Elin and I are at a literacy training week and I was reminded about such a neat answer to prayer… that I want to share it with you although it happened a few months ago. This is about how the Lord answered the first Mwinika missionaries, Abar and Liberia’s prayer in a most tangible way!
A little history: Abar was just a young boy when we moved into their village in 2005. His dad is one of Phil’s (our partner) Bible translation helpers, and so he grew up seeing how we live and work. He was one of our first literacy students and therefore was a reader when the Bible teaching began in 2011. However, when Christ was introduced in the chronological Bible lessons, he stopped coming to the daily meetings. Later he explained:
“I just couldn’t believe what you taught about Jesus! It was so different from what I have learned in our [traditional prayer house], and was so contrary to what I was taught growing up, that I had to totally rejected it. But the Holy Spirit kept on talking to me. He would not leave me alone!” Both Phil and Abar’s dad continued to encourage Abar to go to the teaching.
“Finally,” he says, “I just could not fight it anymore. I went back to the teaching and accepted Jesus as my Saviour.”
Abar was just 17 at this stage, but as is the custom among the Mwinika, already married and they had a baby boy. Although his wife, Liberia continued to go to most of the Bible teaching lessons, she was resistant to the Message. He started to pray for her.
About a year later, Abar heard about the need for a literacy teacher in a neighbouring village. There was a fletching church planted and the believers begged us to come and teach them so that they can read the Word of God. I was not able then to help them full-time, but between me and Rasja – an already trained Mwinika literacy teacher – we trained and guided Abar so that by the second month, he was able to teach mostly on his own. I saw this young man grow from a shy boy to a man with confidence in the Lord and His calling to make disciples… He had an amazing report with the students.
Abar continued to pray for Liberia, although she thought he was completely crazy to teach literacy classes two hours each day (not including his prep work) without any compensation!
Later he started to work with me daily on writing and developing post-literacy materials so that the readers have something to read when they are done with the course! He told me during that very first week:
“Nadia, I feel that the Lord is calling me to go and share this Good News with others outside our community, but… how do you just up and leave everything you know and hold dear? How do you quit your job, pack up your house and go? How can I take care of my family without a sure income?” Sounds familiar? Yes, being called to GO was no different for this young Mwinika man than what it might be for you.
“Please pray that the Lord will strengthen my faith,” he asked. And so I did. What followed was one of the most delightful years I have spent in over the last nearly 20 years of ministry! Abar became a true brother in Christ. We often talked about spiritual issues and I soon learned that not only was I discipling this young man, but he was also discipling me! What sweet fellowship to be ministered to by someone who did not know that Jesus is alive (and no opportunity to hear!) only a few years ago.
Slowly too, Liberia started to hunger for God’s Word! She would even remind Abar that the hasn’t read aloud to the family each evening, if he was late in doing so. Soon, Liberia also started to witness to family and friends. Abar was delighted! He saw God answering his prayers. Another village, far away from ours and into the neighbouring people group’s land, heard about the teaching. You may remember us sharing with you about Alana’s village? Well, Alana got hold of the Mwinika Scriptures and the Bible lessons on a recorder. People started to swamp her house to hear the Lessons in eMwinika and finally they sent a list of signatures with a delegation begging us to come and teach them the Word of God. But, Phil and Elin were still in the States on home assignment, Francois, I and the Mwinika Bible teachers already stretched beyond what we could fit into each day… and so the Mwinika believers started to pray that the Lord will sent someone to Alana’s village.
Abar and Liberia stepped forward. They were about to harvest their rice and cassava root fields and felt ready to go! And so, about three years after becoming a believer, Abar and his family (now grown with a baby girl) left as the first Mwinika missionaries, ministering into an unreached area.
They started with a new Literacy class with a group of 20 men and women. All of them finished the course a few months later! Soon the community was begging him to start with the Bible lesson teaching, and so, only two weeks after arriving in this new area, Abar started to teach the Maravone and Mwinika people of Alana’s village chronologically from the Bible. In the meantime, almost a year later, he has also started to teach in a neighbouring village… The news is spreading and people are hungry for God’s Word! But all was not sunshine and roses… Abar and Liberia suffered hunger, a collapse of their rented houses one wall during one stormy night, and resistance to the Gospel.
One day a group of leaders from the traditional Middle Eastern Religion of the people arrived in Alana’s village. They came to inform Abar that he should immediately stop teaching the people about Jesus!
Abar and Liberia realised that this might very well be their last night in the village. They prayed as never before! The Lord encouraged them through Scripture, for as Abar opened the Mwinika Scripture to seek His will on what to do, the pages opened in Acts where the Lord told Peter not to obey men but to obey Him. They had their answer and therefore prayed that the Lord would somehow change these men’s’ hearts and minds so that they could stay to teach the Gospel.
The religious leaders also had another agenda: they came to tell the women of the villages that they should be circumcised. The news spread after their meeting and the women were outraged! The went home and in no uncertain terms told their husbands what they thought of this idea… The men became angry and the next morning when Abar and Liberia came out of their house, the religious leaders were gone. The Lord answered their prayers in a most remarkable way!
The rainy season came and a tropical storm devastated the northern part of Mozambique. Bridges collapsed and houses caved in. For weeks the phones did not work and there was no communication between the believers in our villages and Abar. Slowly their food ran out. Abar and Liberia started to sell items from their house (they fitted all they had to begin with in a few bags and basins). Finally they were going hungry and they realized that if something did not happen soon, they would be stuck in that villages without means to return to their family. That night, they prayed through every dark hour. Abar decided that he will go out the next morning and sell their water bucket (without a bucket to carry water from the well, they cannot survive. In a way, this is the most precious item in their house).
In the meantime, back in our villages, the believes were concerned that Abar and Liberia would go without food, but the roads were impassable and the ground saturated with water. Finally Salim, one of the Bible teachers from our village, decided to try and get through to Abar’s village on his motorcycle, not going via the big road, but on footpaths…
That morning, when Abar exited his house with his bucket to sell, Salim arrived on his motorcycle, splattered with mud and many adventures to share about his journey there. But the best of all: he arrived with a big bag stock full of dried cassava roots, the Mwinika’s staple food! Oh, the tears of joy to see the Lord come to their rescue in such a tangible way! How good is He who promises to be our Provider! Abar and Liberia are still in Alana’s village, teaching the Word in two locations, brining hope and Life to a previously lost people. Having enough to eat, to pay rent for their house and clothes for their bodies, are still daily challenge. Pray for this couple! Thank the Lord for the courage and perseverance He is giving them. Pray too that He will continue to provide in their every need as He witnesses through them to the Maravone and Mwinika people.