had the opportunity to look back and praise God as we remembered the easy insides He gave Tingon during that tough time. It gave me a good opportunity to remind him once again that God wants us not to stand in our strength and struggle and worry, but instead to give our worry to him and put it in His good hands.
And then, (…some of you know what’s coming here, right?) God has time and again recently reminded me to practice that same trust that I have been encouraging my brothers and sisters here to exercise. There are times when it seems like spiritual growth and progress here is slow. Most people in this community are hard-hearted and view our little band of believers with apathy at best and disdain, ridicule, and even hostility in other cases. And some of our believers are still struggling with the idea that they are different now from the others and such a small minority at that. Many, like Tingon, have worried that so many have chosen not to believe and that we are such a small group. And honestly for us as well it has been frustrating at times to see areas where the believers could take opportunities to be a witness to their peers or take a stand but do not always do that, or not without our gentle promptings. In spite of all this, the Lord continues to remind me through His Word not to worry but put it into His capable hands.
One of Elijah’s memory verses, Colossians 3:15, struck me lately and I have been meditating on this verse quite a bit lately. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful.” Wow—those 12 words speak volumes to my heart! May you also be encouraged by these words as the new year finds some of you looking for a new job, as many are tightening belts in the current economy, or some are dealing with the loss of loved ones during this holiday season. Whatever your unique set of challenges and hardships, I believe that we need to allow God’s peace to hold sway over our hearts and minds and that we can always choose to be thankful regardless of whatever God has for us. And then as we thank Him and meditate on his goodness to us, we will find as I’ve testified in the above stories that God is at work in our lives and the lives of those we love and care about, and in so many ways has blessed us far beyond what we were first seeing as we were focused on all the worries.
I’ll wrap this email up with 2 more stories evidencing God’s blessing and a glimpse of progress that he privileged me to see in the lives of 2 of my brothers here. A couple of weeks ago, I went up the mountainside to help Welsen work on his new house. As is typical, there were half a dozen other guys helping out as we cut and nailed hand-hewn planks onto the walls of the structure. I was working with one young guy, Nembos on one side of the house. As we took a break, Welsen showed us the large wooden door which he’d stolen years ago and then used for his older house Nembos mentioned how Welsen was a good guy now, and not only did I jump at the God-given opportunity to share the Gospel of grace with Nembos, but I quickly found Welsen joining into the conversation and it was my joy to let him jump right in and take over where I started! The talk did not continue for long, and Nembos did not give much of a response to the talk other than the typical Tobo outward agreement with what was said, but the encouragement for me was to see my brother boldly sharing his faith.
Another day recently, a bunch of people were sitting outside in a large gathering when I found myself in a conversation with a friend and the subject again turned to the Word of God and belief. Ambox was with me and this brother is a very quiet, soft-spoken man with a dry wit but usually not too much to say. I was surprised and delighted when after my first few comments to the other guy, Ambox began to jump in and reinforce what I was saying and then again he finished up with a pretty good summary of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone! Again, the response was something to leave in God’s hands, but the message was communicated, and not just through me the white missionary, but through a guy who rarely even speaks up in our believers’ meetings!
So you see, God truly is at work here, slowly but surely. And one day, we may see more and more Tobo believers not only jumping in to share their faith, but even seeking out and initiating these conversations of faith on their own. Would you join us in prayer for men like Kips, Tingon, Welsen, and Ambox? That they would have boldness to share their faith, and that peace and thanksgiving would rule in their hearts even in the midst of opposition and apathy?
One more exciting bit of news…next week, Lord willing, the Tobo people will be taught in the book of Romans in their own language! We will take many months to move through this foundational epistle. I am still making good progress through the translation of the book itself, and would ask for your prayers as we as a team (missionaries and Tobo believers) work together to see the believers not only taught, but discipled in the truths of this treasure-trove of Scripture.
Thanks again for all the love and support, and my prayer for you today is that you would “let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and be thankful.”
Thankful for His peace,
Chad, Janeene, Elijah, & Zekey