Nathan Zuck, a Grace College senior from the Elizabethtown, PA, Grace Brethren Church, spent five weeks among the Bayaka Pygmy people in Central African Republic the summer of 2004 (see Bayaka story in the July/August 2004 issue of FGBC World). Here are some of his reflections.
The words of our Lord sometimes become so commonplace that it is easy to skim right over them without thinking about what they really mean. Jesus commanded His followers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and Revelation 5:9 gives the promise of the fulfillment of that command. But what about everything that happens in between Matthew 28:19-20 and Revelation 5:9?
We are living in a time when the gospel is being taken to the ends of the earth to people groups that were previously unreached and have never heard the gospel. In the heart of Africa, missionaries make their homes, and, compared to American standards, make many sacrifices in order to share the gospel with their neighbors.
Paul and Diane Ohlin are two such people, missionaries who work alongside GBIM missionaries in order to reach the Aka Pygmies with the good news of Christ. For five weeks, I lived with the Ohlin family in Bayanga, Central African Republic. The people of the CAR are among the poorest in the entire world, and the Akas are the poorest people in that country. They are looked down upon by the other people groups and many times are mistreated and cheated out of money.
The Ohlins’ ministry is patterned after that of Jesus. Throughout the gospels Jesus repeatedly met people’s immediate felt needs, and when the opportunity arose, He shared the gospel. The Ohlins are doing just that, and they are identifying and training leaders among the Akas. Their continued prayer is that the Holy Spirit would use this work to plant indigenous churches that would multiply themselves all over Central Africa.
Food is a major need among the Akas. There is no such thing as a surplus of food in any Aka household, and the people quite literally live hand-to-mouth. Currently the Ohlins are involved in agro-forestry projects that could eventually equip the Aka people with skills necessary to become successful gardeners.
For centuries the Akas have been hunter-gatherers, and today they are one of the few remaining such people left on earth, but they are beginning to give up their hunting ways for gardening. While the Akas know how to hunt for food in the forest, they are just beginning to understand all it takes to grow successful gardens.
With Paul and Diane’s help, the Akas are learning how to grow breadfruit and jackfruit trees, which provide necessary nutrients for healthy living. This past June, the Ohlins were involved in organizing a blacksmith school where 12 Aka men spent two weeks learning how to forge many different tools. Leif Hedblom, a blacksmith from Sweden, came to Africa to teach the two-week course. The men who attended the course are now able to teach those back in their village how to make an assortment of tools that will help them in their day-to-day lives.
Projects such as the agro-forestry and the blacksmith course, which meet the needs of the people, help Pygmies improve their status in society, communicate the love of Jesus, and create a more natural avenue for sharing the gospel and teaching the Bible.
Teaching is a major part of the Ohlins’ ministry. Paul is involved in discipleship and training of key Aka leaders, and he spends time teaching them from training materials he has written in Yaka, the language of the Aka Pygmies. He gives the leaders this training material and takes them with him on two-week treks through the jungle where the Pygmy leaders teach in many different villages scattered all over Central Africa. Paul then encourages these leaders to continue teaching in the villages and planting churches even when he is not able to be with them.
God is at work in Central Africa. He is building His church among many people who are largely unreached, and He is using the Ohlins and many other people who are laboring in that field.
It will be an incredible day when the Lord’s promise of Revelation 5 is fulfilled and people from every tongue, tribe and nation will worship the Lord in heaven. Among those people will be Aka Pygmies along with people from the other 80 people groups that currently live in the Central African Republic. What a glorious sight that will be!
For updates on the Bayaka Pygmies now in training to be church-planters and evangelists in the forest, log on to www.womenofcharis.net. GBIM missionary Barb Wooler spent September and October in the training schools and gives first-hand reports on progress among the Bayaka.