Friday, July 12, 2013

Preaching in Pinayanga.

After I first arrived in Mozambique, I was having dinner at a missionary-friend’s house and the topic of Simply the Story came up. I was naturally enthusiastic having just come from another training (before I left the States) and I was discussing how it’s used for oral learners.

My friends (and missionaries from Australia), Roger and Amanda, were curious but hesitant to hear about another teaching method. Didn’t Africa have enough of them already?

I insisted it had its place and offered to show them how it worked sometime. Roger, who teaches pastors in the villages, listened but made no indication that he’d be interested.

Nevertheless, part of his pastor training curriculum focuses on various types of teaching methods. So in an effort to teach the pastors a more oral way, he invited me out to teach. Attendance was not mandatory since it was a ‘special feature’ of sorts, but I was thrilled at the opportunity all the same.

When I prayed about which story to share, God led me to the story of Jesus calming the storm and the waves found in Mark 4:35-41.

I prepared by testing it out on a few missionaries at Maforga a few days before, and I prayed.

A lot.

The village in which Roger teaches is called Pinayanga. You might remember that Pinayanga is also the village I visited last year when I discussed the possibility of teaching their girls nurse-midwifery. (You can read that story here and here.)

When the Pinayanga villagers learned that I was coming, they remembered me and were eager to have me come. I suspect most were eager because of medical questions, but, at least for now, they were going to get a STS story instead.

In preparation for the teaching, Roger arranged two translators (one to speak for me, and one to speak to me). I tried to explain to them what it would entail but some of it was lost in translation.

Early Monday morning as we drove to the village, Roger tried to lower my expectations.

-- “I don’t want you to get your hopes up,” he warned. “This group doesn’t participate much.
-- “Oh..?” I said softly then waited, seeing he had more to say.
-- “Yes. I cannot get them to answer any of my questions. They only like to listen and they won’t ask questions. It’s the way they learn in school here,” he continued.
-- “Okay.” I answered slowly, adding optimistically. “But perhaps with this style, it will be different...”
He glanced at me sideways as if to say he knew better. But didn’t say any more.

"Ultimately," I thought to myself. "God would speak to them through this passage or He wouldn’t. How much they answered didn’t matter." So I continued.

-- “If they don’t answer... then the teaching will be very short,” I added matter-of-factly. “Anyway... it’s more the chance to practice and learn, right?”

He nodded in agreement, and we continued to drive in silence.

I, however, continued to pray. I’d seen this teaching method bring crowds alive with discussion and was eager to see how these villagers would respond.

But more than anything, I anticipated good things.

For God is good.

We didn’t have to announce our arrival. The minute our shiny black SUV drove through the main square, people started making their way to the church property. Within a few minutes we had about a dozen women and children, and a spattering of men.

Apparently, most of the pastors had in fact decided to take this day off.

When we walked into the church there was a young girl waiting for us. Sitting slightly slumped on the church bench this girl moaned to herself in pain. Her mother stood behind her propping her up.

It was clear she was burning up with fever.


She’d been this way for two days.

I asked a few quick questions about her status, then we laid hands on her and prayed. Her mother thanked us then placed her on a blanket in the back of the church.

I couldn’t understand why she was not getting any treatment. So I asked.
-- “Isn’t there a health post here?” I asked her mother.
-- “Yes, but the guy who runs it left for the weekend (which was 2 days before). He won’t arrive until this afternoon.”
-- “I see.”
-- “Can’t you buy the medicine in town?” I asked.
They nodded a clear yes, but then didn’t explain why they hadn’t.

Was it from lack of money? I didn’t think so. A few paracetamol are not expensive.

Then why?

I never got my answer.

The young girl moaned and slept while the rest of the learners arrived. And turning my attention for the girl, I happily joined the women all the while testing my new language skills and taking pictures.

They were thrilled to see their faces in the display screen on my camera, but many squinted in blurry disinterest when it came their turn. I couldn’t help but wonder how much sight rested in those clouded windows.

As more women arrived, I was informed they ‘needed’ pictures as well and I happily snapped off a few more shots.

The colors and layers were fascinating.


Not long after, Roger called us in and the story began. My translators struggled at first but quickly picked up on what was expected of them.

The crowd had grown slightly and was then roughly two dozen strong. More men had snuck in towards the back. Plus, a number of breastfeeding mothers had gathered as well, rocking and swaying their babes as they listened.

Telling the story was easy enough. My translator had memorized the story in preparation. But Roger was right, the minute I went to ask them a question... they turned their faces to the floor so I wouldn’t call on them.

However, with time and a little encouragement, the answers started coming. First tentatively, then in full force.

Roger watched in surprise as one after the other stood to answer and throw out his or her ideas. Soon, it became a lively conversation.

There were some cultural snags nonetheless.

For instance, I could not get them to think of how anyone could have done anything different in the situation. (For those familiar with STS, this was the ‘choices’ question.)

Also, when I suggested that anyone could have done something ‘not quite right’, they argued with me saying, “No. They could not have done that. That is not possible.” The only way we found around this was by discussing ‘failure’ to do what was right. Only then did they understand and concede the possibility.

Later, Roger explained that many in church believe that one must never speak of their own failures in public. Instead, one must only speak positively.

I suspect this has something to do with the widely held belief that evil spirits are always listening, and that some things should never be spoken out loud. But that is just a suspicion.

Alas... I have much to learn!

I won’t go on and on. But know that the day was a huge success. At the end when I applied the lessons we had discussed, immediately the group came up with examples of those lessons.

One by one, they stood to testify of how and when they had clearly obeyed God and yet had still had massive spiritual attacks, and how God had gotten them through it by His power and love.

It was amazing!

So. Much. Fun.

(Happy sigh.)

They invited me to come back and teach on a Sunday morning in a few week’s time. This has to be arranged of course, but I’m excited at the possibility. Please pray with me as to when and how this might happen.

Thank you!