UNREACHED

Establishing PEACE: The Himba Tribe's Transformation with Operation Christmas Child

December 06, 2023 UNREACHED Season 1 Episode 11
UNREACHED
Establishing PEACE: The Himba Tribe's Transformation with Operation Christmas Child
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Prepare to immerse yourself in a spiritual journey like no other as we engage in a profound discussion with Joel Hayslip and Pastor Rizera. You will be spellbound by the inspiring tale of how God transformed the lives of the Himba people of Namibia - a unique group who live without the trappings of modern amenities, in mud huts, lacking even a written language. Through the simple act of gifting shoeboxes filled with love and hope, doors were opened to these isolated individuals, exposing them to the PEACE of the Gospel.

Our dialogue ventures further into the miraculous transformation that the Himba community underwent. Witness the power of change as we recount the story of how the Himba people constructed their very first church building, an edifice that has had an incredible impact on their community. You'll also learn about BLESS and the 'Within Reach' scale (https://bless.world/PORTFOLIO-FULL/), an initiative designed to empower believers to lead their church and foster spiritual growth. 

Our concluding segment uncovers a testament to unwavering faith and God's provision, as the Himba people spread the Gospel across 94 villages in their homeland. Hear the inspiring story of a Himba individual who discovered faith through the Gospel's words, and now serves their community passionately as a Church pastor. Pastor Rizera extends a heartfelt prayer for all our listeners, an intimate moment that transcends language barriers. We wrap up this spiritual odyssey with a message of trust from the book of Philippians, reminding you of the peace that God's providence can bring and expressing our gratitude for your unwavering support.

Follow @unreachedpodcast on Instagram for more!

Speaker 1:

In Revelation 7, john shares his vision of heaven, with members from every tribe, tongue, people and language standing in the throne room before the Lamb. Yet today there are still over 7,000 unreached people groups around the world. For the last six years my family and friends have been on a journey to find, vet and fund the task remaining. Come journey with us to the ends of the earth as we share the supernatural stories of God at work through the men and women he has called to reach the unreached. Hello friends, welcome back to the Unreach podcast. Dustin Elliott, here your host. We are in week two of Advent. I hope you had a chance to listen to week one. We've already lit that candle but it's still burning. But here we are in week two and we're talking about peace. And today again we have Samaritan's Purse, operation Christmas Child and specifically a people group that OCC has gone into has got a chance to deliver these incredible shoebox gifts to this tribe and to the kids and with that key opening the door, the Himba people group in Namibia are now becoming believers and part of the body of Christ. There is peace in this tribe and this part of the world like there has never been before, and so we have our man, joel Hayslitt, back with us today, and we have Pastor Vizera in Namibia. It is hot and dry and they're waiting for the rainy season, but it's not there yet, and so Joel is with us. Joel, thanks for being back this week. Great to have you. Yeah, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me, of course. And so if you will go to Samaritan's Purseorg One of the most beautiful storytelling websites I've ever seen this page tells the story of the Himba people group and I'm going to read through some of this and Joel is going to give context and if we can get Pastor Vizera he is the man God raised up to go to these people and he had prayed for years for a strategy, for a way in, for something that he could take in there and tell them about the hope, the peace, the joy and the love of Christ. So, merry Christmas. Now walk with us through this story, okay.

Speaker 1:

So, first of all, if you show up in the Himba people group, you're in Namibia. You are the country just to the north and west side of South Africa. This is a planes game type of country. There's a lot of the big game animals here you would think of in Africa. It's arid, it's hot, it's desert like. And this particular people group are a nomadic people group, they're cattle herders.

