Early morning mist is rising from the earth after a cool night. The Mwinika “winter” is on us, and despite the temperature never lowering even close to freezing, fevers, colds, runny noses, and coughing are rampant in our village. I am on my way to Granny’s house to get her ready for the day. She has become progressively weaker in the last few years and especially in the last months. She can now hardly feed herself, cannot sit up on her own, cannot dress herself or do even the basics to keep herself comfortable. Her mind however is still sharp and occasionally the humour that so endeared her to me comes through with a girlish giggle. I love every moment with her, my village granny, friend, and sister in Christ.
I will never forget her first prayer. It was 5 months after we started teaching here for the first time. The Mwinika from several villages just heard for the first time that Christ died for their sins, but rose again and lives! Many accepted this with glad hearts, and some started to realize the many implications this had for them and their families. Granny walked to my house, cane in hand and nearly bent double from scoliosis. She sat down and after a few pleasantries (the Mwinika like to get to the point quickly!), she asked me what has been on her mind: if those who do not believe in Jesus as their Saviour go to the forever fire, what happened to all my children that have died and never heard?
I have struggled with this question myself, sitting among crying family and friends during funerals of friends who died, but never heard. God in his infinite wisdom and grace met me one day on my way to a friend’s house that died mere hours before. Our language ability was still weak and most women here cannot speak any Portuguese. I tried, but failed to help her understand about the Son of God who came to save her, and she died an agonizing death without Christ. God met me then in a burned down field, the outer picture of the death of many without Him, and assured me that He is God, He is Love and Grace and knows every single person’s heart. He knows who would accept Him and who wouldn’t. I have to trust Him. And I do.
How to explain this to a brand new Christian, a mother, and grandmother? I assured her that God is good and that He does not want even one to be lost; however, Christ is the only Way to Him.
“Let’s talk to God”, I suggested. And there on the little step, sitting in front of my mud office, she started to talk to God, without preliminaries and straight from her heart. She told Him her name, and that she knows He knows her. He knows all her sins and all the wrong she has done in her life. She knows who He is, the almighty God, perfect and good. She knows that without Jesus, she has nothing to offer to redeem herself. She told God that she trusts Him. And then, with tears streaming down her face, she laid her children before Him. She knows that the dead cannot come back or hear us anymore, but asked God that those who had died somehow heard of Him before their end and that they are saved.
I sat amazed as I listened to her prayer. She knows more about God, who He is and who she is without Him than many who have been in church for years!
I arrive at Granny’s house and called out, as the custom is, to ask permission to go in. As many mornings before, I cannot help but wonder if she is still with us. She loves the Lord, but is mostly abandoned by her family. Apart from my care, she would probably have died years ago. I am well aware that many in her family, unbelievers, are angry with me for “keeping her alive” while in their culture she is now only a burden and should “move one”. I hear her shaky and weak “come in” and as I push open the simple door I see her dear, wrinkled face light up when she sees me. I enter the house of the poorest of the poor. She has virtually nothing. She lives in the front part of a mud hut with three rooms, floor and outer walls uneven and made of mud. In one corner is a bucket (the one I gave her) and a dipper. Two tiny tin plates and one spoon. A little bundle of clothes, a clay pot and a stained and threadbare straw mat. That is it. We gave her a mattress and it is on this, on the bare floor, that I find Granny just as I left her the night before. And so begins my morning routine of helping her up, washing and dressing her, feeding her, making her comfortable. The solar player* with the Bible reading in eMwinika is still clutched in her one hand and I take it with her permission to recharge before returning it later in the day. This is her highlight: listening to God’s Word. The last thing I hear every evening as I push her door closed is her tiny voice repeating and anticipating the story she is listening to on this device. Like an old friend she converses with God’s Word, agreeing and exclaiming: Oh yes! True!
No matter what the language or the culture, God’s amazing Word speaks to every person, right where they are! Our first priority is still to get God’s Word in written form out to as many as possible, but the solar players have been a huge help in getting it out in the meantime to old and infirm, or have not had the opportunity to learn to read yet. Please pray with me for Granny, that her family will get involved in her care. And that the community will see Christ and thirst for His Word as Granny does!
*If you want to get involved to get more of these solar players out into our community, let us know!