Mibu People being Baptized

Though over 75 believers were baptized after a Saturday church meeting several weeks ago, there are still many, many believers from Mibu, Beng, and Tariknan who have not yet been baptized.  Some simply missed the service.  Others are still feeling unsure about the meaning of baptism, and are wisely choosing to wait.  Some feel upset that they were baptized as infants by a visiting local “pastor”, and are feeling pressure from outside groups to not get “re-baptized”.  The reasons are varied, but the church is being strengthened as they are working out their beliefs based on what they know already from the Bible lessons.  We are continually refreshed and encouraged by their progress, both as a group, and as individuals.  Sometimes giving them the freedom to have time to think about and make their own decisions, and even disagree as they are figuring things out, is as hard as parents letting go of children.  But watching them come ultimately to correct conclusions is pure elation!

In between the many knocks at our door three days ago was a knock from a young man named Weung.  (Way-ung)  He wanted to let us all know that he was ready to get baptized.  We were happy to attend, though it was other believers closer to Weung who actually did the baptism.  Another step of faith for them, and an exercise in letting go for us.  It turned out that not only was Weung baptized, but about a dozen other Christians were waiting for the opportunity as well, and took it that day.

After the baptisms, we received a message to meet Keteng at his hut just up the trail.  (For those of you who have visited us, you realize that this sounds very close, and actually is not.  🙂  Keteng had been mulling over an illustration from the church meeting the previous Saturday, and the “root of the tree” of his thinking (i.e. the “crux of the matter”) is that he wants to know what it means to walk with God.  To let God empower him to live a life following after Him.  The next half hour was spent discussing what it means to walk with God in this life, which was the perfect prelude to the study on the book of Romans.  And it will give Keteng plenty to fill and stretch his mind around lying in his hut at night.

We are more thankful than ever for all that God is doing here in Mibu, but please don’t read that to say we no longer need your prayers!!!  We covet them just as much, if not more.  We all have so much to be thankful for, but the work is far from done!

Preparing for What Lies Ahead

Just after we presented the Gospel in March of this year, 2 Miboo men, Sesi and Keteng, attended a two week translation seminar.  They learned what it takes to have a good, solid Bible translation.

Since the village of Tariknan is the last village in our language group, the Mibu believers are beginning to prepare for crossing the language barrier. They have caught the vision of bringing the Gospel into the two related languages on either side of Mibuland, Jerung and Mina.

In preparation for the future outreaches, Sesi and Keteng recently held their own translation seminar.  The idea is to take two Mibu guys who are bilingual in Jerung, and two Mibu guys who are bilingual in Mina, and teach them translation principles in one week long seminar.  However, a total of 12 guys ended up attending!  What an awesome response!  Just today as I was walking home from church, Bapeke was talking to me about all the sacrifices he learned that William Tyndale went through in order to translate the Bible.  And what a joy it is to hear these guys chatting about the technical aspects of a good translation.

Please uphold in prayer these two language groups, Jerung and Mina.  (Pronounced jair-ung and minn-ah). Together with the Mibu people we have set the goal of reaching out to them early 2007.  The church still needs to finalize the plan as to where to go first.  There are over 1,000 pages of evangelism lessons to translate in the meantime, so plenty to keep everyone busy!

So far, Genesis chapters 1-2 have been translated into Jerung.  Andrea Knotts, who is visiting us for the summer, typed the translated materials into the computer for us.  Andrea is also teaching two Mibu girls how to type in order to help us keep up with the workload.  We are so glad for the blessing that Andrea has been to our team.

A few facts about the Mina people to the west of Mibu:  There are 11 villages ranging in population from 25-110 with about a total of 850 people.  Mina people regularly intermarry with Mibu people, so there are many bilinguals.  When we taught in Mibu, 54 people from 10 Mina villages came and were saved.  The word “Mina” means “what”.

OK, now the Jerung people on our east:  There are 10 villages with a total estimated population of 1,500.  There are 10 believers from 4 different villages as a result of the teaching in Mibu.  Jerung and Mibu people also intermarry.  The largest village of Gwarawon has an airstrip.  The word “Jerung” also means “what”.  In a recent meeting, all of the Jerung villages officially expressed an invitation to have the Word of God taught in their villages.

