Just under 2 weeks ago we were shocked by the news of a colleague’s sudden death.
Naboth Musa was only 23 years old, but had been a tremendous answer to prayer for the venerable Duya Bible Translation project. Most recently I had helped get him and his colleagues set up to record several books of the New Testament in Duya language ahead of a month of community testing, and he took to it surprisingly quickly.
Please, #pray for the family, friends, and colleagues of Naboth Musa, a member of the Duya translation team in #Nigeria, who died a few days ago. (In the attached photo he is wearing the checked shirt). He had only recently recorded Matthew, Galatians & Colossians on audio, pic.twitter.com/8qTP1gDKw9
— Wycliffe UK Prayer (@wycliffeuk_pray) February 28, 2018
In the photo above you can see Naboth with his Duya team-mates and their consultant and advisor Mark Gaddis.
It doesn’t really make sense to us. Baba Duya, the energetic 70-year-old who has spearheaded the translation work so far has been looking for young blood to give the project more energy and a chance of lasting after he is gone. Naboth came with that energy and passionate commitment which is actually rather rare, and an ability with computers which the Duya team badly needed. Why should God allow him to be taken away from us so swiftly after a freak accident with a generator?
The day before we heard the news – and just hours after Naboth had died – we were away from Jos and had listened to the previous week’s Sunday service from The Tron Church in Glasgow, looking at the last chapter of Deuteronomy. I don’t think I had noticed before how crazy too Moses’ death seemed. OK he was 120 but his body and mind were strong. And yet God chose NOT to allow Moses to enter the land, but to send a much less-equipped leader in, in the shape of Joshua. What was God playing at? Surely you need strong leadership and stability at a time of such major transition, and surely Moses could have set a good pattern for the people as they finally entered the promised land. But it was not God’s plan and Moses accepted that. Perhaps in a similar way then, it seems devastating to Naboth’s parents and siblings and wider family to lose him as a son and brother, and devastating to the project, but we must trust that God knows what he is doing.
Within hours of hearing the news, a group of us who knew and worked with Naboth had driven 3 hours west to Kwoi. There Mark (see above) had the duty of paying for the wood for the coffin before transporting it to Naboth’s village. It all happened so fast it was quite hard to get your head around. But mortuary costs are high and sudden ‘premature’ deaths like this cause significant unrest especially amongst the younger members of the community and so there’s a real pressure to hold the funeral and burial quickly.
We can only pray that God will not allow Naboth’s place to go unfilled, and that he will not allow the fear of witchcraft and curses to prevent others taking up his mantle. The day after the accident that eventually led to his death, Naboth was supposed to be at a meeting getting ready to test the translated scriptures in Duya villages. That testing is – we trust – continuing. We pray that many will hear the message clearly for the first time and gain the quiet confidence in Jesus’ love that led Naboth to be a worthy servant in God’s vineyard.
Here’s more in a blog post Remembering Naboth from Wycliffe UK. Today in a meeting of translation support staff we prayed for his family and heard of some promising people who might join the Duya team to fill Naboth’s shoes. Pray for wisdom for Baba Duya and others in choosing the right person, and pray for all the team to show a Godly attitude and devotion first and foremost to God’s kingdom.