Silence reigned in the room in southern Mexico where Wycliffe translator Ken Jacobs and a team of Chamula Bible translators sat waiting for their colleague Fortunato to close in prayer. They’d just finished revising Luke 8:26-39 where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man living in a village cemetery. Jesus worked on the “fringes” of society to include people who had previously been excluded, and this was a vivid picture of exclusion.
Fortunato was, in his earlier years before he trusted in Christ, someone who lived under the control of the gods of the Chamula and the powerful witchdoctors who served them. He related very quickly to this story of “healing.” Just like the demon-possessed man, Fortunato’s life had been filled with stormy restlessness. As the man in the Bible was freed by Jesus, Fortunato had also been freed. Once excluded, now he was included! He was free!
Tears came, and the room was filled with the sound of his muffled sobs which turned into uncontrolled weeping. When he had regained control of his emotions enough to speak, Fortunato respectfully began to talk to the Friend of the man in the cemetery.
“Oh Lord, how well you remember how I, too, used to ask in my heart, ‘Where, oh where, is there help?’ And there was no help — only the harsh unsatisfying counsel of the shamans. But how well you remember, Lord, when your wonderful help came. I have no way to pay you, but at least I can tell you over and over, ‘Thank You, thank You, thank You.’ And now, help us to get your wonderful message of help to all of my people. Amen.”
Ken reported, “A long, respectful silence settled over those of us who waited with bowed heads. In some measure, each of us shared the former private torment and the present overwhelming relief of modern-day men…whom Jesus had touched with his Word.”
[A fuller account of how the Good News transformed Fortunato and his Chamula community is told in David Aeilt’s book, “These Words Changed Everything.”]