Weaving through traffic, following the GPS’s instructions like a slave, almost automatically. “At the next stop turn left.” I turn left, without even thinking about it. The GPS’s way is not the way I would have taken, but I follow without thinking.
Why is it so difficult sometimes to follow the Lord’s instructions? And then often the Lord has to “recalculate route” because I was too stubborn or too slow to react.
Before we went to the Iso people, I often thought about our future work amongst them, trying to picture how we would accomplish the seemingly impossible task of reaching them. We knew that they were a people group of just over a 100 000 individuals, of which only two were believers — and they were secret believers. We were planning on making our home in an Iso village of around 10 000 people, and the whole idea was daunting.
Then, the Lord showed me a vision of a semi-arid land. All I could see was barren nothingness. Suddenly, a small, colourful flower amidst all the sand caught my eye. Then, just a suddenly, another flower popped up elsewhere. Then two over there, five way over there. Before I knew it, the desert had filled up with brilliant colour. I felt the Lord encouraging me, saying: ‘This is how it will happen!’
If you know about Namaqualand in South Africa, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
“For the next 2700 kilometres keep straight”
So we moved in with the Iso. Lots of language learning, translation of chronological Bible teachings, prayers .... where are the flowers, Lord? More praying. Telling Bible stories.
“At the next house, turn right”
Zahra, a friend of mine, had heard about us telling these stories to groups of people in the village, and wanted to hear them too. Initially, the lessons did not go smoothly. I almost gave up. But I felt the Lord prompting me to persevere.
“Heavy traffic for the next 4 months”
We had just finished going through the Old Testament stories, when Zahra told me that she had had a dream. I had heard of many people having dreams and visions leading them to Jesus, especially during the time of their fasting month, but it always felt like it was in some faraway place. So when this happened to my friend, I was stunned!
In the dream, she had come to my house through the front gate. As she wanted to leave again, she somehow couldn't go back the way she came, so she had to leave by the back gate. Just outside that gate was a staircase going up to heaven. She tried climbing up, but could not do so on her own. The dream was so similar to Jacob’s ladder and Jesus' comment about it (John 1:51), that I could explain it to her easily.
The Lord showed me the significance of her coming in through one gate and leaving through another: it was symbolic of her leaving an old belief system and entering a new one. I tried to introduce Jesus to her at that point, but she wasn’t ready yet.
Then one day, while I told her the story of Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3), I suddenly saw the lights come on in her eyes. She suddenly understood the dream! She understood that she could never reach God on her own, and that Jesus was the only way. Jesus was the stairway. Jesus was her Saviour! She believed that He not only loves her so much that He even died for her, but that He also showed her through the dream that He is the only Way to God. Zahra was smitten with Jesus. Not long after, she led seven of her family to the Lord, too.
What a privilege it is to disciple others and see how they worship and express their faith, in their culture, in their own language!
This happened five long years after we had moved in with the Iso. The first flowers had popped up in our section of the Iso desert. Only many months later did we realise that the meaning of her name, Zahra, meant “flower” in her language. The vision that I had had before we went there, was literally starting to come true!
Then, we started recording the teachings, so they can listen to it on solar players. More workers joined. Many more Iso were to follow ...
“You have reached your destination”
Isaiah 30:21, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
Psalm 25:4-5: Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
Psalm 143:8: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 16:9: In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.