“Hey, that’s my language!” said a local villager as he sat outside our medical/dental clinic listening to the New Testament in his native Zapotec language for the first time in his life. In fact, this was the first time any of his people group (about 5,000 people who live in 3 neighboring villages) HEARD the Word of God in their heart language. Many have perhaps heard small bits and pieces in Spanish (their second language) but never in their heart language. Why hearing in one’s heart language important you may ask?
“I have heard some of the Bible in Spanish before but when I hear the Bible in Zapotec it sticks because Zapotec is in my blood” explained another man. Imagine having Spanish as your second language and only hearing God’s Word in that language – would you “get it” like you would in English? Would you be able to understand important nuances like you would in your native tongue? Most importantly, would you understand that God’s message of salvation is for you and your people directly? Hearing the Word in one’s heart language has major implications even beyond having a proper understand of what is being read – it means that God knows about and cares about your specific people group. It means that if you talk to God (pray) your communication is not bound by a language you do not know all that well - it means you can cry out to Him in your language and He will hear and understand!
Quotes like the above were being spoken each day as people waited for the medical/dental clinic and listened to the Gospels and Acts in their own language. In fact, when one of our team members was having a great gospel discussion with a man from the village the man kept saying, “Whenever I have heard the Bible in Spanish it just goes in one ear and out the other…” He mentioned this several times and finally another man from the village jumped in and said, “You are like the story of the sower and the soils! I just heard that story earlier today!” My friend sat there amazed as this man had just heard this story hours ago and was able to internalize it and apply it. Lord willing, a missionary family for To Every Tribe will be moving into the main village of the Q people group in the near future to work toward planting a church there.
Me working hard and long in the dental clinic while numerous gospel conversations happening outside as people came to listen to the Word of God in their Zapotec Language.
These are just a couple of the amazing ways in which we had the privilege of watching God work while our team spent 5 days in the mountains of Oaxaca among the Q people group 7200 feet above sea level. Amazingly people from 2 other people groups from neighboring villages came to the clinic as well and were engaged in gospel discussions. In fact, we believe one man was possibly converted from one of those other villages. These two other people groups invited the team that lives in Oaxaca to come do clinics in their villages as well which we are confident that the Lord will use to open more doors for the gospel.
Here is an interesting thought regarding the diversity and complexity of the hundreds of villages scattered throughout the mountains of Oaxaca – a village could be 30 minutes drive (a few kilometers as the crow flies) on the “roads” the lumber companies have created for their trucks yet speak a totally different language (not dialect – LANGUAGE) and have a totally different culture from its closest neighbors. For those in KC imagine living in Overland Park then driving to Lee’s Summit and not being able to understand each other. Or for those in Chicagoland, imagine driving from Batavia to DeKalb and not being able to understand the language in DeKalb.
Ethnopedia Mexico (a research agency for unreached peoples similar to Joshua Project but more accurate because it is specific to the unreached in Oaxaca) estimates that there are 200 “missionary points” (villages which missionaries are needed) among the indigenous peoples in Oaxaca. Some of these are places where a church is meeting – often 3-4 believing families meeting with very little Bible knowledge. Further, there is no strong leadership as they are all untrained in even the most basic facets of understanding and teaching the Scriptures. Since these are oral cultures almost all of these churches have no written Bible or they are unable to read a written translation. Finally, many of these “missionary points” are among the unreached. Neither can be neglected.
Needless to say, there is a lot of need in these REMOTE villages in the mountains of Oaxaca and people do not live this remotely because they want to be reached. They are hard and dark villages that are difficult to get to but I am reminded of Jesus’ words to Paul in Acts 18:9-10, “9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Below are more pics…Thanks to all of our partners for your prayers and sacrificial giving – you are an IMPORTANT part of making this happen!
A few team members got to do some Bible storying for the only 3 believers in the entire people group of 5000 people. One of them just came to know the Lord through the other about 2 weeks before we came. They have VERY little Bible knowledge but are really trying to be faithful.
New Testament in the Zapotec language for the people group we were among. Recently finished. The only problem is that none of them can read.
A close up of the text. It is a tonal language – not even close to Spanish.
The view right outside the room we slept in the village.
Stopping for lunch along the way to the village. It took 4 hours to travel the last 20 miles.
Team strategy and prayer time in Oaxaca City the day before we left for the mountains.