A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to some small villages in a remote, mountainous region of Guatemala. My years of service at Faith Comes By Hearing would not prepare me for the poignant encounters I would experience with the precious people there who had been listening to the Audio Bibles we had sent in several months prior.
In one village, we met with the Pastor and the Council of Elders of the local church. Here were 5 men, not one younger than 45 years of age. With calloused hands and faces lined from years spent outside working under the blazing sun, they sat stiffly in a line on folding chairs set out to receive their visitors from America. One by one, each introduced himself, and along with the facts of their background, occupation, and family ties, each one admitted they could not read because they had not attended school. There was no shame in this fact, no embarrassment. It was simply a fact of life for men of their generation.
With typical restraint, they also expressed their joy and gratitude for finally having the Audio New Testament in their language, so they could – for the first time – hear and understand for themselves the life-giving words of the Gospel.
In the next village, we interviewed the Pastor of the local church. A humble, quiet man, he told us about how the Audio Bible was being used in his village. When we asked, “Do the people talk about what they’ve heard? Do they ask you questions?” “Oh yes,” he replied emphatically. “They ask me lots of questions – really difficult questions that I don’t know how to answer.”
We asked him to share with us some of these difficult questions. He pulled from his pocket a crumpled piece of notebook paper that he’d obviously been carrying around for a while. Unfolding it, he looked it over and landed on a question he couldn’t answer.
“Here’s one,” he said. “I really didn’t know how to answer this one. So, after Jesus was crucified and was raised up to heaven, whatever happened to Peter? Did he just go back to fishing or what?”
We were both struck to our core and overjoyed at the implications of this question:
Struck – because we understood how a lack of formal education makes it difficult for some Pastors not only to read the Bible in their language, but also to receive any kind of Bible School instruction. They are simply too poor or live too far away from the cities and towns where such education is offered. Yet, we’d already met men who clearly were dedicated to the Lord and wanted their people to know Him. They just needed the tools.
Overjoyed – because our regional coordinator was able to quickly fill him in on what Peter would later accomplish in his ministry. The Pastor need only skip ahead on the Proclaimer to the Book of Acts to hear it for himself and for his congregation.
Upon hearing that, the Pastor was also filled with joy and renewed hope that as he and his church continued to listen to the Audio Bible, the truth of the Scriptures would continue to unfold for all of them.
As we drove away, we imagined this Pastor eagerly hunched over his Proclaimer, pressing the forward button so he could finally answer that burning question scrawled on his notebook paper – and the many others his people would be asking in the weeks and months to come.
Image: Guatemalan Pastors learning how to use Proclaimer for the first time.