Speaker 1:

What they practiced in terms of religion, what we may call an animistic or a tribal religion, was really about their ancestors spirits. And so the village leaders would gather around a fire and they would plead with the spirits you know to end the drought, to heal family members, to break the cycle of poverty. And of course, as we know, in a lot of tribes like this there are witch doctors, and the witch doctors would do things like sacrifice their livestock with promises of healing. And of course, we know that sometimes, or maybe most times, those efforts would fail. And so these people, while they're praying to their ancestors with their holy fire, and it's not working. They were hungry, if not thirsty, for the gospel, for the truth, and Pastor Razira used Operation Christmas Child to come in and share the truth of the hope and peace of Jesus. And so Joel tell me about how OCC first got Pastor Razira there. How did Joel equip him to get started with this people group?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. And what's amazing, as you said, it was in 2004 that Pastor Razira started pastoring near this people group and he heard about them and he immediately had a draw. He had this desire to take the gospel, didn't know how to get out there and it wasn't until 2016 that he connected with Operation Christmas Child. So for all those years 12 years just praying, interceding, desiring to get out to this people group it was in 2016,. It was introduced to Operation Christmas Child. He came to one of our vision meetings, heard about the shoeboxes and the greatest journey and the evangelism tools, and he knew you know, this is going to work. This is my way in to bring the gospel to the Hemba. It was an answer to his prayers.

Speaker 1:

Tell us about a vision meeting. You said he came to a vision meeting. What is that little? Is that something you all kind of host regionally and word gets out and it's like, hey, if you're working in this kind of part of the world, come check this out.

Speaker 2:

We've got over 1300 teams all across the world. So one of those teams in Namibia hosted a vision meeting in which they went out and talked to every pastor they could find and said, hey, come to this place. We'd like to share the vision of Operation Christmas Child. And so at the vision meeting they share our three big principles evangelism of children, discipleship of children and the multiplication of the gospel and they share how to use the Operation Christmas Child tools to get that out to the villages.

Speaker 1:

I can only imagine, after 12 years of prayer, when you're hearing here's a strategy, here's resources, here's a team behind you, there's prayer warriors and there's a way. And oh, by the way, this way works. The CC has already been proven in lots of people groups in lots of countries around the world. I want to give those that are listening just a visual for this people group no electricity, no running water. They live in mud huts. Reminds me of an episode we did in South Sudan with our friend Peter Swan. They don't have a written language.

Speaker 1:

And that reminds me of an episode we did in Papua New Guinea with the Wantakea. The teams that went there actually developed their alphabet and taught them to read and write and translated scripture and went through that at this point. For the hemba, it's not about reading and writing, but it's about audio, right, and so they are an oral storytelling people. Their days are filled with singing and chanting and passing on stories, and so, hey, why not give them what they need in the form they are already used to? Let's do audio Bibles with these little devices that use the sun to stay equipped and battery powered, and that's what y'all did there, right? So y'all have now recorded scripture on these audio devices for the hemba correct.

Speaker 2:

That's right. Yeah, we work with the seed company for Bible translation and so far, Genesis, Mark, Hebrew and a few other stories in the New Testament have been translated, and we had enough to actually even translate our discipleship program the greatest journey.

Speaker 2:

And it's really fun lots of background music, that kind of thing and so we were able to put those on those audio devices. Over a hundred of those have now been passed out to the hemba people. You just imagine them sitting out in the sun under the shade of a tree, sitting around in a group, just… mesmerized, you know, hearing the gospel and hearing these stories, these Bible stories, through these devices.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely Just devouring God's word. And to continue this visual. Their physical appearance, as it reads here on the side, is distinctive From the red clay mixture the women spread over their skin to elaborate headdresses that resemble cattle horns. Their skirts are made of calfskin, sandals are made of pieced together old car tires, and so, if you can picture how that looks, because this group, they travel in the dust most often. This is a very desert region. In fact, talking to Pastor Rosira before we got started, today, they're praying for the rain, they're ready for the rainy season, which obviously brings a lot of hope and good things, but also creates massive mud beds and river beds that you cannot cross, even with four-wheel-drive vehicles. And so, once you've committed to get the Christmas child boxes to them, if you do so in the rainy season, how are you going to get them in right? So timing is very important with this group.

