Ever ponder the scene in heaven when the gospel penetrates a brand new people group? I still wonder what a peek into the spiritual realm would have revealed that morning in June 2007 when the Inapang people began to hear “God’s Talk.”
The excitement must’ve been building, for we were feeling the ripples of its overflow down in our earthly quarters. Our supporting churches were fasting and praying for us at home. We could almost physically feel their prayers at work. The air in our village that morning was thick, dripping with all things eternal. It was one of those days that you want to etch into your memory lest you forget it.
An Anxious Moment
The sun rose hastily over the Ramu Valley. Our team was a bit nervous and jittery as we thought of what the next hours might bring. We had lived among the Inapang for two and a half years, learned their mother tongue, began literacy classes, translated portions of the Old and New Testament, and completed almost seventy-two lessons (!) that we would use to teach these people the old, old story––from Creation to Christ––for the first time in their own language. The teaching would last four months and this was the very first day.
I don’t think any of us had ever felt our not-enough-ness more distinctly than this particular morning. As I pondered the broad and eternal plan of God that we had been invited to participate in, I truly felt like the tiny piece of human dust that I was. In ages past, the Creator himself had made a plan to seek and save the lost, to engage this very people at this very moment in history and to begin bringing His Inapang children home. How could it be that we were able to be his mouthpieces for this eternal plan?
It was humbling to see us, redeemed sinners, taking part. I also understood clearly that morning what Dorothy Sayers refers to as the “Three Humilities of Christ.” Not only did our Savior humble himself by taking on human flesh and blood, He also died a shameful death in order to pay the sin-debt that we owed. But there’s more. Christ rose again and commissioned every one of His children, i.e., His church, to go make disciples, to baptize, and to teach in His name (Matthew 28:18–20). Really? Not the angels or the mouth of God himself? No. He would commission mere sinful mortals filled with His own Spirit to be the conduits of this life-giving story and to pass it from generation to generation.
A Lingering Fear
Philip Yancey addresses Sayer’s premise in his book Disappointment With God and concludes, “The Bible presents the union of ordinary people with God’s Spirit as the supreme achievement of God’s creation.” The Lord was teaching our family so much through this experience, and we were seeing His power in new ways each day. We each opened up our Bibles and taped a small mustard seed inside. We told the girls that we were expecting great things from our great God over the next four months. What a privilege to be here and watch His gospel spread into another people group for the very first time! We were all truly, truly humbled by our God and His pursuit of mankind that morning.
But all the spiritually-charged moments this realm has to offer still won’t keep our flesh from rearing its ugly head and fearing what we should not fear. And so the internal questioning began. Who would come? How would it go? Would they understand clearly our western dialects as we spoke in Inapang?
We met at our co-workers’ house to pray that God would talk through the mouths of our men to speak clearly and that we (the ladies) would be able to stir up good discussions with the village ladies after the formal teaching times. But, mostly, we begged that His Story, the Lord’s Story, would be heard and understood and believed. We prayed that it would take root in this people group for the glory of God alone. Our daughter prayed her faithful prayer once again that morning, “Please save every single person in this village.” We also prayed that we would not be afraid and that God would once again be our strength.
A Crushed Snake’s Head
After praying, we solemnly filed out of the house to make our way to the trail that led to the meeting house with its little thatched roof near the river down below. As we came to the trailhead a short distance away, one of us spotted something on the ground. Our journal from that morning reminds us how the Lord personally calmed our hearts and dispelled our fears:
As we left our property and hit the trail, we came across a dead snake. The snake had be killed right there in the middle of the path. It hadn’t been whacked to pieces with a machete like they usually do. The one who came across it in the night must’ve had a large walking stick in his hand and so he crushed the snake’s head and left it on the trail.
My husband and I are not sensationalists, so we know what our kindred skeptics might be thinking. But we’re not lying. We stood there as a team, staring at a dead and therefore harmless snake that had its head crushed. Images from Genesis 3 swirled through our minds as we looked at that helpless snake. We all walked by and shivered a bit at the image, but the battle had long been over.
Could there be a more perfect way to begin our first morning talking about the One True God in this unreached village? Can you find a God more gracious, a God who knows exactly how to give comfort to His children right in the moment they need it? His commission is real. His presence is real. He isn’t somewhere in the distance waiting till we get the work done. He was in us and with us, and we knew it.
It almost felt like holy ground as we continued down the trail. Our Great God used the picture before us to strengthen our hearts and remind us that we were His conduits––only conduits. The hearing, the understanding, the believing, He would have to do that work among the Inapang. We were only the mouthpieces. He was asking us, like Moses, to trust him, to open our mouths, to speak truth, and then to wait for His results.