February 27, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As usual I was doing a lot of Bible teaching this month to some of my Pastoral/Theological students. Consider the vast difference between me and my students. I have been studying the Bible in depth for decades. Most of my students have limited study of the Bible. I have a college education and years of theological training. None of my students have this. I grew up in sound churches with access to inexpensive religious resources like books, radio, music, etc. I have a large (comparatively speaking) library of theological resources. For most of my students, just to buy a study Bible would cost half a month’s salary and books are a luxury few of them can afford. At my fingertips I have access to the whole world of the internet: I can stay up to date on current theological and religious trends (although I usually don’t); I can access an unlimited storehouse of resources and articles, lessons, charts and diagrams; I can search Google for all the insane and heretical things people are saying and teaching around the world. Most of my students have no access to a computer, couldn’t type even if they had one, think Google must be some strange American food that no Kenyan in his right mind would eat, and are still using what my son Josiah calls a “brick phone” – i.e., a phone that can call and text but has no access to the internet. The bottom line is that I have a lot I can teach them. Now, some of you may be thinking that Missionary Roger is getting all prideful and vain. But that isn’t at all what this newsletter is about. It’s actually the opposite and it’s humbling to me because my students also have much they can teach to me. This became quite clear to me through a couple of conversations I had with my students. I will relate them briefly here because they taught me much and they may also hold some instruction for you, my readers, as well.
I was talking to one of my South Sudanese students. He asked me: “Mwalimu (teacher), do you have a gun”? (PLEASE NOTE: My relating this conversation has nothing to do with politics or the debate over gun control or anything remotely like it. I have no idea what your opinion or persuasion is on the topic and you don’t know mine. I am relating this conversation for a completely different purpose). I said, “No, Majok (his name), I do not have a gun. Do you”? “Oh, yes, Mwalimu, I have a gun. I have a Kalashnikov (an AK-47)”, he said. “Majok, why do you have a Kalashnikov?”, I asked. He responded, “Mwalimu, I take my gun to church with me and I put it in the pulpit when I preach so that when the raiders come I can quickly pull it out and defend my people and the raiders won’t kill us and burn our church building to the ground”. Now, whether you think this is the right approach or the wrong approach to the problem is up to you, but here is what this conversation taught me: The cost of discipleship and following Jesus is high! Followers of Jesus around the world must count the cost to follow him and love Him. Some will pay with their property or their lives. Are we willing to pay such a price? Majok, who would probably fail my class for lack of knowledge if I wasn’t gracious in my grading, has much to teach us.
Tukomoi is another of my students. He is intelligent and tries hard but has practically no educational background. He also would fail my class if I wasn’t gracious and take into account the fact that he can barely read or write. This is what Tukomoi related to me: “Mwalimu, I grew up in the ‘bush’, completely naked, raiding cattle, killing enemy tribesmen and ritualistically drinking cows blood for strength and power. When I was 17 years old I came across a primitive church building with a worship service going on inside. I went up to the window and curiously looked inside. The preacher was saying these words – ‘For God sent his only begotten Son into the world that whoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life’. The preacher saw me staring in the window and said, ‘You, boy, come in here and sit down’. I went in and sat down and listened to the message of God’s love and His Son. At the end of the message the preacher invited us all to come and to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Something inside of me said to go forward and pray to God’s Son, Jesus, to save me and cleanse me from my sin. I went forward and trusted in Jesus as my Savior. Now you are talking to a reformed warrior”. My conversation with Tukomoi was stunning. I wished I had recorded it. It taught me the power of the gospel to change a life. It taught me how awesome God is and that God’s Word does not return to him empty but it transforms even the murderous sinner by His grace.
The transformation of lives and the glory of God is what our work for Jesus is all about. May these conversations bless, uplift and instruct all of us this month.
Until next month, beloved.
May God’s peace and joy be with you.
For the glory of God in East Africa,
Roger & Julie Tate (and Amy, Josiah & Chloe)
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