Speaker 2:

We've even seen cases in some parts of the world where teams have had to hand carry, you know, these large boxes of shoe boxes on their shoulders for miles just to get it to some of these villages. So you know, we've got some incredibly committed ministry partners and teams out there, and Pastor Rosira is definitely one of them.

Speaker 1:

As I look at the images, too, on the website, you see these young kids and they're getting their Christmas boxes and they almost just look out of place. Right, these bright, red and green colorful boxes in a very desert looking area. But the looks on these kids' faces Tell me about what that's done in your life, joel, because I know you've got to witness this firsthand.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I, and as a missionary in Africa for 12 years, working with Operation Christmas Child, it's just something you never get tired of, you know, being able to be in front of 2, 300 African children and be able to present them with a gift, knowing it's the very first time they've ever received their own personal gift. There were times that we would have to prepare the kids and say listen, you know you're about to get a gift. How do you react? When you're happy, you laugh right, and prepare the kids, because we had times when these kids would be so overwhelmed they'd begin weeping, just completely overwhelmed by the generosity and the thought that, hey, this is something that belongs to me now. And as they begin to open and go through these gifts, yeah, the joy is unbelievable singing, dancing, laughing, clapping.

Speaker 1:

Amen, I love that. Yeah, let's see if we can get you in here. You are born and raised in Namibia. You had a heart for your people already. You prayed for 12 years for a strategy. You met Operation Christmas Child. What was it like for you to bring these gifts, these shoeboxes in the gospel, to a people group you care so much about?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it was very excited, very, very excited, because the first church committee and prayer we know that is an asaduah prayer we were very, very happy. We have now something that we can take to our community which is going to make it very happy and also to make them do asemt us also, because when it comes to asemtings in Ahimbabu villages it's also difficult because they really have to know you and I have to be like with them and I have to go through their sheaves and headmans for them to accept you. And that is what we did. I remember the first outreach. We packed those boxes in the truck and we hit the road as we were going through it so that wherever we are going to get the people, they will accept us and they will accept the gospel that we are going to present to them.

Speaker 3:

And we went down the hills, down the rivers and the mountains and we came to one village, the first village we came to. They saw us, they started to wave on us, they started to shout and we reached the headman house. For the first time in Ahimbabu. We created people. The headmen were very happy. We were very, very happy to see us.

Speaker 3:

We introduced what we came for and now we thank God that he touched the heart of the headmen and he allowed us to see the people and to meet the children. We went to a particular place where we are going to have our outreach event for the first day and children started to gather to come to the place and it was very, very interesting because in these villages you could hardly see people coming because it's not an open space. A lot of trees are covering the area and we have to see them under the trees coming and you see the dust that is rising there and people are coming, children and women of the village and also means they arrived at the place. We were very, very encouraged that God has opened this door for our church for the first time to reach out to Him and the village, and that was the experience during that moment.

Speaker 1:

Amen, amen. I want to recap really quick just what I heard you say, and Joel walked with me through this, but I think a big key for this was when he got there with the boxes. The main thing was that God had softened the hearts of the leaders in the community so you had them being willing to accept Him coming in with this opportunity and just be open to understanding what was going on here. And then I heard you describe in just beautiful, vivid detail this area, as it's not like an open plain where you can see everybody coming with. There's a lot of trees, and so you could see the dust trail coming up of their feet as they were running out and running towards you and coming in, and the people are gathering. So now what we know is that men, women and children alike are coming to see Pastor Rezira. What do you have for us? What's going on here? We're open to listen, joel. What happens next? We've gathered them up. The boxes are ready. Tell us what happens next.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So every ministry partner is trained on how to share the gospel to children, how to have a safe outreach event and then how to have the discipleship program. So in an event like this gather, the children make sure they're in a safe environment. And then we've got these beautiful gospel posters, Several images that go from Genesis 1-1 all the way until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and just page by page, you can imagine Pastor Rezira passionately sharing the gospel, flipping the pages. We even provide a simple script that they can follow that is, of course, Bible-based, just walks the children through our need for Jesus, our sinfulness, but then the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us, and then gives them an opportunity to respond.

