"It feels just like we are on a survey." Luther and I had just walked into a primary school compound in a village just outside of Jos. Children were already studying in their classrooms as we crossed the empty field where they would play during break.
I remembered the days when Luther and I would enter a school like this to study the differences between dialects. I quoted the things I used to say to explain the work to the headmaster. "Hello, I am Zachariah and I am from America. We would like to play some stories to the children from nearby dialects to see how well they understand them. We are like John the Baptist preparing the way for Bible translation."
Now Luther is the survey team leader but we haven't come today to survey any languages. We are here to meet Mrs. Grace* and invite her to become a ministry partner.
After introducing himself and sharing a bit about what God is teaching him personally in his own life, Luther asks to hear more about Mrs. Grace. As Mrs Grace shares about her family and ministry, I feel a strange closeness to someone who had been a complete stranger a few minutes before. She shares about her church's missionaries and her desire for her children to be close to God. We have in common a passion for God's mission.
Another day, I sit in an appointment with another colleague, Rev. Peter. We have been visiting lecturers in the University College of Pharmacy. Schedules can sometimes be a bit flexible. This was set to be our first appointment, but now it is our third one.
We are meeting with Ngozi*, an Ibgo, just like Peter. She teases him that his Igbo language doesn't sound right. It has too much of an accent from his mother's Yoruba language.
As Peter presents the different aspects of our work she keeps interrupting with intelligent focused questions. "Are there really 500 languages in Nigeria or just dialects? If people can't read how will they be able to use the Bible translated in their language?"
Peter answers her questions with illustrations and stories that are perfect for this context. Finally he explains our need for ministry partners who will pray faithfully and support financially.
(This is my first post written from my phone.)
*Not their real names.