Continuing my thoughts on our upcoming March trip to Ivory Coast, Ruth and I were asked to give a short update in our church Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church, Belfast last Sunday morning. This is what we said…
Fifteen years ago John and I were teaching at Vavoua International School in Ivory Coast. We’d just said goodbye to Alistair Bill, Sybil Ross and David Scott who had come to visit us. We were starting to get ready to come back to N. Ireland ourselves which we did in July 1997.
Fifteen years later, we’re getting ready to visit Ivory Coast for a week in March. We leave Belfast on St Patrick’s Day. We are going to visit the Kouya people who live in the area around the school where we worked.
It was hard for us to decide whether to go or not. Could a short visit like this serve any useful purpose? Would the money not be better spent in some other way? We are nervous about meeting people we haven’t seen for so long and going back to a culture that is so different from here.
One of the things that helped us decide to go, was a sermon Alistair Bill preached here on Sunday 1st January.
Alistair’s first point was about Acknowledging the Past.
The Kouya church has a past worth acknowledging. In 1960 as Saintfield Road church was just beginning, one Kouya man was praying that God would send someone to translate the Bible into his language. 25 years later his prayers began to be answered when Wycliffe linguists arrived. The man, whose name was Bai Laurent, was one of the handful of Kouya Christians who helped the new arrivals to learn the language. In turn Kouyas were trained to be literacy teachers and translators. As the New Testament was translated and shared in Kouya villages and courtyards, the church began to grow.
The reason we are going to Ivory Coast in March is to be with the Kouya church as they celebrate their New Testament and the Megavoice players that this church helped to finance.
Alistair’s second point was about Celebrating the Present.
For the Kouya church, the present is about emerging from a decade of political unrest and civil war. The front line of the conflict went right through the Kouya area. It’s hard for us to imagine what this was like for our Kouya friends: violence and fear between neighbouring communities, loss of livelihood, and the total disruption of normal life. It was in these hard times that the Kouya church had to prove the message of the Scripture that they had been translating… that Jesus cares about us, he understands our suffering and he is with us whatever our situation.
We are very conscious that our lives have been secure and safe compared to theirs, yet we want our visit to be a reminder to our Kouya brothers and sisters that we haven’t forgotten them; that our church hasn’t forgotten them; and above all that God hasn’t forgotten them.
Alistair’s third point was about Encouraging each other for the Future.
We would be so encouraged if you would pray for the Kouya church.
Please pray for three men – Didier, Emile and Kalou. These are the men who visited us here in Saintfield Road when the New Testament was being typeset in England. Now they are key leaders in the Kouya church. Didier is heading up Bible translation throughout Ivory Coast. They are the ones who are organising the celebration. Pray that it will be a real encouragement to them.
Please pray for all the Kouya Christians that the celebration will give them a fresh enthusiasm for loving Jesus and for sharing God’s Word.
And please pray for other Kouyas who are not yet believers.. that they will be drawn to the celebration.. and through it drawn to Christ.
Please pray for us too. We have to go to London to apply for our visas in person. Pray that we will get it sorted out and that we will be an encouragement by being there.
This is the Kouya New Testament. Come and look at it afterwards… In it Jesus says in the Kouya language: “I am the light of the world.” Pray that his light will shine in the lives of Kouya people.
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