Dear Family and Friends,
Well the month of January turned out to be a very busy month for us and we are realizing that it has been way too long since we last communicated. Much has happened both in the community here and in our personal lives. To begin with, the mission, after much prayer and discussion, has decided to close down Tambo (NTM's boarding school for missionary children) after over 50 years of operation. The whole field met together in early January to discuss the future of the education of our children. The decision was made to join with another existing school in Santa Cruz for the coming school year. It was a very difficult decision for most and many are struggling with it. For us, Josh was a little discouraged, as he was really looking forward to attending Tambo next year. We'd appreciate your prayers as we seek the Lord as to what is best for Josh for next year. Then, the last week of January, Kathleen's mom and her new husband came down for a visit, which was a tremendous blessing for all of us.
On a sad note, Juanito, one of our local witchdoctors who was suffering with a large tumor in his head, passed away when he was in Sucre on the operating table. His family have resisted for a long time any contact with the Bible and things of God, and it has been sad to see how his passing has affected them. On the eighth day after his death, the custom is to gather all his personal belongings and burn them. In that way they believe his spirit will have no interest in hanging around to bother them. One thing we are seeing is that for the average Grarani, there is alot of fear of the spirits of the deceased and there is much they feel they have to do to appease them. One of Juanito's daughters now comes to church regularly, but it is very apparent that her understanding is very little. Hopefully as she begins hearing more teaching in her language she will be able to be an influence on the rest of her family.
Please be in prayer for us this weekend...we just found out that the chiefs of the Guarani nation for our region will be here in Taperillas meeting to discuss our presence here. It has become known to us that there are some very off the wall rumors circulating about us in other communities (everything from us wanting to take their land to wanting to make them our slaves) and it will be important for us to be able to clearly express to them all the reasons why we are here. The ramifications of this meeting are huge and there are many behind the scenes who want to do all they can to stop the spread of the Gospel. We are trying our best to prepare ourselves for the meeting and entrust ourselves into God's sovereign hands, to be able to deal with whatever the outcome is, but we very much covet your prayers.
Kathleen has been working hard on preparing our first literacy materials in the Simba-Guarani language. So far we have the beginnings of the first primer and have just started to try it out on a small test group. Please pray we are able to make it as effective as possible and that the results of it all will be many Guarani who will be able to read the Word of God for themselves. The very poor literacy rate among the Guarani is probably one of the biggest hindrances to the growth and health of the church here.
I continue to meet with Martin most mornings, studying through the Bible together. We have just finished going over the death and burial of Jesus Christ, the promised Redeemer, and are set to continue on to the resurrection tomorrow. Please pray for him. He seems to be understanding well the story, but is finding it very difficult to leave behind the bottle...alcohol abuse among the Guarani is one of the greatest hurdles for many new believers. We will probably spend more time together reviewing what we have studied and making sure that it is fitting together in his mind. After that, it is totally in the hands of the Holy Spirit to apply it to his life. I am coming to realize that knowledge and faith are truly inseparable... one cannot exercise saving faith in what he does not know or understand, and at the same time, knowledge of the Bible and the Savior cannot save without one exercising faith in the One that knowledge points to. Our part in it all is to do all that we can to communicate the essential knowledge of the Bible necessary for one to be saved; after that it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to stand upon that knowledge and apply it personally. To that end we are working here among the Guarani, that they may understand the message clearly in their language and place their faith in the only One who can save them from sin, Satan and eternal separation from God forever.
To end on an encouraging note... our co-workers, Jack and Suzie Russell, have just today arrived back in Bolivia. Jack will be working on completing the Old Testament portions necessary for presenting the Chronological Bible lessons.
Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement...it truly is making a difference.
Warmly in Christ,
Bill and Kathleen Mann
(Josh, Jonathan, & Jesse)