For His glory!

God’s Purpose in Sorrows

As Posilonge held his little son Tom in his arms, I spoon-fed him trying to give him strength as this 6 year old fought for life.  Posilonge was obviously exhausted, as his 11 month old had died during the night from the same sickness that had now made its claims on his older 6 year old boy.  A day and half away from the nearest medical facilities, all that the Mibu believers could do was to pray.  And pray they did!!  “God, give us this boy”, they prayed in their simple way.  After having spent the whole day with them, I walked back home with very mixed emotions.  Saddened at their lot in life, so far away from simple medicine, so that even the most elementary of illnesses often claim their lives.  Yet, I am encouraged to see the dependency on their new found Father.

At 6:30 the next morning, Posilonge’s brother Sivi showed up at my house.  Little Tom had died at 1:00 in the morning.  I went down and immediately went into the house where little Tom was.  I had no sooner finished mourning for him, when Sonde asked me, “Why did God allow this?”  He continued, “We’ve often seen two people die around the same time, but we’ve never seen one man lose two children inside of a day’s time like this”.

We spent the next hour talking about God’s purposes in sorrows.  We talked about how God’s plan for us is to become like Jesus.  As Jesus suffered first, and then was glorified, so God uses suffering in our lives to cause us to depend on Him even more.  This is all to strengthen us.  I told them how in America we purify metal by melting out its impurities.  Seeing that they caught the correlation between that illustration, and God using suffering in our lives to strengthen us so that we can glorify Him further, I asked if they had anything similar in their culture.  They gave me this illustration from their world.

“When we attach arrow tips to the shaft, we use tree sap to hold the tip in place.  But, in order to make the sap work, we have to cook it in the fire first, until it melts, only then we can apply it to the arrow.  When the sap cools, it hardens, securing the tip in the shaft.”  I then asked them to tell me how that applies to this situation.  They concluded that all their pain and suffering was for a purpose, so that they could be further used of God!!

As if that wasn’t enough, God still had something else in mind to teach us in this object lesson.  They asked “Were we wrong to pray to God asking Him to spare this boy’s life”?  From there we discussed how God wants to hear our heart’s desire, but just as we prayed “Not according to our desires, but according to Yours.”  I told them, “We asked God for something good, but He gave us something very good.  This time of sorrow is like training for us to produce in us the ability to serve Him to a greater degree”.

So, that’s how it happened that on July 21, 2006, believers from such an obscure place on planet earth as this joined their voices and said “Thank You” to God for bringing about the intense sadness of the loss of two young boys.

The next day at church (as if God hadn’t already taught us enough), guess who was the one to stand up and publicly pray for a sick man in Tariknan?  It was Posilonge, the man who had lost his two sons.

We are privileged beyond words to be here in Mibu PNG.

Royfo

I wish you could meet Royfo, one of the Mibu believers who is laboring alongside us in the outreach to Tariknan.  Royfo’s name has a bit of a story to it…  He comes from a village where there are 3 other people named Roy.  In order to avoid confusion, each Roy has been given a number.  So, there is “Roy-one”, “Roy-two”, “Roy-three”, and of course our friend “Roy-fo”. 🙂

Royfo was among the first here in Mibu to trust in Christ, and was also a graduate of the first literacy class.  Royfo was married just last year to a young girl from Mibu named Oolaipe.  (pronounced oo-lie-pay). We recently heard that they are expecting their first baby soon!  Since Mibu people believe that pregnancy starts when the mother first feels the baby kick, it’s harder to guess at a due date!

Royfo was one of 8 or so men who volunteered to bring the gospel on to the next village.  We had an awesome time this last week together in Tariknan teaching up through the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Royfo could not contain his excitement when, at the very end of the Sodom/Gomorrah lesson, one man stood up and said, “We are like the people of Sodom, and like the angels that warned Lot of the coming judgment, you guys have come here to warn us of God’s wrath against our sins.”

