Wednesday, May 31, 2017


If there is one thing that living in West Africa has taught me, it's that family in God's eyes is so much more than what we learned about extended and nuclear families in anthropology 101. The bonds that hold people to each other are as diverse as the shades of brown that make this colorful creation of family so special.
We are preparing to go on furlough. Preparing for a tearing that we know God has already covered in his grace.  With this knowledge, we live our days building memories, scrapbooking ones we've had, and training ourselves for a time apart.  Daso will be returning to her family two weeks after we return to the United States.  She will stay with her "aunties" Nnena and Mary Jane who brighten our days and will love her well at the beginning of the 6-month separation.

We (Mari, Daso, and I) will be making a journey to her hometown to see schools, and pray God provides just the right place for her, giving me discernment to know it when we find it! My hope is also to find a mentor for her as an outside person to listen and pray with her.  Thank you for holding us all up before the Father who loves each of us and goes ahead of us.

Family Picture from left to right: Mary Jane, Christy, Mariama, Daso, Zach, Nnena


Working through the process with Nnena to choreograph a dance drama rekindled the vision of why Beautiful Me started.  It’s about healing and wholeness. As we created the soundtrack, finding the right traditional African rhythm to match each character and their role in the life of the main dancer (Nnena), I saw and felt the violence, the pain, the healing.  Tears many times blurred my screen as I visualized the abusive “uncle” next door, the angry, accusing mother (danced by me), the lies girls tell themselves about their bodies.  Then I got to enter, as the guy who our torn and tattered girl comes to love and loves her. We broke out from traditional African dance to Salsa, romantic and joyful…until she shows me her “heart” (represented by a white flower whose petals had been removed by abusers in her life).  I refused it…I walked away… only to return, bring her to her knees before God, help hold her up, and participate in her healing.
It is my longing for every woman who has been battered to have people in their lives who will help them come to restoration in Christ.  It’s my deepest desire that the mothers who came on Saturday and witnessed this dance and a number of other skits and activities, would start a journey to healing and guarding their girls.  We discussed how we guard each other’s hearts, how the heart and body are connected, and brought into the light issues of sexual and physical abuse.
Please pray for these mother’s and daughters as they continue to reflect on these things.  Based on the activity of declaring before each other “what I will do to guard my daughter’s heart” it was clear that some messages were not understood.  I am pleading before the Lord to open eyes, and make soft what has been hardened by years of pain and lies.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The big day--Our colleagues' first appointments!

Monday, May 29
Hubert preparing his photo album
Today some of our eleven new Nigerian missionaries went for their first appointments to meet potential ministry partners.  Thank God for encouraging first appointments, and for lessons learned.  Hubert, the new missionary colleague that I (Zach) went with did an excellent job of presenting and answering questions.  Praise God!

We will continue to go daily for these appointments from Wednesday this week, through June 20. Please pray that they learn what God wants them to learn. Please pray their appointments hold. Please pray that the people we meet see our coming as an opportunity to invest in things that last for eternity. Finally, please pray that some of these relationships will last for many years as the Nigerians we meet today join our Nigerian colleagues in ministry both through finances and in faithful prayer.

Friday, May 26, 2017

First appointments today and tomorrow... and a special program on Saturday

May 25-26:  Today and tomorrow each of the four coaches (including Zach) will go for our first appointments with potential ministry partners along with our small groups of new missionaries. Please pray that the sixteen appointments (four each) will hold and that God teaches us what he wants to through these appointments. Thank God for each of the people who agreed to meet with us.  Please pray that our visit is a blessing to them.

May 27: On Saturday, Christy and four other women will host the "Beautiful Me" program for mothers and daughters. Thank God for the faithfulness of some of the mothers to come and fully participate. Please pray that all the mothers prioritize coming with their daughters. Please pray for good understanding as they talk about purity--mind, body, and spirit.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Well, I am not too sure..."

"Actually, I will not be in Jos on Thursday."

