Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from "winter" in the southern hemisphere! Here, that can mean down close to freezing at night, and still in the 70's or 80's in the day. Or some very chilly, damp days. BUT no snow, much to our boys' disappointment.
Our visas have finally been renewed....thank you for your prayers. Once our truck motor change is complete, we can make the trip to Cochabamba to obtain our "carnet" cards (necessary for staying in the country), and then we should be good for two more years. The truck repairs are taking longer than anticipated, partly because the mechanics have been finding more problems. One, a cracked shaft in the steering box, could have caused a serious accident....so we are praising the Lord for every problem they are finding now in the shop.
The major happening and prayer item just now is the church-planting conference that is to begin here tomorrow. Several experienced NTM missionaries are traveling here to meet with the all the Simba missionaries. With the recent information gained from the February survey of the southern half of the Simba tribe, and with the recent happenings here in the little Simba church, we expect these meetings to be very profitable. The leaders here in the little Simba church have recently become very zealous to reach out to other Simba communities, but for lack of understanding and Scripture in their language, they end up just teaching topically from the Spanish scriptures things that really aren't helpful for those who have no real foundation for understanding the Gospel. Timing seems, to our way of thinking, to be too early for full fledged evangelism, as there is still so much not in place yet. But they are zealous and it sometimes seems like trying to hold back the wind! So please pray for us as we do all we can to steer them and encourage them to use the foundational materials that have been prepared thus far in their language. God has opened a real door among this people group right now, and though it is not necessarily what we consider as an ideal situation, the potential is huge. We are hoping that the Lord will give us wisdom through these meetings in how best to handle this challenge and others, some of which are mentioned below.
On the home front, we are still buried all day every day with language study, although now we have moved more so into culture study at the same time. Thus far we as a Simba team have been able to identify some very key cultural barriers to the Simba coming to an accurate understanding to Biblical truth. The Simba concept of God is very lacking. To most He is a very impersonal and distant being named "Tumpa" that no one knows anything about. But the Simba deal with an entirely different realm of spirit beings on a daily basis, the "Ias" (or "owners" in English). According to the Simba world view, every thing from the rivers and mountains to every different animal has an Ia that must be appeased. That means when they go to hunt, they must make an offering of some sort to the Ia of the animal they wish to find and kill. If there is a sickness, very often the witchdoctor is consulted to determine the cause and very often which Ia has been offended. So you can see how critical in the early teaching it is to establish in their minds the attributes of God, many so clearly seen in the creation account, and the true identity of those they know of as the Ias... fallen angels and sworn enemies of the one true God. Our little church here has come a long way in understanding the truth about the creator God and we have been assured by several when the subject has come up that they don't deal with the Ia's anymore. Another absolutely critical area we have come to see is the Simba concept of sin. The Simba have a very strong concept of right and wrong, but it is very limited. In all there are five things considered sin...lying, adultery, stealing, fighting/killing, and destroying anything planted. So it is very easy for a Simba to go through life convinced he is not a sinner, is he hasn't done those things. If he has, by chance, he has an escape by finding a certain snake on Easter morning and killing it (although our language helpers assure us this does not take place in this village). If he does that, he believes his sins have been wiped out. So how do you go about convincing a good moral Simba that he is a hopeless sinner in need of a Savior? These and many other things arising from their culture, need to be dealt with in teaching the Scriptures and will play heavily in our upcoming team meeting.
I (Bill)am also about to begin work on a small project of compiling a verb dictionary, of sorts. As Simba has alot a very irregular verb forms, we have sensed the need for a reference book to help all of us working here now and anyone else in the future wanting to learn Simba. It will mean alot of work with the computer but should be a tremendous benefit. It should fit very nicely with our present goal of learning the language.
Well, that's most of the news from our corner of the planet. May the Lord lead you ever closer to Him.
In the love of the Savior,
Bill and Kathleen Mann