I mentioned off-hand in my last post that we are in the midst of doing Bible-teaching in another village these days. Upon proof-reading that post, Rochelle took the opportunity to encourage me in my writing endeavors:
“Seth, you have written three consecutive posts explicitly referencing toilets, but you still haven’t managed to put two sentences together about our ongoing outreach! When are you going to write content with some actual substance?!”*
So, for those of you who stand with my darling wife and feel that “potty humor” is not relevant to our ministry, I’ll do my best to sprinkle the following post with enough prudish prose to satisfy you. I’ll even sip my coffee with my pinky in the air as I write, to show just how serious I’m taking Rochelle’s call to professionalism. Because I am a mature individual, and I take criticisms of my work as opportunities to reflect and grow as a person. Even when said criticisms are delivered by stinky-poop-heads.
With that contextual prologue in place, here’s the skinny regarding our outreach:
You may recall that the village we live and work in is actually an outlier in reference to the rest of the Iski population’s geographical distribution. Most of the population lives scattered along a big river 5-7 hours away from our location. (Remember, there are no roads in our neck of the jungle – just trails and swamps and rivers – so we often measure things in hours of travel, rather than distance.)
That being the case, it is taking a fair bit of intentionality on our part to make the Gospel available to other Iski villages. Though it is Iski Bible teachers that are shouldering the burden of teaching the lessons this time around (which is SUPER cool, by the way), we’ve been sending a missionary with each teaching team as well. Since these are somewhat uncharted waters for our teachers, they need a bit of encouragement to help them work out some of the kinks and help mitigate their feelings of inadequacy.
And their intimidation isn’t unwarranted. We were expecting around 70 – 100 people to come to the teaching for this first outreach, as normal Iski villages are pretty small. Teaching times take place every weekday morning, and then there are review sessions each afternoon, and the teaching will take 3 months, so it’s not like it’s an easy thing for people to commit to.
Well, 280 people thought differently!
The local elementary school said they were happy to count our teaching times as their students’ “religious instruction” class, so that allowed many children to accompany their parents. Add to that the people trekking to the teaching from as far away as two hours (each way…EVERY DAY), and a group of partially bilingual people from a neighboring language group, and you get…well…a somewhat intimidating crowd.
It’s been a huge encouragement to our Bible teachers (and us, obviously) to see the intense hunger that these people have for hearing God’s Word taught clearly and chronologically! Stories that they’ve heard before, via other religious groups in the area, finally have a context and are able to make sense!** They are absolutely LOVING the fact that the lessons, as well as the translated Scripture portions, are BOTH in their mother-tongue!
It has been a very encouraging start to our first Iski-led outreach, to say the least! That’s not to say, however, that there haven’t been a few hiccups. We’ve definitely had some of those. Mainly, in the form of gossip and rumors.
Some of it has been expected push-back and came as no real surprise: “If you go listen to that teaching, then your families will get sick and die!”, but a few other talking points have been a bit more creative. It is currently being circulated, for instance that:
- The snake from the garden of Eden is prowling around our teaching area and has married seven women there.
- We missionaries are stealing the power of the Iski land.
- Someone near our teaching area is controlling a dragon.
- One of us missionaries has found a diamond in the river and is going to go sell it in his home country.
Though these accusations may sound like easily dismissible tabloid headlines to a Western reader, to many of the Iski they are well within the realm of possibilities. Especially, it would seem, to the ears of those belonging to a local cult.
We’ve dealt with a few of these cult members before and had concluded amongst ourselves that they were mostly harmless. Completely and totally out of their minds, but mostly harmless. [I had an extended conversation with one of them once, as I was removing some of them from my teammate’s vacant home, wherein it was explained to me, in no uncertain terms, that the cult member WAS my teammate, and that I was mistakenly removing him from HIS house.]
It turns out, our initial conclusion wasn’t entirely accurate. Some of these cult members appear to have accepted these abstract rumors to such an extent that they have directed some considerably troubling threats towards us. Like, “Yeah, we’re going to have to take you to court over that.” sort of threats.
So, though there is a huge receptiveness to the Gospel being clearly taught, there is also a strong opposition movement taking place, actively seeking to tear the outreach down. A few fights have broken out over this stuff lately, and attendance has taken a real hit this last week.
Anyway, to sum things up here:
- Our outreach is going well.
- We would appreciate your prayers for the many aspects of this endeavor.
- Rochelle is kind of bossy.
- I didn’t talk about toilets.
*Rochelle maintains that she expressed this sentiment more delicately, but since she refuses to do any of the writing for our blog, we will just go ahead and stick with my version of the conversation.
**When we did our survey of the Iski people before allocating among them, we noted that, though there were 3 separate religious sects/denominations among them, none of them were teaching a Gospel of grace. Or anything remotely similar.