The Power of the Cross: From the Classroom to the Village

9 Mar 2022

It was a long trip. One and a half days in a bus with students from the theological college where I teach, then 4WDs for another day’s travel. Finally, after a brief sleep, we started the last leg of our journey – hiking from dawn till dusk into a mountainous area where a largely isolated tribe of people live.

A local pastor (who lives where we transitioned from bus to 4WD) had asked the college to send a team of students to reach this small tribe. It was only after I arrived that he told me the tribe’s only previous contact with a westerner was with a Canadian missionary 30 years earlier – who they drove out with spears! But God went before, and we were welcomed into the community.  During the day, the students taught basic literacy and first aid, while I sat with the community elders. None of these elders had ever even heard of Jesus.

Each evening, the tribe gathered together, and I shared basic gospel truths. Since these people were all animists, we had to begin with the concept of a Creator God, before moving onto sin and shame, and finally the good news of salvation through Jesus. Each night, after I shared, we split the tribespeople into small groups, and the students would re-tell what I had shared – the same material I’d taught them in the classroom. We had to explain slowly, since there were only about 25 who spoke the national language – it’s used for trading with other tribes. These 25 then helped translate for the majority who didn’t understand.

On the second last night, I was finally able to share how we are to respond to the good news of Jesus. But as I stood and shared, it seemed that the tribespeople simply did not understand – the language and cultural barriers seemed too great. And so after I finished and the tribespeople broke into groups with the students, I stepped out into the jungle to plead with God to intervene. The scene I returned to continues to brings tears to my eyes: My students were earnestly teaching in simple language, those gospel truths we had spent so much time going over in class. Heads were bowed as in group after group, people decided to trust in Jesus. That evening, ALL of the tribespeople who spoke the national language, as well as some others, became believers. And the local pastor who had invited us has since sent a full-time worker to disciple this newly established church.

We teach in a theological college because we want to see national believers understand the gospel and be equipped to share it well with those who have yet to hear it. We’ve seen it happen many times: It’s the power of the cross at work, in my students in the classroom, and then through them in making disciples amongst the unreached. 

  • Chris Luthy, a Pioneers worker serving in SE Asia

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