Monday, November 11, 2013

Borrowed Bible

“What are the three most important activities people in your congregation do that help them gain knowledge of the Bible and grow spiritually?”  I ask the question slowly and clearly, because I know it is a long one.  It is the sixth time I have asked this question today (not counting restating in other words to make it clearer) with the sixth church leader.  I sit on his neighbor’s tiled porch with a small group of women and youth from his church who are listening to our interview.   Among the three things he lists are the Wednesday Bible studies.  This has been a very common response, far more common that the Sunday morning preaching. 

“What languages do you use in your Bible studies?”  I ask.

“Only Ekajuk,”  the deacon answers.  “We don’t usually have as many strangers [that is outsiders] in our Bible studies.”  Although Bible studies are typically not attended as well, I have begun to believe that this is probably one of the most important times for a church to be using the local language.

“Has hearing or reading Scripture cause you to change the way you live your life?”  I ask.  Before coming to the Ekajuk land, we were given the impression that the Ekajuk people may not see the relevance of Scriptures to their lives.  However, the deacon and several members present shared how their lives had been changed by reading the Bible.  One man said he once was “a smoker and lived a useless life”  (here smoking is often strongly associated with a sinful lifestyle) and a woman shared how she used to “curse people anyhow”, but now “I worship my Lord.”  Seeing the joyful smiles on their faces as they shared their testimonies, I couldn’t help but believe these were sincere testimonies of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Later on in the interview I learned that no one in the church actually has a copy of the Ekajuk New Testament, and no one knew where to buy one.  However, there are two people in their church who have learned to read the Bible well despite this. They actually borrow the copy that they are using in their Bible studies.  They must normally use English Bibles, because they say they only borrow the Ekajuk Bible about once every month or two.   I shared with them that a pastor I had interviewed earlier that day sells copies of the New Testament.  I told them how much it cost, and that he only had two copies left, but should be getting more soon.

Please join me in thanking God that these people are reading his Word and being transformed by it.  Ask him to provide a way for them to get several copies of the Bible in their own language.

I wonder what languages will be in the service

The first edition of the
Ekajuk New Testament (1970s)