Speaker 1:

I love that. What goes into a great box? What is a kid going to open up and see? Tell us about the inside.

Speaker 2:

Typically a box will have things like school supplies pencils, pens, notebooks those are always really popular. It'll have what we call a wow item, which might be a teddy bear or a soccer ball or a larger item, and then just an assortment of different toys. You can imagine these kids. These are cattle herdsmen. So cattle herdsmen, just globally. They tend to self-isolate right there. They're semi-nomadic, they prefer to be far away from civilization. Typically they're very resistant to outside influence and so these kids probably don't get very much outside. They don't see the toys, they don't see the notebooks or the school books or any of these things. So you can just imagine these kids popping these things open, finding a teddy bear, finding a soccer ball or finding a children's book, and they're overwhelmed. They're completely overwhelmed.

Speaker 1:

So now that we've gotten on site, we've got the boxes, the kids have opened them, the joy is there, we've been received. The next step is obviously the greatest journey program, the discipleship program. And Pastor Razira, as great leaders do, said hey, who else do I know that I could bring in here and teach children? Well, and he called his friend, alma, who's a Sunday school teacher working relatively nearby. And Pastor Razira tell us about Alma coming in and teaching the children.

Speaker 3:

Very exciting story because Alma is very passionate to work with children. I remember during this first vision meeting she was also there and I do care at this first trip also to this first photo with us to this outreach. And that is where she also has to change the names of the children that need to be taught and so that we can organize now the class for these children, the Disabled Class, and she quoted very right, yeah, she is very, very helpful when it comes to the discipleship.

Speaker 1:

Well, praise the Lord for Alma and obviously God did have favor for her and her work because, as we know, the children came to know the Lord, their parents came to know the Lord, their grandparents came to know the Lord and as the body of Christ grew among the Himba people, maybe the next big step for Samaritan's person Operation Christmas Child was you put something together for them. That was a bigger box, if you will. You built them a church for them to meet in. I thought of having to always do life outside or in a small mud hut, but not to have a bigger space to gather together, with shade from the sun, with walls to block the wind. Now you built them a church. Tell us about what life has been like for the Himba since they've had their church building.

Speaker 3:

During that first Oakley's event, after we finished the Oakleys, the elderly people talked to us and the headmen in the village. He called me and said look, what you did here is for the first time here, but now we want this to happen always. We want you to come and turn us about God. You were free to come. We are going to give you a place. It was during that same time they showed us a tree where we can, if we are coming that side, so we can use that tree as a church on our church class for teaching the children. And that was a very important thing to us because that was a long-awaited moment, that this will be the first church among Himbans with our program and we were very excited and praise God for that. We thank God for that. And we started to use this tree as we were following up to teach the children and when we get the children through 12 lessons of this program. And now one thing that we need to understand is they were not church in this village. That is their first church. They don't have any experience of how a church is happening or what is going to happen in the church While we are teaching the Shingren, the Disabled Program.

Speaker 3:

Parents were also coming to the class and we didn't send them away, it was fire. They were coming with their children, they were listening and we also allowed them to participate with skin questions and they asked questions. And as they asked questions, if we come to a place where we was to lead children to Christ, trains also were led to Christ. They also raised their hands and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. It was during this discipleship lessons where parents accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and they came to understand the importance of change, the importance of prayer, and they started to give us their prayer requests. Then we prayed with them faithfully. We started to hear good stories, good testimonies from the parents who were sick, able to heal, and the parents who were having some problems and their problems now were solved through prayers, and they started to believe that this is just because of prayer, because they helped me in those problems and sicknesses in all time. But when church comes into their village, they started to see difference.

Speaker 1:

I love that story. I'm so glad you shared it. I try to put myself in their shoes and I try to think of what my life was like If all I knew was a bonfire and praying to ancestral spirits, and the frustrations of not really having a connection there and then getting to know the Lord and understanding prayer and community and fellowship and hope and peace and joy and love. As we are still here in the Advent season and it is Christmas time, pastor Isir, just thank you so much for sharing your heart. I want to take people through what happens next, because we've now gotten into a people group. We've had a key to open the door with the shoe boxes and Operation Christmas Child. We've gone through a discipleship curriculum. People are coming into the Lord. A church has been built.

