Rejoice

This was the second week that we met for church in the burned out church building. We still aren’t sure what caused the middle of the night fire, but all in all, the believers are handling it very well. It was really hard for everyone to see the building mostly destroyed, especially since so much work and time went into the original building. They did try to find out if somebody had started the fire on purpose, but everyone was accounted for that night. In the past, there would have been some sort of divination to try and find out who they thought did it, with a mock court session held using the magic as evidence, and a punishment often including a stiff beating. We were glad to see that instead of anger, there was only sadness at the loss. Though the last two weeks haven’t been easy, the maturing Mibu church has found encouragement in what they have learned from God’s word.

Some wondered if this was an “Act of God”, or if He might be angry about something, and let or caused this to happen. The wonderful thing is that it is other Mibu Christians who have corrected this type of thinking, reminding people that God’s wrath was appeased through Christ’s work on the cross.  We backed them up in this, but are so proud of those who would not doubt God’s word in the face of a hardship.

After the church meeting, we opened it up for discussion about the burned building. Different men stood to address the village. They addressed many of the concerns that had been floating around.  Even some of the usually hesitant ladies added some thoughts.  Yoonare (mother of 9) said, “God allowed this for the purpose of strengthening us, like it says in Romans 5:3-4.”  What an encouragement to us, even over the distraction of crying babies during church, they are not only understanding, but learning to apply the Bible to everyday life!

Her son-in-law stood later and gave this beautiful illustration. “As sinners we stand in the blazing sun of God’s wrath, but as believers we are in the shadow of Jesus.”

In His shadow,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG

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