 I was on my first call with a potential ministry partner (Jay*) and was trying to schedule an appointment for Thursday or Friday this week.  I have sat for hours observing my colleagues make these kinds of calls May 2015, but I had never had the opportunity to make this kind of call myself.

 "Would you be available on Friday at 1pm?"  I asked.

 "Sure, I think that would be okay," Jay* replied. Could it be possible I would make my first appointment on my first call, on the first call I ever made?

 "Thank you!  Where would it be convenient for us to meet?"

 "Well, why don't you call me that day and we can see where we can meet." 

With this response, I began to doubt the commitment of the potential ministry partner to be able to meet on Friday.  I was planning to go along with my small group of new Nigerian missionaries, and I knew that this appointment was key to their training, and didn't want us to be disappointed. So, I skipped a step and went on to read the next part of the "blurb" that guided me in the call.  "Jay*, I will be coming to this appointment with a few other missionaries.  They have a tight schedule and can be available only at certain times..."  then I asked "Are you sure you will be able to meet at that time?"

"Well, I am not too sure of when I will return to Jos," Jay* replied.  Relieved, I arranged to call him back later when he was more sure of his schedule.

Several minutes later, I still did not have a single appointment.  Some numbers rang, but no one answered.  Some numbers didn't even ring!  I had exhausted all of my contacts near to the office.
I wasn't discouraged though, I had set my goal to call four numbers of people near to the office and also four numbers of people who live on the road to the village where Christy used to work, just forty minutes outside of Jos.  I picked up the phone and kept calling. "Hello  Markus*?  My name is Zachariah Yoder, a Bible translation missionary, and a friend of yours, Kevin*, suggested that I call you.  Could we talk for a few minutes?"

In a few more minutes I had set two appointments.  One man was a gentle elder, and the other a young seminary student.  Both seemed interested in meeting and described to me exactly how I can find them on Thursday.  I was bouncing with joy as I came out of the office.  Can you join me in thanking God for these appointments?

On Thursday I will go along with Malgwi and Hubert, the Missionaries who are part of my small group of trainees.  I will explain to the elder and later to the young seminary student about the great need for language development and Bible translation in Nigeria, how the Lord is using us to help meet that need, and what they can do to help.  I will explain how they can become ministry partners both financially and through prayer.   

Can you join us in praying that both of these appointments will hold, that both the elder and the seminary student will value and accept the opportunity to becoming Ministry partners?  Will you pray that this will be a long term relationship with the Ministry partners in together seeing God's Word spread through all of Nigeria?  Finally, can you please pray that each of us (including me) learns what God wants to teach us through this process?

* Note: I am using fictional names for the people I called.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Discipleship Ministry Partner Development (DMPD) Starts today

May 22 is here.  The marathon has begun.
Today we gathered with eleven new SIL Nigeria staff, Nigerians coming from the north, the south and everywhere in between.   Over the past six weeks, I have enjoyed hearing their testimonies of God's calling and their insightful questions that reveal their shared passion for Bible translation.  God has answered your prayers and has called and sent us new people to join us in the harvest!

We have gathered together with the intention of meeting from 6:50am to 9:30pm Monday to Friday for a month (the last day is June 21).  Why are we gathered?  We are training these twelve new staff how to meet with potential Nigerian ministry partners.  We will train them practically how to explain the great need for language development and Bible translation in Nigeria, what SIL Nigeria is doing to help meet that need, and what the potential ministry partners can do to help.  Our new staff will sit with Nigerian bankers, bakers, teachers, lawyers, elders, shopkeepers, women with small market stalls and owners of large successful businesses.  They will explain with each person how they can become a ministry partner with SIL through prayers and financial support.

The first ten days (May 22-31) are the most intense.  It is a bit like a space shuttle going into orbit.  We expend the most energy without going very far in these ten days, but this is what will help us break away from the "gravity" of the earth (our old habits and attitudes).

