Missionary Interviews #2 – Daniel and Stephanie Dias

      Thank you, Daniel and Stephanie, for taking your time to answer these questions! I am so glad that  I was able to interview you all.

How long have you been serving?

              We have been in West Africa since April 2008.
Where have you served?
              We originally went to West Africa to work in Guinea – Conakry.  Our goal was always to work in church planting but our mission asked us to help with a service ministry, a ministry that assists church planting.  The ministry was to help new missionaries arriving on the field.  We were new missionaries ourselves, but we decided to give a few years to this ministry.  We were there for only 17 months before leaving to have our third son.  We were still planning on returning, but two weeks after our depart there were political problems in the capital, where we were located.  Our mission asked all the missionaries in the capital to move to Dakar, Senegal.  Senegal is just North of Guinea.  A few months later, our mission board asked us to relocate to Dakar to keep doing the same ministry we were doing in Conakry. After much prayer we accepted, saying that we were going to give this ministry two more years.  Afterward, we wanted to pursue church planting.  After one year in Dakar, we reminded our mission board of our desire and they informed us that it would most likely be delayed since they needed to do People Group Assessment (PGA).  Our mission board has a focus in church planting and they use PGA to find out where the priorities are in a given area.  So PGA involves a lot of traveling, investigating, and visiting with local believers.  Our mission board was waiting to find a single person who could do this ministry.  We offered to work with it for the second year in Dakar since at that time there were no single missionaries available. We ended up traveling 7,000 miles in about 4 months, visiting 7 West African countries.  By the end, we had a list of the people groups that our mission board considered a priority and among them was the Bolon in Burkina Faso.  Since 2013 we have been in Burkina Faso, learning the local language of wider communication (Jula), getting to know the local church community, and preparing to live among the Bolon.  We just finished building our house in a Bolon village this last January. 
When did you first feel that you were called to be a missionary and how did that lead into what you are doing now?
              I (Daniel) was born into a missionary family.  My parents worked for 12 years with a small people group in Northeast Brazil.  By the time I was 12 years-old we had already moved to another region and my parents were helping a small church in the countryside.  My parents were always involved in raising the awareness of the local church concerning Missions.  We went with a group from our small church to a mission conference at the New Tribes Bible School where we watched a video about missionaries in Papua New Guinea.  They learned the language of a people group and gave them the Gospel.  One of the new believers asked the missionaries how long they had known the message.  Upon learning that the missionaries had known it for a long time, the new believers asked why it had taken so long to come and give them this Good News.  I then felt convicted of our responsibility, as the Church of Christ, to go and give them the Gospel.  Ever since that moment, my life has been geared towards church planting.  Every decision I have made has had the goal of reaching the unreached. 
              I (Stephanie) knew that God was leading me into missions around the age of 14.  I had a heart for missions, specifically the unreached people groups of the world.  I also knew that God has given me an ability to learn languages easily.  I prayed to be used wherever He would lead me.  I pursued a degree in elementary education since I figured I’d be homeschooling my children one day and it was during my time in college that God began to open doors for missions.  Through an MK friend, I learned about New Tribes Mission and their philosophy of missions.  This same MM also introduced me to my “future” husband.  After learning that my husband had a heart for Africa, we headed in that direction.  We studied French in Quebec, Canada and then raised support before leaving for West Africa.
What does your job entail?
              Our mission has the goal of establishing strong, bible literate, indigenous churches.  As church planters, we have to learn the language and the culture of our target people group in order to effectively communicate the story given in the Bible.  Once we reach a high level of communication ability we start working with literacy, teaching the people group how to read and write in their own language.  We then translate the Bible verses that will be used in Bible teaching, prepare the lessons, and start the teaching phase of our ministry.  Our mission board works with a chronological teaching program that teaches the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Once the teaching is done, we then start the translation of the rest of the Bible, hopefully now with the help of our brothers and sisters who recognized Jesus as their savior during the teaching time. We then go through the other phases of teaching that will expose the new believers to the entirety of the Bible story.
How do you think that your specific role in missions is especially important?
              We have the opportunity to present the Word of God to people in their heart language.  It is through the truth of His Word that the Holy Spirit uses to convince people “concerning sin, godliness, and judgment” (John 16:7-11). 
Do you have a story about how you have seen God work through your role?
              Although we are at the very beginning of our church planting ministry, we have had the opportunity to serve the local church everywhere we have been and it has been a blessing to be able to share more of the truths of the Bible everywhere we go.  The lack of knowledge of what the Bible says is widespread.  Although many people see Jesus as their Savior, some do not understand what that truly means.  We have had the opportunity to see people learn more of who they are in Jesus and see them be set free from fears that used to control their lives.  While learning Jula, I was talking to my language teacher about God.  He was a new believer and did not know much of what the Bible teaches.  I was explaining that although God is spirit, not having a physical body, He is not like the spirits his people worship and fear. I told my teacher that God is Eternal and the spirits only immortal.  He only understood the difference when I said that God does not have a birthday, that He was never born.  He was amazed by that because until then he thought that God was stronger than the other spirits but didn’t know why. We pray that we will see much of this among the Bolon in the future.
What training did you have to take for your job? (college degrees/ classes/ working with people on certain things)
              I (Daniel) went to Bible School, Missionary Training School, and Linguistic School as preparation to work as a church planter with New Tribes Mission.  The training took four and a half years.
              I (Stef) attended a Christian University so I didn’t have to do New Tribes Bible School. Even though Daniel had already completed NTM training, we had to do the missions training together as a couple.  Then we were placed into the advanced linguistics program where we spent a semester in Oklahoma studying Cherokee. 
What tips would you give a young person or anyone who is interested in this role? 
              You should ask God to search your heart and confirm your calling.  If you’re sure of God’s leading, then go forward, trusting God to open doors at the right time. He always does. There are some missions who do “vision” trips where you can visit the field before deciding where to serve.  Those trips can be helpful.
Is there any way that we can pray for you and the area you work in?
              Yes! There is a continual growing presence of Jihadist activity in our country and it’s creeping closer and closer to our village.  Pray for safety for the missionaries in the area and for wisdom for our team as we serve God in this new reality.
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