Maria’s house is on a walking trail. When merchants from Kebgen are taking their baskets and other goods to market in the lowlands, they leave their village early in the day and hike the steep, winding mountain trail. The Palawano people are very fast hikers, but even they can get tired after many hours on the trail loaded down with their merchandise. Maria’s house is situated in that fateful spot where the hikers from Kebgen are starting to think about what to do when night falls. When Maria’s uninvited guests have eaten her food and slept in her small house, they get up the next morning with several more hours of hiking ahead of them before they get to their markets. And then, of course, they must get back home again. And you know whose house is waiting right at that strategic place on the homeward trail. Maria’s Palawano cultural values demand that she shelter and feed any and all hungry travelers who need protection from the elements and from the night spirits.
Maria has been a baptized Seventh-day Adventist for several years. She truly loves Jesus. But there is a big distance between honestly believing in Jesus and gaining the knowledge and wisdom to be an effective soul-winner and mentor for animists and new believers. The constant depletion of Maria’s meager food supplies and the crowding in her little bamboo house would test anybody’s patience. Maria is no exception. Sometimes she doesn’t even try to disguise her irritation.
Like many of her mountain people, Maria does fairly well with the stories we tell. But reading is not a well-established custom here. The Palawano didn’t even have a written language until a few years ago. Leonda George and some of the other missionaries saw the need for the Palawano to have the Bible in their own language. After learning the Tagalog and Palawano languages, they created simple texts for teaching the youngsters, started a school, and eventually translated large portions of the Bible. Quite a few of the local people can now read. But taking written words, internalizing them and applying them to real life—that’s another giant step, and few Palawano have reached that point.
For some time now, I have been having Bible studies with Maria. Lately we have been reading one Bible chapter each week. Then we discuss three questions about the chapter: (1. What does it tell us about God? (2. What does it tell us about people? (3. What does God want us to do about it? We pray together, and I always hope that Maria will make the connection between written words and personal life choices.
A few weeks ago, Maria came to our Bible study with a story to tell. “I was reading in Hebrews this morning. Paul told me to remember to be hospitable to strangers. He said that some people have entertained angels without knowing it. I remembered that Abraham was hospitable, and one of his guests turned out to be Jesus.” Maria was thoughtful as she continued, “I thought of all those people from Kebgen who show up at my house for the night. I get so tired of hosting them! I know it’s rude, but sometimes I say mean things to them. Yesterday it suddenly hit me that these people are like Jesus coming to stay with me. I want to be hospitable to Jesus. I want Him to live in my heart. I must be kind to the people who come to my house for shelter.”
I was so excited and touched to hear her testimony! My friend was not only reading her Bible every day but hearing and receiving what God was saying to her. And she was making changes in her life to please Him!
Please keep Maria in your prayers. Ask God to help her stay close to Jesus. Ask Him to use her to reach her family, her more distant relatives and even her whole tribe. Pray that her life will be a beacon of light, shedding the good news of what Jesus can do in a heart.