This article was written by a mission partner serving in a sensitive location.

Names and locations marked with * been changed to protect identifying details.

A letter written by *Elliot, a mission partner serving in *Lunisia, to *Jim, a mission partner serving in *Hadjistan.

Hi there Jim,

I haven’t got long – I’m scribbling this sitting at my bookstall in a marketplace lull. It sounds like your Hadjistani is progressing well. I don’t know about you, but I find I have bursts of language growth and then I plateau for a while.

That proverb you shared (‘the lie which unites is better than the truth that divides’) is fascinating in what it reveals about the Hadjistani culture’s relationship to truth and community, and what is prized more. Very different from what I grew up thinking. It’s so interesting how varied countries and cultures are!

Over here, my new bookstall continues to find its feet. Although the day-to-day can feel quite ordinary, when I stop and think about it, it is staggering that I am able to share God’s word (ڪࣵدُّگْ يࣵلَّ – ‘kàddug Yàlla’) here. I’ve recently stocked up with Lunisian Old Testament and New Testament portions, and I’ve also got some New Testaments in other local languages. (Lunisian can be written in the ‘French-script’, as well an Arabic script called Ajami, which is easier for those who’ve attended Qur’anic school.)

I’ve been thinking about what you said, that sharing God’s word is like dropping pebbles in people’s worldview shoes. You can’t walk very far without stopping to get that pebble out of your shoe. Pray for the gospel pebbles to find their targets in the hearts of Lunisians.

It’s been a busy three weeks. I had the privilege of preaching for the first time in Lunisian in church on Mark 10, which felt like a significant milestone. I also joined in a prison ministry where we share Bible stories with around 20 prisoners. Last week it was Jonah; the next time they’ve asked me to prepare Abraham. The prison is based in a neighbouring city with no known Christians in it – so the setting of Ninevah felt very topical. I had printed out the text of Jonah (-يُونُس – ‘Jonas’) on green paper (they say white is too bright!) in the ‘French-script’. Mohamed, one of the prisoners, read out Jonah in Lunisian while the rest followed along with the written text. They loved learning about Jonah and thought he was very Lunisian in his ability to be happy and angry in quick succession!

We explored how God loves to save sinners from their sin, and how he is interested in changing our hearts to be like his own. After our study, I asked for questions or comments. Some said they had never heard Jonah’s story, but one man confidently said that everything we’d learnt was in the Qur’an. Having read the Qur’an in English, I knew this wasn’t true, but remembering our lectures at Bible college, I didn’t correct him. Revealing superior knowledge of the content of the Qur’an can push friends further into orthodox Islam.

In fact, not many Lunisians have read the Qur’an in Lunisian; Lunisian Qur’ans are expensive and very rare (mine cost a local week’s wages). The spiritual blessing of reading the Qur’an, according to my friend Omar, is not in discovering the meaning but in reading it aloud in Arabic. Those interested in the meaning can ask their Imams, browse YouTube, read a French translation, or study Arabic. So although they have access to the Qur’an, they are disconnected from the actual meaning of the text.

We are on the verge of having the whole of God’s word published in Lunisian. Pray for endurance and health for the team working on it. One lady has been here for 50 years and hopes to retire later this year when it’s published. You have the whole Bible in Hadjistani, don’t you? Did you decide to help your neighbour with his son’s school fees or not? Do you know anyone using social media for ministry in Hadjistan? Pray on for more opportunities to drop the pebbles of kàddug Yàlla’ into people’s worldview shoes.

Yours,

Elliot