I’m always a little wary of referencing or endorsing any Hollywood movies here on our ministry blog. If there are 5 Christians in a room, then there are usually upwards of 6 strong convictions present as to whether a certain film is appropriate to watch or not. I’ll delve into those dark waters briefly today though, because I think it fits with the subject matter.
When I was a kid, the movie “Forest Gump” was kind of a big deal.* In this film,** the main character uses the now famous metaphor, “Mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get.’” As elementary-aged youths,*** this statement resonated with me and my friends. Not only did it communicate its underlying meaning easily, it also lent itself to a wide variety of immature alterations. (“Life is like going to use the bathroom: You never know…” well, you get the idea.)
Metaphors are good like that. Using symbolism, they can paint a picture with feelings and emotions that literal speech would struggle to convey. Forest could have said, “Mama always said, ‘We don’t know what situations we are going to face in life. Some of them we will like, and some of them we won’t.’” But let’s be honest, that would have been totally lame.
This has been on my mind lately, because our Iski friends have been hearing chronological teaching from God’s Word for the first time. Every weekday, for the last three weeks, they have been shown God’s Word (in their language!) and have heard it explained (in their language!), and it is basically blowing their minds. The result is that we are experiencing a constant barrage of similes and metaphors as they try to explain to us what they are feeling:
“It’s like we are a tree, and our ancestral stories are a vine that is wrapped tightly around us. Satan wants to kill us with this vine, but God’s Word is slowly pulling the vine away, so we can live!”
“Before, I was trying to clear my garden [live my life] with a dull machete, but now this teaching has come, and it is like a new file to sharpen my knife with. Now my work can go well.”
“This talk about Noah has killed my thinking.”
“Before I was cold, but now, as I hear this teaching, I am getting warm.”
As you can see, the teaching is not going out to a passive audience! Our community is actively engaging with what they are hearing each morning. Of course, that’s not to say that they are not struggling with the content. It is still very hard for them to understand some concepts, because they are interpreting new information through their pre-existing worldview.
The idea that a person’s individual belief regarding the promised Savior is more important than the collective thinking of the group at large is a 180 degree turn from the Iski mindset. It is abnormal for an Iski man or woman to consider their identity outside of their clan or community.
It was also a bit of a bombshell when Jason and Andre (our teammates) told the story of Noah the other day and explained that we are all descendants of Noah’s three sons and their wives. Up to that point, many of our villagers had been assuming that they were descendants of Cain (the disobedient brother), while us missionaries were descendants of Seth (the believing brother). If you want to make a clan member’s head spin, tell him that his bloodline has nothing to do with him being accepted or rejected by God!
We are very excited at some of the talk we are hearing from our Iski friends though. It really seems like many of them are following the main points of the lessons and have been quick to humble themselves under God’s grace, recognizing that their separation from God is beyond their ability to repair. Often though, there is a tendency to slip back into their mentality of looking for merit in their works, trying to find a way to fix their sin-debt themselves through some human effort.
Please continue to pray for our Iski friends as they continue to be challenged of their need for a Savior. Please ask the Lord to make it clear to them that their only hope of salvation is through God Himself. And, while you’re at it, please pray for Andre and Jason too, that they will be able to communicate clearly in this confusing and difficult language.
And, if after all that praying you still have time, please feel free to pray for Rochelle and I in our language-learning efforts. Apparently, we seem to fit more aptly under one of Mr. Gump’s other catch-phrases, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
* I am not endorsing this movie!
**Yes, I am aware that there are several unnecessarily explicit scenes in this movie, as well as some bad language. When I was a kid I watched the edited version on TV, alright?!
***Yes, I watched it when I was in elementary school. That makes it my parents’ fault, right?