Drissa’s brother, Amadou, passed away as I was filming this. Tomorrow we’ll go to bury him.
I thought it might be interesting for some of you to look over my shoulder as I respond to some questions our mission sends out annually.
It isn’t an easy task to responsibly (responsible to God and His Word) oversee hundreds of missionaries in many different countries.
I have to start this with a confession. The undercurrent of all of these numerous up-dates over the years has been misplaced, and it is the undercurrent that moves the most water. While I should have been declaring God’s glory as we see it in Mali, I have largely tried to justify us being in Mali and make our family and our circumstance understood by a distant audience. I repent, and I ask you all to forgive me for leading you to look at us more than leading you to look on God.
The following three stories about God working in peoples lives sum up what I am most excited about: God’s Word, shame, and confession. The three stories together remind me of the gospel: we learn from God’s Word, we find that we offend the One we should love, and through confession we find forgiveness and liberty.
Children Memorizing God’s Word.
We just got a box in the mail from Heidi’s mom. Every kid was hoping to open it up, but they wanted to wait for me. I was having a pretty intense conversation about a very difficult thing in our church. Finally, I came into the house, and they wanted me to choose who should open the box. With the church conversation still ringing in my ears, I asked the kids what the Bible said about who should open the box. In under a minute they rattled off several verses and applied them to a potential dispute.
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother,…”
Matt. 7:12 “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Phil. 2:3 “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Someone mentioned “The older will serve the younger.” Rom. 9/Gen.25 which is out of the context of the passage but inline with scripture in principle.
In the end they decided that their mom should open it. That, my friends, is God at work in the hearts of children. It lifted my Spirit so much. If you are a follower of Jesus and you don’t use scripture to make decisions… or if you don’t know scripture well enough to do it… or your church leaders don’t do it… Go ahead and let the shame settle in. It is good for you.
I stepped outside to see how the kids’ yard work was coming along, and there was Tairou standing in the Red Flyer wagon that I have told him SO many times that he is too heavy for. I asked him, “Tairou, what should I do?” He hid behind a pillar of the new garage, like Adam and Eve in the garden. I told him to come see me. He came out but stood 3 meters from me and faced nearly the opposite direction. I told him that the wagon wasn’t all that important to me. What I was really concerned about was his inability to respect me. I could see his eye lashes blinking fast, trying to hide shame and hold back tears.
I said, “I can see that you’re not ready to talk, but before you go home tonight, I want you to tell me what I can do to help you respect what I say. It doesn’t have to be a punishment. I can be an encouragement. Do you understand?”
He nodded. So I left him. As I gave Joe and Zach more tasks to do, I said maybe they could help Tairou think of something since so few boys know what to expect from a Father that talks like that, but Tairou disappeared while no one was looking.
The next day Heidi and I went out for some exercise. I ran past where he usually hangs out if he’s not at our place. I saw him with some older boys, and as I ran by I said, “We’re going together?” A smile broke on one corner of his mouth, and he fell in a few meters behind me. He stayed behind and said nothing for the first kilometer or so, but gradually, he worked his way up beside me and became his normal, playful self.
As we stretched I asked Mariko if he would come over and talk with us. We all sat on the well as I recounted the previous day. I told Tairou that I knew his heart was a little hard because he smiled when he killed our neighbors rooster. But I could also see that his heart was a little soft too because of the regret and shame I saw in his eyes from disobeying me. “A diara ne ye.” I said. “That pleases me.” Mariko helped me explain that God is willing to give us completely soft, healed hearts. We prayed, and I encouraged him to confess the bad things he had done to me because I want to forgive him, like I have been forgiven.
It goes against our human nature. But the Bible promises us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9 There are good things waiting for those who confess their sins. We can see in that verse that God’s justice can be satisfied in our confession.
One hour a week, that is all we have asked Drew for. He even picked the time. Saturday afternoon should have one hour set aside so we can talk with him. But the second Saturday found us waiting by the phone and Drew at the beach with his friends. I thought about what I should do. I didn’t want to blow it off, and I didn’t want to blow it up. Before I did anything Drew wrote me an email saying that he was sorry for missing our call. He said he would write it down and put it on his wall because he really did want to make talking with us a priority. “I love you.” He said.