Speaker 1:

We have the within reach progress journey through Bless at wwwblessedotworldorg portfolio, where we work together with some other organizations to build a one to 10 scale of what steps you would go through to reach and reach people group, and you're now at the later stages of the scale. You have believers that you're now equipping to lead their church right. So tell us. You've got some folks from the tribe who are now pastoring and leading the church and now making disciples of their own people. Right, pastor Isir.

Speaker 3:

Very, very much the correct we have. We started futures in different villages. We realize that we have now pastors who are hembas, we have women who are hembas who are leading churches and we have men who are hembas leading churches and they cannot read, they cannot write, and now we have to put the programs into place for training of these pastors. With these programs, we realize that we need to translate some of these discipleship lessons into himba and the scriptures also translate them, and we think that the pastors from Minupuwa has been there trying to help with the translation of materials, with the help of our wildlife. That is the way we got now the materials who are being translated so that we can help train the pastors to how to preach or how to tell the stories to their people, even without the written Bible, and that is what happens from that time up to now. That is what we have tried to do now.

Speaker 1:

Tell me about how the gospel outreach efforts are going. So you've kind of gotten this established church in this tribe. But I know we've talked about a lot of these folks are now starting to feel the call to go to their neighbors right and take the gospel to them.

Speaker 3:

It's very important because what we are really trying to teach the religious churches is to start now getting into the nearby villages to start a church to tell the story about God and that is what we are encouraging them to do and so that they can see the pictures of the gospels to go to the end of the world.

Speaker 3:

And we had a training in 2022 where we gather 32 Himba pastors to get us so that we can come and strategize how we are going to reach all the villages for the gospel.

Speaker 3:

And it was during that meeting, that training, we gave them opportunity to see what villages today think they will go and tell the story about God and start another church, because we don't want us now to go to every village. We want them to understand that it is a disney response. They are a responsibility to take the gospel to their Himba people. We came up with 94 villages from the groups that they think they would want to take the gospel to these 94 villages and that was the outcome of this training. All these pastors have been trained how to use the material, the MP3 player, which is sonar powered, to listen to the stories and also to help other people to listen to their stories, to go to the new villages, to help the new villages, to listen to their story about God, and that was now the outcome we had. That was very, very interesting and we thank God for that, because it's only because of the Holy Spirit, because of prayer. Yes, things like that do happen.

Speaker 1:

You said there's about almost 100 other villages that through prayer they've identified that they plan to go to and take the gospel. That is so cool and let's talk about conceptually, within the framework of the Great Commission, what that means. Right Biblically it says go to Jerusalem, judea, samaria and the ends of the earth. For us that's Austin, texas, the United States, and the end of the earth For you, pastor, that's the Himba, that's Namibia, that's Africa and the ends of the earth.

Speaker 1:

Our friend Peter Swan we did an episode, number five. It's called Snakes and a Plane, and I got to tell you this story as he was meeting with the people group and the tribes he's working with in South Sudan. They were frustrated with Acts 1-8 because they were like how are we going to go to the ends of the earth? How are we going to get there? We don't have the means to do that. And Pastor Peter said well, let's pray just like you're doing with your folks there. And, lo and behold, god provided a plane. Pastor Peter got his pilot's license and he's now flying them by bush plane to the other villages, just as a means of transportation so they could get there. So the power of prayer is so there and just know, pastor Azir, we're going to be praying for you and your efforts and for y'all to go to those 94 villages and then continue to multiply and take the gospel across your country, as you're called to do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I moved. I mean, as he was describing the life in the village prior to them sharing the gospel and that transformation. It just can't be overstated the amount of fear, the amount of terror that often these villages live under. I've been to places where we started talking with the different members of the village and they all started sharing the nightmares they were having living in terror. And then the gospel comes and the peace that comes as they receive Jesus and as Azir was describing them coming to church and having their prayers answered for the very first time they had done sacrifice after sacrifice.

