By Todd Owen
Of all the things I enjoy about living in a jungle village, perhaps the most selfish (childish?) is wearing all those worn out, yet extremely comfy t-shirts. These faded icons of a bygone era have built-in ventilation (holes), are stain resistant (I keep spilling food in the same spots–it’s hard to stain a stain), and are pre-conditioned (soft).
As much as I enjoy wearing those old rags, they serve a more godly purpose than my comfort. They are Ebenezers (which means, “Thus far the Lord has helped us”; see 1 Samuel 7:12): reminders of the well-worn prayers still prayed after many years. One of those tattered prayers is that God would raise up Somau Garia Christians to evangelize their people, preach, intercede, teach, even carry the gospel beyond Somau Garia borders as missionaries.
A few months ago my family and I were sitting in the open-sided church in Uria Village. Danny, a thirty-something friend we’d known since he was a boy, had just finished preaching and a small group of us were sitting on limbum benches, swapping stories, sharing a few laughs. Danny is one of those charming guys every society knows, a reformed rascal now living for something (or Someone) greater. Our conversation meandered here and there, finally settling on the topic of prayer.
“We are building a prayer tower outside of the village where any believer can be alone with God and pray for our people.” He pointed up the mountain to a garden overlooking the entire village area. “There we can watch and pray.”
There was a tingling in my stomach, goose-bumps on my arms. This was a holy moment–an Ebenezer moment–God reminding us of his endless love and enduring faithfulness.
Danny continued, “It is hard to know how to preach in our own language when we are only trained in broken English and Pidgin” (the languages of wider communication). “We need to be able to preach in our own language.” Most Somau Garia people speak two or three or four languages, but Somau Garia speaks to their heart.
We talked on for another hour, dreaming about how to use mother-tongue Bible portions to train church leaders, to equip praying believers (intercessors), to strengthen the faith of even the weakest of believers. We planned Bible survey courses, preaching courses, leadership courses–all built upon the promise of having Scriptures available in the mother tongue.
Thank God for these moments, these conversations. It is all too easy to become discouraged when answers tarry for decades. If we don’t pay attention to the Ebenezers that God places between the waypoints of our lives, we might be tempted to give up. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58, NIV1984)
God has been working diligently during these twenty years of praying. Breakthrough is beginning. In April we are holding the first three workshops in answer to the expressed desire to make God’s word, in the mother tongue, a useful tool for transformation in the daily life of Somau Garia believers. The Somau Garia only have the Gospel According to Mark in their heart language. Pray that God will ignite the hearts of young Somau Garia people, that they will give themselves to the work of translation, evangelism, and discipleship.
Todd serves as a Bible translator in the Somau Garia language area.