During the evenings at Tariknan, we often just sit around and talk with the guys.  Royfo is very curious about the end times and the judgments to come.  You should have seen his and Gero’s responses as they were reminded that prior to the judgment, God in his gracious love for us believers will take us up into heaven just as he did with Enoch.  Gero passionately exclaimed, “Oh, the mercy of God, Oh, the mercy of God for us who believe in Him!”

In one of our evening chats, Royfo questioned me as to how many believers there are worldwide. He was interested in much work is left to be done before some from every language group have heard the gospel.  I told him about the different language groups in the world that have no representatives in heaven, and also of the 100+ unreached people groups in the Finisterre Mountains (the haystack of a mountain range of which Mibu is a but a tiny needle).  What undeniable evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in Royfo’s heart!  Upon hearing of the Gospel destitute tribes remaining still in Papua New Guinea, Royfo said, “When you missionaries are done with your work in Mibu, maybe you guys should go on to another country, where us New Guineans cannot go.  Let us New Guineans finish the work in New Guinea!”

Royfo’s heart and enthusiasm for the task at hand is an absolute joy.  Though I would never dampen his zeal, I believe reality is that it will take many, many more missionaries of any and all nationalities to completely reach the rest of Papua New Guinea.  Pray with us for more laborers for the harvest!  People like Royfo who have just met their Lord and Savior and cannot wait to share Him, as well as people who have known God for many years.

Evangelism in Tariknan

Awesome things are still going on over here in our corner of planet earth! Not the least of which is that we have started teaching in Tariknan, a village about 3 hours away from Mibu. The teaching been going on for two weeks now, and we have taught up through the fall of Adam and Eve.

Unlike the evangelism phase in Mibu, where we missionaries were the only teachers, in Tariknan much of the teaching is being done by the Mibu believers! Geoff and I are there with them, partnering with them as they reach out to their own people with the message that they have taken hold of themselves. These new believers/teachers are filled to the brim with excitement seeing evidence of the God of heaven actually working in their own hearts and lives.

On Monday the teachers expressed concern that 3 of the leading men of Tariknan were not attending the teaching. We prayed together about it, and wouldn’t you know it, the next day one of the 3 of the men that was prayed for showed up, and has been attending the teaching ever since. Not only is he there, but he is obviously cut to the heart over the message he’s hearing.

It took several days to teach on the fall of man and God’s promise of a Deliverer. As we prepared together for teaching, we prayed that God would give each of us wisdom as we taught. It is so awesome to see the Mibu teachers presenting the material, not straying from the outline, but adding their own culturally relevant illustrations that the Holy Spirit has given them. Afterwards we thanked God for his faithfulness in giving us the words to make the truth relevant. They are growing by leaps and bounds even while God is using them and stretching them as they reach out.

One Mibu teacher, Kivisi, closed a lesson with this illustration: He placed two pieces of paper on the ground about 6 feet apart. He then said, “One of these papers is light, and the other is the darkness”. He then showed them that all these years they have been living in darkness, but now that the Word of God is come, they are beginning to step towards the light. And he promised that when they get to the end of the lessons, they will see clearly as in the light. What a way to end this lesson in which God promises to one day send a Deliverer to save mankind!!

What an effect the Word of God is having in Tariknan, the last village in Mibu land without the Gospel! These Mibu teachers are spending part of their days just hanging out with the guys in Tariknan, answering questions about the lessons. After the series of lessons about the fall of man, the Mibu teachers reported that the Tariknan people are to the point of tears over the sinfulness of all mankind, and their own inability to buy off God’s anger with money, ritual, or promises to obey.

We often share with the Mibu teachers, “We’ve never seen God with our eyes, but we have seen the evidence of Him at work. When he answers our prayers as He is so obviously doing in such magnificent ways, we see the evidence of His existence.” Meanwhile, back at the believers meeting in Mibu on Saturday, Sesi got up and addressed the believers during testimony time saying, “It is God and only God who is causing some from amongst us to proclaim His word without fear.” What a joy to hear this newborn babe in the Lord giving the credit where it is truly due!

