“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3
The Lord cleared the way for the Israelites to come back from captivity from Babylon. He prepared the way for the Messiah to come. Now it is time that we get back to the countries that we have been working in. Lord, prepare the way!
The teachers from Uganda have sent Christmas and New Year’s greetings. They have said, “We have a number of classes that are trying to finish by March. We need to see you then. We are grateful for your plans; the graduations are waiting for you.”
Staying connected with ministry partners is critical for the encouragement and progress of the work. It communicates that the efforts they have been doing behind the scenes is valuable, respected, and honored.
All of the classes in Uganda were forced to shut down at the beginning, but now they have started to meet again. Makka Steven sent pictures of the classes in the remote Galilaya region south of Lake Kyoga. Last March there were 8 classes that had sprung up from the one graduation in 2018.
The Potential of One
Makka Steven was a very simple and poor man from the remote area of Galilaya. He was the pastor of a small church but had not been trained in the Bible. He joined the first oral class that had been offered in his area and completed two years of training in 2016.
After graduation he immediately started teaching another class while another graduate taught in a neighboring village. Last March he came from Galilaya to the zonal leaders meeting. He had been elected the chairman of the oral classes in his area. When he was asked to share about the training in the Galilaya zone he said, “I have four classes.” He was asked about the other teachers and their classes. “Oh yes, they also have four classes.” So now that one student who graduated in 2016, is a chairman overseeing eight classes. He is transforming his community and is sharing God’s Word in front line missions.
A year ago, his wife was pregnant with their second pair of twins. She called him while he was away doing ministry and he met her at the hospital. Not many hospitals can handle twins or the complications that come with them. They also will not care for you unless you pay first. She needed surgery and it was going to cost them $175 but they never have had that much money. So, Steven called Nate Jore and the ministry team in Jinja. They sent him the money for the surgery and for the healthy birth of their twins.
Steven reminds me of Epaphras, a mostly unknown evangelist described in Colossians. Epaphras has an expansive fruitful ministry even though he is only mentioned three times. “You have heard… the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing… you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.” Colossians 1:5-7
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
When you look back, what do you see? As we look back at this year, we see something beyond the visible, something unfolding, something bigger. We see God with us, which means we are not alone. We are a part of His-story.
The name Emmanuel means God is with us. God could have used other prepositions, but He chose ‘with’ and it shows His heart for His people. Some people see God as doing things ‘to’ them. They see Him as oppressive, authoritarian, and demanding. Others view God as doing things ‘for’ them. They tell Him what they want, and He does it for them. Neither of those, describe God.
Jesus came to be with us. He reconciled us with God the Father, He came to earth to live with us, and He sent His Spirit to be with us. He is not distant or removed from the struggles we go through. He is with us through them.
We have faced problems this year. This year has challenged our freedom, our safety, and our civility. It feels difficult when we look at things from our perspective, but it changes when God is with us.
He is our protector from danger. He reconciles us to one another and gives us freedom. The visible things may not change, but a baby in a manger didn’t look like the way you change the world either. Step back and look at what God is doing in His-story. You might see beyond the visible, something unfolding, and something far greater than the problems that we face.
How can you describe the greatness of God? When you stand in the bottom of the Grand Canyon you can feel quite small compared to the expanse all around you. It is a helpful reminder of the greatness of God.
The Canyon is also a reminder of expanse of our world that God has made. There are many places where the Word of God has not yet reached. Places where there is a drought of biblical training and the people are thirsty.
The 20-mile hike served three functions. It was a fundraiser so that the Orality Institute can expand its reach. It was a tool to raise the awareness for this ministry and our efforts to bring God’s Word to those hard-to-reach places. It was a prayer hike where we could have intentional time praying for the needs of our partners around the world. To date, we have raised $9270 from this hike. There are pictures and videos on the Orality Institute Facebook page.
Here are some recent prayer requests:
Year-end outreaches to the Muslims
A new church building
Transportation for the pastors
Resources for the schools
A grant for the halfway house
A growing season without drought
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7 describes the heart of this ministry, so several, including Kevin and Paul, are participating in a fundraising / awareness / prayer hike for the Orality Institute on December 4th. We will be hiking from the south rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River at the bottom, and then back up to the rim in one day. It is roughly a 20-mile hike and there are 10 hours of daylight for that trek. That does not leave much time for sitting around.
