from ALERT, Telling the Story

Noa’s Ark

By Patti Ediger

It was a long, dusty ride on rutted roads to the church our team was searching for. There, perched on the side of a steep hill was an ark-shaped, bright blue building proudly proclaiming itself to be Noa’s Ark, a church offering the salvation of God in the mountains of southern Mexico.

After a wait, an old blue pickup rumbled in filled with laughing people who jumped out of the truck bed and came to embrace us. They were returning from evangelizing a local community and were bubbling with joy at the experience. We were introduced to the  pastor, taken to his home for  refreshments, then to the small block building that would be our home for the next few days.

I had arrived to church early after hastily pulling a skirt from my suitcase. The women we’d met earlier   all wore hoodies and skirts so I had pulled my hooded sweatshirt over my skirt and thought I was good to go.

Twilight brought work-hardened men and long-skirted women from each of the three roads intersecting at the church yard. The women all draped head coverings over their hair as they entered the church. I kicked myself that the bandana I always carried “just in case custom required it” remained pressed and folded in my bag. Embarrassed, I did the best I could with the hoodie pulled over my head and went inside.

I sat near the back, pressed against the wall on the handmade, time-smoothed pine benches. Women sat on the left, men on the right in the large chapel. As each woman came in her eagle eyes spotted the visitor, head and shoulders above their tiny Mixteco statures, sporting the ridiculous sweatshirt hood. Each woman came to me with a smile and greeted me in the traditional way, with a two-handed handshake, then both hands on my shoulders, saying Dios te bendiga (God bless you).

The women kneeled between the benches then pressed their faces and bodies to the spotless floor in prayer. A muffled sob could be heard from here and there as they poured their hearts out to the Lord. Whispered prayers rustled like soft bird wings until one by one they rose to their seats.

The service began with raucous praise music, tambourine clinking time to the singing. A guitar and some unseen drums nearly shook the Ark with typical Latin enthusiasm and volume. The praise time  is long,  ebbing into soft worship. There are no song books or words projected on a screen. Everyone simply knows all of the verses by heart. The sermon was emphatic and earnest teaching from James, partly Mixteco and partly Spanish.

The Ark was filled for the entire service. Where did all the people come from? The hillsides had been sparsely dotted with small concrete square houses. They must have walked a great distance. Our car was the only one in the church yard. After service contented people drifted into the dark night on the three dusty roads to make their way home, some with sleeping children bound to their backs with traditional black and silver shawls, each slightly differing  pattern representing a different tribe of Mixteco Indians.

After church when we asked if there were Bibles in their language, we were told that people had come to translate years ago, but left after a few days. Others came later, translated a Bible and brought cases to them. However, these sit in a closet in the church with the people unable to read them.

Dawn brought much excitement as we awaited those who would help with translating our scripts, and the pastor who would record Bible stories and the Story of Jesus in his unique language. We had carefully picked up bushels of drying beans from the floor of the room we were to use for recording and hung bags of beans on the wall to soften the sounds. We waited and waited until we noticed people far down the hill harvesting corn. There was our team! They explained that it would rain that night and they must get the harvest in, so off our team went to the field, carrying back bushels of corn on their shoulders to finish drying until the field was cleared.

After taking their goats to pasture we finally started. Recording went smoothly for several days, the pastor and church members suggesting changes in their words as we went. After a final listen by several church members and the pastor, we then made slight corrections. We had the Gospel in their language! We were all exuberant. They expressed how they would use this to evangelize among their own people. They had a useful tool with which to form listening groups and eventually lead people to Jesus.

Scenes like this are happening all over the world as GRN recording teams find language groups with no resources to tell them that Jesus loves them and died to save them. What a privilege to share these Gospel words. Whether Mexico, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, or here in the United States, won’t you pray for open doors to record? Pray that tools like the MapApp will help find languages, that equipment will work well, and that hearts are being prepared to receive the vital message. And that the Lord will call those willing to GO.