First to Heaven

Never has a funeral been such a joy to us! The first Mibu believer has died and gone ahead of us to heaven! He was actually from the village of Tariknan, where Bible teaching is going to begin in early June. However, he faithfully made the weekly journey to Mibu for the five months that the Good News was being taught, and became a believer less than three months ago. We attended the funeral in Tariknan, where we saw a very definite difference among the attending believers and non-believers. Traditionally, funerals are a desperate, hopeless affair, involving tearing down doors or whole houses, long loud yelling and weeping, and beating on walls and occasionally on other people in despair.

At first, many believers were concerned that even though this man was a believer, God may still “have it in for him” because he hadn’t attended the last few meetings. They also wondered if maybe his death was a punishment for some sin of his. However, the more they talked and thought back to what they have been taught – they were able to see that all death is because of the first sin, and God just chose to take this man home now as opposed to later. We had opportunities to talk with people and remind them of how God looks at his own – that God loves this man as his own child and is NOT waiting to dish out punishment, but waiting with open arms to receive him.

This spurred on a wonderful discussion during the hike to and from the funeral of what we know of heaven, and how wonderful that it is. That this man no longer has problems, or sicknesses, or hunger or pain! When they arrived at the funeral, the Mibu believers cried for the loss of a friend (in some cases, relative), but without the hopelessness. As they watched the people in Tariknan mourning heavily, including the man’s unsaved wife and young child, their consensus was that “They just haven’t heard God’s talk yet. Soon, they will hear and understand.”

And that is our prayer, too. As this outreach to Tariknan begins, where some of the new believers will teach alongside the missionaries, we pray that soon Tariknan will also understand.

Mootriye’s Song

Happy Easter from Mibuland!

The Mibu believers are now about 6 weeks old. Its such a joy to see them at peace in their new found God. Some have composed songs and are teaching them to the rest of the church. I am attaching one that Mootriye wrote. Here are the words in Mibu. Below that are the words to his song translated into English:

“Bamnyu Pangundu garuk garuk uminyin nyinde tungak tapap turevun mukunyi pogo.
Udu nyindu ukwin tangak tugu dugi dugunyi mirugut.
Tuvun nyindu une akngu sinyu narugamung.”

“God sent us our savior for our benefit.
He sent him down to the earth.
He took our sins, and hung them up on the cross.
And we are happy about that.”

God is being praised in Mibuland!

As iron sharpens iron

We are the only missionaries in Mibu for a few weeks… but this time, not the only Christians!! 🙂

The Husa and Walker families are at the New Tribes Mission base in Goroka attending a two week seminar on Bible translation. For the seminar, they needed to bring two of the Mibu guys (native Mibu speakers) with them. The two men, Keteng and Sesi, are staying at the little national guesthouse at the base. One of the other missionaries on the base passed along the following report to us.

“So very excited about the things the Lord has and is doing in Mibuland. Iteve, a very mature and humble teacher from Yagaria (another tribe) spent the night at the guesthouse here at Lapilo last night. Two of our brothers from Mibu were there. They all told me what a tremendous time they had had staying up till almost midnight talking about the things of the Lord. God’s church… What can I say?”

What an encouragement to us, other tribal believers from other areas encouraging two of the new Mibu believers! Part of the translation workshop, also, included a session for the tribal helpers that gave the history of the Bible. What a great opportunity for these two men from the new Mibu church!

The work is not finished. In many ways, it has just begun!

For His Glory,
J&B

Church Planted

A baby church has just been born in Mibu. Though we’re not up nights, we feel the excitement and concerns of a new parent. Though we have been praying for this, anticipating this, hardly daring to hope for such a thorough reception of the Gospel, it is really happening.

At our very first meeting with the new believers in Mibu, we taught on several basic things – including the ability we have to talk to God. (aka prayer 🙂 The main hurdle that the culture here must overcome is the thought that prayer is manipulation. They have been trying to manipulate any spirit they have ever heard of (or dreamed up) for centuries!

A few days after the lesson, I was walking along a trail with Tima. I suggested that we talk to God together, and he was glad to – but thought we’d need to stop hiking and find a good spot and sit with our eyes closed. (Town and churchy influence travels even this far into the back of the bush!) I about knocked him off his feet when I told him that we could go ahead and talk to God as we walked along! What a freeing concept this is…. no formula to follow, it can’t be done incorrectly, no punishment for leaving something out. What a tool it has been for “on the job” teaching about God’s great love and desire to have a real and personal relationship with His children.

