Is It Time? – Follow-Up Email

I went to visit Moofore again at his hut. Walking up the path to his place, I felt such a sense of the bigger purpose God has for us during our stay on earth. Isn’t it incredible that hundreds of people can be praying for the salvation of one man on the other side of the earth? What a privilege it is to be involved in what He is doing in the world.

Moofore called me in, and we sat talked for a while on local matters before the conversation moved to spiritual things. As we caught up, God brought to mind the many people who wrote to say they were praying. Thank you, each and every one of you who prayed! The only thing I felt lacking as we talked together was the lack of other Mibu believers there with me. So many others here have been involved in sharing God’s Word with him over the years. No sooner did I have that thought, than two Bible teachers from the Mina churches (8 hours away) and one of the teachers of the Mibu church poked their heads through the doorway!!! As they walked into the room my heart was bursting at how God was answering our prayers. I looked at the men God had sent at just the right moment (even the right day!). Each of these men has sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel. And now all this coming together for one crippled old man! God’s patient love truly is great!

The timing was right, and we were eager to talk about Christ. Moofore soaked it up, interspersing questions and thoughts of his own. We discussed Jesus being born sin-free, His being God, and also Emmanuel – “God with us”. We talked about how he was called “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” We talked about how Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people and how so many of them sought Jesus not for a relationship with Him, but to get more food out of Him. Finally we talked about how Jesus was punished not for His own sins, but for ours. And how God’s anger for sin was given completely to the One who never sinned. In illustrating the wrath of God being absorbed by Jesus, one of the men pointed to a sheet hanging in the doorway that was casting a shadow into the house. He said that God’s wrath is like the sunrays, and that Jesus is like the sheet that absorbed the sun, casting a shadow for us to rest safely in.

Moofore spoke and answered with real understanding, so we asked him again where he thought he would go if he died. He said confidently that he would go to heaven. We asked him about his previous stumbling block – his own sin.
His reply: “Because of my own sin I deserve hell. But our penalty, I mean, MY penalty, has been paid by Jesus!”

Rejoicing along with the angels,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG

Is It Time?

Moofore’s house and garden is one of my favorites in the whole area. His steep yard drops away on three sides, showcasing a wild panorama of the surrounding mountains and valley rivers. It is still the only place I’ve been where both the village of Mibu and the village of Beng can be looked down upon from one single spot. It makes me happy to think of Moofore here, on top of his local world. Because of the severe deformity of both his feet, he seldom leaves his own yard.

When the Gospel was first presented here 5 years ago, we stood by and watched with amazement as God turned almost every adult to Himself. But there were some who did not believe. Moofore was one of them. I’ve gone to visit with him twice since coming here a few weeks ago, and today the conversation touched on spiritual things. This was the first time I have seen evidence of concern for his own sin and status with God. He asked about overcoming the real problem of sin and its penalty. At that point, I asked if we could pick up the conversation again in a few days, and asked him to keep thinking about that very question, and to ask others what their thoughts are. (After hundreds of conversations about this, I know there is a lot of good understanding out there.) I told him I’d visit again in a few days, and would like to ask you to pray with me for Moofore before we continue. Might this be his time to understand and believe the Gospel?

Thank you!
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG

Faith is putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

It’s been such a blessing to review with the group the principles of teaching evangelism. One of the subjects we talked about at length was “What is faith?” The guys talked about this abstract concept using concrete things they understand to illustrate what faith is.

One example I loved was crossing a high bridge tied together by vines, they are depending on the strength of the vines to hold them up. If the vines aren’t enough, they will die. That is faith!

Another example was selling their coffee in town. They put their entire confidence in one person who takes everyone’s coffee to the buyers. If that person takes off with their money, they lose everything. And so the kind of person they look for is a person of whom they can say, “That person, he is able.” That is faith!

Our conclusion on what it means to have faith in Jesus: It means that we are fully confident that His death was cruel enough to appease the anger of God… cruel in the sense that a perfectly righteous person received the worst possible punishment. Our souls’ eternal destinies depend on that one thing. If, for some reason God was not satisfied with Jesus’ death, then we will be lost forever. Because, we can put no hope our own goodness, but we are resting completely on Jesus. In short, Jesus is enough.

I often wonder to myself… If I was sent here to minister to these people, how come they are the ones that are such a blessing to me?

