By: Andrew Olson, FLBC Class of 2011
Ukerewe is an African island of 350,000 people. They have a regional reputation for their powerful witchcraft… and also a bit of a history of killing missionaries who went there. For over 60 years – not a single missionary has lived on Ukerewe Island.
That was, until 2019 when my family went there to set up our home. *gulp* My wife Alexis and I both studied for two years at FLBC – but I would’ve never imagined we’d be doing this when we finished. Some thought we were out of our minds to bring our three daughters to such a place ‘hours from civilization’, without electricity, roads, or safe drinking water.
We had a mission to accomplish though! The Kerewe people, who were living in spiritual darkness, didn’t have a Bible in their language. It took the Holy Spirit’s guidance, empowerment and leading to undertake a mission like this – and learning to follow that guidance started while I was at FLBC.
While I studied at FLBC from ‘09-11, I took part in the student mission fellowship. One day, a recruiter from Lutheran Bible translators came to campus, and took a few of us out to Ethiopian food. During that lunch, he talked about Bible Poverty. He said that many people groups don’t have access to the Word of God in their language. How could they then be saved? My thoughts troubled me.
Only a few weeks later, the student mission fellowship took a 5:00 a.m. prayer walk around Medicine Lake. While I was on that prayer walk, I remember seeing a vision of a Bibleless man. He wanted to know God, and understood from creation that God existed, but didn’t know the truth about Him. He only knew lies that the witch doctor had told him about God. This god of the witch doctor changed with the seasons, and kept asking for strange blood sacrifices. He grew tired of the ever-changing god, and cried out to the heavens, “God, you bring the sun up every morning, and bring the seasons every year in their time. I’m tired of the lies, and the false-god I hear about from the witch-doctor. Who will tell me the truth about who you are? I want to know you!” That was the end of that vision (and the only one I’ve had to date).
I don’t know if I ever met this particular man in the end, but I’ve heard many similar stories on Ukerewe Island. People delivered from darkness and lies, to the truth of the Gospel. Many people in the world know that God exists, but don’t have the truth about who He is, even though all creation testifies that He is real. (Romans 1:20)
Over the past three years, we’ve now translated the gospels into the Kerewe language. It’s exciting to partner with Lutheran Bible Translators and the local church to make this dream a reality – a Bible for the Kerewe. We now call the witch-doctors to repentance in the words of John 3:16.
“Kuba Namuhanga akayenda ensi, nahikila kutaho omwana wa wenene nagumo, wenawena alimwikilizya atasingalika, nawe abe no obulame bwa kazanende.” – Yohana 3:16
We pray that the Lord will continue to bless His Word as it goes forward on this island. We’ve seen families delivered from the chains of the enemy. The poor snake loses ground every year – as 4 new Lutheran churches have been planted here in the last 5 years alone.
Coming back to the blessing of FLBC though in closing. Having a foundation on God’s Word has been beyond value to me. I can’t tell you how many times the lessons I learned at FLBC came back to help me. It was time to get focused on the Word, but also a time to learn to *be led by the Spirit*. To be challenged to align my heart with God’s, and to make His priorities mine also.
I’m entirely in debt to the many professors who gave from their lives to teach – and the many donors who keep the school’s ministry going. Thank you FLBC.
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