Saturday, July 13, 2024

Go Away!

There were children. Always so many children. Our children are a magnet for other children and so everywhere we go, they follow us giggling, trying to touch their hair, take their hands. The Bible dedication was no different. The group of children grew and grew, watching and commenting on my children's every move until the adults around said, "Go away!" They did, and then slowly crept back to continue their entertainment.

The plenary speaker, Bishop Kwashi (in maroon), greets the chief’s representative (in blue). In the background are many children behind the Yoder children. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf 


Then I (Christy) had an idea! I told them to follow me. I walked with them to a space behind a building and taught thema song in their own language using a Bible verse read poorly by me. They pronounced it well, of course—better than I did—and they learned the song and the dance movements easily. We walked back into the tent and they sat behind me, with purpose now because they were going to perform with me. When they got to talking, I would turn and say, "Shhhh..." and they would because now they had a part to play.


One of the lead boys sings “God’s Word is not chained” in the new Bwatiye translation. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf 

They did perform the song in front of all those people. It was beautiful. They did a lovely job. Two of the boys that were the leaders of the group, received their own transitional primer and Bible. When I handed it to them, the whole group of thirty children gasped. I told them they couldn't keep it to themselves, they had to teach their friends. They nodded solemnly. Please pray that God will call someone to disciple these Bwatiye children and that these two boys will lead the way.

All the children parade around the field singing “God’s Word is not chained” in Bwatiye. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf 

We Can Read Our Language!


Christy dances with women who have waited a long time for this joyous day. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf

The old women who I (Christy) danced back from the river with were effervescent. Their stamina amazed me. The next day, as people left the Bible dedication, I saw four of the women I had danced down the road with, their eyes aglow, waiting to talk with me.

"Did you get it?” I asked them. “Did you get the Bible in Bwatiye?"

"No,” they said, we cannot get it."

I asked them to wait a minute. I stepped away and I bought four Bibles and transition primers to help them learn to read their language. But what if they couldn’t read at all?

"Can you read?" I asked

"Yes! We can read in our language!"

"You read in Bwatiye?"

With big proud smiles on their faces they said, "Yes, we have a reading class every week. We can read our language!" "Well, now you can read the Bible then." They all hugged me and I melted… they were so beautiful and eager. How I delighted in their joy in the Word and how I thank God that I will get to dance with them in eternity!

Please pray that the literacy classes in the Bwatiye language will continue and many will learn to read the Bible for themselves! There is also an audio version of the New Testament. Pray that many will get it and use it!

Friday, July 12, 2024

It has been a century a decade and a year

We land, welcomed by a crowd holding spears. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf

“What would Dr. Brønnum think if he could be here today?” Mike Rueck and I (Zach) sit in a canoe, carried across the swiftly-flowing Benue River towards a crowd celebrating and rejoicing on the other side. The world has changed a lot in 111 years since Dr. Brønnum first crossed from the Royal Niger Company on the North bank to greet the Bacama chief under a tamarind tree. A giant dual-carriage bridge carries traffic into Numan. High-tension power-lines bring in electricity. Numan has become a large town. On the banks are gathered a crowd of people dancing and jubilating with spears—and cell phones to capture the event. I am moved almost to tears of joy in the excitement of the moment—the New Testament has finally arrived for the Bwatiye People in the Bacama (pronounced Bachema) language!

The Bishop thanks God for the Bwatiye New Testament. I doubt there were cell phones and power lines 111 years ago! Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf
As the tour continues we get to see more extremes: so many have come to faith; there are many churches in Numan. The headquarters of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN) has cathedrals, bishops, and large congregations. We enter the first church ever built in Numan, a renovated simple hut-style construction. There is no room for all the people who have gathered to enter, but Mariama and I have the privilege of praying with bishops and pastors in this historic site. We move on to the remains of a larger stone cathedral, only the entry and bell tower still standing. Rev. Caleb, the Bwatiye translator, addresses the growing crowd from the historic pulpit in the empty space where the church building used to be. He beckons Mike and me to join him there. As he speaks to the crowd in the Bacama language, I find it appropriate that he stands in the front, and we stand behind—a symbol of the lead that the Bwatiye people have taken in their project. What would Dr. Brønnum feel if he could stand in this pulpit again today?
Left to Right: Zach, Mariama, Mike Rueck, and Rev Caleb join many others in the first church in Numan. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf

Thursday, July 11, 2024

A Long Walk To the River

The young marching band in their crisp white uniforms and blue sashes walked rhythmically in the lead of the parade. Not far behind, a truck loaded with speakers reverberated the pulsing beat of the Bacema (pronounced Bachema) worship song that declared there is no power greater than God's power. Behind the truck danced the traditional dancers in beaded skin outfits, the men with spears twirling in their hands as they paraded down the street.
Picture: Left to right: Emily Gaddis, Lydia, Acacia, Christy and Mariama join the Bwatiye parade. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf
Left to right: Emily Gaddis, Lydia, Acacia, Christy and Mariama join the Bwatiye parade. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf

(Christy) followed the dancers, holding my little girls’ hands, heading toward the river with hundreds of others. They ushered us to the front of the group where we saw the boats on the other side heading our way, going far upstream so they would land where the crowd waited to welcome the missionaries to their land as the first missionaries had come over one hundred years ago. It had been a long walk to the river, as it has been a long walk to this living water of the Word coming in Bacema. This was the day. Tears filled my eyes as my husband and our colleague Mike arrived, hailed by the traditional warriors, the pastors in their white collars, and the old women who had waited so long.