“I guess I am not late,” I think as I enter the empty church.  I quickly take in my surroundings, typical of village churches I have been in before.  Two girls are at the front of the church decorating the altar and pulpit with green and white fabric, the colors of Nigeria’s national flag.  The building was fairly large for a village church, probably big enough to hold about 200 people.  It was incomplete, built of unpainted sand and cement blocks with open windows and a corrugated metal roof. The wooden pews in the first several rows are simply constructed with a seat and back, but also include a wooden plank in front of each to kneel on.  Further back, the pews are simple benches, each constructed of a plank of wood set on cinder blocks or stones, but still having an extra small wooden plank to kneel on.
I have come to attend the mass in the Catholic church in Winnimba, a small village in Cross River State, Nigeria.  My three colleagues each have gone to other churches to observe the use of Scriptures in other churches as well.  In Jos, the city where we are based, sometimes the first Sunday morning mass starts at 6am.  We thought we might be late arriving at seven in the morning, but it was quickly apparent we weren't.
As I approach the girls in the front, I notice that they are speaking in Ekajuk, the local language.  I ask them in English when the mass will start, and they tell me eight o’clock.  With an hour to spare I sit on one of the low benches in the back and continue to observe.  I write a text to Christy.  It ends with “Young girls r sweeping and decorating all speaking Ekajuk.  Wonder what lgs will b in service.Z”
Frankly, I was not expecting much.  We just finished a survey in another language area where people spoke the local language with each other, but only used Hausa, a language of wider communication, in the service.  We had observed this lack of local language use in about 14 churches, and I was feeling a bit discouraged.
The second edition of the
Ekajuk New Testament (2012)
Around seven-thirty about five older men and women entered and sat in the pews on the front right side of the church.  They began a call and response of prayers in the Ekajuk language.  I wasn’t surprised when I heard the word “Mary” repeated again and again, and recalled the first time I attended a mid-week mass in Cameroon about seven years ago.  There the mass had also been in the local language, Wimbum.  Although the repetition of the prayer would make it easy for me to join in, I didn’t like the idea of praying to Mary asking her to pray on my behalf.   They came to the part of the rosary that I thought was probably “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy,” so I tried to mimic and join in, meaning it with all my heart.  By now there were about ten people who had joined.
After the rosary, most people left for a little while, before the main mass started.  It began with a procession from the back led by a young man carrying a crucifix and two young men carrying lit candles shielded by their hands.  Later I was told that the catechist had been called to go to another church, so the young man leading the procession was the “auxiliary catechist” standing in on his behalf.  I have seen all of this in churches in America before, so what struck me the most wasn’t the fine green and white robes the young men were wearing, or the way they lit candles on the altar.  What struck me was that everyone was singing in Ekajuk.
I continued to be surprised as the all the singing, liturgy and announcements continued to be in Ekajuk.  Then one of the young men read a passage from the Old Testament.  I knew that this had to be read in English, because there is no Old Testament in Ekajuk yet, they only have the New Testament.  Likewise the Psalm with its response had to be in Ekajuk.   But the Epistle and Gospel readings both came from the Ekajuk New Testament.  I looked around and noticed that a few people had come with both an English Bible and the thin red Ekajuk New Testament.  For a village church, where it may be typical for only a few people to own a copy of the Bible, this was quite impressive.  
When the young man got up to preach, he went back and forth from Ekajuk to English.  I got the impression that he wasn’t really saying exactly the same thing in both languages, but that he was preaching on basically the same themes.
Towards the end of the service some of the liturgy was in English, but overall I came away surprised, encouraged and impressed.  There was little chance that these people could have known I was coming and adjusted their service just for me.  We told no one which villages and churches we would worship in.  Later I met the catechist of the church, who happens to be a part of the Old Testament translation team.  Although this means some of what I saw may not be typical of other churches, since he wasn’t even around, I had to assume that what I saw that day was what they normally did.
Over the next five days, I attended morning mass in three Catholic churches and interviewed catechists, pastors, elders and deacons in about twenty churches of all denominations.  Although for various reasons I saw that sometimes the readings were in English rather than Ekajuk I was amazed at how consistently the Catholic church used the Ekajuk language.  It was apparent that they hadn’t just started using it recently either.  Even before the second edition of the New Testament came out, they had a few of the scarce copies of the first edition, and a service book including hymns, liturgy and the rosary in Ekajuk.
This catechist shares his Ekajuk New Testament
with several Sunday morning readers in his church
“I have really seen why survey is necessary,” I say again and again to my colleagues as we approach the end of the fieldwork.  “If someone had asked me about Scripture use in Ekajuk prior the fieldwork, from my impressions based on several conversations in Jos, I would have said exactly the opposite of what we observed.”  I thought because the first edition of the Ekajuk New Testament was hard to find and the second edition only came out last year, that few churches would be using it.  Although several church leaders didn’t even know where to get a copy, every single Catholic church we interviewed had at least one and was using it.  I’ll tell others stories from the fieldwork in other blog posts.

A Multiplier or Diminisher?

I was challenged at the Global Leadership Summit gathering that was held last week (November 5th-6th) where some of my colleagues found ourselves seated for two days with Nigerian leaders from multiple backgrounds and ministries.
One of the most challenging talks for me was on being a multiplier. They said that Jesus was our perfect example of this kind of leader. You see who is around you, right under your nose, those leaders that God has already chosen and placed in your midst. And you don’t try to multiply yourself in them by sharing YOUR visions and YOUR dreams, but you help them to multiply…building on their abilities, giftings, and capacities! Having them dream and innovate.
One mistake the speaker said leaders make is that they are either the “idea man” or the “energetic one” and no one else gets ideas in or can keep up! Oooops! I was convicted of not listening enough or drawing out of those around me what they think. God forgive me for diminishing with my need to share all of my ideas.
Good example: Jesus. Found 12 “uneducated, ordinary men” and began a movement, a gathering of people that the “gates of hell can not stand against!” How? He lived, ate, spoke publically, and did everyday life with them. He challenged them to heal, minister, pray, and live beyond what they thought they were capable of doing, for nothing is impossible with God. He saw in them what they couldn't see for themselves.
My application: God has placed Jeje as the literacy coordinator over the Kuce Language Project. My job? To call out all what God has already put into him, do my best to grow it, and leave it to God! I take so much on myself, but it’s not up to me to make the Kuce literacy project thrive! How prideful of me to have ever thought it was! It’s up to God…100%! Wow, that is so freeing. Freeing to trust God, and to trust what God can do in Jeje and the other 11 teachers who’ve been trained to teach in their mother tongue.

Where did I start? The teacher trainers gathered in my office, and each of them received a piece of paper that had their name at the top. They were instructed to write one of their strengths as a teacher at the top. They all looked at me, and then one said, “It would be easier to write my weaknesses, I know those.” After they wrote one for themselves, they handed around the papers so the others could write on their papers. When they got them back I asked, “What surprises you on your paper?” The three that shared said the strength and then followed it up with, “But it’s not true.” I got the privilege to tell them, “It is true…if they saw it, it’s true, and now you just need to believe the truth about yourself.” What a powerful experience for me to witness them starting to acknowledge what God has placed in them to empower them to do this very challenging task of training other teachers to teach Kuce.

