Phillip Schuring had no idea what was in the works when he met with tribal leaders late at night.
The leaders confronted Phillip and questioned him about the real purpose of the missionaries living among them.
“Why have you been tricking us and have not begun to teach the Word of God?” the leaders asked.
During a passionate conversation that lasted until 2 a.m., Phillip, sick, exhausted and outnumbered, was unable to communicate fully in the people’s language. But he did his best to explain the reasons for the apparent slowness.
“I explained to them that when I arrived I didn’t know what they understood about the Word of God and, in fact, I didn’t even know if they were Christians,” Phillip wrote, “and therefore was taking the time to learn these things.”
In unbelief the leaders responded, “But why? We have two churches, church leaders, and we meet on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.”
As they spoke Phillip asked himself the same question. “Why? Truly, why is it that we have not begun to teach? I had to give them an answer, but my mind was so foggy with all that was going on, being sick, and trying to translate everything in my head. So right then and there I prayed quietly to myself and decided to be fully transparent and honest with them.”
Phillip shared the missionary team’s fears of teaching the Word of God wrongly. He said they wanted to lay a strong foundation on which they could build – by using a tested and proven method.
“I understand you want to do things right,” one of the men said, “but what about my son? I’m afraid he is getting past a teachable age and I want him to grow up knowing about God. I need you to teach us, at least a little bit so that I can then teach my son.”
And with that the team strategy changed.
The people have not received Bible teaching in their own language and the Bible is not translated in their language. Through contact with Christians of other ethnic groups, they have adopted their practices but without biblical understanding. They have chosen church leaders, and they hold regular church meetings and read God’s Word in other languages but without fully understanding it.