‘These Psalms are written just for us!’ the women exclaimed.
Ethnic violence had ravaged the region where they lived. For several days, mobs of angry people had committed terrible atrocities, killing, raping and burning down homes. As many as 2,000 people were killed and hundreds of homes were destroyed.
As the situation stabilised, believers in the area began to reach out with God’s love to those who had suffered in the conflict. They went around in the neighbourhoods visiting with people who were now living in the burnt-out remains of their homes, many of them grieving the loss of loved ones and traumatised by the things they had seen and experienced. They distributed clothing, listened to the stories of terrible loss and provided crisis counselling to help people process the trauma.
Just a few weeks prior to these events, a shipment of Scripture portions had arrived in this area. The shipment was en route to another country, but because of the unrest the container had been parked in this very location. Over a period of about four years, the translation team had been working on the book of Psalms in Lenthomi*, their language. It had just been printed and was included in the container, so copies were distributed locally. In God’s providential timing, this portion of his word was available to help those involved in trauma counselling as they shared words of encouragement, hope, and love.
‘The community here used to be comparatively closed to the gospel but now Scriptures are being eagerly received and heard.’
In one particular project, every morning for a month and a half, groups of believers went around and invited Lenthomi women to come to a particular home to can fruit and vegetables for the winter. Afraid to go to the market, and having lost everything, these women were given the opportunity to participate in an activity that is part of their normal rhythm of life. The fruits and vegetables were provided, while the women did the work and took home a portion of the canned products.
When the women arrived, someone read from the Psalms and prayed for them. During the lunch break they also read aloud from the Psalms and talked about their grief. Each day, as new groups of women came, they eagerly received copies of the Psalms and other books that were available.
‘The Psalms are particularly popular, perhaps because so many of them were revealed and shaped in such raw human experience.’
During these reading times, several women exclaimed, ‘This is written just for us!’ Selections from the Psalms, such as the following verses, gave voice to their prayers and spoke to their hearts…
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
One of the believers wrote: ‘In the wreckage of lives caught up in these evil events, people are discovering the power and relevance of the word of God. The Psalms are particularly popular, perhaps because so many of them were revealed and shaped in such raw human experience. The community here used to be comparatively closed to the gospel but now Scriptures are being eagerly received and heard.’
‘It was so special to have a holy book in my own language.’
One of the women who came to the canning project tells her story:
There was a young man who ran the project. He prayed for us and asked God to bless us. He read to us from the book of Psalms. The words were so real and so powerful. They described, like our own prayer to God, exactly how we were feeling after evil people had stolen from us and destroyed our homes. I kept thinking about the words.
I came back each day to work on the canning project and I heard more from the Psalms. When the man left, he gave me the book of Psalms in my language to keep. It was so special to have a holy book in my own language.
After several days I picked up the book again and started reading it. I didn’t know what it was, but something filled me as I began to read. It made me feel afraid. Then I heard a voice telling me not to be afraid and the presence I felt was lifted from me. I thought this was really interesting, and I knew that this book was holy.
At the end of the canning project I went back and met others who were followers of Jesus. I met a lady who talked with me and asked me how I was feeling towards God after everything that had happened. I was honest and told her how hard it was and how I couldn’t understand why God would let this happen to us after we tried so hard to follow our religion. She listened to me and then told me about Jesus and how he could meet all of my needs.
In addition to the witness of this believer, God used a dream to help this woman overcome her fears about turning to Christ. She is now a follower of Jesus.
The events described here took place in an Asian country in 2010.
*Name changed for security reasons