Please pray with us!
  • Thank God for each of the new staff!  He has answered our prayer and called and sent them!
  • Thank God that each of these staff already have contact information for forty people in Jos!
  • Pray for continued energy and wisdom especially if our energy goes down.
  • Pray for continued health (last time we did this I had malaria for five weeks afterwards... I don't want a repeat! See In my weakness and Getting stronger)
  • Pray for the Nigerians we will meet, that they will recognize the opportunity to invest in "treasures in Heaven" and become ministry partners.
  • Pray for the new SIL Nigeria staff that they will remain optimistic and learn exactly what God wants to teach them each day about himself. (You can pray this for me, too!)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Seven languages at once!?

Listening to audio Scriptures while we prepare for the workshop
[This post was supposed to have gone up on Wednesday 10 May.]
"Okay.  So we have followed up with about twelve languages, and none of them seem interested in doing a Scripture listening and reading group?"  I said, knowing that our new teammate, Helen will need to gain experience in leading this training which helps people learn how to lead small group Audio Bible studies.  Yet, each time we have a meeting to follow up on which languages are interested, it seems no language is ready.  Christy and I are planning to leave Nigeria early in July, and May is our last opportunity to show Helen how to lead this kind of training.  Again we pray about it, and move on.
Then, less than two weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a village looking at a text message on my phone.  "Thanks for the reply on the workshop.  When can we meet to plan?"  Oh, yes Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) had wanted us to help them put on "a Scripture Engagement workshop".  They had never done one before.  This was just the opportunity we needed!

The next day, back in Jos, we sat discussing our plans.  It was easy to get caught up in the details and miss the significance of this moment.  How long have we longed for an opportunity to teach people in a CAPRO field how they can use Scriptures in their language?  Here we sit, at the initiative of CAPRO, planning to help not one language, but seven languages at once!

Today we start phase two of the workshop.  The fellowship in prayer and discussion in phase one was amazing. Thank God for his grace as we having putting together a lot of details at the last minute.  Thank God for this special opportunity for Helen and Princeton (two new people on our team) to work with CAPRO and learn about Scripture listening and reading groups. Please pray that each of the 24 participants go back equipped and inspired to use their languages to reach their people.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Refuge 139

In Cameroon...
I looked over the list and counted.  I was about to make small groups of the fourth to sixth graders that were in my class for the two weeks of Refuge 139 (A program developed to minister to missionary kids).  I wanted to make small groups of boys and girls so we could go deep.  “Oh, my” I thought to myself, “that poor little girl,” as I realized that only 1 of the 12 children was a girl. “Oh, my,” my mind quickly turned to my own welfare, “poor me!”  I remembered spiritual conversations I had tried to have with other young boys this age, and realized that the curriculum, crafts, and discussion was going to need adjustments.
The second day, watching each of them as “squires” and “maidens” sincerely make their pledge solemnly to their KING, Jesus Christ, and kneel before the class “king” to be dubbed knights and ladies in the “Order of the Eagle” humbled me. I found myself confessing to God that I had been wrong about his children.  Not only were they sensitive to Him and his word, attentive and ready to discuss hard topics, and great at listening to each other, but they were also up for any activity that was presented to them!  We danced, we painted, we played, we prayed, we meditated, we grew together.  I truly loved these MK’s (and the two other girls that joined the group unexpectedly on the first day), and wish we’d had more time together (not sure if they can say the same).  

I went to Cameroon with a desire to love, bless, and disciple children.  I returned having been loved and blessed by these MK’s and the missionary community.  I returned with a renewed desire to love the MK’s around me, and my own MK’s who are a vital part of their parents’ ministry, called by God to this country for a specific work. 
Thank you for praying with us for this journey.

Oh, as for the team that I worked with, there were 6 of us.  We were chosen for that time, and each uniquely gifted to contribute to the total success of the Cameroon Refuge 139 program for 2017.  If you are interested in being part of a Refuge 139 team going to one of the many parts of the world where Wycliffe missionaries are working, please click here to go to the Refuge 139 website.  You’ll come back praising God in new and dynamic ways! 


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...