Before leaving STT St. Paul’s in Bandung, Indonesia, I left the students some essay questions, which were then translated into Bahasa Indonesia by the Rev. Yopie B. I reproduce them here for our readers’ enjoyment.
(Recommended sources: R. Hays, Reading Backward; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God; R. Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel.)
In 10 pages or less, answer ONE of these questions:
1. Explain how the NT epistles and the book of Revelation identify Jesus as divine while still holding to monotheism.
2. Explain how Jesus Himself and the authors of the four canonical gospels use the Old Testament to make the claim that Jesus is identified with the God of Israel.
3. List and explain five main ways that the OT asserts monotheism and show how the NT used those ways to say that Jesus is included in the identity of Israel’s God.
The Opo area small hunter-gatherer people group; only about 5,000 in the world. Eight years ago, one of our Nuer Anglican deacons, Gordon Roc, stripped off his clothes, and holding them high overhead, waded through the crocodile-infested river, more than a mile wide, separating the Opo from the rest of the world during the rainy season. He spoke to them about Jesus. The Opo were interested, but said to him, “We have just one question; if we become Christian, can we drink coffee?” Gordon was surprised when his reply, “Of course you can drink coffee,” was met with a joyful shout, “Then we will become Christian!!” (A few years earlier, some 7th Day Adventists had visited them and told them that Christians couldn’t drink coffee, to which the Opo replied, “Well then, forget Christianity!”).
The Opo quickly became one of our favorite people groups in the Gambella Region. We especially enjoyed the fresh perspectives on the faith that the Opo portrayed in drama. For example, their dramatic presentation of “I will make you fishers of men”, portrayed a fisherman who, after drawing in the fish with his net, then proceeded to club his fish on the head (which gave an entirely new slant on discipleship making).
The Opo had no written language until about 7 years ago. Now they have Morning Prayer, the Communion Service and part of the New Testament in their own language. On Easter day 2014 the Opo gathered to hear the first reading of their translation of the gospel of Mark – the service that day consisted of a reading of the whole gospel. “Now we know that God speaks our language!”, they said.
Until recently only two Opo women have attended our Mothers’ Union education program, with a third woman recently joining them to represent the 1,000 Opo refugees newly arrived from South Sudan. It was our privilege to join the Opo this year for Christmas, and we were astonished at the change the Mothers’ Union had made in this close knit community. As we entered the village, we noted with delight that several ‘tukals” (the small round mud and stick dwellings) had built little extensions on to their thatched or tarpaulin roofs. They were using these extensions as dish drying racks. Knowing that the introduction of water purification and dish drying racks had decreased by 90 percent the hospital admission rates for infant dehydration from diarrhea, (Africa’s number one killer of small children), the teaching of dish drying racks and water purification became the subject of our first teaching session in the Mothers’ Union education program
Opo Dish Drying Racks!
As we came into the center of the village, we saw 3 jerry cans set up on poles. We had taught the women how to put taps into these easily available jerry cans. It had been the local practice to have one repeatedly refilled but unwashed water pot into which one communal cup was dipped and then passed from person to person (for example, from one person with a cough to the next person who may have diarrhea, etc). Now, clean water was put into the jerry cans, and cups washed in between use.
Opo Clean Water Dispensers
The next morning, to much general amusement, Wendy tried to help prepare Mapo, the traditional meal of maize which is ground by hand on large flat stones; (Hard labour, let me tell you, and all done before anything can be eaten in the morning). The night before, when we had been served Mapo for supper, we noticed that it was different than at previous visits. Now the large round ball of maize meal was bright green instead of white, and also, it tasted much better. In the morning it became clear – the women were adding Moringa leaves as they ground the maize and shaped it onto Mapo.
Malnutrition is a key factor in the unbelievably high rate of infant mortality in the Gambella region. Our community survey had shown that out of an average to 9 to 11 pregnancies per woman, only 2 to 4 children survived to age 5 years. Beans and lentils, which could be grown in other areas in Ethiopia, were, for a number of very good reasons, not readily acceptable to the Nilotic people groups of the Gambella region. Was there a culturally resonant source of nutrition that was available in our area?
Adding Nutrient-rich Moringa
It turned out that Moringa was the answer. Moringa leaves are a wonderful source of vitamin C. And vitamin A. And vitamin E. And vitamin B – niacin, thiamin riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin 12. And Folate, And Iron. And potassium, and calcium, and magnesium and all the essential amino acids (it is in fact a complete protein), as well as containing all the essential fatty acids, and a myriad of trace essential elements and minerals. Here was something that could completely eradicate malnutrition and it was growing wild (and free!) in our area. Plant, shrub and tree leaves had formed a traditional part of the diet of many of our people groups, some using Moringa from time to time without knowing about its tremendous benefits, others never having heard of it. Now our Mothers’ Union have learned how to plant, harvest and cook with Moringa, and were giving away seeds and seedlings in their local area teachings.
Reddish Hair – a sign of Iron Deficiency
The best part about seeing the Opo cooking with Moringa was the appearance of their children. Not one of the Opo children had red hair, (a common sign of iron deficiency in dark skinned people), nor did any of the children have the distended bellies commonly seen with protein malnutrition.
As dictated by hospitality, of course the Opo did not want us to be left alone to sleep in our tents. Of course we would enjoy having the whole noisy community stay with us all night. In the morning, we were again delighted when, stepping out of our tent, we saw a whole forrest of mosquito-net ‘tents”, the nets ingeniously hung between two poles, each having a swinging cross bar for easy access to the mosquito safe interior.
The Opo also proudly showed us their one demonstration ‘safe cooking fire’ that they had constructed after their Mothers’ Union teaching session on burn treatment and prevention. A 70 percent decrease in infant toddler burns has been found in communities that simply put low mud walls on either side of the traditional cooking fires.
