Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Formerly Unreached People Group Celebrates the Coming of the Gospel

Beeson alumni Chase and Kelli Reynolds were called to reach a remote and completely unreached people group named the Yefta people.  In January of this year they posted this story on their blog and I was completely amazed.  How many missionaries get to take part in a celebration led by the people they reached about the joy of the gospel coming to their people??

By the way, Chase will be here TODAY, SEPTEMBER 4TH, AT 12:10PM IN THE GLOBAL CENTER!  Come and hear his story firsthand!

As soon as the plane’s engine stopped, it was surrounded with war shouts and chants, bows and arrows, head dresses and painted bodies. When we opened the doors, two guys were standing there in full traditional Yetfa dress with their arms interlocked and others were shouting for me to sit down in their arms. Then they began to dance and shout and carry me towards the house. Kelli and the boys were behind being paraded and showered in flowers. The procession went along a narrow path lined with a long draping fringe of palm leaves that were decorated with flowers. When we got to the house the whole village was singing and dancing. They finally set me down on the front porch (having not let my feet touch the ground).

That’s how the celebration began and it only got better!
Not too far behind us Pak Abi – the Indonesian missionary primarily responsible for bringing the gospel to the Yetfa people – and crew arrived. They had the same reception, but with many more tears. Grown men, old men… men who prior to the gospel coming (and even after) shot and killed others for any opposition… were crying uncontrollably and embracing Pak Abi.

We were then left alone to get things in order around the house, but that evening a group of men came over to discuss the plans for the weekend. Before we left last time, I had sat down with a few of the leaders and discussed what we might do throughout the celebration. Then, after we came back to Sentani, they formed a committee and really went to town on the planning.

Friday was a focus on traditional Yetfa culture prior to the gospel coming.

Saturday was about when the gospel first came.

Sunday was about the present, particularly focusing on the emergence of God’s Word in their own language.

Friday began with a frenzy of activity. It began early with putting tarps on as the roof of the large, make-shift tent structure they had built. Then I met with the 17 Yetfa speakers who had each been memorizing one of the translated Scripture stories. This was what I was most anxious about! I had turned the task of getting that group ready completely over to Sion and Jeri. Everybody arrived fairly quickly and lined up in chronological order. And then it began… One-by-one they cited from memory their portion of the overarching story of salvation – from Genesis to Pentecost.
Chase baptizing a man in the Yefta tribe

I was in tears.
Although, along the way, I had heard and scrutinized every word in those 17 stories, I had never heard them as a single story. It was powerful! I was moved, even more so because we had worked so hard so that the stories were faithful to Scripture but also short enough and simple enough to be memorized and retold. They have a clear progression and message of salvation. I was so proud of how well they had memorized each story. I went home and told Kel that I could completely relax and enjoy the weekend now that I knew that that part of the celebration was covered.
After that we scrambled around the house getting ready for our guests to arrive.

Two plane loads of people who had been involved in (or represented organizations that had been involved in) the gospel entering the Yetfa area arrived around noon. The war dance and parade was repeated for each one. After the second plane arrived and dance ended, Bob Cochran, who has beenour primary consultant for the story set, was equipped with a traditional Yetfa bow and arrow and whisked away. He was given the honor of shooting (or being the first of about 10 people to shoot) the second of two hogs that they were cooking for a celebration meal.

That afternoon was fairly relaxed, although one of the videographers and I spent the rest of the day filming testimonies from others who didn’t speak in the service. They shared about the changes the gospel had brought about in their people. It was all done in Yetfa and was directed towards future generations who would not remember what it was like before God’s Word came. It was a preservation of the living memory, and the common themes were “We were in darkness. We killed people. We stole from each other. We killed people for stealing from us. We worshiped evil spirits. We didn’t know God. We were always afraid – afraid of trees, rocks, holes in the ground, bodies of water, spirits, people, nighttime. But when the gospel came,we stopped being afraid.”

That evening we had a special time of prayer for the first-time telling of God’s word through the stories we had worked on in their entirety!
The next day, after a night of heavy rain, I got up early for a last practice with the storytellers. When I got to the big tent, it had been nearly completely knocked down by the rain. I, honestly, thought that it was a loss and started thinking about alternative places where we could gather. About that time a few guys came up, then they began to call for others. Before I knew it, we were cutting things up, tearing the wreck apart, rebuilding it. Others were running out to the jungle to cut new wood to replace broken pieces, and in no time at all, the tent was as good as new. We gathered for the practice and everybody did great. We had prayer and then ran home to get ready.

The early part of the service was packed with songs and testimonies, but finally it came time for the stories. Then, for the first time, the wider community heard the story of God’s salvation clearly and carefully translated into their own language. When the last story was finished, one of the storytellers shouted out, “We have to tell others this good news!”, and all 17 storytellers ran out of the tent. Then Jeri preached a message based on a primary theme of the story set – ‘do not fear’.

For the full blog post, click HERE