Granada Hills Community Church
Diary of a Small Church Adoption From California to West Africa
When Stan & Valli Yoder and their three sons had to remain in the USA because of health reasons, after two terms as missionaries with World Partners of the Missionary Church, their mission involvement was changed but not ended. Now, five years later, they are pouring their energy into mobilizing others toward involvement in God's plan for world evangelization. How? One way is through the adopt-a-people strategy which is being used by their local church in southern California.
A New Vision
It all started with a simple question. Stan asked the mission committee from his church if they still prayed for the Yalunka people in Sierra Leone, where the Yoders had served as missionararies. The answer was revealing. "Why, no, Stan. We're praying for you now." With that simple exchange Stan realized that somehow the church's vision for mission had been transferred from the whitened fields of the Yalunka people to the white faces of the missionaries. It was then that God put into motion events leading to the adoption of an unreached people group by their church. Granada Hills Community Church isn't large with only 230 in attendance on Sunday morning, but this would not keep them from doing their part in completing the task of world evangelization. Here's a diary of the exciting events in this adoption:
January 1991 - Stan and Valli are asked to serve on the Granada Hills Community Church Mission Committee because of their experience in Africa.
February 1991 - A 7-minute video about Adopt-A-People is shown at their first mission committee meeting. (The video is part of the Adopt-A-People Advocates Kit, produced by the Mobilization Division of the USCWM.) After the mission committee sees the video, they ask, "Why couldn't we do that? We could pray for a people group like that too."
April 1991 - Stan and Valli are given about 20 minutes at the Mission Committee meeting to flesh out the terms of the Adopt-A-People vision. As they explain adopt, unreached, and other ideas, the committee is challenged. They ask the Yoders to bring the names of several unreached people groups for the committee to choose from. The adoption process is underway!
July 1991 - A series of bulletin inserts is started designed to increase the congregation's basic mission awareness and enlarge their vision to pray for people groups as well as missionaries. The names of three people groups for possible adoption are presented at this month's meeting. The first group is the Kurds of Iraq, who are in the news a lot because of the Gulf War. The second group is the Yalunka of Sierra Leone. The last group is the Susu of Sierra Leone and Guinea, who are neighbors of the Yalunka. World Partners of the Missionary Church either has missionaries already working with each group or has targeted the group for future work. Each group is unreached. The committee agrees to pray about which group to choose for adoption.
August 1991 - The Mission Committee decides to adopt the Susu people of Sierra Leone and Guinea. They ask Stan to do further research on the Susu. He discovers that the Susu are strongly Muslim (although their practice is mixed with animism), that there are nearly one million Susu living mostly in Guinea but also in Sierra Leone, and they have no church. He also cannot find one missionary who is currently working among them.
September 1991 - On the last Sunday morning of the month, a special skit is presented at both services. As a drummer hammers out an African rhythm, a tall Susu chief followed by several wives enters the sanctuary. Missionaries wearing pith helmets walk down the center aisle and greet the Susu chief through an interpreter. "Why did you come?" the chief asks. "We bring good news!" the missionaries reply. "What is your good news?" asks the chief. "God has provided forgiveness for our sin," they answer. "How long have you known this good news?" the chief queries. The missionaries reply that their fathers for many generations have known this good news. The skit ends when the chief asks a fourth question, "If you have known this good news for so long, why did it take so long for you to bring it to us?" With the powerful impact of this skit still on their minds, the congregation goes home to read a bulletin insert explaining five reasons why Granada Hills Community Church has adopted the Susu people:
(The Bulletin Insert used to Inform the Congregation)
NEWS YOU CAN USE!
September 3, 1991
What GOD is doing through the Missions Outreach of the
Granada Hills Community Church
Five Reasons Why GHCC has Adopted the Susu People
1.The SUSU have not heard the Gospel in an understandable way.
- There are NO pastors or evangelists for 944,077 SUSU.
- 99.998% of the SUSU are Muslim.
2. The SUSU have not Responded to the Gospel.
- There are only 20 known SUSU believers. That is 1 believer for every 47,204.
- Less than .002% know Jesus.
3. The SUSU do not have a Church.
- There are NO churches for 944,077 SUSU people.
4. The SUSU do not have the Word of God in their mother tongue.
- Only portions of the Old Testament have been printed.
5. The SUSU have a major hindrance to Scripture distribution.
-Less than one out of ten SUSU can read !
