Every orthodox Christian believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and we would likely nod in agreement that every passage in the Bible is important.
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Prov 30:5
But in practice, do we really believe every word is important? How many of us skim over the listings of genealogies in books like Numbers or even in Matthew and Luke where the family details of Mary and Joseph are traced back through King David to Adam?
And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler is a classic missionary story about two young women with Wycliffe Bible Translators who went to live with the Balangaos, a remote tribe in the Philippines. The book includes many of the elements you might expect in a classic missionary story: culture shock, bugs, sickness, exotic food, death, and spiritual warfare.
The man the Lord used to bring breakthrough in this people group was called Ama (uncle). He stood in place of a father for the two young women, a requirement in their village culture for single girls, and became their protector and language helper. But no matter how much time he spent with Joanne, Ama didn’t really understand the importance of the Bible message and didn’t believe. Joanne prayed and agonized over his salvation and God sent an answer in a very unexpected way.
This is the story in her words:
One day Ama picked up the English New Testament from my desk. He opened it to the first page, Matthew 1, which is a list of names. He stood frozen, staring at it. Incredulous, he asked me,”You mean this has a genealogy in it?”
I said, “Yeah, but just skip over that so you can get to the good part.”
“You mean this is true?” he asked. Eyes riveted to the page he struggled through the list of names.
Something is going on here! I got out some shelf paper and made a genealogy from Adam to Jesus, from the ceiling clear down to the floor. Ama took it all over the village.
He carefully explained, “We always thought it was the rock and the banana plant that gave birth to people. But we didn’t have their names written down. Look, here are all the names…written down!”
Although the creation story of the Balangaos accounted for man’s frailty it didn’t have their ancestor’s names recorded, so its value paled in comparison to the Bible. Balangaos loved that genealogy from the gospel of Matthew. It proved the Bible was true: for the first time they had the actual names from the beginning of the world written down.
So next time you are struggling through the book of Numbers, remember the Balangaos and give thanks for the unexpected ways God has prepared for reaching the hearts of many different peoples through His story.
Contact me if you would like to borrow this book. I have two copies!