This hike is a representation of the ministry of the Orality Institute in several ways. The bottom of the Grand Canyon is a difficult place to get to. It is a desert climate that reaches 120 degrees in the summer. However, the canyon holds a beauty and a grandeur that cannot be matched.
The Orality Institute also goes to places that are difficult to get to. They are in desert-like climates, both physically and spiritually. Yet, there is a beauty that you can easily find when you look into the eyes of those who long to know God’s Word, and peer into the hearts of the people who are grateful for the gift of new life. This is one of those hikes that does not allow you to stop part way. Once you begin, you are committed, and we will be encouraging each other along the way. You can also encourage us along the way by making a pledge for each mile of our prayer hike. This will help motivate us for ministry as we begin a new year and new budget in 2021.
Even though this has been a difficult year for our world, the Orality Institute has many reasons to thank the Lord.
1. We are thankful for The Story to tell. God’s Word is a powerful message.
2. We thank the Lord for our national ministry partners who continue to train people in the Word of God regardless of the effect of the Corona virus. Most of the classes are back up and running in Uganda, the translation continues in Malawi, the Bible School is still in session in Mexico. This year has underscored the importance of empowering nationals to teach their own people.
3. We are thankful for the lean budget that we have. We were able to add Paul Kneeland to the Orality Institute staff when many businesses were cutting back. Since Kevin and Paul are both part-time, the ministry benefits are doubled without an extra burden on the budget. They have been able to focus on needed projects stateside and stay in communication with ministries abroad.
4. We are thankful for faithful supporters that make this ministry possible. We have not seen a significant dip in support through these past six months. We know that the Lord is the one that supplies every need, and we know that He does that through the financial support team that He has put together. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Matthew 6:33-34
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
When Paul Kneeland was wrestling with the vision of the Orality Institute, he asked, “Do you have any interest in a curriculum specifically designed for children?”
Wherever we have traveled, the children are peering in through the windows, the doors, and even cracks in the wall just to see and hear what the adults are learning. We have had two young girls complete the curriculum as they sat in with other adults for two years of study. Several families have used the curriculum to share the Bible stories with their own children. It seems like an opportunity that we could pursue.
Paul put two posts on the Orality Institute Facebook page and those posts received multiple comments and several people shared the post. Here is one of those comments. “Many children seem capable of learning the simple Bible stories of the curriculum and seem to answer the questions sometimes better than adults. I am sure they would be capable of learning these stories and I would be willing to help.”
The board was open to the idea and now the discussion continues with you, our supporters. We are now asking you to pray with us as we evaluate the possibility of developing a Biblical oral curriculum for children in oral cultures. Everywhere we go there always seems to be children nearby curious about what the adults are doing/learning. If that is something we should add to the ministry, pray that it will be clear and that funding for that work would be provided.
The Narrow Road
What does it mean to follow Jesus? He doesn’t often lead us on straight and easy paths, but He does promise to go with us wherever He leads.
The Orality Institute has been working in many rural villages. Places that are difficult to get to, without the conveniences that we think of as normal. The normal essentials like food, homes, bathrooms, or even furniture are all different. It is a simple life, one that is not complicated by all the stuff we typically have.
It is not an easy road to take God’s Word to villages around the world, but it has been surprising to find that in those rural and remote places the people have a greater hunger for God’s Word. They are willing to work hard to learn the stories because it is the only biblical education available to them. They have a greater joy when they learn the stories because many times it is the first time they have heard or understood them. They are more interested in retelling the message to others because telling stories is their way of life.
Perhaps Jesus takes us to distant and difficult roads so that we can see what we have been unable to recognize when things are close and easy. Perhaps it is the simple life that provides more blessings than the convenient life. May we learn as much as we teach, may we go wherever He leads, and may we have open eyes to see the blessings that come on unexpected roads.And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8:19-20
What does this ministry look like when the travel to other countries is cut off? It keeps on going because this ministry is intensely focused on empowering the nationals to carry on the work.
Last January, the leaders in Malawi were given the responsibility of translating the curriculum into the Chichewa language. Malawi has three main languages along with the languages spoken by neighboring countries. Chichewa is the largest people group and the common language of all four Malawan ministries that we are working with.
