Persistence in The Face of Tragedy

Story by Stephanie Ernandes

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In 2012, three Kwomtari speakers attended the first Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshops and learned to tell Bible stories in their mother tongue. Their dramatic presentation of these stories created interest among all ages and into neighbouring language areas. Pastors began asking when they, too, could learn how to engage their people using this storytelling method.

In response, Murray and Carol Honsberger planned to run a series of four OBS workshops. A team of Godly national men would teach translation principles, give Bible background, and provide Scripture in the form of Bible stories to participants from the Kwomtari and three neighbouring people groups, the Baibai, Nai, and Yale. The first workshop was scheduled to start in late May, 2017.

Carl Campbell was a translator to one of these groups, the Yale, and also a close friend and colleague of Murray and Carol’s. While making the two-day walk to their village to join them for the course, Carl suddenly became very ill.  He died in a Yale village along the way. Murray and Carol recalled, “People hiked to our village to tell us of Carl’s death. They arrived two days before the course was to begin. It was decided that it would be most appropriate to postpone the OBS workshop.”

The workshop was then rescheduled for the end of August, 2017. This time everything went as planned. People who attended were excited about what they learned. A Baibai man who participated said, “I have been chosen to do church work but do not know how to preach. OBS is teaching me how to share God’s Word,” Another man from the Yale language group said, “In this first course, I learned about what is involved in giving something to God, and about being a true friend to my wife.”

The second OBS course was then scheduled for early February, 2018. In late January, the Honsbergers arrived in the village to find that their village brother Alex was very ill. “Although he made it to the hospital, he passed away two days later. It was hard to believe this was happening all over again,” said the Honsbergers. “Following Alex’s death, his immediate family made the difficult decision that the workshop should go ahead as planned. They were united in deciding that Satan should not be victorious. This decision went against all cultural norms.”

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Easter weekend, following the course, Joseph (translation chairmen and brother to Alex), along with other OBS participants, shared the stories they had just learned at the workshop. Joseph, giving his own life as an example, went on to share that the ‘work’ of following Jesus is not easy. Joseph shared with them how he felt the Spirit of God had been at work in all that had happened. Eleven young people responded to the challenge, choose to confess Christ as Lord, and were baptized. Joseph’s heart was full of praise and thanksgiving.

In reflecting on these events, the Honsbergers concluded, “We are conscious of the fact that there is a spiritual battle going on. We believe God desires to do great things through the OBS workshops and it is a privilege to be part of it all.”






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