Speaker 2:

Imagine these are men and women and children who have no access to medical help, so when they get sick they feel hopeless. And now they can come to church and they're seeing answers to their prayer and peace is just descending on that village like a cloud. The peace of God is transforming this village. The shoebox provided a way in, but that's not gonna keep a church going. The joy of a single outreach. But it's them seeing answers to their prayers, it's them hearing about the hope of the gospel and it's the peace that goes into their home that changes their lives. That's the peace that the nightmares away, that's what keeps him coming back week after week to learn more about.

Speaker 1:

God. Thank you for sharing that. Maybe we can close with this. There's a quote we've talked about from one of the villagers who his name is Cuyah, and he said I was in prison, but now I'm not. He said his life was changed by hearing the words that they were preaching and he gave his life to Christ. He told his wife, she became a Christian too, and now he serves as a church pastor.

Speaker 1:

That's the type of transformation the gospel has in places. It's never been. That's why we have a call in our lives to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. And while we have the technology and the means and the resources and the passion and the prayer and an organization like Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan's Purse, guys, we have the ability to get there and do it. And so, as I've said many times before, get in the game, find your way into this story, whether it's by giving, whether it's by praying, by serving.

Speaker 1:

Find out if your local church is involved in Operation Christmas Child. If they are, get in there with them. If they're not, be the person that introduces this opportunity to them and to Pastor Razira and Joel and your team and all the volunteers. Again, if you didn't hear us say this on the first Advent episode. Thank you, Thank you for what you do, Thank you for continuing to grow the body of Christ, Thank you for serving in such an incredible way and putting smiles on so many faces, and for those of you listening, come back for the next two weeks. We're not done here. We're only halfway through Advent and Jesus is coming and the greatest celebration the world ever knows is going to happen again. And I have one more request, Pastor Razira, we love to ask would you pray for the listeners in your heart language or the himba native tongue, whichever you prefer, and then maybe translate that into English for us?

Speaker 3:

Let's pray. Thank you for coming, thank you for what you have done among our communities in the Himba villages. Thank you for the transmission that you have brought into Himba villages there are so many. What is the most important thing in the grace of the power of prayer, father, we thank you for that. This is a huge responsibility, lord, to go to all the Himba villages to preach the gospel. Father, I am praying for the Himba pastors taking the gospel to their neighbor. Father, I am not during difficult time, during the trials.

Speaker 3:

Father, I want to express my thanks to the visions of pulling out and spreading the gospel to nearby villages, the Villages, lord. Father, open the ways, lord, in the name of Jesus, touch the heart of those that will receive them. Touch the heart of those that are going to hear the gospel. Father, in this new season, father, we pray that you will not open war anymore. Villages, lord, in the name of Jesus, for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and churches will be started, people will be transformed, father, villages will be transformed and the goodness of God will be held in the entire world. Father, we thank you for this. Father, we thank you for those that have helped these missions that make it possible for Father financially for those prayer warriors, those prayer partners that are still praying for these great commissions. Father, in the name of Jesus and God with him by Father, we thank you for them. Give them the money to continue. In the name of Jesus, father, I pray all this.

Speaker 1:

Amen, friends. I'll close with one final thought from Philippians 4, 6 and 7. Don't worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for what he's done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Merry Christmas, our friends. Thank you for listening to Unreached. Our sincere desire is that what you've heard today will cause you to see the mission of God differently and you're rolling it more clearly. If this adds value for you and we hope it does, would you please rate and review the podcast wherever you listen? Also, share with your family, your friends, your church, your life group, small group, d group wherever you do life, and if you want to connect with us, find us on Instagram at unreachedpodcast, or email us at unreachedpodcastatgmailcom.

Changing Himba People Through Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child
Spread of Gospel in Himba Villages
Finding Peace and Sharing the Mission