Skiles, Jerry and Sharon

Jerry and Sharon Skiles

~ Itinerant ministry worldwide; Discipleship; Tribal work in Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Burkina Faso ~

Jerry Skiles,
Ivory Coast.

I am writing this from my desk in Oregon, as I am also working on a lesson from John chapter 9. In Jn. 9:2, Jesus’s disciples asked him, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

For us born and raised and indoctrinated in western thought, this might be a strange question. In the Loron or Loma tribe this is a logical question. They believe everything has a cause due a spiritual transgression. In our early years working with the traditional faith of the Loron and Loma, every villager’s death involved consulting a spirit to discover the reason the person died. No one died without a transgression that resulted in the death of the deceased. Amazingly, the transgression was often not that of the deceased but one from a close family member. Crowds would gather as the elders would discern the transgression, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents or…”

This winter my annual trip to the tribe came in December and not January. The human migration from Burkina Faso in the north had me concerned that the immigrants had stressed the school lunch program. The migration has doubled the population in less than a couple years in some villages. When arrived, I spoke to the staff at the schools, they told me of the difficulties they faced handling the local national population, but said no immigrant children were allowed in the public school. The lunch program was going well as planned.

However, the influx of new people in the community has created stress on many levels such as water, land, food, and security. Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) seek to address some of the needs and Ivory Coast security forces work hard to suppress militant threats.

The hard grain crops were bountiful this year, and it was great to see the 8–9-foot millet bending from the full heads of mature grain. There have been many who had died in the previous year but no one from the churches. I was able to help send some Christians to get medical attention, and as I left the area, I was glad to know people’s future looked good.

Then in mid-February, I got news that 4 Christians had died, one being Elizabeth, a young woman I had helped get to the hospital. She left behind a young child. Ellen, the second woman to believe from the tribe, had two children die; Ellen went to go to the hospital when I was there in December as well. In total, 10 people have died from the village since I have left.

I have shared these deaths with others, and often the question is asked “what is killing them?” I know they, like myself, want to know what the physical reason for so many dying is. If medical resources like we have in America were there, they would give a scientific answer and maybe put off death for a time. The pagan villagers still find that sin kills everyone. The tribal Christian believers say “The Lord took him/her home to be with Him.” In sorrow, both grieve and wail. The difference is, for the believers, we see death as the graduation into a new realm of the Kingdom experience; one free from pain, grief and sin. (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18).

I don’t like to hear of anyone dying, but I rejoice that the Gospel is saving people from Hell and Believers are with Christ. There is comfort that we have and have had a part in seeing the Gospel communicated to others, and that while they may be dead physically, they are not finished.

Write to:

Jerry & Sharon Skiles
28205 Ogle Rd
Shedd, OR 97377