If there’s one thing we’ve learned about living in Africa, it’s that everything takes longer than you expect, and making disciples is no exception. When we first begin discipling a family who desires to follow Jesus, we take them through a series of Bible studies called “Discovering God.” It’s 20 lessons long, and we try to do one lesson each week, so each family should finish it in 20 weeks, right? Wrong!
It will sound absolutely crazy to a Western mind, but meetings with people can get cancelled for the “silliest” reasons: it’s raining, it’s cold (as in 70 degrees), they’re cultivating their field, they’re cultivating somebody else’s field, getting fertilizer for a field, going to the market, or some distant relative they barely knew died.
When you dig a little deeper into the Togolese culture and mentality, though, you realize that there are good reasons behind these excuses that can seem trivial on the surface. For example, markets are only open on one day during the week. If every grocery store in your town was only open on Mondays, would you schedule a Bible study for that day? Probably not, especially if you had to cook everything you bought, from scratch, that evening! In order to get all the necessary work done for their fields (which they depend on for nearly all their food), they join farming co-ops. These co-ops can call the members to cultivate somebody’s field at a moment’s notice, and they are obligated to go if they want people to show up when it’s their turn. But the one I could never understand was “It’s raining” or “It’s cold,” until I put it into perspective. Asking a family to meet (which always happens outside under a tree) with light rain or at 70 degrees would be comparable to somebody showing up at our house in the Pacific Northwest in November on a drizzly 40 degree day saying, “Hey, would you like to get the lawn chairs out and chat in your front yard?”
All that to say this: things don’t always go as quickly as planned in Togo. The funny thing is that the only people who seem to get frustrated with this is us Westerners!
Truck blocking the only road North: another cancelled meeting!
But in spite of many delays and cancelations, there are two families who are at the very end of the Discovering God series. The last two lessons, which we will do in one day, are the most important of all because they communicate a clear need for people to turn from their sin to God, believe on Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and commit to be baptized.
The first family is one we are very excited about because it’s the family of an influential village chief. Andrew left an audio player with this family months ago, and recently we realized that the elderly chief has literally memorized every single Scripture passage in the whole series! He is already showing clear signs of having faith in Christ, but doing the last lessons with him and his whole family will give them the chance to concretely declare their decision to follow Him as a family.
The other family is one I have mentioned before, who I referred to as “the old lady and her two sons” because we didn’t know their names, which is another interesting part of the culture that’s hard to understand—there are people who have been friends for years and don’t know each other’s first names! However, we have since learned that the brothers’ names are Soba and Atchonim (even though we never actually use their names!). Lately they have told us very plainly that they want to follow Jesus and leave their fetishes, but that they don’t know exactly how. We have encouraged them to be patient and wait for the last lessons because they can hear directly from God’s Word how they can do just that.
We have been trying to meet with each of these two families for the past month in order to do these last two lessons, but one thing or another always comes up either on their end or ours, so we are still anxiously waiting for the right time.
Please be praying for both of these families as they are on the verge of stepping into a new life with Christ as their Master and Lord. If all goes “according to plan,” we will be meeting with the chief’s family tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon and with the brothers next Saturday morning. Their journey to faith in Jesus is coming to an end, but by God’s grace they will begin new lives of walking with him.