Direction through Music
Isn’t it wonderful how our Heavenly Father ministers to us through music! Through Christian music we are: brought into God’s presence, inspired to worship God, pray to Him, comforted during times of sorrow, brought peace of mind and heart, challenged to become more like Him, able to express our joys and our sorrows, share the good news of salvation and sing about heaven. Someone said when we sing we pray twice. In Africa Muslims are beginning to complain. They are asking why they can’t sing during their services like the Christians do!
I love to begin my daily devotions by singing hymns—as long as only God can hear me, seeing I can’t carry a tune. Not only does God minister to me through music, at least twice God has given Paul and me specific guidance through music.
In 2003 we made a trip to visit family and friends and supporting churches in Michigan shortly before we were to leave for our second missionary assignment with the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation in Ghana, West Africa. On our way home to North Carolina I started writing down a list of all the things I still needed to do in preparation for going. I started to feel overwhelmed. There were so many details to take care of and so little time to do it in. I started to wonder if taking a second assignment in Ghana was really needed. I decided I better psych myself up by making a mental note of all the reasons we had decided God was asking us to return to Ghana. But before I could start, the last phrase of a song that I hadn’t heard in a long time popped into my head: “…Go in my name and because you believe others will know that I live.” Wow, what a promise to lean on. I suddenly had all the motivation I needed to go through the drudgery of packing and last minute details. Thank you, Jesus.
I had no specific details as to how God was going to fulfill that promise but I didn’t need to. God knew and that was all that mattered. Following are some of the threads that our sovereign God wove together to make a beautiful gospel sharing tapestry.
Our good friends Dean and Carol Jordan asked us if we could take a set of 400 flannel graph figures with us to deliver to Sampson, the Ghanaian translator they were working with. A lady here wanted him to have it to use with the orphan children he ministered to in his village. The only catch was the figures still had to be cut out! It seemed like an impossible task to get done in two weeks until God inspirited me with an idea. Perhaps Susan Weil, a member of Spirit of Joy Church, could enlist the help of a number of ladies and young people. She did, and along with Carol and other friends, many hands did make light work. Those 400 figures took up a whole suitcase but that was okay because we had set one aside for that purpose.
When we arrived in Tamale, Ghana, Sampson contacted us from his village. He would not be coming to Tamale for a couple of months so meanwhile I could use the flannel graph set myself. One day after work I decided to pay a visit to Lila’s home. She had two young sons whom I thought might enjoy a Bible/ flannel graph story. They were only mildly interested. Perhaps they were too young to understand my American English. When I returned to the mission center, David Lansa, the night watchman, was sitting at the gate. We had become good friends in 2002. He said, “I see you’ve been to Lila’s house with your flannel graph set and you haven’t even shared with my family yet. To ease his disappointment we immediately set a date, two Saturdays from then.
David lived some distance from the center so we went by taxi. When we arrived at his home he informed us that we were going to meet at the church so more children could attend. We couldn’t see the church from his house as there was a corn field hiding it. When the church came into sight I was very relieved that its thatched walls neither came down to the dirt floor or reached all the way to the tin roof. This allowed for some air circulation which I really appreciated! The fifteen or so children quickly sat down on the wooden benches and waited eagerly for me to start. From time to time I would pause so David could translate the Bible story into the Dagbani language. The flannel graph figures held the children’s attention so they didn’t mind the delays. When I finished, the children started talking excitedly among themselves. I asked David what they were saying. “They are saying, we don’t have school on Monday as it is a holiday. Can you come back on Monday?” I couldn’t, so we agreed to meet the following Saturday. We continued to meet every Saturday until we left Ghana three months later! It was the beginning of a wonderful love relationship. The pastor expressed deep appreciation for the attention we were giving the children and for the Bible lessons they were learning. The church members were almost all subsistence farmers and didn’t have the time, energy or training to conduct a “Bible club.”
This was only the first thread in the tapestry. Word spread fast among the Ghanaian missionaries. Soon several of them were asking us to visit their Sunday school classes. Before we left Tamale twenty five churches expressed a desire to have a flannel graph set and a workshop to teach them how to use it! I told them to pray for God to provide the funds, $100.00 per set. They did and many individuals and churches responded to the need. So with the portion that they contributed we were able to give each church a set!
But God had even bigger plans in store for us. Through an amazing Divine Encounter we were introduced to the Ghanaian director of Source of Light, an active organization in Accra, Ghana that was trying to make greater inroads into the schools in Tamale, the capital of northern Ghana. When the headmasters allow them to, they distribute Bible lessons in local schools. I was asked to work with them in 2004. Seeing we would visit the schools when they first opened in the morning, GILLBT allowed me to do this as long as I would be ready to start English as a Second Language classes by 9 AM!
While we were back in the USA, Ghanaian worker, Adam Brown was approaching headmasters to let him introduce the Bible courses to the students. Time after time they were not interested until he told them a white haired American lady would be joining him and sharing a Bible story using this amazing visual aid. At this their ears perked up and gave their permission.
The Holy Spirit said, “Go in my name and because you believe, others will know that I live.” In 2004 Paul and I joined Adam Brown in visiting so many schools that our records show we were able to share the gospel with about 5000 children as well as some middle school students and high school students. Many of them expressed a desire to accept Jesus as their savior. Many of the students were Muslims and had never heard a clear presentation of the gospel before. Not only that many of them signed up to receive the Bible lessons which the SOL staff worker corrects and returns to the students with a new set of lessons.
What an awesome God we serve! He calls us to serve Him. He makes promises and then has the power to fulfill them.
A post script: Sampson not only got his flannel graph set in 2003. He had Paul and me come to his village and put on a flannel graph workshop for 30 men Sunday school teachers, each one representing a different church. In 2004 we facilitated a KIDS AROUND THE WORLD flannel graph workshop for the 25 churches who requested them in 2003. In 2006 I trained and provided sets for around 15 Ghanaian Bible Translators, all of whom work in various outlying areas scattered around Ghana. One of them reported back to me that he also sometimes uses the set when he preaches. He shared that when he does, he notices that the people are less likely to fall asleep and they ask more questions! Praise God from whom all blessings flow, including a simple visual aid like flannel graph.