Thursday, June 20, 2019

Team Zobo has arrived!

When Mom and dad Yoder arrived with Kirstin and Naomi on June 11th, there were plans upon plans of all the things that were going to transpire in the few weeks they are in Nigeria.  Now we are almost half way through their stay here, and the many activities are passing as unseemlessly as is to be expected!

That is to say, it's exciting and interesting to have "Team Zobo" here, and that the ministries they are involved in are making impact for the kingdom, so why would we expect them to go as we planned!  God is not to be boxed in or managed like our meetings.  This is His thing, and He is dynamic!

After the first few nights, they were off to stay with some Nigerian colleagues. Each team member reflected differently on their time there.  They got to see praise band rehearsals, traditional dance practices, join other families for meals with lots of new foods, hear testimonies of how the Father has brought them into this work, hold babies, read to their children, and be with them in the normal, mundane activities of life as well!

Some exciting and sweet things that have happened are pictured below.  We are so thankful and overjoyed that they are with us, doing ministry alongside us. 

There are new babies since Kirsti was here three months ago!

Family dinners

Reading to colleagues children at the family dinner

Bikes for our Nigerian colleagues!

Lunch with staff at the office

Mom sharing her experiences of parenting as discipleship

Dad and Zach's first group of riders. So exciting!

Coming back from a ride around the neighborhood.
Please pray for Kirsti and Naomi as they have fun with the kids of our colleagues tomorrow during a kids drama afternoon. Pray for the last group of bikers come, and for the love feast held on Sunday as our final official time of fellowship with our Nigerian colleagues and Team Zobo.  May each of these events express God's love for these brothers and sisters and their children.  May they feel affirmed and encouraged in their calling.  May we all connect well and better understand how we all fit into the body perfectly.  May we have much joy in our Father.  Thank you for praying alongside us!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Safe travels

We often ask you to pray for a safe journey.  Our recent trip to explore telling Bible stories was no exception.  Thank you for praying with us!  We traveled and returned safely.

One of the ways God answered our prayers was through a strong vehicle that easily drove through sandy streambeds.  This wasn't our original plan, but it sure made the trip easier!
 We decided not to ford this river, but took the ferry instead!  By the way, while we were in one village Mariama knocked a tooth loose (before its time!).  Thank God! With no internet access and not knowing which tree to stand under to make a call, Christy pushed it back in.  The people we were with rubbed salt water on it.  The next day we were able to see a dentist and the tooth was fine! (And when we checked online we had done exactly what is advised in such a situation!)
Living in Nigeria, we don't take travel for granted.  We pray and carefully consider each trip we take. There are many unusual risks and dangerous roads so please continue to pray for us and our colleagues as we prayerfully consider each trip.

Not this language or that language

How does he know all of this in so much detail?  We sat in a round thatched shelter in the shade of a few trees. I had just explained the kind of work we were thinking of starting.  Then his colleague arrived and he explained it to him.  “First, you read a story from the Bible.  Then you close the Bible and you tell the story from what you remember.  Then you take the story to the community and ask people about what they understand or what they don’t understand.”  Yes, that is how the process works.

Then he continued “You can also tell traditional stories, or stories to help people with challenges in the community.” I hadn’t said anything about that.  But it is something one of our partners does.    Where did he get all these ideas?

Sure enough, as we continued talking, I found out that this man had been crafting Bible stories in his language with another organization.  Over the next few days we had planned to explore the possibility of living in the language area and crafting stories in this language.  But if someone had already done this work, it sort of made the next few days pointless.  Or did it?
A simple phone call before the trip could have kept this information from being a surprise.  So why hadn’t I prepared?  But I had!

In 2016 I had visited two languages we thought might be good places to start a pilot project.  One of them was quickly ruled out.  We started praying for God to send people to serve in this project.  In 2018, one of them Dee, joined Wycliffe and started looking for ministry partners. Also, another young woman, Bridget, was interested in coming for a exploratory prayer visit.  However, we postponed that visit until she had more time, a brief three-week window in May when she was free.