The Boys Brigade Leads the celebration. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf 

I had seen one of these old women passing an elderly man leaning heavily on his cane. After passing him, she turned to him and enthusiastically hugged him round the neck, something I've never seen before in Nigeria. This day was like no other, and it called for unusual, impulsive joy. The New Testament in Bacema had come for the Bwatiye people.


Translator Rev. Caleb raises the Bacema New Testament for the Bwatiye people. A new Lutheran Cathedral is in the background. Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf

From the river we went to the place where the chief welcomed the first missionaries, the first small round hut that was the church, and the pulpit in a large stone patio that was once the cathedral where those missionaries walked and ministered. At the last stop, one of the translators addressed the crowd: "The missionaries only translated the first four chapters of Mark into our language, and then told us to finish the work. This great work has been finished and now you can hear these sweet words for yourself!" 


The first church in Numan Photo credit: Shadrach Yusuf

We went to bed that night, legs weary from the long walk, yet rejoicing that we witnessed the River of Life flowing in one of the Bwatiye people’s languages, Bacema. Please pray for the Bwatiye people as they learn to read and understand the Words of life in their language.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Collaboration, vulnerabity and trust

From Tuesday through Thursday, leaders of 24 Bible Translation organizations have gathered to discuss how we can work together more intentionally in Nigeria.  I am already seeing answers to prayer in the first morning of these meetings!  We have a collective expression of what we are expecting (or hoping for) and I agree with that: Effective collaboration with a purpose, increasing vulnerability and trust, waiting on and hearing from the Lord and each other, and possibly some very practical organizational bits at the end. Please pray for God to do as he pleases among us!

We are all pleased by how open the conversation has been!


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Becoming: A Chrysalis Journey


Daso and Mariama 2018.

A Space to Become…

That’s what we hope to provide in the retreat this weekend, the 13th-14th of January. We have named it “Becoming: A Chrysalis Journey.” A long time ago, like when this above picture of Mariama and Daso was taken, the second cohort of the “Beautiful Me Program” was underway. It included Daso and me as participants! She was 11. Now she’s 18.  Beautiful Me was started because I saw young girls becoming big girls without having women to support them.  Who better to support them than the women God had given them, their moms (or aunts or older sisters)? So it began. We spent three hours together once a month. It was such a meaningful time together every single time.


The Second Cohort- We learned about guarding our eyes.

A bonding activity putting on eye make up during Beautiful Me 2017

This weekend, we will have a reunion retreat of both of the cohorts from 2016 and 2017. Mothers and their now adult daughters will be coming for a time of renewal.

I know there is a lot that has happened in these last 5-7 years, and we are praying for restoration, healing, and freedom found in the embrace of Christ.

God has brought together an amazing team of small group leaders, counselors, worship leaders, and a dynamic speaker.

Will you be a prayer partner for one of our mother/daughter pairs? 

If yes, please reply to this email and make the subject: Yes, I'll pray! I'll send you their names and some prayer requests.

If you don’t have time to do that, please pray for the retreat now.

Pray that they will know "how wide, how long, how high, and how deep the love of God is." Eph 3:18

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! 


Yoder Family 2022


Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Sitting on the Floor


I had been saving seats next to me in the crowded auditorium when I realized my friends weren’t going to make it.  So I told the usher to allow two of the people outside to come in and take those seats.  Two well dressed women came and sat next to me.  You have to understand, this event of Nine Lessons and Carols at the international school was one of my first experiences here in Jos when I came to visit Zach before we were married.  It’s so precious to me that I just melt into my seat and revel at the lights and the people singing my favorite hymns (even if they do it with the British tunes).  This year each of the readings was even done in a different language! Languages mixed with Christmas?  It was the best!  

During a very touching song, as tears just started to spring into my eyes, the women I’d welcomed into my space started talking.  I gave them a “look,” and turned my rapped attention back to the song being performed.  These women didn’t stop talking!  I mean, my twins were wandering and clamoring on my lap, but they are three years old!  I was indignant.  I shot them another look, and with a loud sigh, I moved and sat heavily on the step in the isle. I felt so justified in my annoyance, balancing on the brim of anger.  But at the next reading, I had to release it. 

“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;

 the leopard will lie down with the baby goat…

Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.

 Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,

    for as the waters fill the sea,

    so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. (Isaiah 11:6;9)

In this culture to have a guest, which is what I am here, sitting on the floor is not really acceptable.  I invited these women to come and sit with me, to enjoy the beauty of that moment together, side by side, but they were distracted and refused, and drove away the guest in their midst to a place of dishonor.  It struck me how unChristlike my response was.Thankfully when he, a visitor in our world, found himself driven away and dishonored by those he’d invited into his own beauty, he loved, moved closer, and then he died for them.  

This season calls me to a new level of not being offended, of loving because Jesus loved me first, taking the humble position of criminal and rejected one in my place.  If the knowledge of the LORD is to fill this place as the waters fill the sea, it will need to start with me!

Go Away!

T here were children. Always so many children. Our children are a magnet for other children and so everywhere we go, they follow us giggling...