We just finished up our newsletter last night and we put in there a line about checking our blog for more updates...
This means I need to be updating on a more regular basis!
One of the things we both really wanted to write more about was the Bible studies we are doing with the men and women of our community.
Colin is working through Acts and I have been working on James with the ladies.
We are on our 8th week (the next time we get together) and it is a slow process. I like going slow though. We have found that the men's study is VERY different from the ladies. Most all of the men can speak fair English so there is no need to translate. However, my ladies struggle with understanding English so we translate most everything. My friend (Margaret) that translates for me thinks it is a blessing to be able to translate from English to Ateso because she wants to learn to do a better job of translating so she can better help and lead in church. I am thankful for her.
Another difference is that the ladies have had a lot less teaching/training on the Bible, period. They understand the whole of the Bible and what it means, who Jesus is, and what He did but aside from that there is much lacking. I have found that every time we get together we are going over the same issues -loosing salvation, works based salvation, and legalism. It makes me think that for years behavior modification is the only thing the church here has been preaching and teaching. Which in turn doesn't make for a great relationship with Christ. It instead manufactures a sense of hopelessness. It sends the message that if you don't play be the rules of the "club" you are out. So we have (more than once) gone over that The Church, Christianity, is not a club. It is a family. And families love you and you don't just get kicked out if you forget to pay your dues each month or misuse the equipment. We're getting there though.
We started the book of James with a history lesson. I asked them if they knew who wrote the book of James and I was met with blank stares and downcast eyes. So we went back into the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as well as Acts to see where James, the brother of Jesus, was mentioned. How he doubted Jesus was who He said He was. How Jesus appeared to James after the resurrection, how James became a pillar in the early Jewish Church, and that his book is written to those Jews of the first church. At the end of the first meeting I could see and hear that the ladies were so excited to understand something new about the Bible. I am praying that they start to see that the Bible as not just a bunch of different books and stories thrown together to make one big one, but that they are ALL connected, and it is really all one big story - the greatest story. James is just the start of that for them, I hope.
Going through this book has really helped me to see that I need to be ready for ANYTHING question-wise. One of the best times of sharing that we had wasn't even over the section we were studying that week. It was on being a parent. Let's just say that beating a child into submission is not uncommon here. Not that everyone does it, but it is not frowned upon. Rose was talking about how she has seen that there is a different way to raise your children. She told the group that she prays that God will help her to not beat on her children. She prays that God will help her to teach and be patient with her young boys. Then one day a friend comes over and tells her that she needs to be cane-ing (the most common form of punishment involving spanking, somewhere on the body, with a stick) her boys for their behavior. "How do I respond to that friend?" she asked me. Well, hello left field! I took that opportunity to talk to the whole group of ladies about how we get to parent. I asked them "Would you want God to parent (discipline, teach, love, correct) you the same way you parent your own children?" That question was so profound to them that I could hear the whole room react, it was a noticeable paradigm shift.
I pray that we have more and more of these paradigm shifts in our little weekly Bible study. Please keep our Wednesday Bible study in your prayers. These ladies need all the prayer we can give them. Life is hard here and there are lots of burdens (physical, emotional, and spiritual) that they carry daily. I am thankful that they are willing to give of their time to come a meet weekly and that they are wanting to grow and are seeking the truth of The Gospel.