Ana and I sat at the kitchen table, coffee (for me) and tea (for her) in hand, as usual. We were wrestling yet again with what to do as we stared at the posters on the wall. I had created three boards to keep track of our progress on the Bible stories: “Approved” by the consultant, “Being Tested” in the community, and “In Documentation”. Almost all of the notecards with our stories on them were cycling between being tested for comprehension and in some phase or other of being documented and sent to a consultant. There was one lonely little story hanging in the “Approved” box. And to add to that, this was preliminary approval. We were only a few weeks out to our scheduled time to find voice actors, record the Bible stories and distribute them.
Had we trained enough people to tell the stories and ask discussion questions? If these stories weren’t “approved”, were they good enough? What was wrong with what we were doing? Should we push back the recordings? Are we leaving too soon? What about all of our friends here- the ones who still don’t believe, the ones who are young in their faith, the ones who are hurting? We had been crafting and revising these 32 stories for a year and a half. We had asked people comprehension questions, asked them to retell the story from memory. We revised, shortened, explained, clarified, and summarized until we were blue in the face. Its simply a hard task to get people to retell stories without feeling nervous and stopping half-way through. Based on the feedback from the community and the consultants, we are confident that these stories are accurate to Scripture and relevant to the Palawano culture. (And we proceeded to see stories get approved in the following weeks!) But should we be leaving now?
We didn’t have many answers, but one thing became clear. We needed to record these stories and pass them into the hands of our Palawano friends. And we needed to do that soon. Why?
As Ana said so perfectly sitting there at the kitchen table, “Because it’s time.”
Palawanos have (and still have) expat believers working among them for years now (over 30). These co-laborers are faithful to what God has called them to do. They are nurses and teachers, translators and literacy specialists. They have shared the truth of God’s word and the love of Christ in very practical ways. They paved the way for Ana and me to come and work on these oral Bible stories. And over the years, there have been Palawanos who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. They have wrestled with competing worldviews from their community and fierce spiritual opposition from the Enemy. (And they continue to do both.) They have a deep desire to see their friends and family know the same peace they have found, and thus find a way to share eternal hope with them. And now, it’s time. It’s time that they use the translated Scripture and the oral stories that we helped to craft and take them to the hills and valleys of southern Palawan. It’s time that these discipled go and make disciples. It’s time that we as foreigners trust that they too are a God’s special possession, that they may declare the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His wonderful life. (1 Pet 2:9) They have the same Holy Spirit within them as we do, which is better than all the tweaking of stories and workshops than we could ever offer them.
So with much prayer, the encouragement of our consultants, and the excitement of our Palawano friends, we recorded the 32 Bible stories. We distributed them in the community, connected them with mentors and sent out Palawano believers who would go into the mountains sharing the good news among their tribe.
And you know what? God is faithful. I have only been able to contact one of the young women that went as a storyteller. (Cell phone signal and minutes on the phone are difficult to come by). Her report was so encouraging! “Thank you for helping me. Many people are listening to the stories and we are still learning at church as well,” she wrote. I will continue to keep in touch as much as possible and more importantly, pray for their work.
Now, I ask you to pray for the Palawanos to know Jesus. For courage and boldness of the believers there. That these laborers would see a great harvest.
And pray that the Lord would guide me in my steps to my next home and how to obey Him there. People ask me “Why move to a whole new location and start all over?” Well, because it’s time.