Dear Family & Friends,
Greetings from Taperillas! As we write this the day before Easter, drums and shouting and fireworks overwhelm the usual peaceful sounds of our valley. The celebrations have been going for nearly 24 hours, beginning yesterday (Good Friday) and continuing through the night last night. It is a pagan celebration, with much drinking of the fermented corn juice that the Simba make, and with some rituals around an idol. It is so ironic that they choose to do this at Easter, and yet maybe not.....the enemy of their souls certainly would not want them to know how they can be freed from the power and consequences of such sin. Never have we celebrated Easter before where the contrast is so clear between the power of sin in human lives, and the freedom and forgiveness that is available because of what Jesus did on the cross that first Easter so long ago.
We've been told the celebrations will last all weekend. This will be our first Easter here in the Simba tribe, and it has certainly been an eye-opener so far. Last week, after church, we were walking home with some of the Simba children, and one commented that there are more snakes at Easter. This is another cultural item we've learned. The Simba believe that there are more snakes at Easter, and that the more snakes a person kills at this time, the more their sins are forgiven. Well, we killed a snake (about a meter long!) on our porch not too long ago, but how thankful we are that we don't have to depend upon killing enough snakes to have all our sins forgiven! How hopeless and impossible.
With this is mind, the value of NTM's work here is increasingly clear to us, especially as Bill has begun to translate the New Testament lessons about the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus into the Simba language. Bill also now has the additional translation work of the Old Testament, finishing the Scripture portions and lessons which Jack Russell, our co-worker began. The Russells had to return to the States once again about ten days ago, due to a very serious situation involving their 22-year old single daughter, Emily. (Please pray for them.....much wisdom, grace, and strength will be needed). And please pray too for Bill, as the whole load of translation now falls on him.....for ability in the language, wisdom in developing the necessary new spiritual vocabulary in the Simba language and for translating clearly, and for the needed grace in handling the extra pressures.
In our last email, we mentioned some problems in the church leadership here. Though much is yet unresolved, it seemed clear this week at a meeting with the leaders that all but two are supportive of the work we are doing here (please continue to pray for Pascual and Arturo, who have been behind most of the dissension). We as a missionary team plan to continue to be involved in the church here, as much as the Lord opens the door ...and there are opportunities. We have also begun laying plans to begin outreach in two nearby Guarani communities where there is presently no Gospel witness. Starting this next month we are hoping to be able to make monthly visits for two or three days at a time to begin some consistent teaching. It will be a good opportunity for us to work with the materials that we have been developing as well as hopefully see the Savior of our souls change more lives. Also, within this year we would like to begin exploring the possibility of beginning a permanent work south of the Pilcomayo River, maybe in a couple more years when, hopefully, the bulk of the first phase of the translation work will be completed. In that area of the tribe, the good news of the Gospel has yet to arrive.
It is with encouraged hearts that we send this, knowing that our Savior lives and continues to change lives and build His church until the day He takes us home to be with Him. May His risen and ever-present life with us encourage your hearts too this Easter!
Much love in Him,
Bill and Kathleen Mann .