And the Word Came With Power has been our family’s fondest read-aloud over our ten years of home schooling. We received the book authored by Joanne Shetler with one of our Sonlight Curriculum sets. We were on a camping trip as we were finishing up this book, and I can still remember like yesterday sitting around the campfire with Josh and Ruby and reading it outloud. The other two kiddos were a bit distracted with playing to tune in very well, but the three of us around the fire couldn’t stop reading. Well, technically, we couldn’t read for crying so we gave the book to Ruby to read the last few pages.
This book tells the story of Joanna Shetler’s time in the Philippines translating the Bible into the Balangao people’s heart language. She tells of the tremendous challenges and the overwhelming victories that God gave. She introduces you to people that you will never forget and will long to meet one day in heaven. You gain a respect and love for her and these people she served as you read each page.
Imagine my surprise when Josh told me we were invited to an event at JAARS (“a multidisciplinary team of problem-solvers committed to the belief—and the vision—that people’s lives and communities are transformed as they experience God’s Word in their own language“) in Waxhaw, NC to hear Jo Shetler speak! I went and found my prized book and re-read parts of the story since it had been about 6 years since our campfire read aloud. We learned that Jo lives in Waxhaw and still works in strategic ways to help the Word of God get translated and the new believers to be discipled in God’s Word and ways. On top of getting to hear her speak, we were able to sit with her and eat with her beforehand! She was absolutely lovely. I hugged her and thanked her for writing her story down. And I told her my favorite parts of the book!
I also asked her if there was one thing she’d like to say to my kids—a word of advice or encouragement or challenge. She immediately said, “Soak your mind in God’s Word.” She went on to tell a story about how a convert from the Balangao people became a traveling preacher and worked really hard at spreading the Gospel and teaching the scripture. She said that his son had a terrible experience with a neighboring gang and ended up beaten up very badly. In their culture, the way to handle something like that was to retaliate with killing the person that did this to his son. The pastor was overwhelmed with the desire to kill and show his family that he cared about them and show the other people that this kind of behavior isn’t tolerated. Responding this way would bring respect to him. HOWEVER, he was more overwhelmed with God’s Word. Scripture flooded his mind about God’s ways and how vengeance is God’s—not man’s! He ended up asking the gang and the leader of the gang’s father to meet him and his son at the police station. And for one hour he shared the love of God and forgiveness and how to live at peace with each other. They all ended up hugging! She said the policemen were dumbfounded as they looked on. And God was glorified. Hiding His Word in our hearts helps us not sin against God.
Joanna started out her talk by saying that God has a plan for reaching the world and every person plays a critical role in the mission.
She said when she was a young girl of only 13 years of age, she felt a call to the mission field. She didn’t know how or when or where, but she began to pray, “Whoever they are and wherever they are at, get them ready to hear.” WOW. That is powerful. And any of us can start praying that right now!
She also said very plainly, “It really does matter if you pray and it really does matter if you obey.” So simple. So true.
And at different poignant parts of her story, she would say this: “God will answer any prayer you pray that brings Him glory.” After several stops in her story to say this, one time she added to it that, “oftentimes the road to God’s glory is a difficult one.”
I could have listened to her for hours. She was full of wisdom and graciousness and even some humor. She knew when she was younger that she wanted to live her life for something that would matter and last. What more impactful work is there than giving people God’s Word in their own language? I can’t think of one.