Resting in God’s grace to us,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG

Yongem outreach

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces MANY seeds”

Mibu:

We sat in church in Mibu on Easter listening to the Mibu Bible teachers as they led the service. They took verses on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and related it not only to the Easter story, but also to our everyday Christian walk. They taught carefully verse by verse, bringing big smiles to our faces as they seamlessly switched between teachers, and involved other believers in reading the verses out loud. That they had carefully thought about and studied beforehand was obvious. We felt in some ways like proud parents as they dug deep into the verses and sought to use them to build up the church.

Benny, who is not a church leader but is a community leader, stood after the service and gave a wonderful illustration. He said, “It is just like a peanut. When we put a peanut in the ground, it does not produce just one, but many more peanuts. When Jesus died and was buried, did it stop everything? No! He rose again and now there are many, many children of God because of what He did. It is the same in our own lives. When we see ourselves as having died with Christ and dead to sin, God will work in our lives and use us to spread the gospel into the nearby areas, and further into the rest of the world.” We are very excited that one of the Mibu teachers’ goals is to keep training more guys to get involved and teach, so that they can teach others, and reach the next generation of the Mibu church, as well as the surrounding communities, and the world!

Yongem:

After 17 weeks of foundational teaching through the Bible in Yongem, the Mibu teachers have presented the gospel to the village! The response to God’s Word was phenomenal, and a new church has been born! The Mibu teachers have been listening to the testimonies of the new Yongem Christians, and bringing back wonderful reports. Their enthusiasm is so contagious! They reported to the Mibu church that just a few days after the gospel was taught, a man named Alfons died of sickness. The teachers shared with the baby church from John 14:1-7, and that Alpons is already now experiencing all that they have just been learning about heaven and being with God. Jemsnannya, one of the new believers, stood and said, “Before, when someone would die we were without hope and used to follow our ancestors customs, like spitting to the sun. But now is the beginning of the harvest of our people going to heaven.” Once again, God’s message of hope is changing lives.

The Mibu teachers plan to continue to meet with the Yongem church and teach a short review of the Old Testament, and then the book of Acts, and ultimately the whole New Testament. During that time they are making plans to take some of the Yongem men and begin to train them to be part of an outreach team to 2 other Mina speaking villages! Seeing the gospel go out and multiply like this just blows our minds… thank you so much to all of you who have been a part of this amazing journey with us.

New Yongem brothers and sisters in Christ (and some of the future missionaries to the rest of the Mina villages):
Porenoo, Tekoko, Wawo, Yanape, Pelpel, Joel, Sipitnang, Jon, Elisabet, Yongal, Monika, Sewasewa, Mateti, Maguret, Ana, Fransis, Loven, Jois, Loosiya, Soosen, Nasinom, Looneve, Klemens, Doroti, Maine, Manoo, Apeke, Foolibiyang, Javalin, Emos, Joolita, Maloo, Erin, Ookibiyang, Agutu, Enjela, Look, Mainoove, Ase, Anave, Looli, Mak, Matiyas, Enoong, Maiki, Jejin, Jungjung, Ekim, Levi, Ben, Molup, Kwasooke, Sivitung, Japba, Penoo, Pol, Munggali, Manyukupuyi, Mex, Maloom, Sipong, Litoos, Lomak, Kundem, Pol, Goojil, Deta, Irom, Mosang, Looloo, Krista, Kristina, Tape, Memeyoo, Kunooboo, Ninaik, Gelson, Alpons, Lawasi

For His Glory,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, Papua New Guinea

Yongem Update

The team of evangelists from the Miboo church continue to tell God’s story in Yongem. The Yongem people are learning about God’s mighty power as seen when He brought the people of Israel into Egypt and miraculously back out again. During another lesson, the teachers put on a skit depicting a court session. During the session, several people offered a version of what happened in a crime, but it was only the testimony of the eye witness which was valid. Afterwards, David stood up and explained that we all have our own thoughts and beliefs about God, creation, and history, but God’s testimony supersedes our thoughts because He was eye witness to these things. Dreams, things our ancestors taught us, and our own concepts of God are all surpassed by the testimony of God’s word.

God’s Spirit is at work convicting the people of Yongem of their sin and of the truth. Markoos, a man who had been resisting the teaching openly by distorting the truth, humbly proclaimed publicly, “I have no further objections. I will only ask questions when I’m confused, but no longer to oppose or distort.” The teachers selflessly spend hour after hour after the lessons are over, explaining and re-explaining the lessons to those who have questions. The three groups in various stages of accepting and denying the Bible truths have melded into a more unified, open and seeking group. Praise God!

