Home Again!

Hello!! For those of you who have wondered if we dropped off the map, it only feels like we did! In what felt like a whirlwind (compared to our usually longer terms overseas), we have landed here in Arizona again for the school year. As with most decisions, many factors went into being back here right now. One is that we have found that we need to spend longer times out of the village to allow the Mibu Christians some latitude and practice in leading the church. It has also been a good chance for us to allow Shiloh to attend high school with other students, after a particularly lonely year last year in our isolated village. Solomon was also excited for the chance to be back at school, and is busy with 6th grade life. Marietta (AKA Emmie) preferred to homeschool and have more time at home and to pursue other interests, and we are enjoying spending lots of one-on-one time with our middle child.

We do ask you to be in prayer for us as we look at phasing out of the work in Mibu over the next few years, and exactly what that will look like for our family. It is looking like it could involve more back-and-forth and traveling, which may be the best answer for our family and ministry. Mostly, we just want to be pawns in the Lord’s hands, and allow Him to lead. We desire to finish the church planting work in Mibu well, as well as lead our family and take care of our children’s needs and education.

While we are home, we continue to work on Bible lessons for the Mibu churches. We have also been working on launching a new organization that will train church planting teams from here in the East Valley to head over to strategic unreached locations among the many unreached tribal groups in the Finisterre Mountains of PNG. We are very excited about this, and will be communicating more about it in the weeks to come.

So, lots of big changes in the works for us – but still the same desires – to assist the Mibu church, parent our children and shepherd our family, and have an active role in the spread of the gospel in the Finisterre mountains of PNG. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we work through the transitions and make decisions. May God be glorified through it all!

We apologize for taking too long in keeping you all in the loop! We are still at this email address, and would love to hear from you!
Thank you so much for your love and prayers!!

…the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. – Proverbs 27:9b

Last week I was given the most gracious kick in the pants that I’ve ever received…

Serving as a church planter in a foreign environment carries with it the same difficulty that any person in a shepherding position faces. Whether you are a pastor, a parent, or in any role you play in another person’s life, we daily face the need to balance faithful shepherding with not stifling those we lead by our involvement. If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve wondered if I was being too involved, or not involved enough!

A group of leaders from the churches that have been planted by the Mibu church during the past few years came for a extended visit. I enjoy these times with them as it is exciting to hear stories of God’s Spirit at work, and we always leave so encouraged to face the issues that are discussed. So, the other day, the guys took turns talking to me about some things they were seeing in the Mibu church. I was both humbled and encouraged by their heartfelt counsel. Here’s what they had to say…

“This is something brand new that has come up in this area, something we have never seen before. We are so thankful that the Word of God has brought about change. Change in individuals, our families, and in our communities. We have abandoned our old ways. Troublemakers have changed; quick tempered men have become peaceful; thieves have stopped stealing. The Word has caused this. Before we didn’t understand why Jesus died. I was a very bad person, constantly sinning greatly. Now I know that he died for me. I believe in this and this is working in me.

What we have to say to you is motivated in our desire to see His Word to be able to go forth into all the villages in the Raikos area. All these changes have not been caused because of the greatness of any one of us teachers, or us as a group. It is the power of the Word of God that has brought this about. The Holy Spirit truly is working inside of us and among us. This is so clear to us.

We look at how God is working powerfully among our villages, and then we come up to Mibu to see what is going on here. And what we see is that the work here has slackened. The people here mostly want to receive, they don’t want to give. They want to be ministered to, but they don’t want to minister. They don’t want to be prepared for when you leave us.

We are so thankful that God sent you guys. The exposure we had to His Word before was on the surface level, but now it has gone into our hearts. Now we understand things like repentance and obedience and faith. Now we understand that when God’s word speaks, we must believe it and obey. It speaks to me for me to listen. And so we are now constantly in His Word. We say thank you, and we give our complete support to this true and worthy cause. It is with that heart that we say these things. We don’t want this work to collapse after you leave. It must go forth into every little corner of the world.

