The triumphs and the challenges

It’s a hard season–will you pray for the Mankins family and their Tobo co-workers?

Their work with the Tobo people began in 2002.

Chad and Janeene Mankins moved to a remote village to live with and love the Tobo people while they learned their culture and language, with the goal of sharing the Good News of Jesus with them. Along with various co-workers through the years, the Mankins family has been loving and ministering to their Tobo friends through joys and setbacks ever since.

This ministry journey has not been an easy one. Chad and Janeene have both faced serious health issues at various points and some of these have taken them away from their home in the bush for a while. Several years ago, Chad found himself facing cancer that required a series of surgeries in the USA. More recently, they have faced theft and vandalism of their house—six times in the past year.

But even more difficult, Chad says, has been seeing “the widespread rejection of the gospel and the falling away of some professing believers due to various issues like pride, immorality, greed and theft.”

In the now-reduced Tobo church, a handful of believers stand firm for Christ in the face of much cultural pressure to turn away. Chad is thankful to affirm God’s grace in holding them in His truth.

Among these few strong believers are the Mankins’ Tobo co-workers, Ambox and his wife, Nailen. This couple, seeing the apathy and hard-heartedness in their own village, have expressed a strong desire to see whether Tobo people in other villages would be open to missionaries coming to live with them, teach literacy and eventually, to share the gospel.

“We teamed up with Ambox and Nailen with the aim of surveying other villages where we might continue also to work on Tobo Bible translation and to, Lord willing, see another Tobo church raised up—this time to a maturity level that reaches out to other Tobo villages,” Chad explains.

His good friend Ambox, Chad observes, stepped up to help in the ministry when the Mankins’ last co-workers left. “Ambox has a big heart for the Tobo people to hear and know the truth. He is in the Word constantly and also does very good study and preparation.”

He is a soft-spoken, humble man who has allowed God to give him the strength to run counter to both his personality and his culture and to confront believers who have fallen away from truth

Ambox’s love for God’s Word and his diligence to study it shows up when he teaches Bible lessons with hardly a glance at his notes. “He is a soft-spoken, humble man who has allowed God to give him the strength to run counter to both his personality and his culture and to confront believers who have fallen away from truth,” Chad says. “His patient perseverance and teachable, gracious spirit have been a huge testimony and encouragement to me!”

Heavy hearts and disappointment have certainly had a big part in their ministry to the Tobo people, Chad shares candidly. One village they recently visited looked hopeful at first as a new outreach location. It is a remote community located about a six-hour hike from the original village.

“Ambox and I first did a survey in January and found some strong spiritual interest,” Chad says. “Then in the follow-up survey this month, this place where we were hoping for an invitation to move our two families was suddenly closed to us due to the opposition and influence of local religious leaders.”

“This is a spiritual battle,” Chad emphasizes. “We need people to pray specifically for us and for Ambox and his family, as we are targets in this battle. We need perseverance, protection and encouragement from so many things that could derail us in the ministry. … We need prayer for stamina to wait and to rest in God’s timing as He prepares our hearts for future ministry.”

“These days truly do bear out the fact that we are not just giving lip service to our need for prayer support. Asking you to pray for us is not just a ‘missionary cliché,’” Chad urges. “Though we’ve been disappointed again by the latest response, our hearts remain hopeful for future open doors. Will you rally together with us in prayer and see how God will work?”

Chad knows with a deep certainty that God isn’t finished with the Tobo people. “But we do need people to join us in praying for these dear people.”

And does he think that your prayers will really make a difference?

“It is huge to us,” Chad responds. “If we know people are praying, we know we are not alone in this ministry. Speaking for Ambox and his family, too, it is so encouraging for them to hear that people in other places around the world are praying for them. Without those prayers, we would feel so lonely.”

God Himself assures their hearts powerfully through His Word, that He is at work, Chad shares, citing one of their favourite passages of promise during this hard season:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31