Bapeke, a former idol worshiper, now teaching the Word of God to the people in Yongem, stated fearlessly, “Before I used to go into the clan house and participated in many different customs. I discarded it all, and now have joined myself to the word of God. This message is the only way, and you should believe it. Listen to the message and decide for yourselves.” The response from the Yongem people was total silence, which in this culture is indicative of heavy conviction.

The Bible teachers have seen the importance of being direct in their communication, and in wisely contextualizing the message to their hearers. When David taught a point on Jacob and Esau that he knew would easily misunderstood, he presented gently but plainly, “When the Bible says, ‘Jacob,’ its talking about a person. If it was talking about afterbirth, it would have said, ‘afterbirth.’” Making these clarifications are necessary for good communication, and so worth the time. The response from the people in Yongem after hearing about Jacob and Esau was one of conviction.

When story of Jacob and Esau was taught, they responded, “We are just like Esau, who didn’t care about God, but only about temporal things. We have spent our lives thinking it is about material gain, rather than God and His word. Sin has covered us completely. Do we have to make our own way of salvation, or will God help us?”

Celebrating the New Year and anticipating great things,

Joey and Brooke Tartaglia Mibu, Madang, Papua New Guinea

3 Groups

A bunch of us crowded into Keteng’s hut to hear the outreach team talk about progress of the outreach so far in Yongem. Looking around the room, I watched people absolutely riveted on Devit, Yooyooro, Lookas, and Jems as they recounted this last week’s events. For 2 hours they shared how things are unfolding as God’s word is being taught in Yongem. Excitement and gratification were written all over the faces of the people listening as the outreach team reported specific individual’s responses. They leaned forward at the mention of each name as they learned how their relatives are responding to God’s truth.

The team reported that people are falling into 3 groups – the allegorizers, the easy life seekers, and the those that are understanding the heart of the message. I found it fascinating how different Mibu people could identify with each of the three different groups, having been there themselves just a couple of years ago. In response to people’s hang-ups and objections, they kept saying things like, “The Bible lessons will address that in a later lesson, they will understand.” It was so cool to see how they could relate.

So far, the teaching has gone up to the Cain and Abel story. As the Mibu Bible teachers teach, they communicate these accounts as being actual historical facts. But the first group, the allegorizers, try to find some hidden meaning in what is being said, rather than accepting it at face value. For example, because of the fertility cult mentality here, the story of Cain and Abel was interpreted as an allegory of the process of giving birth. Cain represented the child, and Abel the afterbirth. Cain killing Abel was akin to the cutting of the umbilical cord. Please pray for the people that are allegorizing in this way. They completely miss the point of the lesson as they try to find an applications for having more children, better producing gardens, and more success in hunting. Pray that they would learn to accept it for what it says. We have watched many Mibu people come out of this system of thinking, and are confident that it can be done.

The second group is the easy life seekers. These people are following along in the teaching and accepting the truth of the Scriptures. However, the biggest hang-up for them is that their expectations are much more temporal. They are hoping that by attending and understanding the Bible teaching, somehow it will cause them to have an “easy life” like they see in town, complete with electricity, no garden work, money for groceries at a store and time to sit around and do nothing.  Having come out of this type of dreaming, many Mibu people are very optimistic about their relatives in Yongem eventually understanding the heart of the message, coming into a right relationship with God. Please keep praying for this group that they would be convicted of their sinfulness and learn how to get right with God, not so that they can derive a temporal benefit, but an eternal one.

Lastly, there is also group of people who are accepting the teaching at face value. They are concerned with their sinfulness in the sight of their creator, and are looking to hear about the provision that He has made for them. A very old man named Daidai said, “This is the very first time I’ve heard this.” Another man, Joel, said that he has never heard the Bible stories in this light before. According to the teachers, their questions indicate that they are following along and really understanding.  How exciting!

As the lessons progress, there will be many opportunities for the teachers to address the hang-ups that people are facing. Please pray that those who are hanging on to their non-biblical world view would be able to see through it and understand God’s point of view. Also, please pray for me and my family as we head over to Yongem tomorrow to spend a few days with the outreach team there.

Thank you!
For His Glory,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG

T Minus 23 Hours, 21 Minutes

So I could take the day off for Brooke’s birthday last Tuesday, I pushed our regular Tuesday Teachers meeting back to Monday. We had a great time sitting around discussing the final plans for the outreach that will be starting tomorrow in the Mina village of Yongem. Some of the guys going on the outreach asked me if I had any last minute advice for them. I was about to say something profound like, “Just be sure to follow the lesson plan,” but before I could open my trap, several of the other teachers started an on-target barrage of encouragement. Among other insightful comments, I heard:

“You guys have been training for many months, now do the work that you’ve been training to do.”