But what we see going on here is that much of the work is still in your hands. And so, we’re afraid that everything will collapse after you leave. We are concerned about what is going to happen to the Mibu church. If it collapses, the old system will take over. We cannot, we will not, bow down to that system again.”

I looked around at the room full of earnest faces, and with a heart both humbled and yet rejoicing, asked them what they thought we should do. Here is what they had to say…

“We are all functioning as local churches, however here you do much of the work. We don’t have the white guy in our village, so we have to do everything, and that has been such a blessing. But, here, even when you go out to town, they just sit and wait for you to give direction. So, what we believe needs to happen is that you need to give them more public exposure, and you should support and direct from the background and only give occasional public input. This church needs a New Guinean example to follow, not an American.

That would be so much more realistic for us to follow. It has been so good to be taught and trained, but it is time for the men of Mibu to take a more active and public role. We want your input. We want your direction. You have taught us enough. It’s time for you to be the boss of the workshop. Whichever parts are loose, you fix them. this is what we want. We’re not trying to stop you. We just don’t want you to do it all alone. It’s time for you to direct us. If we don’t exercise and are just hung up on your hand all the time, then what happens when you leave? We say all this with a thankful sprit to God and from a desire to see this work go ahead. We don’t want this to collapse. We don’t want this light to ever be hidden.”

Cass Visiting!

We are so excited to have Cassidy come for a nice, long visit! It is so much fun to show her around, and have time to catch up with each other face to face. In her suitcases she brought us girls new rain boots (see picture) to replace our ripped ones (yes, we actually have enough rain to wear out our rain boots! Crazy!!) She also blessed us by bringing some sweet notes and surprises from some good friends at home, as well as things my mom has been collecting for us. Cass actually declared “shoes” on her customs form, because she was concerned that they would think she was starting a small store between the rain boots and shoes that the kids needed with their growing feet!
We are thanking God for this time with Cassidy, and are looking forward to showing her the school base when we bring the kids up for a few days’ visit, and then – last but not least – a good long visit into the tribe! We have a lot to finish up before going back in, but we are also looking forward to seeing how the church is doing with this bit of time on their own. We are trusting God to use it to help solidify their dependence on Him, and not on us mere missionaries!

Weng’s Song

Weng invited me over to hear the chapter summaries he’s been working on as he reads thru the Bible this year. We had just settled onto the bamboo floor in his house when his mother turned and offered me a cucumber. I was kinda surprised when she handed me a knife to peel it as well. It’s been years since anyone let me peel cucumbers, sweet potatoes, or any edible vegetation for that matter. I guess it pains them too much to watch me try, yet remove too much of the edible part along with the peel.

I thanked her and took the cucumber, then sat there listening to Weng continue to read me his chapter summaries, trying to savor Weng’s words and this new chance I had been given at food preparation. I waited till Weng had made it into the life of Abraham before I began peeling. The background family noises quickly faded away, till there was only silence. I looked up to find every eye in the house on me. Weng’s mother quickly stepped over and took it back, graciously telling me that she would not mind doing it for me. Oh, well, maybe next time….

The highlight of my visit, though, was even after the wonderful chapter headings and summaries. It was the song Weng shared with me before I left, a song he had written himself last week.

“When Jesus comes back
He will judge the world
But according to God’s pleasure
He regards us as His very own people
We will not be brought to trial.”

Alleluia and Amen!

Resting in God – who, like Weng’s mother, is full of grace for us in all our weaknesses,

J&B – Mibu, PNG

He Can Be Trusted…

After the church service, when many of the people had dispersed, Parenoowe grabbed my skirt as I walked by pulling me down on the rough bench next to her. Her face was drawn and tight, eyes still shining with tears carefully held in check. She leaned her face very close to mine, and with great emotion asked if we could talk about her daughter. It has been less than three weeks since her 9 year old, Joonoomeng, had run down ahead of her friends to the river, and whose body been found days later washed up on the shore a few miles down the steep river ravine. Parenoowe ‘s searing pain showed in her eyes, her voice, and the tight grip she held on my hand. Her questions are the same that anyone would wrestle with… “Why did this happen? Did I do something wrong that God allowed this? Where is she now? Will I see her again?”

