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God Still Speaks Through Shepherds

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We had been visiting with Samuel’s* mom for about an hour when he arrived home,” says John*, who serves with an Alliance team in the North and Central Asia Region. Nine-year-old Samuel, who had been out all day tending his family’s sheep and goats, dug into the bread and fresh cream his mom had set out for him.

“As he sipped hot tea to thaw his chilled body,” John recalls, “I told him a story about a young boy named David, who also protected his family’s herds. Samuel’s eyes lit up when he heard how that boy had defeated a giant warrior and later became a king.”

It was the first time Samuel, whose family belongs to the minority Iraya* language group, had heard the story. “The community’s only previous contact with Christians,” says John, “has been an Australian family who faced 12 years of slow, discouraging work among this isolated, gospel-resistant people.”

A Family Tragedy

Three years ago, Samuel lost three older siblings. One fell into the icy waters of the river below their mountain valley home; the other two also succumbed to the swift current while attempting to rescue him.

Because of the spiritually oppressive religion they follow, Samuel’s family simply accepts their fate. They live in hopelessness, unlike the shepherd King David, who, despite tragedy in his life, could say with confidence: “. . . I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

Pray that families in the region will hear Jesus’ voice and know they are the “other sheep” for whom He longs to provide comfort and eternal hope. Photo courtesy of an Alliance international worker

“Samuel and his parents don’t yet know the hope that David had. Nobody in their valley has experienced it, nor has anyone who speaks their mother tongue,” John explains.

John and his wife, Nancy*, are following God on the new pathways He’s opening to reach this ethnic minority with the eternal hope found only in Jesus. They met Samuel’s family through connections with the foundation that employs them.

The group focuses on preserving minority cultures and developing their languages, including that of the Iraya. Military occupiers in the last century forcibly removed the Iraya from their lands to serve on collective farms in the country’s lowlands—decimating a third of their population. In recent years, the remnants of this uprooted community have begun returning to the valley that is their ancestral home.

Meeting a Community’s Needs

“Working with our primary partner organization, we develop educational materials that are culturally and spiritually relevant,” says John, who is director for the foundation’s Iraya language project. “Publishing materials in minority languages helps to increase the status of their communities.”

Currently, the team is creating a dictionary, a book of folk stories/oral histories, and several portions from the lives of the Old Testament prophets as well as New Testament books in the Iraya language.

In the coming year, John and Nancy plan to lead prayer treks through the valley. “The Iraya are deeply attached to the cultural and spiritual heritage of this valley, which is filled with spiritual strongholds—shrines, holy sites—whose power needs to be broken through intercession,” John says. A ministry colleague familiar with this minority group asserts that when a spiritual awakening begins with Iraya leaders in this area, it will flow to others throughout the country.

Iraya community members have also asked John and Nancy to teach in a local school that serves several villages. “This will fill a community need and give us more consistent access, added value, and stronger relationships,” John adds.

“Other Sheep”

That day with Samuel and his mom, the conversation turned to the hope David had. “We then shared Jesus’ words from John 10: ‘I have other sheep . . .  I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd,’” John says.

“Our prayer is that this family will hear His voice and know they are the ‘other sheep’ for whom Jesus longs to provide comfort and eternal hope amid the tragedies that this life brings.”

This is the work of The Alliance—following Jesus to regions beyond where there has for centuries been little or no opportunity for people to learn about His great love for them.

As the Alliance family, we are privileged to partner in ministries like John and Nancy’s, helping to fulfill God’s ancient prophetic promise: to see disciples “from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

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