Now, just as so many of you have been praying for the salvation of the people in these two villages, Mibu and Beng, we are asking these new believers to pray in earnest for the Bible teaching in the first outreach village – the Mibu speaking village of Tariknan. After offering teacher’s training to the interested believers here, we plan to go together with them in June to Tariknan to teach there. This time, instead of just the missionaries teaching, it will be us together with Mibu men, team teaching and praying together for a harvest!

Please continue your prayers, the Mibu people are still very new believers. Incorrect teaching spreads as fast as gossip, and though everyone is still excited about their newly found salvation, life’s pitfalls and discouragements weigh on them and distract them from their love and gratitude to God – just as they can to any of us. Pray for us, for love and patience, for clarity in teaching, and that we remain focused on God ourselves.

Thank you!!
Write anytime!

For His Glory,
J&B
Mibu, Madang, PNG

God answers prayers, Sivi and Posilongge are saved!!

Several weeks ago we sent out a prayer request for 2 individuals who were rejecting the message of the Bible.  This was especially alarming considering the prominence and influence these 2 men have in Mibu.

Well, it’s as if God was saying “All you had to do was ask”, because shortly after we sent out that prayer request, both Sivi and Posilongge each completely changed their minds in regards to the truthfulness of God’s word.  Here’s how it happened:

Around the time we sent out the prayer request, we taught a lesson on the temptation of Jesus by Satan.  It was a relatively short lesson, and we did 2 simple skits.  The first skit was at the beginning, where we showed Satan distorting the message of the Bible, trying to use that to tempt Jesus.  Of course, Jesus correctly used the Word of God to refute Satan.

Then, at the end of the lesson, we did what we normally do, that is, ask if anyone has any questions.  I simply asked the question, and the person who played Satan in the first skit got up and said, “Yes, I’ve got a question”.  At this point, he was still in his Satan “costume”.  He started asking the Mibu people, “Do you really think that this guy, Jesus can really save you?  He’s not even from Papua New Guinea?  He’s fine for the Israelites, but how can he save you?”

As Satan finished his spiel, one of the Mibu guys that often helps out in skits stood up and said, “I believe what you are saying.”  Immediately, Satan rushed over to this guy and pulled him out from the rest of the group; then Satan came back and addressed the Mibu people again.

This time he ever so skillfully implored the Mibu people not to take our warnings about hell as literal.  “Its just a figure of speech” he said.  Again, another one of the Mibu actors “believed” Satan’s words, and Satan pulled that person away from the group.

Finally, Satan returned a 3rd time and said, “All this talk about ‘salvation’.  You know what they mean when they say ‘salvation’, don’t you?  They mean that if you believe God’s word, he is going to save you from the hard life you face.  All the material benefits you could ever want.”  Once again another Mibu man was led away by Satan.

Then, Satan went and addressed privately the 3 people he had taken. The 3 of them, along with Satan, came back to the group and started preaching their lies, trying to pull more people away.  Yes, it was a set up… and that’s how the skit ended.

In the following days, both Sivi and Posilongge sought us out to talk on separate occasions.  Geoff and I sat down at length with Posilongge and listened to him talk about how he had been deceived, and how he had changed his mind, and is now believing God’s word, and that he too trusts in Christ’s death.  Even yesterday it was so sweet to see him bring 2 little boys by so that they could share their testimony with us.  While it was obvious that the two boys still haven’t put the pieces together, it was very special to see Posilongge trying to help them see it.

Later on Brooke and I sat down with Sivi and his wife, Wun.  Sivi talked first at length of his deception.  He said, “All those questions I asked you were because I just didn’t understand.  I asked a lot of questions that were off point, because I was deceived.”  Then Sivi and Wun each shared their new found faith with Brooke and I.  Neither of them have stopped talking about it since!!  🙂

God is calling many people to Himself.  Please continue praying, now for the wisdom and patience and diligence to disciple these new believers and teach them to turn to God and His Word for their needs.

For His Eternal Glory,
J&B
Mibu, Madang, PNG