I wish I had something to say to Parenoowe that didn’t sound trite. “My friend, God is not angry with you, He is not punishing you. You know this, don’t you. He loves you and He loves your children. We all die. We do not know when—today, tomorrow, when we are young or when we are very old. Only God knows all of this. We cannot know. But we do know that we can trust God with this. We will have to leave it with Him.” I paused, thinking. “What does Weng tell you?” I whispered, her face still very close to mine. Parenoowe ‘s oldest, married son, Weng, has carried the family through this time. He has been a Bible teacher and helped teach through the Bible to other villages, and has a very evident love for the Lord and His Word.”Yes, this is what Weng tells me,” she quietly answered.

Even while they were still searching for little Joonoomeng’s body, our family had hiked over to their village to see what we could do, and be there with them as they waited for news. In the past, we would have been needed at the forefront, reassuring and reminding everyone of God’s love for His children. Instead, when what we found were other brothers and sisters in Christ ministering to the family, and to Joonoomeng’s mother in particular. And when Weng’s faith was brought to the test, his little sister missing and feared dead, his faith was steady and shone through brightly.

A Connection between the Church in Mibu and You!

This past Sunday we had a very encouraging time in the Word looking at Romans 1:8 – “Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world.”

With hopes of encouraging everyone, I went through and translated the wonderful responses that many of you have written to the recent updates we have sent out. I  read them to the whole group so that they could see how their faith is encouraging others thousands of miles away! Their response was true amazement…

At the end of the service each Sunday, we pick one of the other 5 tribal church planting works in the Province, and as a church we pray for them. This last Sunday the Mibu Church prayed for the Church in America instead.

2 questions for the Mibu people – #2 (of 2)

Picking up from the other email we sent earlier, here is the second question that I asked the Mibu people last week: What specific changes has the Gospel brought about in your life since it came a few years ago? I think that their thoughts about this question are just as insightful as their thoughts about whether or not they are ready to stand as a church without the presence of a missionary. Here’s what they had to say…

“Before we were bound by many rituals and superstitions. We used to give much of our time to these things. Some of us used to be sorcerers, and all of us were afraid of sorcery – but no more.”

“We were confused about where we came from. Some of us thought we came from vegetation like a tree or bamboo. Others thought we had our originations in animals, such as a snake or a cassowary. We thought these things were our ancestors, and we would show them respect, and not harm them for fear that we were harming a relative. But not anymore.”

“We also thought that money was sent to us from the graves of dead people. But no longer.”

“We wasted much time trying to procure blessings and ward off curses from the many objects of fear and worship in our lives.”

“One thing we see now is that God truly cares for us because He answers our prayers. Recently one of the little girls here got carried away by the river and died. Because it was so flooded, we expected her to turn up on one of the coastal villages, in which case we would have had to pay big compensation money to the people there. But we prayed to God that we would find her body, and contrary to what we expected because of the high river, we found her body here in the mountains. And when Keteng’s wife died, God provided for us in that situation. And so even though bad things like untimely death still happen to us, we are seeing His care for us because He answers our prayers.”

“Before the Word of God came, we, each of us, went our own way and did our own thing. We had no respect for authority. God is changing us.”

“We have seen growth in our battle for purity.”

“We have seen God be faithful to us in learning to deal with our anger, and speaking the truth.”

Before we ever came to PNG, we purposed in our hearts to be used of God to plant a church that is able to stand up on its own spiritually, organizationally, and financially. There is still much work to be done here to achieve that end. Would you thank God for all He has done for us so far, and pray that He would mature this church for the sake of His glorious name?

On behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ in Mibu,
J&B

2 questions for the Mibu people – #1 (of 2)

When we met together for study last week, I had two questions on my mind for the Mibu people: First – There will be a day when we missionaries will no longer be here on a permanent basis. If that happened even now, would you be ready? Second – What specific changes has the Gospel brought about in your life since it came a few years ago? It was edifying to talk together about these things for the better part of a morning. