“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you….I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us.” Psalm 119.11,13
As most of you know, Bill and I are out of the tribe right now. We constantly pray and call and correspond with Promise and the church there in Itutang, but its not the same as being there in person and hearing their daily stories face to face of God’s provisions. But today, this week, this is where we are – living vicariously through Promise who is on the ground with the church there. 🙂 This past week she related some news and we asked her to write it up for us to edit and share with you. Please read and be encouraged:
A small group slowly gathered at the Itutang village church. Some with eager anticipation of an afternoon’s entertainment. Some with nervous laughs and comments as they contemplated what they were about to attempt. They drifted in one by one and sat around the edge – other than a few brave men who made their way up front. The Inapang church is memorizing and reciting Romans 8:1-18.
As some of you know, when you are translating into previously unwritten tribal languages, there is often no neat compact word to sum up a concept like “propitiation” or “justification.” Often, it takes a phrase that actually describes the process. Understanding that, think about Romans 8:1-18 in English. Nice and compact and still a challenge for us to memorize. Well, Romans 8:1-18 in Inapang is about twice as long as it is packed with terminology that has to then be meticulously unpacked for the reader to understand the meaning clearly in his mother tongut. Memorizing these 18 verses in Inapang is a big deal.
Cletus (Inapang church elder) started off the afternoon by standing at the front of the church and confidently reciting Romans 8:1-11 in Inapang. When he finished, the crowd clapped with enthusiasm and expressed their amazement—a nearly word for word recitation! In Inapang! (Those eleven verses are about 300 words in English, but again, it takes 800 words to say the same thing in Inapang.)
One by one, others went to the front of the church to recite some verses from Romans 8. Some recited several verses. Others just one or two. Several ladies and teenage girls joined the recitation in spite of nervousness and some trembling voices. Everyone who had studied was encouraged to try and the results were met enthusiastic clapping and encouragement.
Looking around during the gatherings, one thought that would come quickly to the mind of many Western observers is, “Where else in the world is reciting Scripture on a Sunday afternoon the most interesting thing happening in town?” It’s one aspect of Itutang village we love—the interest in God’s Word.
This past Sunday, one month after the first gathering, the group gathered again. This time Anton (Inapang church elder) started off and recited Romans 8:1-18 all the way through—the only person so far to complete the entire passage at once. Three others continued on from where they left off the month before and also finished. Several other men recited the next verses they had learned. Then, with some trembling, the ladies and teenage girls took their turns standing in front of the group and reciting their verses. Clapping, handshakes, and words of encouragement were given to all those who recited – whether one verse or eighteen.
At the end, Anton distributed bright yellow t-shirts to those who had completed the entire passage and reminded the others that more t-shirts await those who complete the passage next month.
Outside the gatherings, you would have heard Cletus, Anton, and others discussing this passage that they have now spent weeks meditating on and marveling again about the wonderful truths it contains as they summarized its teaching from our glorious salvation that begins the passage all the way down to the wonderful truth in verse 18 – All the heartaches and pains of this life seem trivial compared with what is awaiting believers.
We are so encouraged that with the knocks and tumbles of this life – with the verbal persecution and the hard life that they endure every day– that they are still finding their hope in the Word of God…and are hiding it in their hearts! Please pray that the Lord would use these memeorized verses to bring these truths to light during their day to day life and give the STRENGTH and JOY..and keep them from sinning against our Great God.