We have always taught our children to be truthful, but it has only been recently that we have made confession, modeled after what we see in the Bible, a standard practice. They picked it up so quickly, and to see it put into the practice is an awesome thing… even more beautiful than our new baby girl, and that’s saying somethin’!
I have also seen God in: how like minded Drissa and I are, the incredible professionalism Heidi has brought to a one-room-four-grade-plus-a-nursing-infant school, the local pastors working together across denominational differences to see the gospel preached in our area, Tom and Laura’s unnatural tenacity to live in a HARD place to see the Shempiré people have God’s Word in their language, and Moussa’s desire to know the Word and his conviction that it is truth.
I wrote to many of you about the different ways we are making disciples. Drissa Diallo was a key figure in that email. You are likely starting to remember his name. In that same letter I mentioned that I hoped to follow up with more information about who the people I wrote about were. So here you go, an interview in a LandCruiser.
Heidi said not to send this one out to everybody. It is risky only in that it is unrehearsed. I was resting, listening to music, and thinking. This is the thought that came to my mind. I grabbed a Go Pro, headed outside and recorded exactly what you see above. I hope it feels conversational to you. Converse freely.
We don’t live in the desert, and we’re are mainly working with only two people groups. So this video isn’t exactly us, but what I identified with was the difficulty. I believe it is true that many believers are not working toward taking the good news to all peoples because… it’s hard.
16.05.24 My Day
It is in everyone’s best interests if I am the first one up. All left to our own devices, Adam would be the first up, and if he gets up all alone, the call of mischief is too great for him to resist.
So I was up this morning studying Matthew 9. Even if I am exhausted, it is so helpful to spend time in the Word before everything else. It helps me be Christ-like more than sleep. I guess that sounds obvious, but I have often held sleep as the best remedy for my human nature.
Adam was up second. I held him a bit until he was fully awake. Then I took him outside to play. Once he was contented pushing a bike around the yard I headed back in to finish my Bible study.
The boys remembered to clean their room first thing after they woke up, and that made me happy. Everyone came in for a delicious breakfast Heidi made. That reminds me; yesterday, while I was reading the Bible to everybody, Zach fried up some eggs and toast for his mom who had been nursing Dorothy. He made her tea and did everything the way she likes it. That’s a pretty great 8-year-old, right?!
After breakfast was cleaned up, I walked everybody through the passage I had been studying. Joe and Harley really soak up the scriptures. They don’t miss a beat, even when I ask tough questions.
We sent the oldest three kids off to get started on school work. Heidi waited around because she needed to do some preparations for the day’s meals before she went to teach school. I sent some emails while I waited for 9:00 am when I planned to call Drissa for a meeting today. Before 9:00 am Aboubacar Koné was here to greet me. He is pretty resistant to the gospel. He is in the category of uneducated people who follow blindly. That isn’t my estimation of him. That is what his Malian neighbors tell me.
As a means to bring him to the scriptures regularly, I asked him to help me translate scripture from Bambara to French. Honestly, it is helpful to me for more than language learning. My American side really wants some structure to the time I spend with friends. Koné stops by almost every day, sometimes twice a day. It is hard for me when he wants to just sit and talk about nothing. So this has been so good for us on every level. We have been working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus birth.
Heidi texted me about this guy that has been sitting by the side of the road on the way to the school house for the past week or so. He has always given us a strange vibe. His whole family is off. I called her, and she told me that he finally went too far.
I called Drissa, whom I was supposed to meet with. He was already in another town. So we planned to meet tomorrow while he is DJing at the radio station.
I talked to Mariko about the guy Heidi was talking about, and I decided to go talk to him. He was sitting on a thin, queen-size mattress beside a house that was never finished. Three neighborhood boys were sitting with him, and Tairou had been there with him before coming over to our place. We greeted each other, and he rolled right into his normal, hard-to-cut-into, blah blah. I said, “I’m here to talk about my wife. You told her that she pleases you. Do you like my wife?”
He assured me that he had been misunderstood. He only liked that she spoke Bambara with people. That is what pleased him.
