To Africa by Way of France

Posted on: 
October 1, 2018

An ABT member writes during a time of transition—

This year has seen us taking the final steps to launch out and begin our involvement in Old Testament Bible translation in Africa.

We recently returned from a few months of language study in France. Looking back, we can see that God really paved the way for us. We were especially privileged to have the opportunity to stay with a French couple in a small country village. Their two grown children lived next door with their young children. Also the couple’s aged parents lived on the same property. So that meant regular interaction with four generations. We had separate living quarters, but ate many meals together and interacted throughout the day—all in French! Our hosts were so patient with us as we struggled to express ourselves, and they would often help us to understand words and concepts. We also took the bus to town every day for classes at a language institute.

However, as helpful as classroom instruction can be, it is only one piece of the language learning process. We also got important practice in daily life situations ranging from simple to complex, such as buying groceries, chatting with the neighbors, or discussing theology with our host family over dinner. We also had opportunities to share our faith with our classmates who come from many different countries.

Culture is an inextricably connected piece of language learning. It's not just about memorizing words and grammar and language structure, but about knowing in what situations those words may be used and to whom they should be addressed. For example, in French there is a formal way to speak that would be appropriate in addressing your employer or the mayor of your town, but would sound very stiff and out of place when talking to close friends. It's also helpful to have people who will tell you when you transgress a cultural norm. Once we were preparing a salad for supper and were making it the way we always do in the States—tearing the lettuce with our hands. When our host observed what we were doing, he informed us that it is considered very rude to do that in France. The proper way is to cut the lettuce with scissors!

The alpine scenery in the French countryside was breathtaking! We marveled daily at the beauty of God's creation surrounding us there. Some of our ancestors came from a part of Switzerland that is just over 100 miles northeast of that part of France. The question often came to our minds: "Now how could anyone possibly leave such a incredible place?" Even as we gazed on the alpine beauty, we already knew the answer. No, it's not that they wanted to leave. But after decades of relentless persecution they were deported by the Swiss Reformed authorities because of their commitment to baptize only believing individuals and their refusal to baptize infants. Seeing the beautiful scenery around us reminded us of one aspect of the high price they were willing to pay for their commitment to follow Jesus and stay true to their Biblical convictions. Contrast that with the rich young ruler who owned much but was unwilling to let go of it (Matthew 19:16- 22). Jesus essentially told him, "There's only One who is good (and you are connecting me to Him). But if you actually believe that I here speaking to you am representing Him, then show that you take God seriously—by letting go of your property and following me." Do I say I know that Jesus stepped from heaven into earth and yet fail to take His words seriously enough to act upon them?

With our time in France behind us, our thoughts have turned towards heading to West Africa. Ministering cross-culturally takes preparation as well as investment of time and effort. Pray that God would continue to guide us through the obstacles and give us the patience and perseverance needed to advance the Gospel.

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10