Feature

Ann Moves to Town

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It was 2013. Ann* had just finished serving nearly 20 years with CAMA in a crowded capital city. Now in her 50s, she was responding to a long-awaited opportunity with CAMA. Moving to a remote town in the same country where she’d served, Ann would now work as an educational advisor with an established Christian nonprofit.

The town had one unreliable ATM, interesting insects, sporadic running water and electricity—yet an incredible view, friendly people, and a fascinating culture. Ann’s new focus was to improve the quality of education in rural villages—each a long motorcycle ride from town. Many of the villages are home to the unreached Kei** people group.

An Unreached People Group

The Kei people face enormous challenges: a high infant mortality rate, an extensive drug problem, a lack of educational opportunities beyond primary school, and limited access to clean water, latrines, and medical care. The Kei also don’t speak the national language or have a written language. And for generations, they’ve worshiped spirits.

“I really feel the need for prayer support—in particular that God will reveal Himself to Kei people and that there will be a great turning to Him,” Ann wrote in a newsletter her first year.
Ann’s first step in outreach was to begin building relationships with a newly hired Kei community liaison named Thomas and three young Kei leaders. Together, they began producing engaging booklets, dramas, and videos that honored the Kei culture and raised awareness about community issues, including drug addiction and human trafficking.

The Very First Believers

“I am ready to give an answer for the hope that is within me, that is my life and breath—and that is my plan,” Ann wrote at the end of 2015.

The very next year Thomas, who had worked closely with Ann for two years, began asking her probing questions about Jesus.

Around the same time, Thomas’s wife, Kim, began experiencing frequent, disturbing dreams of spirits and relatives pleading with her not to abandon tradition. Then one night she dreamed a large hand came and lifted her higher and higher as her relatives watched in astonishment.

In September 2016 Ann and her team had the awesome privilege of leading Thomas and Kim to Jesus and baptizing them—the very first Kei believers!

A Strong Stirring

Today, there are still no Christian resources in the Kei language, and Kim doesn’t read or write; but God continues to reveal Himself to this couple through vivid dreams. By the end of 2017, Thomas—full of faith—led his brother Sean, Sean’s family, and four others to Christ and was privileged to lead them in baptism.

In 2018, there was a strong stirring of the Holy Spirit. Many Kei people started having dreams of Christ.

Ann’s team copied Christian music onto the women’s phones. As they listened to the music while working in their fields, several said they no longer felt afraid and knew Someone was right there with them. Thomas, gifted with a shepherd’s heart, began showing Christian videos at his home that were produced in a similar language. His living room was soon filled to overflowing with those wanting to hear more about Jesus. By August 2018, four new families were baptized.

The Struggle of Addiction

But Satan doesn’t stand by when Christ’s Church advances. It became clear that drug addiction was a major problem for most of these believing families, including Thomas and Kim.
“Ask that His light will penetrate the darkness,” Ann wrote to her prayer supporters.

And God answered. He gave Thomas a dream, who explained it to Ann: “Following a narrow path, I came to an open space and saw a large, beautiful house where I was invited in to lay down. However, the owner came and stuck a pin in me and asked if it hurt. I said no so he stuck me again. That time it hurt a bit. Then he stuck me again, and it was extremely painful. Yet when I woke up, I felt cleansed, radiant, and joyful.”

Victory!

In October 2018, Thomas, Kim, his brothers, and their families took a courageous step. They left their village to attend a rehab program run by local believers. After five months away, the brothers and their families returned home. On their first day back, Ann heard these Kei believers—now free from their addictions—pray out loud and sing in their language for the first time!
A few weeks later, Sean entered the home where many were doing drugs. He left immediately. That night he dreamed that it was Ann who came and dragged him away from the home.
“I think that’s a picture of the role of our prayers,” Ann says.

In the joy of the Lord, the brothers began offering their homes to other couples to detox and experience the freeing power of Jesus. Many of the couples, recently released from bondage, began in turn to open their homes to those struggling with addictions.

God’s family expands

As the gospel advanced, opposition increased.

Authorities arrived in Thomas’s village asking believers to sign a document saying they wouldn’t cause conflict. Thomas and his brothers refused to sign until the authorities added a line that said they could continue to follow Jesus. Incredibly, other families who weren’t officially listed as Christians asked to be added to the list! The authorities left in frustration.
“We don’t know what will happen next, but we know that He’s in control,” Ann wrote.

And He is! By the end of 2019, 80 Kei families—400 people—were following Jesus in 12 villages! Five of these are villages Ann and her team hadn’t even worked in yet! Today, most of the families are living drug free.

Amazing testimonies

When a Kei child became ill recently, the child’s mother felt enormous pressure from her relatives to visit the shaman. Instead she decided to pray to Jesus! Her baby was healed, and after seeing God demonstrate His love and power, she is now a follower of Jesus.

One teenage girl, who had been almost trafficked to a neighboring country twice, has begun her new life in Christ. She was baptized in Ann’s bathtub!

In another village all 42 households had a least one drug addict in 2018. When the team returned a year later, they found happy and healthy villagers. Thirty households are drug free and excited to join in new community development projects. “You can hardly recognize them because their countenance and physical appearance have changed so much,” Ann writes.

Joy of The Lord

The new believers, who were once afraid when authorities came to their village, now say they feel like God is right there with them. They tell the police: “Our Creator God loves and cares for us. We’ve tried on our own to quit drugs; now with God’s help we can. We don’t want to separate ourselves from the village, but we don’t want to do spirit ceremonies. We have new life!”
These new believers love gathering as a fellowship to sing, dance, and pray together. Husbands are helping with the fieldwork and housework, and parents are encouraging their children’s education.

During the 2019 Kei New Year, the new believers organized an event to celebrate their freedom in Christ. About 200 people attended, and they appointed elders for the first time. Ann spoke, and Thomas translated with great spiritual authority.

“I’ve wrestled in prayer for God to save these people and have seen firsthand His mercy in my life and in their lives,” Ann says. “They are our new brothers and sisters who we will worship with in heaven for eternity!”

God Answers

Ann received the hard news in August 2020 that for the first time a Kei believer had been arrested. Not long after, Thomas and Sean were arrested too. All three brothers were told they had to remain in prison until they renounced their faith.

Thomas, who is now like a son to Ann, told his family through the tiny, barred window in the paddy wagon that whatever they did to him, even if they killed him, he would not renounce his faith. When Sean was later arrested, he said with a big smile, “I’m doing well. I have new life!”

Many around the world joined Ann and the Kei believers in wrestling in prayer for these men. And as we have seen throughout this story, God answers the prayers of His people. In November 2020, after three months in dark prison cells, the men were released! Ann and her team had a special time of prayer and thanksgiving with the brothers as they reflected on God’s faithfulness.
May there be an even greater turning to our great God because of this answer to prayer. And may the steadfastness of these new believers encourage your faith today.

*Names changed
**People group name changed

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