Our family joined our national ministry partner, Yaya, in a community outreach in his hometown, 110 km from where we live. As the only believer in his devoutly Muslim family and the only Christian from his village, he carries a huge heart and passion to see his family, friends, and neighbors come to Christ. Having received a shipment of new school backpacks from an American friend, he decided to distribute them as awards to the top five students in each grade (1st to 8th) at the local school, and to use the event as a platform to share the Gospel. Accompanying us was a pastor from our town as well as colleagues from the hospital and Yaya's local ministry partners. Altogether fifteen of us made up the entourage. To accommodate the large group and having been assured that the roads were in "good" condition, we drove our big passenger van, a vehicle which is not built for off-roading especially during rainy season.
We departed in the morning and uneventfully reached the big town nearest to YaYa's village in relatively good time. Only 30 km remained. However, once we turned off the main paved road, we encountered our first obstacle - a small puddle. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of a seemingly endless series of ever-increasing ditches of water. We had reached a critical moment when it was too late to turn back, and so we trudged on and prayed that it wouldn't rain that day.
At one point, the van got stuck in the mud, and it took the herculean effort of twelve people taking off their shoes, rolling up their pant legs, planting their feet deep in the mud, and pushing with all their might. Wary of another stuck-in-the-mud experience, Yaya and his friend waded through the puddles trying to find the best route for the van to drive through. This went on for quite a while, and others in the van, including Sophia and Judson, soon joined in the "muddy" navigation.
Concern mounted as we drove at a snail's pace and warning signals flashed all across the van's dashboard. One message insistently stated that something was wrong with the alternator and that we needed to visit a car shop. We were in the middle of nowhere! Just when we thought that the van was going to die on us, Yaya exclaimed that we had arrived. And what a sight we beheld. Young kids, lined up by the road, welcomed us with clapping and smiles.
And in the center of the village, the whole community - both men and women, young and old - had patiently waited for us despite the two hour delay. We did not expect that this small event would result in a huge turn-out.
With no time to waste, the outreach began with introductions, words of welcome, and greetings.
The pastor then preached and shared the Good News to a captivated audience. And for almost all of them, it was their first time hearing the message of salvation through Jesus' sacrifice.
Afterwards, the award ceremony took place and backpacks were given out.
We then went to each classroom at the local school and handed out a snack to each student.
And not only was it their first time hearing the gospel, but, for most of these kids, it was their first time seeing Asians up close and personal. They couldn't get over our pale skin and black hair. We did not fit in with their stereotypical image of a "white person."
Knowing that we had a long trip back home, we asked for the road soon after we had finished our lunch. We were told to visit again and were sent off with heartfelt blessings. Getting into the driver's seat, Dan remarked that he had a sinking feeling the van was dead. Sure enough, it was. Thankfully, someone in the village brought over a battery which had just enough juice to start up the van. And then we were off.
However, it soon became apparent that the van was not going to make it. The alternator was completely malfunctioning after having been submerged in water and mud. Eventually it came to a complete halt about 12 km from the nearest big town. We knew that we had to get to town before it got dark. A call was made and the Mayor's assistant of the village drove over with the same aforementioned battery. However, this time it didn't work so he drove away to search for a more powerful one.
We waited and prayed.
Eventually after what seemed like hours, the assistant reappeared with a bigger solar battery. We connected it to our van's battery and it ignited the engine. But our relief was short-lived when the van died again on the road. It was evident that we needed to drive the van hooked up to the battery. The assistant graciously allowed us to borrow it until we reached the big town where we found a car shop and bought a new battery.
Finally, we were back on the main paved road with the van running temporarily on the new battery. About an hour later, we made it home before it got completely dark.
Someone mentioned that Satan clearly did not want us visiting that village, a place where the name of Jesus was not known and worshipped, and located in a region historically known as spiritually hard and resistant. But on that day, the name of Jesus was preached and by God's sovereign grace seeds were planted.
Sophia commented that traveling to Yaya's village reminded her of the verses, Romans 10-14-15:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Feet dirtied by pushing in the mud and wading through water. These are the beautiful feet that bring good news.
There are still so many hard to reach places like Yaya's village. Pray for more beautiful feet.