“Do you really think you can do this work?” His brother-in-law began peppering him—the venom in his words was nearly visible as he spoke. “Do you think you are some kind of pastor? Are you really able to do anything?” After finishing his sharp remarks, Ishmael’s intoxicated brother-in-law waited to see how he would respond to his insults.
Although hurt by the caustic challenges coming from a member of his own family, Ishmael managed to respond, “By the grace of God, I can.”
I have some exciting news to tell you. Today, Ishmael’s brother-in-law, Justin, who for much of his adult life despised followers of Jesus and enjoyed humiliating them, now worships God alongside Ishmael. How did this happen? For now, I will tell you this. It happened one night during a Truth Link Bible study. But let me tell you, after hearing the story firsthand from Ishmael, this Truth Link study was anything but ordinary.
After hearing Ishmael share his testimony with his fellow pioneer Bible workers at Riverside Farm in Zambia, I knew this was a story you would want to hear. I managed to carve a few minutes out of Ishmael’s schedule for him to share in greater detail about his brother-in-law and the series of events that led to his union with Jesus.
Unsure of where to begin, I asked Ishmael, “Please, tell me your story, the one you said the night before during your testimony.”
Steven was acting strangely during their lessons.
After a quick glance up to his left, as if capturing a memory, his attention returned. “I had been a pioneer Bible worker for almost one year. It was May 2022, and I was witnessing door-to-door in my village [a very rural area with houses built of clay/brick walls and grass thatched roofs] using Truth Link.” Ishmael said that no one had been interested yet. He shared, “I prayed to God to show me a special place where I can lead someone to Jesus.” After a day of witnessing, Ishmael visited his in-laws’ home feeling defeated. Not to Ishmael’s surprise, a man stumbled in front of him upon entering his parents’ home. It was his very inebriated brother-in-law and this was where he began hurling insults at Ishmael.
Ishmael leaned towards me and said, “My brother-in-law was always trying to find ways to discourage me. It was nothing new. I would wait until he was sober to share about Jesus, but he was incredibly reluctant.” Ishmael said that he continued praying day after day for a group to have a Truth Link study with, but so far, no one was interested. Was God ignoring him?
Let me tell you, it is strange how God answers prayers. Several days later, Justin’s drinking problem started to catch up with him. He got kicked out of his parents’ house. They were weary of his behavior. Ishmael recalled that Justin had called him asking for work. As a fisherman by trade, Ishmael happened to have an opening on his boat (they live on a beautiful lakeshore in Zambia). After talking with his wife, they agreed to house Justin for a short time while he made money to rent his own home. Maybe this could be an opportunity to share more about Jesus. In addition to his brother-in-law, Ishmael hired a man from Tanzania named Steven to help bring in catches for the season. He, too, was given food and board with Ishmael and his wife for the working season.
Ishmael continued, “When we went to work on the lake, I began to share stories. I told stories about Jesus, Creation, the Bible, and Sabbath.” And you know what? Steven began asking questions.
“Is this story you tell us about the Sabbath true?” he asked.
Ishmael responded, “Yes! It is written in the Bible.”
Steven continued, “How do you really know and how sure are you that this Sabbath thing will save you?”
Of course, Jesus is the Savior, not the Sabbath, but he didn’t know that yet. They continued discussing the Sabbath, all the while, Justin quietly listened.
Ishmael continued his story: “Upon arriving home, I gave them a set of Truth Link, but they couldn’t read English.”
This part of the story gets exciting. Because Justin and Steven could not read English, Ishmael invited them to study Truth Link with him. Ishmael said, “I started going through each sentence, translating. We discussed how God created the world and other topics. After these kinds of discussions, the subject of the Sabbath came up again. My brother-in-law asked the same question as Steven on the boat, ‘What you are sharing about the Sabbath, is this really true?’ I said, ‘Yes, it is true! It is in the Bible.’ After some days, Justin said, ‘This Truth Link, I will not leave. I will have it.'” As you can imagine, Ishmael gladly surrendered a copy of the Truth Link you sent!
Justin, Steven, and Ishmael continued studying Truth Link together. Using the Bible, they referenced the series of questions each lesson asked. God was at work. Ishmael could not believe what was happening! However, during this time, he began to notice Steven was acting strangely during their lessons. It was as if a battle was happening in his mind during each study session. Almost like Steven was talking with someone that was not there. Something was not right.
This is part one of Ishmael’s story of sharing Truth Link. Part two will change the way you think about the power of a simple Bible study. There are unseen forces at work whose sole mission is to stop God’s pursuit of the human heart. But will Ishmael be able to contend?
Light Bearers is currently in the process of translating Truth Link into Bemba and Swahili so that people like Steven and Justin can have the dignity of discovering the gospel in their native tongue. These study guides will be printed in the near future. If you would like to help distribute this gospel literature, we invite you to become a regular partner with us.
Alyssa has her degree in International Development. She creates content and tells stories for nonprofits that work with refugees and vulnerable people living in Africa. When she is not traveling, Alyssa enjoys gardening, big family meals, chocolate chip cookies, and hiking in the Oregon forest with her husband.