“Were facing a task unfinished That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee to go and make Thee known”
– Frank Houghton, Missionary to China
The day that we taught John 10 for the first time in the Dao tribe is a day that I think about often. When I opened my Bible and looked at the topic for the days class I began literally shaking my head in doubt. I wondered if the Dao listeners would really grasp the things that I was about to read to them. After all, the main illustration used all throughout the chapter is sheep! The Dao people had never even seen a sheep and this passage of scripture talks of one unfamiliar concept after another, all in relation to things like “shepherding”, and a “sheep fold” and the “hired hand”! How would they understand that they are like sheep and that Jesus is equated to the good shepherd if not a single one of the things mentioned in John 10 were familiar to them in their own daily life and culture?
After the class had gathered for the day I slowly opened up my Bible and began to read John 10 in the Dao language. “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice….” When I finished reading the section, with a bit of hesitation in my voice I looked up at the Dao listeners and asked them “So what do you think of these words today from the Creators leaf book? What do you think it is that Yesusi was trying to get across in this teaching and what do you think it is that He wants for us to understand?” After a short silence eventually one hand shot up in the back of the room.
Kogipiyaa was the one with his hand raised and he was the first to speak in response to my question that day. “Well Degapiyaa, (My name in the Dao language)” he began, “We don’t have sheep on our island. In fact we have never seen one nor do we know what they are like but what we do have is pigs. And those pigs know our voice” he continued. Sometimes we will lose one of our domesticated pigs we are raising and so we will call out into the jungle a special call that we know only that pig will recognize. And when we call out, sure enough that little pig comes running straight out of the jungle and straight to us because it knows our voice. Not only does that little pig know our voice when we call to it but it knows whether or not a stranger is the one calling or if its owner is calling out to it and you can rest assured that it won’t come if its not the owner calling to it. Our pigs know our voices and when we call, they come.”
As Kogipiyaa continued on talking I must have smiled a grin that almost touched the ears on the side of my head. Of course their pigs came to them when the called, Jennie and I had seen it nearly every day for years in the natural course of living in a Dao village. I had even tried to mimic the Dao pig calls in an attempt to get the little piglets to come to me just for the fun of it and they wouldn’t come! What a perfect illustration! Kogipiyaa continued on “Sometimes we go out into the jungles to hunt wild pig and every once in a while we shoot one only to find that nearby, hidden in the jungle is a little group of piglets and we had just shot and killed their mother. When that happens we nearly always do the same thing with those little piglets…”
Kogipiyaa went on, “We pick up those little piglets and put them in one of our string bags and carry them back to the village. Then when we get back to the village we hang that bag up in the corner of the house with the wild piglets still inside so that they will get used to our presence. We chew up small pieces of sweet potatoes, spit them into banana leaves and hand feed those little piglets each and every day and begin to call to the piglets in the same way that we call to our other domesticated pigs. If we are patient, sure enough, after a number of weeks those little wild piglets begin to recognize our voice and run to us just like the rest of our herd of domesticated pigs. At that point we look at that little wild pig and say ‘You are no longer a wild pig but you are now part of the herd, you are one of our domesticated pigs!’ and from that point on we view that little pig as one of our own!”
Daapoi, another one of the students in the classroom that day chimed in “Yeah, thats no less than what Jesus does for us is it? We have no right to be part of his flock. We are like the wild pigs that have no place among the herd. But he graciously takes us in and patiently feeds us and teaches us to know his voice. He calls us by name and makes us part of His flock even though we don’t deserve it.” I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face that day as I listened to the Dao people talk about their perception of what Jesus had for them to learn from John 10. I felt foolish for doubting they would understand. I was reminded that Gods Sprit is faithful to make Gods Word come alive in ways that I myself as a mere missionary and teacher never could. After all, this is our greatest hope as missionaries isn’t it? Simply that God will by His Spirit, do what we ourselves could never do; transform their hearts and bring them to an understanding of the truth.
As we think back on the day that we had the privilege of sharing John 10 with the Dao people for the first time and the beautiful way that Gods Spirit brought them to truth it makes us excited for the future. We stand confident that God will through His Spirit continue to bring them to the beautiful truths of His Word as they receive their first complete copies of the Dao New Testament. And Lordwilling the Dao people will receive these copies within approximately the next 75 days! What an awesome privilege the Lord has given us; to be a part of translating and bringing Gods Word to the remote and isolated people groups.
Above photo shows Jennie holding the first printed copy of the Dao New Testament, a book she labored over a decade to see translated into the Dao language. We received this just this week from Singapore, which is where they are overseeing the printing of the first 1,000 copies!