“You guys aren’t young children that you need us to lay down the rules, the Holy Spirit will guide you.”

And this as I just sit back and listen with a silly grin on my face.  It is awesome to see how the church has been gearing up for this. Even though only a team of 7 men will be doing the actual teaching, the church has been a tremendous support and encouragement. Last Friday, after the teaching, we had a send off for the guys. Then on Saturday, the 7, along with some others from the Mibu church, made the hike down to Yongem. We’ll be down there all day Sunday, and then the teaching will start on Monday morning. Please pray that Word of God impacts them so that the people of Yongem never forget the day that God’s word made entrance into their hearts and lives.

Unto Him,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, Papua New Guinea

The Mina Translation

Shortly after a church was born in Mibu 18 months ago, the young believers were impressed with the need to share the awesome truths they had just learned. One man named Bapeke had walked the 3-4 hour hike from his village every other week for the entire six months to hear the Bible lessons. God’s Word made a deep impression on him, and changed his life. When the Mibu believers began discussing how to reach out to others with the gospel, Bapeke knew he wanted to be involved with taking the message back to his own village. He thought about the people in his village, especially the ladies and children there who would have a harder time understanding the subtle differences between their dialect and the Mibu dialect. The Mibu Church felt that the Bible lessons must be changed over into the Mina dialect so that no morsel of truth would be lost or confused. Shortly after, Bapeke, Tomas, Samooel, and Justin were at my door ready to talk logistics. I printed them out a copy of the first several Bible lessons, and got them set up with pens and paper. I have come to really look forward to the days that they show up with pages and pages and pages of work in hand. With hearts fully invested in this work, their zealousness and faithfulness is such a joy!

These two dialects are so similar to each other (You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to) that the process is not as nearly as intense as translating from English to Mibu. Some of the changes are minor. For example, the word “meaning” in Mibu is “yupe”, but in Mina they say “yupul”. Once Bapeke makes a change in one lesson, we can use the computer to make the changes for that specific word in all the other instances in which it occurs. Other changes in the lessons have to reflect the slightly different patterns in culture that exist between the Mibu and Mina speaking villages.

After making all the changes, we read the lessons to several other Mina speakers to make sure that it is communicating the same life giving message. Then we asked for help from an experienced missionary friend who works with a different tribe in PNG to come in and help verify that our lessons would indeed communicate in the Mina dialect.

How does that work, having a missionary from a different tribe come in who doesn’t speak Mibu or Mina? Here’s how: Bapeke invited his friend from the Mina area, Apeke, who hasn’t heard the lessons yet. Then Bapeke read to him in Mina from the book of Jonah, which is one of the stories we use in our Bible lessons. Apeke had to tell the story back to our missionary friend Linda, (see picture) using the common trade language, Melanesian Pidgin. By listening to Apeke’s version of the story, we could compare all the details that he remembered. What elation! The Mina translation was communicating at a deep level to Apeke! And in any places where details were lost or misunderstood, Linda was able to give us pointers in how to work with Bapeke to make it even more clear.

Having been assured that the methods we were using to translate from Ma into Mina were working well, we put the finishing touches on the rest of the lessons. Just yesterday, the last of the evangelism lessons was completed, and will be sent to the printer as soon as the helicopter comes in next, two weeks from yesterday. These lessons will be used to further the Gospel to the 850 Mina people in 11 small villages! God’s Word is alive!

So, when to begin teaching? That is the question I’ve asked the men who have been training and preparing to do the teaching in Yongem, the first of the Mina villages. Please pray for God to give wisdom to the Mibu people as they are working with the teachers and village leaders in Yongem to handle the details of when to begin. There is a good healthy mix of urgency to get the message out tempered with a desire to see maturity in the believers who will teach.

Its been fun to hear some of the questions that the Yongem people have been asking the guys who are preparing to teach. It reminds me of when we first moved to Mibu, and the Mibu people asked us these very same types of questions. “What do you think about our beliefs?” “Is our thinking correct?” “Will we have to change our ways?” In response to these questions, can you guess what the Mibu teachers have been replying? They are refusing to rush it! They are giving the very same answers we gave to them! “Excellent questions, when we get to the teaching, God’s Word will answer those very questions that you are asking.” Praise God that His Spirit is using every day people to create a hunger for His word.

