On any given Tuesday, you’ll find Jonny Anderson chatting and laughing with stallholders and traders in the bustling market near his home in Sucre, Bolivia.
Over the past few years, he has become firm friends with one particular group of young male hairdressers and cobblers, thanks to his ability to speak to them in their mother tongue of Quechua — not bad for the schoolboy told to give up Latin by his teachers and is now able to make jokes in his third language — after English and Spanish.
“The first time I made a joke in Quechua was a watershed moment!” says Jonny, who is sent by St Nicholas Church, Tooting.
Jonny began his Serving In Mission ministry after moving to South America in 2010 with his Colombian wife Olga and two of their three children — Joanna, eight, and Jonah, seven. Their 11-year-old son Joel is at boarding school in Somerset, England, close to his grandparents.
Jonny spent three years learning Quechua, which is the first language for two million Bolivians and he is convinced anyone can learn a new language with “effort and a prayerful awareness of how God is calling you to share the good news with those who have never heard it.”
He is now ready to take on the challenge of having Christ-centred conversations with his friends.
“Although our chats on the streets have been great, I now have the responsibility to use this language to teach my Quechuan friends about Jesus,” he explains.
He plans to use a book featuring indigenous art and symbols of Bible stories to help his conversations and already uses a white board and stick men as prompts when he preaches in Quechua — a teaching technique that seems to be working in Bolivia’s primarily oral culture.
“During a recent sermon, I taught a short parable at the small church where we live and the congregation leader got up afterwards and enthusiastically pressed home the message, saying, ‘We have heard the word of God’.
“Jesus meant us to tell stories and it’s very satisfying and encouraging to see how oral teaching techniques are beginning to have an impact in a society where there are no books.
“Parables have an effect in an agricultural setting, which the Quechuans can relate to. They are tangible and the point is very obvious, which leads to discussion. I also visited a friend earlier this year, whose brother-in-law is the village witchdoctor and it was great to have the opportunity to tell stories of how Jesus has power over evil spirits.
“I learned Quechua to communicate the gospel, as well as disciple and equip church leaders trying to do the same. We plan to be in Sucre for the long term, so I’m now excited to see how God will use me to tell the gospel to Quechua people — every day and not just on a Tuesday!”
Compelled by God’s love, we cross barriers to make the gospel known. Pray that God will bless Jonny’s conversations with his Quechuan neighbours and friends.
For God to provide a homeschool teacher to help Jonny and Olga with their two younger children.
Give praise that Joel has a boarding school place in England. Please pray that a similar provision for the other two children would be forthcoming.
By Kerry Allan