HEARTLAND | In Guinea on a short-term mission trip, Mark Emerson met his own version of the man from Macedonia (see Acts 16:9).
Emerson and fellow Illinois volunteer Harold Booze were waiting for a boat to take them and their missionary guide to share Bible stories with an unreached, unengaged people group. As they endured the six-hour wait, they met John, a soldier from a nearby village. When they told him where they were going and why, John asked, “Why are you passing by me?”
“So, on our return, we came back a day early to tell stories to him and his family,” Emerson said.
John was one of many Guineans who heard true stories from the Bible that week. Five volunteers from Illinois partnered with International Mission Board missionaries to locate and share with unreached people groups in the country. The mostly Muslim nation is largely non-literate; the people rely on stories to pass down their traditions and culture. In one historic village, the Americans listened first to the story of how the people had come to settle there. After detailing hundreds of years of their people group’s history – including specific names – the Guineans turned to the Americans and said, “You tell us a story.”
“I’ve got a great one,” Emerson said before launching into the account of the Good Samaritan.
The Bible stories were the group’s inroads into the villages, a way to begin building relationships so that missionaries and future teams can go back and keep sharing about Jesus. In a village where they stayed several days, the chief brought a sick child to them. After they prayed for him, the Muslim chief was so moved by the passion of their prayers that he took the group from place to place so they could pray for more people.
They met a man near death and prayed for him, that he would choose Jesus. Their missionary guide felt like they shouldn’t leave the room until they had given the man the Gospel, so, “I gave him the whole thing, the full-barrel Gospel,” Emerson said. The man didn’t turn to Christ, but the missionary encouraged Emerson and the other volunteers. “At least he had a choice.”
“My responsibility is to help people have a choice,” Emerson said once back in the U.S. “I didn’t win anybody to Jesus, but I got a whole lot of people closer.” Like the chief who told him, with his hand on his own chest, “God has designed us to know Him in our hearts.”