Serving Him together with the Mibu people,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, Papua New Guinea

This day in history 15 years ago: Two sophomores in high school, Joey Tartaglia and Brooke Ulmer, met each other.

Lesson Themes

The Mibu church has been busy with preparations for her next outreach. Just what goes into getting a group ready to teach? One of the biggest things is simply familiarizing them with the material to be taught, this time from a teacher’s viewpoint instead of the hearer’s. Also important is giving them an understanding of the philosophy behind our teaching. It’s common knowledge that we teach from Genesis 1:1, painting a picture of God through his actions in the Old Testament. But as we teach, there are specific themes that we bring out about the nature of God, Satan, and man. For instance, as we teach creation, we don’t just teach, “On the first day, God created this, on the second day… etc.” We emphasize that in creating everything, God was showing us that He is God. We magnify His awesome attributes, such as His knowledge, and His power, and His love for man.

It is during this time of preparation that the Mibu evangelists are developing their abilities to read a point in a lesson, determine the main themes, and teach accordingly. We work on helping them see beyond just reading the lesson out loud to their audience, but using the lesson as a guide and teaching what they know. Keeping to a theme is a major key here. Rather than simply pointing out what the themes are in each lesson, we have them study the lesson and write down the theme. Then we go over their conclusions. One thing we found after this had been going for a couple weeks was that even though the lesson themes are concise, they are still fairly lengthy to write out. So we had them come up with pictures to represent lesson themes. I loved seeing what the guys came up with!! Here’s a smattering of some of my favorites:

To represent God’s being present everywhere, they draw this picture.

“BV” is an abbreviation for their term for God, “Bamnyu Vangun.”

As the evangelists prepare to teach, they draw this picture next to any point that has to do with God’s attribute of being present everywhere. Then, as they are teaching, at a glance they can easily and quickly refresh their memories as to the main point they are working to get across.

Here’s their simple picture for when they are teaching that God is holy, and by nature his character does not allow him to associate with sinful man.

I like their picture for God’s faithfulness. He does what he will say he will do. When we taught in Mibu, this attribute was paramount, as they place a high value on a person who follows through with what they say they are going to do. This is a timeline. Exactly what God says will happen, it happens just like that at a later point on the timeline.

The picture they chose to represent the need for trusting in God’s very sure promises to save us from our sins looks like this: It’s a man crossing a river on a log bridge. Here, where this is a common event, the picture speaks volumes!

These are only a few of the pictures the teachers use to trigger their memories. As they prepare, they come to a conclusion for themselves which theme or themes are being taught. Then they check their conclusions with the the more experienced teachers who have been given a list of all the lessons and their respective themes. This seems to really help the guys “own” the lessons they teach.

Please be in prayer for us as a church, as there is still much prep work to be done before we are ready to move on with confidence. I feel so much joy working with these men whom we had a part in leading to the Lord, and teaching them how to lead others! Many are now involved in the training process themselves, and I simply act as their cheerleader. It truly is a delight getting up in the morning and doing this as my “job”! (Positions available, inquire by email! 🙂

For His Glory,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG

Out of Our Hands

A small group of ladies and children sat on the hill up from our house talking about Mata.  I had been friends with Mata, but hadn’t seen her much since she married into another village a few years back.  The news had come from that direction that she was very sick, and not two hours later another messenger brought the news that she was gone.  The news hit hard for Joey and I, knowing that she had moved away before the Bible teaching had happened here.  She had not been able to come, living with her new family in a village several days hike away that speaks a different language.  Times like these feel so crushing….

I sat on the hill and chatted with the ladies, talking about Mata’s little son, and who would take him now.  I lamented that Mata had been gone for the Evangelism lessons.  Mata’s Aunt Eson peered into my sad face with her steady dark eyes.  “But she did hear,” she told me.  “Last time she visited, she was staying with her parents.  I told her God’s story.  Her brother, Mark, also spent time telling her what God’s Words says, just how like we learned in the Bible lessons.  We told her, and she believed.  She is with God now.  I miss her, but we will see her again.”   How wonderful to hear that the Gospel goes forth, not just trained teachers outreaching to entire communities, but individual believers passing on what they have learned as they see need and have opportunity.  Eson and Mark and so many other believers here know the truth, and reached out with it to Mata.

Our tears have turned to joy.
Thank you everyone who is praying for the believers here; rejoice with us!

For His Glory,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG