Yesterday José António and I went to the small town by car. We were talking about how God always goes before us and prepares people and places before we go and how we should always pray for more laborers. This reminded me that a man contacted my wife last week, having heard about our ministry. He has some land he has developed as a retreat center and wants to make it available for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
José said he knew where the land was and could take me there. It is about 20 minutes outside of the small town. It is near a small village of maybe 100 families. We stopped there and the gate was closed, José rang the bell and a few minutes later an older man named Nascimento came to greet us. I told him who I was and he said he already knew of me, and about my deafness and my ministry. He began to share with me about his desire to see his place used as an evangelist training center and a place to train pastors and gospel workers. I shared with him about our work and we prayed together. This place is an incredible place prepared by God for us to use in the coming year. There are dormitories, eating areas, a chapel, and a large recreation area. It is a work in progress and no one is using it right now. This man built this place like Noah built the ark. Pray that we can fill it's halls with lay pastors and house church leaders and missionaries.
When we arrived in the small town we went immediately to a family that has not been at home during our trips for the last several weeks. I have wanted to begin storying in this home for over a year. The sun was setting and the family was finishing up their home construction work for the day. They invited us in and I introduced my helper. After catching up on the latest news in the family I talked with them about their construction. I then told them the short story of Jesus about the two builders.
Afterwards I asked the man if we could begin to tell him the stories of the Bible each Thursday at 8:00. He said that he'd love it, but he couldn't promise that he would always be home on Thursdays, as he has to go to a small neighboring village sometimes to take care of his mother. I told him that we would come by each week and when he is home we will enter and tell a story, when he isn't we will say a prayer for his mother and his family and return the next week. He said that he could never understand anything he read in the bible and could never understand anything that was read to him from the bible, but that if I told him the bible in stories, he would learn it all and obey it. We will begin next week! (I will call this family, the family by the bus station)
We then went to the families on the hill. After praying for them and reviewing the story of Phillip from two weeks ago, I prepared them for the story of Saul's conversion. This is an odd story that is not often told, unfortunatly. It was my first time telling it. I told it once; they asked me to tell it again. As I began to tell the story a second time, a sister who lives next door entered the house bringing somethings to the kitchen. She tried to hurry out, but somehow the story caught her attention. (She has never participated with us before. She is a very simple woman and very shy)
She stepped one foot out the door and paused, she waited a moment and then stepped back into the house. She listened to the story to the end.
I asked the family if we could do something different today and try to dramatize the story. The head of the family played the part of Saul. My helper was Ananias. The woman who just had a baby was the high priest. Another woman was Saul's companions and Judas (not Iscariot), the simple woman who had come in was Jesus. I began telling the story slowly. As I told about how Saul was threatnening to kill Christians, the man made a fist and an ugly face, then pretended to choke his wife. He went to get documents from the high priest and began to walk to Damascus. I said "Then he saw a bright light and fell to the ground." The new woman smiled and turned on the bedroom light. I coached them through the dialogue and through the rest of the story, including a scene where Ananias baptized Saul. When it was over they all laughed and said that the story really came alive for them and they could understand.
I then reminded them that we must be careful to put into practice all that we learn from the Bible. They said they like the part where Ananias went and put his hands on Saul. I asked them if we could begin to pray for one another like Jesus wants us to. We agreed that each person would pray for another person. My helper prayed for the head of the family (an excessively long and traditional prayer). This man then said. "Oh, I can't pray. I wouldn't know how. I don't know what to say." We told him that prayer is speaking from the heart to God.
He said "Father. Bless my wife. In Jesus name, amen."
His wife then prayed "Father, bless my sister who came here today. Show her your love. Amen."
The new woman began immediately to cry. She cried hard. Tears of joy. No one in her family had ever prayed for her before, not in 40 years. She then tried it for herself, "God bless my niece and her new baby." The whole family broke down in tears. A new experience had gripped them all, and God's Spirit was felt heavily in the whole house.
They agreed to continue pray for one another regularly from now on.