It’s amazing the sort of impact one book can have. 20 years ago, in 1997, the book The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was published. At the time, author John R. Cross and the men working with him had no idea that it would be the catalyst for a global ministry and how many people would come to faith in Christ through it. It was just one book with a simple message: a straightforward, systematic presentation of the gospel from creation to the cross.
The writing of The Stranger was drawn from decades of missionary experience of those working among tribal people in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. These tribes, previously unevangelised and ignorant of the Bible’s message, responded well to a chronological presentation of the gospel. So well, in fact, that whole villages were putting their faith in Christ, without the age-old problems of syncretism and “rice Christians.” When the Bible was presented from creation to Christ, it made profound sense. The people would understand and believe. Lives were transformed.
But was it only tribal groups who responded so well to the creation-to-Christ method? What about the Western world? As John and his colleagues interacted with people back home in North America and around the world, they realized that some of these people were just as ignorant of the Bible as the tribal people. They knew nothing about God. They didn’t understand who Jesus was and why he came. We live, for the most part, in a post-Christian culture.
The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus was, in a sense, an experiment. It was a book that used the same method that had proven so effective with tribal groups—a chronological approach to explaining the gospel—except this time for the Western world. It was designed so that it could be given away or used to guide people to a clear understanding of the Bible. But would it be relevant and effective?
This past December, one of our translation coordinators shared this glimpse into one of his ongoing projects: “Please pray for our dear brother Rodrick in Malawi. He and two others are currently a few hours southeast of Lilongwe (the capital city) leading a training seminar on how to run effective Bible Studies and Outreach using GoodSeed’s What are Christmas and Easter All About? (in Chichewa, an official language of Malawi). They have 67 attendees from various local and independent churches… This training seminar is the result of the radio broadcasts that took place last year when Christmas and Easter was read over the air. The shame is that they only have 10 copies of the book (due to many complicated things), so we are very excited for the current print run in Malawi to be finished…”
Happily, we can report that the new print run of 200,000 copies has been completed! They are now in the hands of Rodrick, who faithfully oversees their distribution. More recently, over Easter, Rodrick broadcasted the reading of What are Christmas and Easter all About in Chichewa across Malawi. It was a very successful airing, with over 1000 questions called in, a number of books ordered, and 161 requests that Rodrick bring his teaching to their location!
Praise the Lord that many lives were touched. Pray for this faithful brother in Christ as he seeks to build up and strengthen the church in Malawi. Pray for wisdom to know how to respond to so many requests for the clear teaching of the gospel.
If you desire to come alongside us financially in our translation and distribution projects so that Rodrick (and others like him) will be able to reach more people with the gospel, please contact us or visit our donation page.
Within a few short weeks, pine and holly will be adorning front steps, carols will be coming across the radio and plans for yearly family gatherings will be in full swing. Christmas is right around the corner.
Christmas is a great opportunity to share the good news of who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross. The story of the baby in the manger can be an open door to share the full story of his actual identity and purpose. Why not prepare yourself to share the gospel this Christmas with your family, friends and neighbours?
“Many say Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep.”
The words spilled out of Rodrick as he shared his burdened heart for Africa. He explained how many Africans claim Christianity as their religion, not because of a true understanding of the gospel, but because of its social and cultural roots in their history, going back to the arrival of Protestant missionaries in the 1800s.
But Rodrick is not one to only sit and bemoan a sad situation. He is a man of action. When he was introduced to the material found in What are Christmas and Easter All About?, Rodrick immediately recognized its potential for helping the church in his native country of Malawi.
Rodrick’s help was vital in bringing Khisimisi ndi Nyengo ya Pasaka – Zitanthauza Chiyani?, the Chichewan translation of What are Christmas and Easter All About?, to completion.
From his involvement in the translation and distribution, to teaching the book in churches, conferences and through radio broadcasts, Rodrick has been a tireless champion of the simple gospel message that’s taught in Christmas and Easter.
There has been no shortage of challenges and obstacles. Poverty and high printing costs are barriers to making the book easily available. Literacy levels are uneven. The average Malawian may afford to buy a single book but purchasing multiple copies for giving away is sometimes a bridge too far.
Easter is an open door to engage with the people around you, often resulting in giving a book or even guiding a study. This next month may hold opportunities for you to share the gospel with your boss… or your brother… or the neighbour who has gone through cancer this year… or the jogger who passes you every day on your morning walk.
For many people, Easter simply equals chocolate and bunnies. But there are those who are curious about the season and its significance. There are also those who still make their traditional visits to church on Easter Sunday. Often, people are more willing to hear about the death and resurrection of Jesus at this time of year. Therefore, as believers, let us proactively create opportunities to share the real meaning and significance of Easter this season.
It is not unusual to see accounts from the Bible make it to the silver screen. Even if the films are not biblically accurate, they are good conversation starters that allow us to share what the Bible really does say. It is an opportunity for us to share the message of the gospel.
This year is the release of Risen. It tells the story of Christ’s resurrection from the perspective of a Roman soldier. Rather than throwing doubt onto the biblical account, Risen supports it. It presents Jesus as the Messiah sent by Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews. While one can appreciate how the story is crafted, the movie doesn’t explain why Jesus died and rose again. And so here is a good opportunity to take the conversation further with your unsaved friends who have seen the film.
Sandra* is an easygoing person with an affable manner that allows her to easily make friends with strangers. She knows how to tell a story and she can engage in tough conversations without getting into an argument. She has been volunteering at a hospital and gets to meet many types of patients. Not too long ago, she met Erin, who was dying of a serious illness. Having appreciated an earlier visit, Erin wanted another opportunity to talk to Sandra. Fortunately, Erin’s doctor, who was sympathetic to her needs, also knew Sandra and so arranged for the two women to have some time together.
What ensued was a three-hour meeting. Sandra had brought along with her a copy of What are Christmas and Easter All About? and, with Erin’s permission, was able to read aloud the entire booklet. Sandra went on to answer Erin’s questions and, by the end of their visit, Erin had put her trust in Jesus for salvation. She was now a believer!
Barely three weeks after this meeting, Erin passed away. She left a letter instructing her young adult sons to invite Sandra to speak at her funeral. Erin specifically requested that Sandra read aloud What are Christmas and Easter All About?, just as she had done during that earlier time together. A furore broke out. Jeremy, Erin’s brother, strongly objected to Sandra’s presence at the funeral.