By Heidi Thulin
On Field Media
We have this joke with our teammates,” Solange (Ange) Silva tells me in her thoughtful, quiet way. “Eddie goes like a tractor, opening the road, and we just go following him and doing the planting.” Being that tractor is hard work in such a remote area like the Hurri Hills of northern Kenya, which is why, every three months, the Silva’s take the two-day road journey down to Nairobi to relax, Skype their families back in Brazil, and stock up on supplies.
Eddie and Ange started their overseas life in 2011 after they saw the word “Borana” on a list of African unreached people groups. “North Kenya, nomadic people, church planting ministry,” Ange remembers. “That is all [the information] we had. But we fell in love with them.” While Eddie and Ange were on their first home assignment, however, the Borana tribe moved out of the area and the Gabbra, another nomadic people group, arrived. When the Silva’s returned, they had to face the reality that the people they’d loved before they even met them were no longer their current ministry. “We had a sort of mourning time,” Ange says, “because all our friends had left. Some of the men Eddie was discipling had left. Everything was different. Even the culture was different… We just prayed a lot and talked with the people and started to realize that the Gabbra communities and the elders were asking us to please stay and teach them. It was the Lord telling us that we needed to stay.”
Planting churches among a nomadic people group is an interesting and complicated idea. The Silva’s couldn’t easily travel with the Gabbra as they herded their livestock, but they could minister to the more stable communities surrounding their missionary compound. “The nomadic people have relatives in those communities,” Ange says, “and the herders will very often come [to visit]. Those relatives can be a testimony or a witness for their own people. They have the Treasure, [an audio recording of the Bible in their own language], and we tell people, ‘Please let your relatives who are far away know the truth you are listening to.’”
Some of those relatives have been faithful in their storytelling, and a copy of the Treasure has been circulating among the shepherds in the hills. “Last year,” Ange tells me, “we had three guys come to our house. They were listening to the Bible in the mountains and came to tell us that they invited other nomadic peoples to listen. They want us to give them more Bibles, because their friends are really excited about the good news. They want to have Bibles of their own.”
Ange pauses and smiles. “When I think of that gathering in the mountains, I imagine it’s nighttime, the [men] are taking care of the animals, and they are listening to the Bible. Scripture tells us that the angels came to the pastures, telling the shepherds that Jesus was born. This is what I picture: Jesus being revealed to the pastoralist people in the Hurri Hills and being born in the [Gabbra] hearts.”