Ordinary People as Witnesses Making Disciples – Part 1
– By Shodankeh Johnson, Victor John, and Aila Tasse –
In the manuscript for his upcoming book on CPM, Shodankeh Johnson says of the movement in Sierra Leone:
I want to tell how God is using a lot of ordinary people. For example, we have a lot of blind church planters. We disciple them and coach them. We send some of them to the blind school to learn Braille, so they can read the Bible. And although they’re completely blind, those men and women have planted several churches and discipled many people. The Lord has even used them to disciple people who are not blind. They lead discovery groups and some of the members have normal sight.
We’ve also seen God use illiterate people who never went to school. If you wrote the letter “A,” they wouldn’t know it’s “A.” But over the years, because of the discipleship process, they can quote Scriptures. They can explain Scripture, and train educated people as disciples, though they themselves never went to school.
For example, my mother is illiterate. But she has trained people who are now highly educated pastors and church planters. She has brought more Muslim women to the faith than any other woman I know. She never went to school, but she can stand and quote Scriptures. She can say, “Turn to John 4:7-8.” And by the time you’ve turned there she’s already explaining that portion of the Scripture.
This testimony of God using “ordinary people” is echoed by leaders of movements in other parts of the world. Victor John, in his book Bhojpuri Breakthrough, writes:
Among the Bhojpuri, God is now moving among every caste, even with lower caste people reaching upper caste people. Believers from different castes may not socialize a lot with each other, but they have worship meetings together and pray together. We have one low caste woman who leads a worshiping community on the low caste side of the village, then goes to the high caste side of the village and leads another worshiping community there. Although she comes from a low caste and is female (which makes her an unusual leader in any village), God is using her effectively in both the high caste and low caste contexts.
The leader of another large movement in India concurs:
If you’ve been told that only Brahmins can reach Brahmins, you’ve been misled. If you’ve been told that only the educated can reach the educated, you’ve been misled. God uses the least of these.
From movements in East Africa, Aila Tasse shares these stories of God at work:
A Drunkard Becomes a Disciple Maker
Jarso is the leader of a stream that has planted 63 churches in two years among a least reached people group in East Africa. Four months ago Jarso was baptizing new Christ followers from that people group. Jillo, who was not a follower of Christ, was watching from a distance while Jarso was conducting the baptism.
With a beer in his hand, Jillo observed the proceedings and began to make fun of the baptism preliminaries. Before conducting the baptism, Jarso read the story about Jesus’ baptism and began to talk about it. Now within the hearing distance of the preaching, Jillo found himself deeply absorbed with what he heard. At the end of the story, he knew he needed to follow Jesus. Right away he decided to stop drinking and even threw away the half-finished bottle of beer he was holding.
He went home early that evening. His wife was amazed to see him sober and empty handed because he usually brought home a couple of bottles to drink. His wife offered to bring him a bottle of beer which she had bought for him earlier in the day. Jillo shocked her by telling her that he had stopped drinking, and she should take the bottle back to the shop and get a refund.
Jillo, who did not read or write, then asked his wife to bring the Bible that they had in the house and read for him the story of Jesus that Jarso had read at the baptismal ceremony. The wife came with the Bible and when she finished reading the story, Jillo shared with her what he had heard from Jarso.
That evening, Jillo and his wife made a decision to follow Jesus. The next day, Jillo contacted Jarso who showed him how to do family Discovery Bible Study. From the next day onward, Jillo and his wife together with their children began to do a DBS every evening.
Two weeks later, Jillo, his wife and some neighbors who joined their Discovery Bible Group were baptized. Jillo and his wife have continued this journey by facilitating the launch of eight more Discovery groups. Jillo concludes his testimony that if the current trend continues, it is likely the whole district will be transformed through the gospel.
A New Testament Rahab
Our church planter, Wario, met a young woman two years ago named Rahab. This woman was very beautiful, and when Wario first met her, she was, like her Bible namesake, a sex-worker.
Wario began to tell her the story of Rahab from the Bible including the one quoted about her in Hebrews 11. He told her how the life of Rahab was transformed from a life of prostitution to a woman of faith and how she entered into the genealogical line of Jesus.
Rahab had never read the Bible for herself. But she knew that in the Bible there was a woman who was called Rahab and that she had been a prostitute. This she had learned from various people who heard her name.
But when she first heard the full story of Rahab from Wario, she was touched and asked Wario if she could be like the Rahab of the Bible. Wario said “yes” and offered to pray for her. In that process she was eventually delivered from demonic bondage. After that her life changed dramatically.
She became a very strong follower of Christ and a disciple maker. She married a Christ follower and the couple became committed disciple makers. Over the last year they have planted six new churches in their community.
Shodankeh Johnson is the leader of New Harvest Ministries (NHM) in Sierra Leone. Through God’s favor, and a commitment to Disciple Making Movements, NHM has seen hundreds of simple churches planted, over 70 schools started, and many other access ministries initiated in Sierra Leone in the last 15 years. This includes churches among 15 Muslim people groups. They have also sent long-term workers to 14 countries in Africa, including eight countries in the Sahel and Maghreb. Shodankeh has done training, catalyzing prayer and disciple-making movements in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. He has served as the President of the Evangelical Association of Sierra Leone and the African Director of New Generations. He is currently Director of prayer and Pioneer Ministries at New Generations.
Victor John, a native of north India, served as a pastor for 15 years before shifting to a holistic strategy aiming for a movement among Bhojpuri people. Since the early 1990’s he has played a catalytic role from its from inception to the large and growing Bhojpuri movement.
Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission International (www.lifewaymi.org), a ministry that has worked among the unreached for more than 25 years. Aila trains and coaches DMM in Africa and around the world. He is part of the East Africa CPM Network and New Generations Regional Coordinator for East Africa.
(1) Excerpted from “Disciple Making Movements in East Africa,” by Dr. Aila Tasse, in the November-December 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers.
(2) For security reasons, all personal names within these vignettes have been changed.