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Alabama couple use Guatemalan radio to spread gospelcomment (0)

January 15, 2009

By Kimberly Wright

For the last 25 years, James “Jim” and Carol McGriff have ministered to the Kekchi people of Cobán, Guatemala, forming relationships and sharing the truths of the Bible through Kekchi radio.

The Kekchi, about 1 million in population, are descendants of the ancient Mayans of Central America. They have kept their native tongue, Q’eqchi’ or Kekchi, alive in a country where the official language is Spanish. That language difference presents a hurdle when trying to share the truths of God’s Word to this group of people who fear spirits.

However, Jim speaks fluent Kekchi and believes that communicating in the people’s “heart language” has been vital to their understanding and response to Christ.

Jim serves as a strategy coordinator through the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and is primarily responsible for coordinating efforts with Kekchi Baptists to spread the gospel to the large population. He works in field worker and leadership training, as well as in assisting with equipment and strategies for evangelism through radio.

There are several Kekchi Baptist radio stations in a well-developed evangelism effort that has been built on the strong foundation established by prior Christian workers. As a result of the evangelism efforts, there are about 1,500 to 2,000 professions of faith every year. Surveys indicate that about 6 percent of Kekchi have responded to the gospel so far.

Even though most of the Kekchi are poor, they all have radios in their homes.

“God is doing a miracle in this people group. Their hearts have been touched, and it’s time for them to hear God’s word,” Jim said.

He has many stories to share about Kekchi people coming to Christ. Most memorable is one about Jose, who lived in a remote village on the mountainside when the first radio station went on the air.

Radio Kekchi was the first to broadcast the gospel message in the Kekchi language. When people heard, they began to respond. When Jose heard, he bowed down in front of his radio to receive Christ. He eventually located Jim and asked him to speak to the people of his village. Jim was not able to go at that time, but Jose returned to his village and led 37 people to Christ. Soon, they formed their own church and constructed a building.

“The Kekchi are beautiful people who are easy to love,” Jim said. “Most of them fear spirits. But when they realize Jesus is more powerful than the spirits, the fear is gone and they tell more people about Jesus. At that point, they take you into their homes and their hearts and give you the best.”

Political unrest and economic struggles are rampant throughout the region. Despite this, the government has never attempted to curtail religious freedom or prohibit the gospel message.

Violence and crime have steadily become worse, which brings concern for security. But even with the ever-present threat of assault or robbery, the McGriffs and other Southern Baptist representatives have not feared for their lives.
Because of God’s movement among the people and their zeal for knowledge of Him, the workers continue to risk their lives without fear. They don’t hesitate to go into a village that may resist the gospel. They go because they may be the only ones with the gospel who do.

Currently, the McGriffs are on stateside assignment (furlough)where they reside in Elmore and are members of Mount Hebron West Baptist Church, Elmore, in Elmore Baptist Association.

This time in the United States has given them opportunity to be with family members, especially their two children who are embarking on new phases in their lives. Both children were born in Guatemala and were homeschooled by Carol. Their daughter, Keeley, graduated in December 2008 from the University of Montevallo, and their son Brantley graduated from high school last spring.

“The McGriffs are considered the epitome of what missionaries and missionary families look like,” Steve King, pastor of Mount Hebron West, said. “They love the local church but were faithful to God’s call. I can’t say but the greatest things about them.”

When the McGriffs return to Cobán in July, they will be “empty nesters.” Both Keeley and Brantley will remain in Alabama.

Until recently, Carol’s ministry focus has been church and home and she participated in women’s ministries in Cobán. But now that the McGriffs’ children are on their own, more opportunities for ministry will open up for Carol.

Having grown up in a church with a strong missions organization, Carol felt called to missions work early on. She believes the missions-based education she received made her ready to respond to the calling. Because of that, she emphasizes the important role that missions leaders have in teaching God’s Word to children so that He can use it to speak to and direct them in their lives.

“Missions education ... makes us aware of a lost world and how God wants us to respond. As (children) grow and mature and God calls them, they’re ready and responsive. Whether God calls them to be missionary leaders, pastors’ wives or teachers, they will have a heart for people,” Carol said.

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