Opo’s Mosquito Net Community
Safer Cooking Fires
In the most recent training event, the theme had been empowerment. As the current Mothers’ Union teaching program comes to an end in September of 2016, we are busy planning and discussing how the Mothers’ Union might want to continue to grow and to serve in their communities.
Teaching Empowerment through Story
The training of future clergy and current clergy and lay evangelists at the new St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College in Gambella is moving from the planning stages to reality as we prepare to receive our first year’s students to be enrolled in September of this year. As we write, the second of two English Language Intensives is being held for candidates for admission into theological studies requiring a grasp of written English. Plans for teaching those gifted in ministry who do not have fluency in English is also underway. We are hoping that two of our Opo who have shown great potential both in helping with Bible translation and with Sunday worship and ministry will become part of St Frumentius’ first year class.
Please pray for the Opo with whom we have the privilege of sharing life and of sharing the love of Jesus.
~ Please Pray with us ~
~with thanksgiving for successful heart surgery for Sarah Lual. She is recovering well from this live-saving intervention. Thanks so much for your prayers
Sarah Lual receives a new bible just before she goes to hospital for heart surgery. Thanks to the children of Holy Trinity Classical Christian School, SC for this lovely gift.
~ for 6 year old Wecca – still on the waiting list for his heart surgery. Pray for protection from the irreversible lung damage that could result without speedy intervention
Little Wecca Omot
~ For the new refugees arriving from conflict zones in Bentiu and Malakal
~ for the refugees who have been newly moved from Leitchor to the new Jewi Refugee Camp
~ for St. Frumentius Anglican Theological College: ~ for wisdom in the choice of students accepted into our first year class beginning September 2015 ~ for the timely completion of St Frumentius’ College Chapel ~for the timely construction of faculty housing and classrooms for the college ~ with thanksgiving for our incoming faculty – Rev Jeremiah Muot Paul, and Ms. Karen Salmon ~ For our Dean, Rev Dr Johann Vanderbijl
~ with thanksgiving for visiting teams for their work in teaching, in library cataloging, and in construction
Sunday School Teacher training – we are running from Pharoah’s troops
Many years ago (decades ago) this poem by Langston Hughes moved me. I even needlepointed it on a pillow. (My first and last attempt at needlepointing.) Yesterday, the poem shook itself out of the cobwebs of deep memory and filled my heart once again. You see, I was watching Jose Luis, the construction worker, build a structure outside the back corner of the new cabin we are working on. He was explaining to me what he was doing and how it fit in with the roof structure. I understood the Spanish but not the concept. I don’t have a brain for spacial relations and the angles and the whatevers he was talking about made no sense to me. He was talking as he was building, using no drawings, just his mental image. Then he paused, looked at me and smiled and said, “I would like to be an engineer…but I can’t read.” He worked a bit more, looked up and said, “I want to learn to read.”
I had to leave, to be alone. I found a hidden corner of the building and wept. And prayed. I have known for quite awhile that Jose Luis can’t read. He is 33 and has never been to school. He grew up on the streets, making shoes out of old tires and rope. Begging for food, occasionally being taken in for the night by a kind person. He started working construction at 13. Those of us who have worked with him know him as a fun loving, joyful, patient friend. He has taught countless team members how to make concrete, to lay blocks, to assemble rebar, and other construction tasks foreign to us. He makes us feel capable, helpful, and valued. He joins us for lunch and sings along with Angel as he plays the beautiful Spanish praise songs. He is a brother to us and all leave feeling richly blessed having met him. After all this time, this was the first time he shared his dream. This grand dream, for which he is emminently qualified, is so out of reach. I wept, bent over double, and prayed. Or tried to pray. I was so overcome that I really couldn’t form words.
But here’s the thing. Jose Luis holds fast to his dreams. As he quickly figured out the labor cost for the roof on his calculator (again, I understood the words but not the concept) he explained, “My mother and father did nothing for me but God gave me a good mind. He raised me.” Fighting back tears, I smiled and agreed that he is very intelligent. That dream…so inaccessible…
Or is it? How can I forget that our God is a great God? Later that day I was talking to Arely, the director, about plans for the following week. I don’t know why but I told her about my conversation with Jose Luis, crying once again. Her eyes brightened, “Oh! Julio has been doing a project for school teaching people how to read! We can extend the project and have him teach Jose Luis!”Honestly, can you think of a better person to teach Jose Luis (or anyone) to read? One of the current team members, a teenager here for the first time observed that perhaps God brought Julio to SBV for a reason, for a special purpose. Yes, indeed.
I don’t know what will happen but I will do all I can to support this effort. Most of all, I join Jose Luis in holding fast to his dream and share his trust in the God who raised him to be the man he is.
“I want to play with the kids but I don’t speak Spanish.”
“I am so frustrated by the language barrier.”
“I don’t know how I can contribute since I don’t speak the language.”
This is how the beginning of mission weeks often begin. The team members are flustered by the cultural differences here and almost paralyzed by their inability to speak Spanish. Some brave souls leap right in and give it a shot. Some try to bridge the language gap by speaking English with a Spanish accent! “Ay ned a hammair.” Others hang back, watching, longing to participate.
But then, poco a poco, things change. Soon I hear this:
“He needs a balde of concreto”
“Te quiero” “We were communicating! I don’t know how but we were!”
and lots of laughter…and I see this:
and I hear this:
By the end of the week, the barriers are gone. The team members still don’t speak Spanish and the Hondurans still don’t speak English. Instead, they all speak the same language – the language of the heart. We are hermanos y hermanas, united in our love for the Risen Lord.