By Eva Petross Missionary, North Africa  

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“As I write these words I am nine months pregnant. I waddle more than a little bit when I walk the road in front of our house, I wake up a couple times a night to pop tropical fruit-flavored Tums, and I unabashedly cash in on my husband’s standing offer of limitless foot rubs. My back hurts. I feel like an aquatic mammal. I’m anxious about the next few weeks of my life and giving birth in a country where I have never before had a baby. 

But I’m not sure I have ever been more excited.

Watching my stomach roll and course with new life gives me goosebumps every time. I have washed and rewashed and sorted and organized and packed little onesies and blankets and burp cloths over and over again, not because it really needs to be done but because it makes me happy. I say my baby’s name again and again in my mind, wondering what she will look like and who she will be. I am about as uncomfortable as I have been in a long time. And I am ridiculously happy.

Leave it to the pregnant lady to apply her condition metaphorically to life, but I can’t help but feel like our last few years have been a bit like this. Life and work in North Africa have been hard. Really hard at times. We have experienced multiple evacuations, escaping once in a small bush plane that took off just minutes before the airstrip was bombed. The region is politically insecure. Some of our teammates are facing serious health challenges. Every day has its own uncertainty and instability, its reasons to feel lonely or discouraged. Some nights I lie in bed wondering, “Are we out of our minds?”

My husband and I came to North Africa to serve the Mapa people by helping them translate God’s Word into their heart language, giving them the gift of literacy, and teaching them how to follow Jesus. It seemed like we were only just getting started when war broke out and the people we had already come to love fled from their homeland to become refugees in another place. We followed them.

Working with refugees in a region caught up between two civil wars has caused us to ponder God’s calling on our lives more than once in the past six years. But there has always been this underlying current of hope. It is an unwavering belief on good days, a flickering, cautious expectation on bad ones. But it is always there—this idea that God is growing something amazing and that soon, soon, it will be birthed to life.

And in the past six months—it has.

It is an unwavering belief on good days, a flickering, cautious expectation on bad ones—this idea that God is growing something amazing and that soon, it will be birthed to life.

We are witnessing the fruit of God’s womb in so many unbelievable ways. Mapa churches are growing and reading the first fragments of Scripture in their own language for the first time in the history of the world. The first mother-tongue literacy teachers have been trained and in turn are training others, creating a burgeoning literate community ready and eager to read God’s Word in their own language. Church leaders are meeting in groups to study God’s Word and then bring it in turn to their neighbors and friends who follow the religion that dominates this region.

And perhaps most incredibly, in ways far beyond all we asked or imagined, another people group, the Naas, who also are deeply devoted to this other religion, are turning toward Jesus en masse. We are seeing things we have read about in books yet hardly dared to believe could actually happen. Four churches have sprung up—the first churches ever among the Naas, and more people are coming to faith every day. Three Naas men who showed up at our gate over a year ago asking to learn about Jesus are now leading an emerging movement for Christ among their people with great enthusiasm and courage.

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Eva teaching future Mapa literacy teachers to read and write their own language.

Suddenly, instead of hanging on to our resolve as more of our energy than we would like is spent learning language, building a home, and making contingency plans, we are hanging on to God’s coattails as His Spirit blows through a series of refugee camps in North Africa in astounding ways and people are asking us how to learn more about who He is. We could never keep up. We could never take credit. But He allows us the amazing honor of being midwives as a long season of waiting comes to fruition and He brings squalling, beautiful new life into places where before there was none.

Even as this season of expectancy ends it gives rise to another, one that is new and exhilarating and exhausting and abundantly joyful. The future for all of us, new believers and old, is messy and complicated and still layered with nuances of culture and political instability and endless needs. But it was like that from the beginning, was it not? Any time God chooses to engage with humanity He is taking on mess.

It is happening. And it is beautiful. It’s also hard work. And it’s a million times worth it.

You Can Pray:
  • for Mapa and Naas believers to grow as disciples and disciple makers
  • for protection of the people who are translating God’s Word for the Mapa, Naas, and other people groups in this region
  • for a season of peace

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