I told him that I couldn’t know what he had meant, but I knew what my wife had understood, and I told my wife and kids not to go by him anymore.
He made some more small-talk and excuses.
I told him, “I have observed your family for many years now, and there is a bad spirit in your home. Everyone knows that this world is filled with spirits, but only one of them is good. Until you find the good Spirit who can protect you from all the others? I am going to tell my family to leave you alone.”
“Your right,” he said, “Everyone in my house tells me that this foot injury isn’t normal.” (It hasn’t healed in years.) “There are bad spirits with us.”
“We will keep praying for you and your family in the name of Jesus.” I told him.
Then I told the kids, “Let’s go to my house.”
Tairou had come with me. So he was ready to go, but the other boys hesitated. “Come on, let’s go.” I said, and still they sat there.
“Every day you guys are begging to come into my yard. Today I ask you to come, and you don’t what to go?” Two of the boys got up to go.
Benogo sat there unmoving. “My arm is broken.” he said.
“Yeah, but you feet still work. You can’t walk?”
“No, I can’t walk.”
“Then how did you get here?”
“Okay, I’ll carry you.”
“No, I don’t want you to.”
“Do you want to go with us or not?” He hesitated, and I asked him a few times before we started to go.
Tairou smacked me playfully. I started chasing him, and it was a mad dash with all the rest of us toward my house.
It bothered me that Benogo seemed tied to that place. That guy is no good. I don’t know what the kids like about him. Nonetheless, they are drawn to him. Benogo did come around a few minutes later.
The boys sat around with me. I got them water to drink, and I showed them how to carve while Tairou practiced reading to me. What he was reading brought up some questions about how God created us. So I brought my Bambara Bible out and read the portion of Psalm 139. Mariko was there to help us understand each other for part of the time.
I really believe I rescued those boys. We all share a common enemy.
We got rain in the afternoon. It was such relief from the oppressive humidity that had been leading up to the rain for the previous few days. Sometimes it is even hard to breath.
I asked for some questions, and here is the first response I got.
Hi Jeff, First off, thank you for the nice email that you sent us to let us to know how you do your work for the Lord.
(He is referring to Mali Story #95 “How Are People Being Disciples Through Jeff & Heidi Frazee?”)
I have to tell you that I always pray for you and your lovely family.
(Then he poses several questions that many of you are probably asking yourselves.)
I wonder how you guys handle the large family you are taking care of, and the labor to spread the gospel.
What any other project you guys are working on, is there any kind of a plan to do it, what is the short and long term goals, in a summary way, details can be addressed afterwards
The last emails I have from you is to let us to know all the deals you go through to be able to receive your new baby, and during all that time, about four months, there is just traveling stories, that for sure gives you the opportunity to share the gospel, but what about your commitment with your “work” how did you follow up on the plans you have, described in line 3. I think it is important to be in touch with all your supporters, by letting them to know how is your family doing, but also including the status of the projects you guys are working on
Honestly, I was kind of concern about your lack of information about your work for which you are in an other country, I share some of your communications to my friends, and they concurred with this: it was most about the adventure you were having than the actual report of activities for which your are there. Please don’t take me wrong with this communication, but I may need some more information to see how can I help you better.
God bless you all Javier Garcia
Javier’s first question was about how we handle our large family and the work of spreading the gospel. Several of you who follow us closely find our large family to be poor judgment, an impractical use of resources, and irresponsible. We believe our large family to be exactly the opposite. By our judgement, according to the Bible, we are doing our best to live with open hands toward our good Father. We are trying to make the most practical and responsible use of the resources He has given us. Understanding that, I think Javier’s is a question of balance, and it is a good question.
We have eight children 14-years-old and under, and we have a responsibility to preach the gospel and teach other people to obey what Jesus taught us. How do we balance these two nearly-impossible tasks? There are two ways you can balance a load. You can take from one side to give to the other, or you can move the center of balance. It would be wrong to take from our children. So at this stage in our lives we are more closely centered on family than most people are. Caring for our family has become one of the main ways of preaching the gospel and teaching others to obey the Word at this time in our lives.