On August 23rd, Rodrick finished translating the first book of the IOI curriculum. With that book, which is equivalent to a year of study, we will be able to get these four ministries started on training their leaders. Not only that, but we are expecting that Moses will have the second book finished by the middle of September. The Prison Chaplains (under Rodrick’s oversight), the Grace Bible church leaders (under Moses’ leadership), and the Balaka church leaders (under Watson) are all waiting for these books to be finished and printed. The cost of translating each year of curriculum is $2000. The cost of printing each book is $5. Would you like to sponsor one of these two translations or maybe you could purchase several books for these future students. Mark your contribution accordingly. We are excited to keep the momentum going. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:17
The leadership of the Orality Institute board has changed with Wayne Floan taking a leave and Pastor Paul Kneeland stepping into a staff position. The qualifications for new board members include:
A love for Jesus and making Him known to the world
An appreciation and support for the Oral teaching strategy
Experience with the Orality Institute overseas
We are excited to welcome our two new board members, Pastor James Rasmussen and Pastor Mark Antal, who fit those descriptions well. Both of them traveled with Pastor Kevin to India and have seen the work first-hand.
They believe in making disciples who in turn make other disciples.
Pastor Mark traveled with Kevin and Dr. Francis Monseth in 2010 when the Oral Strategy was introduced to India for the first time. That was the beginning of the oral training in India that continues even today. Pastor Jim traveled with Kevin in 2011. The lasting impressions from these trips is evident when both men share stories of their experience.
Pray for the OI Board that is made up of Pastor Peter Ward – Chairman, Pastor Wayne Hjermstad – Treasurer, and Greg Johnson – Devotional life along with our two new members.
1 Thessalonians 3:6-7 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.
We are incredibly grateful for the generosity and support we’ve experienced from friends around the world. Together, we join God as He works in the lives of hundreds of people who are being transformed through His Word. This oral training in nations around the globe could not be done without your participation. You are incredible supporters!
If you would like to get more involved with the Orality Institute, we are assembling a team of “Advocates.” Advocates are enthusiastic volunteers, who are supporters that help communicate what God is doing through the Orality Institute. Each month, Advocates are sent a list of specific prayer requests as well as ideas for making people aware of the mission. Simple things like “sharing” or “liking” our social media posts makes a huge difference in the reach, the visibility, and the awareness of this ministry. We also need gentle voices representing the Orality Institute into local congregations; helping with some creative fundraising events; or perhaps even joining us on an international training trip.
Advocates will receive a specially designed shirt and will be given the opportunity to attend the yearly Advocate Retreat. There is a growing team of Advocates, and we’d love to have you partner with us in this way. If you have a passion to see God’s message of redemption and reconciliation reach all over the world, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details about the Advocate team. Thank you for your love of God’s Word and your faithful support of this ministry. Praise God for the work He is doing because of your partnership in the Gospel! You are amazing supporters and we love you!
The gift of friendship and encouragement is especially precious when life gets difficult. To know that there are brothers and sisters in Jesus who are praying with you and caring what is going on makes the challenges seem more manageable. Please pray for our friends in Malawi:
Rodrick became the director of Prison Fellowship of Malawi in 2006. He works with 27 prisons in Malawi. Prison Fellowship has a halfway house, a children of prisoners program, a prisoner journey follow-up program, and a prison chaplain training program. Orality Institute will be focusing on the prison chaplain training. Rodrick and Matilda have three beautiful kids, Theodore, Esperanza, and Angelina.
Watson came to faith in Jesus in 1990. Since then, he started training for the pastors around Balaka. He and his wife Esther have four kids: Faith, Hope, King, and Divine Grace. Watson is a spirit-filled pastor that loves Jesus and wants to grow personally as well as help his fellow rural pastors to be trained. Scripture flows in his conversation.
Moses trains pastors from many areas around Malawi. His main church is in a remote part of Malawi and most of the pastors that he works with are very poor. During a recent trip to northern Malawi, 150 pastors attended his two weeks of training. He oversees two primary schools with a total of 500 children in them and supervises a solar irrigation program that provides irrigated land for an entire village. Moses and his wife Falles have two children; Ali and Isabella.