Who Will Tell Them?

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Busy African marketplaces are prime venues for distributing and discussing translated Scripture.


The sun was just rising and the long rows of ramshackle bamboo stalls stood empty. I had come to the marketplace early to pray before the crowds arrived. I hadn’t been there long when a seller of palm oil showed up. Unaccustomed to seeing a vendor with skin as light as mine, she approached and asked why I was there. “I have holy books in your language,” I answered simply, gesturing toward the array of books spread in front of me.

She was intrigued by the idea of reading words from God in the language of her heart. The only holy book she knew was written in a language not even spoken in her country. She pondered for a moment before deciding to risk 14 cents on a copy of Jonah.

My first sale. I prayed for many more.

Soon the marketplace came alive. Amid the bustle I lost track of the palm oil seller. But around midday, she sent a dust-covered child to fetch me. She’d been reading, and she had a question. 

“In this book Jonah calls God ‘Lord.’ But you people call the prophet Jesus ‘Lord.’ Are there two Lords or one?”

Her question wasn’t a trap. She really wanted to know if we Jesus people believe God is truly one. Her own religion had told her that we do not.

So we sat, side by side in the shade of her umbrella, covered with dust and sweat, and talked about Jesus. As we talked, her hands worked nonstop, filling and selling bags of oil. Eventually, I explained that because of Jesus’ obedience on the cross we sinners can become spiritual children of God.

At this statement, her hands froze. Looking straight ahead, she spoke with quiet conviction. “That is what I want.”

Breathtaking words, these! But the next were even more profound. Gesturing toward the marketplace crowd she added, “That’s what they want, too. But who will tell them?”

Taking small books of translated Scripture to rural marketplaces to be sold at token prices is part of Pioneer Bible Translators’ strategy for getting God’s Word into the hands—and hearts—of spiritually hungry people.

Sometimes I still can hardly believe that God let me be there that day, that He used me to help bring that moment of realization in the heart of a palm oil vendor in that dusty marketplace.

It would never have happened without scores of faithful people elsewhere: the tutor back in our village homeschooling our children; our colleagues in the capital city keeping our visas current, handling our banking, keeping our old car running, maintaining the administrative compound, and printing those precious heart-language Scriptures I was carrying; our colleagues in Texas working to keep Pioneer Bible Translators in tune with the heart of God and the laws of the land; and those who work mobilizing churches to complete this great task God has given us: bringing His Word to every people group on earth in the language of their heart.

Praise be to God, the One who put together such a team so that one woman, with beautiful God-given insight into her own people, now has Genesis, the entire New Testament, and that amazingly evangelistic book Jonah, all in her language!

Who will tell her people? Perhaps it will be her.

You Can Pray:
  • for God-ordained meetings with hungry people
  • for truths taught to one to be shared with dozens more
  • for opportunities to show God’s love even during only brief encounters

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