I read the Bible with my children’s friends. I encourage and train them all together according to the Bible. I model and discuss Biblical marriage for Drissa, Baba and other young men. When I ask my children for forgiveness, something Mariko says he has never done, it becomes a time for us to talk about what the Bible says about forgiveness and unity among followers of Jesus… all … day… long. That is how I live… every day.
Trusting YHWY with every aspect of your life is the best way to spread the truth about who He is to all peoples.
Javier also asked about short and long-term goals. My short-term goal is to teach the guys closest to me to know and obey God and the Bible. And my long-term goal is for them to do the same thing with other people. It is so simple that it might be hard for most American church-goers to imagine. Here is what it looks like: people are daily in my house, and I am daily in theirs; time is taken to read and question the Bible; driven by God’s love for us, we strive to obey it. And it grows like that. Jesus told the people the parable of the sower. Then he told parables about what the Kingdom of God is like.
Matthew 13:33 (NIV) He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Yeast represents sin in the Jewish tradition. It is a shocking thing He said. If you’re shocked that all I do is talk to my neighbors about Jesus and the Bible… I’m okay with that. That lady was making 60lbs of bread!
Everyone has a different method, but I am playing the short game. Drissa, Koné and Tairou will move on and disciple other people, and I will disciple new people. I don’t intend to organize a church. I’m just mixing yeast into the dough, and in heaven I will see what God made of it.
Finally, Javier expressed his sincere concerns that we were doing little besides raising our family.
First of all, I want to apologize. I can see that I haven’t done a good job of communicating, and I agree that it is important. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It is really hard to account for how different life is here from San Jose, CA. And if I can’t account for it, our communications tend to sound like a huge waste of time to your average American.
Our world does not function around work hours. Life is not divided into separate pieces, and we work to live in our world. It is hard for us, but we constantly give up more and more of our personal space, private time, and our right to have our own things. While that will continue to make our lives less and less familiar to most of the people who read what we write we believe it is the right thing to do.
Three things have greatly encouraged us in our work lately: a training session and two godly men reflecting on how they devoted their lives to the spread of the gospel.
A little over a week ago Drissa and I were in Bamako together for two different conferences. His conference was a CityTeam training about using Discovery Bible Studies for evangelism in West Africa, and my conference was a 30+ year missionary who reviewed all his time in Mali and shared his best advice for the future of disciple making here. Both conferences greatly confirmed and encouraged the methods we are using. The second godly man that encouraged me was Billy Graham. This taken from a Christianity Today article from January 2011.
(Taken from Christianity Today 2011 January http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/qabillygraham.html?start=2 )
They asked him,
If you could, would you go back and do anything differently?
Yes, of course. I’d spend more time at home with my family, and I’d study more and preach less.
What are the most important issues facing evangelicals today?
…the most important issue we face today is the same the church has faced in every century: Will we reach our world for Christ? In other words, will we give priority to Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel? Or will we turn increasingly inward, …
…our calling is to declare Christ’s forgiveness and hope and transforming power to a world that does not know him or follow him.
I hope this is helpful to all of you who are committed to partner with us in growing God’s Kingdom. In a later e-mail Javier asked us to pray for him and his family that they would be more proactive than reactive when reading our communications. Likewise, pray for us Eph. 6:19 NIV
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,
Journal entry Sunday 31 January 2016
I was up so late the night before (sending my last supporter communication) that I wasn’t sure I would be able to drive to Nabilasso. (It isn’t far, only 10 km, but it is a punishing drive.) I felt terrible, but things just started happening. That is the beauty of good habits.
It feels so right, going to Nabilasso. As we walked to greet people and invite them to church Drissa said, “So is your follow-up message well prepared?” I hadn’t thought about it at all for the past few days, but I knew what I wanted to say so it didn’t take me long to prepare. Heidi added an evangicube, and I was set. Praise God. It went so well. Drissa barely helped at all (That means I did it all in Bambara.), and the people were well engaged.
Afterward, we did three more videos for the sondage (survey) interviews we are working on.
Joe was a hero (in the afternoon) watching the kids so Heidi and I could get good rest. He even took care of an Adam explosion that required both him and Adam to take a shower.
Marie arrived late at night.