Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Eureka! No One Is Indispensable

(Day 12 of 15-day Prayer Challenge)

Story by Nita Grainger from

As our vehicle negotiated dirt roads and dried-up riverbeds that led to our destination, red dust swirled around, penetrating our eyes and ears, and leaving our noses dry and bleeding. Somehow, I had forgotten how the harmattan winds blow sand from the ever-encroaching Sahara at this time of year.

Other memories, however, came unbidden. Painful things. Memories of leaving Nigeria 18 years before, struck down by a mysterious illness that left me weak and bed-ridden with fever for weeks.

My husband Peter and I had responded to the need for a Bible translation in the Izere [ee-ZAY-ray] language, spoken by 50,000 people in Nigeria's Plateau State. Local people built us a mud house where we could live, learn the language and lay the foundations for Scripture translation.

After only two years, though, my illness effectively terminated our career overseas. It left me with a profound sense of failure. We both felt we had achieved so little: an alphabet and literacy materials, some grammatical analysis and good relationships with the church and local people. But we had hoped to do so much more.

Last year we had the opportunity to return to Nigeria where Peter, now pastor of a large city centre church in Scotland, was to speak at a spiritual retreat for a group of Bible translators in Nigeria. Peter was keen to return to see how the Izere work had progressed. But me? Well, I had to face those painful memories...

One of the hardest parts of leaving Nigeria was the long wait - five years! - for someone to take over. But the prospect of meeting our successors, Rich and Janice Gardner, had persuaded me to return. We were delighted when they told us they had organized a visit to our old home, and a trip to a remote location to show the JESUS Film in the Izere language.

The dilapidated state of our house and the village, and the news that my faithful, young house helper had died, saddened me. Nevertheless, the warm welcome and affirmation from pastors and friends brought a sense of closure.

Next morning we set out for a village six hours' drive away to show the JESUS Film, stopping en route at many places where people had already seen it. We sensed its impact already when groups of new believers came to greet us. In some villages, half of those watching decided to follow Christ - 700 in one village alone!

Night closed in as we arrived. Our audience was smaller than expected, due to a wedding taking place that night. Still, it was with a sense of joy and praise that we saw 70 respond to the invitation to follow Jesus. They were told about follow-up arrangements (starting at 6.00 a.m. the next morning) where they would be grounded in the basics of the faith. About 20 young and committed Christian men have volunteered to disciple them, cycling from village to village.

With the New Testament translation now well underway, God's Word is becoming available. The people will not only see Jesus as a historical figure, but also walk with Him every day, as their seed of faith is watered and grows.

The church is growing and I can now look back with a deep sense of gratitude that we were able to play a small but foundational part in making it possible. With a sense of awe, I have realized afresh the incredible truth that God chose to communicate the gospel through people, yet none of us is indispensable. God knows where to put each of us.


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