April 2001

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On the front page Mark reflects on our recent ministry of itinerant teaching and preaching among the Kwong. On the back page , Diane offers her first impressions of ministry among Kwong women.

The Fragrance of Christ to those being saved

Itinerant ministry of teaching and preaching among the Kwong villages, Spring 2001

A quarter moon lighted the road as I made my way, alone, lost in thought, and full of gladness along the dusty track from the little thatched church where I had been teaching and preaching during the afternoon back to our camp a mile away at the opposite end of the village of Mobou. I was a very happy, satisfied missionary for quite a number of reasons – I had spoken the language well, I felt like my hearers were tracking with me, and I was doing what I knew I ought to do.  But more than anything - and anyone who could have understood English along that dark path would have heard me pray something to this effect without the least pretension – I was full of joy at having been so demonstrably led by the Spirit of God. If I spoke the language unusually well and (for example) managed to get the direct object where it belongs when there was also an indirect object to contend with (which isn't very easy in Kwong), it was the Spirit's doing. If I was spontaneously putting thoughts together on the fly in unusual ways which captivated even illiterate women, there was no doubt in my mind from whence such innovations arose.

Such has been our joy on numerous occasions these past couple of months as Diane and I have traveled to each of the larger outlying Kwong villages, preached the good news to the chiefs, their notables, and the public in the village squares, and then camped for a few days with the believers, teaching them morning and evening. We regard these trips as the pinnacle of our ministry. All the translation, theologizing, language study, hours in front of the computer, and sweltering afternoons with the translation committee which are our lot the rest of the year come to fruition on these trips when the Word is unleashed from its prison of paper and electronics to penetrate the hearts and minds of real people with real eternal destinies in the balance. A young Kwong chief recently converted to Islam said of the message “These words are delicious. They keep hitting your ears all through the night.”

Such labors are not without their wear and tear on us. Besides the unbearable heat at this time of year and a diet of grease, glue and sugar, we have endured times of discouragement and frustration. Over-confidence and unpreparedness gutted my message before the chief at Gam of whatever impact it might otherwise have had, leaving a chastened and discouraged missionary in its aftermath. Within hours of the joyful walk home with which I opened this letter, I was being "sifted as wheat", wondering for some diabolical reason whether the whole glorious message I was preaching was simply too good to be true and wasn't merely the most magnificent fabrication of history.  On another occasion we were obliged to cancel a trip altogether when Luke, Joseph, and Laurent of the translation committee (who accompany us and do some of the teaching) refused to submit to Old Moses’ verdict in a complicated affair concerning some borrowed grain.

By the time you read this, our trips will be over and we will be back in Chageen in our office while the rains pour down outside making the roads impassable. Pray that the word we have preached would “keep hitting the Kwong people’s ears” until next year. 

For some more of our thoughts on these trips, click here

First impressions:
Diane begins her ministry among Kwong women

Prior to arriving in Chageen together, and much to my consternation, Mark would refer to the Kwong women (politically incorrectly, I must say) as having “just come down out of the trees.” What he intended to say was that he saw them as being uneducated and primitive in much or their thinking and many of their ways. I have endeavored to dispel such notions. After even my first encounters with many of these women I saw them as quite witty and bright, yet never having the chance to be more than baby bearers, cooks, field workers and millet-pounders. School, and thus any real learning, was never an option for most of them, an unfortunate legacy of their upbringing with very challenging ramifications. Now as I attempt to teach literacy and some basic Christian truths I realize what a challenge that upbringing presents.

Just imagine with me for a moment: 20 women between the ages of 25 and 50, who for the most part have never held a pencil – nor crayon or any other writing utensil – now presented with the challenge of copying the letter “m” on the blackboard. It’s like a kindergarten class – sometimes the humps go down instead of up, sometimes they are non-existent or become cones pointing either up or down.  Many, especially the older ones, were totally incapable unless I held their hand and traced the letter for them. The lesson I learned was to begin with simple lines, circles, and curves and slowly work our way up to letters.

  Handicapped by my own language ability, the ladies and I are only beginning to delve into the most basic Biblical discussions; consequently I am only beginning to discover what they know and what they think. Recently while sitting on a grass mat with 4 women, one asked if it was true that we would not work in heaven. “Yes,” I said, “no work, no sickness, no problems, no death…” Another woman said, “You mean our difficulties and troubles are only for this world?” “Yes.” I wanted to say more, to explain that the troubles of this world are a result of man’s rebellion against God and lack of trust and honor of God. The conversation, however, had already moved on and I realized that just knowing a little of what heaven would be like was enough for today. It is with patience that we will slowly impart the rich truths of God’s Word to these bright and witty, yet educationally challenged, women.


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