In preparation for the May trip, I had gone on an exploratory trip Four hundred kilometers and A social gap from that trip).  I asked the field and zonal leaders of our partner organization, as well as those leading Bible translation, and everyone thought it should not be a problem for us to partner with them and work in this language.  However, they said, I should meet the national director.  I had a couple of opportunities to visit the deputy national director and he said I should meet the national director as well.  Well, I got busy with a few other things, and it was already May, before I got around to booking a meeting with the national director.  The only day he was free was Tuesday, the day Bridget would be changing planes in Paris on her way to Nigeria.  When I met with the national director he agreed that Bible stories and Bible translation are important for their mission, but he didn’t think that we should start with the language where I had visited.  He suggested another language, actually a cluster of four related language.  Surprisingly, despite the previous visits, and Bridget on her way in Paris, I had peace accepting this change of direction.  I started imagining a cluster Bible storying project in all four languages, and between budgeting meetings the next three days, I made calls to rearrange our journey.  In fact, because the languages were nearby I didn’t have to change our first three stops.
in January (see
Our first and second stops had been with the zonal director and with an Anglican bishop.  Both embraced our plans, and even started calling other church leaders.  Now here we were on our third stop.  All the remaining stops focused on this one language.  Did it still make sense to go ahead? Clearly it would not be wise to craft a set of Bible stories in a place where someone had already started this work!
Immediately, I felt that we should continue with our travel itinerary.  Sure, we wouldn’t ask as many logistical questions such as which house we might live in.  But we still had a lot to learn from the people we were going to meet.
We asked you to pray for insights and direction.  You can see how God was directing us in the story I just shared.  Here are some of the insights as we continued.  Thank God for these!
  • All over the region there are low literacy levels.
  • There is a great pressure to “educate” the people about God, but not using the Bible.
  • Local Christian leaders see a great need for memorable Bible stories in minority languages so the people can meditate on the truth.
  • Several people working with stories in the region have not been communicating well with each other about resources (such as audio Bible stories) that they could share.
Thank God for giving us these insights in answers to our prayers together!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Answered Prayer - Sweet Fellowship

As Zach walked across the back yard of the Nigerian missionary compound, an older woman stopped him and said, “Thank you for coming.  We didn’t know there were other people following Jesus in other countries!”  In this remote village, there is a new body of Jesus followers.  They have chosen to follow Jesus even though they don’t know that there is a movement all around the world, a global family they are part of. 

The Nigerian missionaries in this village area are humbly and passionately carrying out the call they have on their lives.  Listening to them reflect on Scripture at morning devotions, joining them in their Friday fasting and prayers, playing football, and watching them love those they are called to serve spurred me on.  I cannot count the number of times an old man, or a wrinkled toothless old woman carrying a load on her head would walk by, giving the regular greeting, and one of the missionaries would stop what they were doing, going down to their knees to respectfully return the greeting.

“I could sit with her ALL day!” Bridget made this remark after a conversation with one of the missionary wives.  I sometimes have wondered how the Acts church worshiped together every day and had everything in common, but being with these remarkable individuals I saw how sweet that must have been.

Retelling a story in pairs.

Crossing the big river!

We debriefed at the bottom of this big falls while the girls swam.

We not only had fellowship with these new believers, but I, Christy, found Bridget, who traveled with us, to be a kindred spirit.  She loved me and our children so well, laughing at our corny jokes, playing pretend with Mariama, and holding Lydia when she needed a cuddle.  So much of what I think about during a day stays in my heart, but Bridget was present and happy to hear those thoughts.  Oh, and the joy we felt as we swam in a river near a roaring waterfall and Bridget said she feels God wants her in Nigeria.  We so look forward to having her come back to us.  In the words of Mariama, “Mommy, but Aunty Bridget is part of our family.  When she leaves she won’t be in our family anymore!  We will miss her!”  “Yes,” I explained, as I know I will have to do many times as the years roll by, “But just because someone is far away, doesn’t mean they leave our family!  We will always be family!”  “Oh,ok,” she said understandingly, “but can I go with her? We can all go with her!”
"Let's pretend..." Mariama

Bridget with the Bishop and Mariama
From an inspiring conversation with an Anglican bishop to hearing the testimonies of translators and how their experience of following Jesus in the midst of persecution, this prayer of sweet fellowship was answered in waves upon waves by our good God who sent hospitable brothers and sisters who have run into the faithful arms of Jesus to minister and lift us.  

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Children of the Light

Daso is in Primary 6.  She has spent four years with us, been in 3 different schools, and is becoming such a beautiful young woman.  She is inquisitive, bubbly, and sensitive.  She is growing in her understanding of her Father’s love and learning to love him too.  Tomorrow her class is coming for a Primary 6 retreat at our compound before they all move on to secondary school.  Please pray on themes found in 1 Thes. 5:1-11 with us as we think about what it means to be children of the light, awake and active, building others up. 

Pray that sweet memories will be made, and hearts challenged to step into the Light and allow His warmth to grow, challenge, reveal, and bring freedom!  

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...