Conclusion: The SUSU require outside (cross-cultural) assistance. You can begin to reach them by Praying.
October 1991 - The Mission Committee receives permission from World Partners in Fort Wayne, Indiana to use the denominational loose change folders specifically to collect money for the Susu.
Christmas 1991 - A copy of the Global Prayer Digest is given to each family in the church to encourage them to pray for all unreached peoples, not just the Susu. This particular issue is about the unreached peoples in the Los Angeles area and emphasizes the nearness of the mission field--right in their own backyard!
January 1992 - A letter from the mission committee is sent to the entire church family. One part of the letter explains Adopt-A-People, another explains Adopt-A-Susu, and another announces the upcoming Mission Conference. The final piece is an empty Susu Loose Change Folder for each family to fill for ministry to the Susu people.
February 1992 - Stan, who works at the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse, gets a phone call from Pioneer Bible Translators asking for information about several people groups. One of them is the Susu! Stan finds out that there ARE missionaries working among them! Brad & Estel Willits are Pioneer Bible Translators working among the Susu in Guinea but currently in the USA on furlough. It is exciting to find out that we are a part of what God has already started!
March 1992 - The Yoders share the exciting news about missionaries among the Susu with the Mission Committee at Granada Hills Community Church. The committee decides to invite Brad & Estel to come and speak at the church sometime before they return to Africa. They also talk about having a formal adoption ceremony for the Susu during that service.
April 1992 - Stan Yoder is given the entire sermon time in both Sunday morning services on the 26th to share with the congregation the biblical basis for mission, emphasizing the idea of people groups and adoption.
June 28, 1992 - Adoption Sunday!
Brad Willits comes to speak at both services, sharing about the Susu people and his work translating the Bible for them. He brings with him the first portions of Scripture written in their own language. The book of Ruth and Psalm 1 are dedicated in the services. Another part of the service is a responsive reading containing the text taken from the Granada Hills Community Church Susu Adoption Covenant, which lies on the communion table at the front of the church. As everyone sings, more than 100 men, women and children from the congregation come forward and sign their names, agreeing to become informed about the Susu, to pray for their salvation and for workers among them, and to give money for the support of those workers. It is a moving service for everyone as they move ahead to see the Susu adopted into God's family.
November 1992 - Another skit is done to keep the Susu in the minds of the church members and to point out some of the problems missionaries encounter. This time the same drummer, chief, wives, missionaries and interpreter are present, and the dialogue goes like this: Missionaries, "Our church is praying for your people. We want to know more about you." The chief responds by giving a signal to the drummer, who proceeds to launch out into a long and complicated rhythm. After several minutes the entire Susu group walks away without further comment. The missionaries look at each other haplessly. "Do you understand drums?" Then they go on to share with the congregation what they do know about the Susu.
January 1993 - The Susu are frequently mentioned in Sunday morning prayers by various church members. Requests for them are also found in the bulletin. The mission committee is thrilled that their church is accepting ownership of adopting the Susu. More than $1500 has been collected from the Susu Loose Change Folders, much of it from children. Some parents can't seem to keep quarters and dimes on hand! Finally, at least five mission agencies have either targeted the Susu or have missionaries working among them. All of the workers are in Guinea and none has been there longer than 4 years. Although there are now a few Susu believers, there is as yet no church among this unreached people group.
Future - In the process of deciding how to use the monies collected for the Susu, an exciting opportunity has come up through the Willits and Pioneer Bible Translators. During Brad's visit to the church in June, Stan and Brad discovered that Yalunka and Susu are closely related languages, actually dialects of one another. Brad's expertise in translation has made him familiar with Computer Assisted Dialect Adaptation, known as CADA. This tool speeds up translations into related dialects by using computers. A Yalunka New Testament and a Kuranko Old Testament will be the basis from which Brad Willits can use CADA and his own knowledge of Susu to create a rough draft of the Susu Scriptures. Granada Hills Community Church plans to use their Susu Loose Change Folders to assist in the translation and printing of the Susu Bible!
Conclusion - The Yoders could have let the issue rest and not worried about who their church was praying for, but they didn't, and the result is a congregation doing their part in reaching nearly one million unsaved Susu. The Mission Committee at Granada Hills Community church would like to hear from anyone with an interest in the Susu of Guinea and Sierra Leone. Please contact the Mission Committee chairman:
Granada Hills Community Church
11263 Balboa Boulevard
Granada Hills, CA 91344