New Environment 

Report December 7, 1997


          The loud, hallow drum beat keeps us awake some nights.  Sudden blasts of music shake us from slumber on other nights.  In the morning, spoonfuls of Wheat Choco cereal miss our mouths when the explosions from rifles or small cannon startle us.  These are the sounds of funerals.  Four days ago, a middle aged man died unexpectedly.  He is the fifth neighbor to die in the last eight weeks.  

          Angry shouts punctuate our language lessons.  Everyday the women next door find a reason to scream and curse at each other.   A half a dozen of them can square off with a like number of their sisters or aunts.  At times they have come to blows.  

          Our language helper, Hilaire, is certain that his relatives are jealous because he has a job.  He is afraid they will ask a sorcerer to bring evil into his life.  "They did it when I was employed by the Primary School," he told us one day.  "My father and mother are dead.  My sister died suddenly last year."  Three days ago, his brother died.  He is convinced it is the result of voodoo.

          God offers the Aja people a better life.  He loves them.  So do we.

          He has chosen our team to communicate his offer of deliverance.  We have seen Him change the lives of thousands of Africans and Americans.  Our own lives have been radically altered since we became citizens of His Kingdom. 

          We are of little use on the frontline until we can hear and speak Aja.  Hardly anyone speaks English.  In the villages, only a few can communicate in French.  There is no need for them to speak these foreign tongues.  Benin is their country and Aja is their mother tongue.  It is we, God's messengers who must struggle to memorize vocabulary and teach our mouths, nose and vocal cords to produce unfamiliar sounds.  T'ain't easy ma' friends.  But it's essential!

          We are motivated by our love for God and the Aja.  In is not a sacrifice, rather it is an honor to allow God to equip us for His service.  The hopelessness, fear, and rage break our hearts.  More importantly, it breaks God's heart. 

          We work with language helpers five hours a day, five days a week.  After they leave we study on our own, talk to the bread lady, the shopkeeper, the old man under the tree, and the visitors that come to our place.  After almost two months of study we can carry on some basic conversations.  We have even started translating a few scriptures.  Comprehending what they say is more difficult.  "Repeat, slowly, slowly" was one of the first phrases we have nailed down.  It is still very useful.  Cyndi and I have been at this same stage with two other African languages and God pulled us to fluency.    We still trust Him.  

          During these first three months we have learned there is more here than jealousy, fear, and death.  Hospitality is a treasured virtue.  They are generous.  We have been given about eighty oranges, twenty pounds of peanuts, flour, and fried peanut cakes.  They have deep respect for the older Aja people.  They have an understanding of the breadth of life, in both the seen and unseen realm.   Every one of them believes God created the world and gave them life.  They know the key to food production is not in their hands.  In their poverty and illiteracy, they are wiser than many of us "who chase after the wind."  However, they are far from being satisfied with life. 

          Our living conditions have changed, but adjustment to this new environment has been easier than we expected.  Part of that has to do with the mindset the Lord has given us.  We must live above the stresses and strains.  We are not here to battle the environment for survival.  We battle on the loftiest of plains.  "For we do not war against ¼. of this world, but against principalities and powers in the unseen realm."  We must concentrate on that battle lest we be sidetracked into battling for earthly survival.  We are destined to loose that one.  This world is not our eternal home.  If we are citizens of an eternal kingdom that cannot be shaken, this new environment must not shake us.   The power of the Lord and His eternal nature must be demonstrated in our lives.  The Aja people will believe how we live, more than what we teach.  Theirs is a world full of fear, ours must not be.  "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline."

          By the next newsletter, three months from now, we hope to be able to report on the team's initial evangelist efforts among these beautiful people.  Pray for them, and us.