Dreaming Together

“We are going to dream together,” was how I started the meeting with my five Kuce literacy teacher trainers. These are five bright, motivated, and determined individuals who I’m training to be teacher trainers. They wrote their dreams on paper before we wrote them on the board. What I heard and saw moved me deeply. Their dreams are bigger than mine, as it should be. I thought my hopes were big, but to see it in their words, and to pray over them together gave me a longing to pray more earnestly for them. With dreams this big, the enemy must go on the defensive, and our God must rise as our Protector! I pray God would guard these dreams in their hearts, and that the impossible might become reality!

In case you can’t read them: For Bace to know and understand God’s love for them and worship him freely in Kuce. For Ce people to read. To achieve the goal of literacy in Kiceland. That this generation and the next will appreciate God for being Bace. Identify the lost glory and potention of Bace. Kuce taught at home and in schools. To see every village having a trained Kuce literacy teacher. To improve my ability and help my friends. To have God’s message of salvation translated into Kuce.

Caterpillar Attack!

Zach was on survey. The doors were locked, the curtains pulled. I tucked in the mosquito net, one more little measure of security before I slept. With my battery charged lamp on my stomach, I lay down thinking about the day . That’s when I saw it. Crawling hairily and happily up the far end of the inside of my mosquito net was a fuzzy caterpillar. I sat up startled, and watched it befuddled as to how I was going to expect my mosquito net to keep out blood sucking mosquitoes when a humungo, stingy caterpillar could just crawl in at his own will! The fur=sting, and it burns for a LONG time. I wonder how many of us have a security breach in our lives because we think we’ve evil proofed our lives, and yet we are letting life-sucking critters into our hearts and minds. The children’s choir, Dutse Mai Rai, sang “Whatever is true,” a song taken from Phillipians 4:8, this Sunday in church. It’s like God’s holy bug net, a God given filter for our lives to protect us, not restrict us, that we mighty shine brightly and live more freely!

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” – Phil. 4:8

A Proverb Moment

You know verses like "A rebuke from a friend..." in Proverbs? While Zach hung one of my dresses over a hanger, he commented on how big it was. I jokingly said: “Are you saying I’m fat?” “That is a very bizaare jump of the mind,” he quickly shot back looking at me incredulously. I couldn't control my laughter. He's a Proverbial friend! If only every husband responded to such ridiculous insecurities with matter of fact, truth shining, I think we women wouldn’t take ourselves so seriously and we’d have more fun just being the beautiful women God made us to be.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Malaria and More

God always has much, much more for us than we can ask or imagine. Malaria is one thing, but God had more. Here’s a poem to my husband so you can share with us in the experience. God always has much, much more for us than we can ask or imagine. Malaria is one thing, but God had more. Here’s a poem to my husband so you can share with us in the experience.

Tuesday night you feel tired, weak, you say,
“God may he feel better in the morning,” we pray.
Wednesday comes, I make my Plateau soup,
For the hardworking, editing, teacher group.
A still voice speaks, reminding of a promise made,
Fighting pride, indignant, begrudgingly I stayed.
Thursday, Friday, aching, feverish, weak you,
I serve, change sheets, wash by hand, if only I knew.
That in feeling your trembling all night by my side,
I’d be freer loving you, as I lay down my pride.
You didn’t seem to be healing, I feared, and I prayed,
We read books to distract, soup and lemonade was made.
Loneliness crept in, I wanted you to give back,
But that’s not the promise I made to you, Zach.
What a wonder, something the world just can’t know,
How in trials, struggle, deep trust, the joy will grow!
Saturday, Sunday, you were on the mend,
Night tremors remained, you to the lab we did send.
A different sickness on Monday, God what to do?
He’s so good to us, for he’s making us new.
Tuesday, Wednesday, to the office for part days,
Malaria had done the trick, a miracle of God’s ways.
My love was rekindled, refocused, renewed,
In weakness God showed, bread’s not the only food.
He’s feeding our hearts with pain and healing,
He’s replacing what the Devil is breaking and stealing.
Thank God for malaria, for lessons learned,
For in those times, a fragrant offering is burned.

Collaboration, vulnerabity and trust

From Tuesday through Thursday, leaders of 24 Bible Translation organizations have gathered to discuss how we can work together more intenti...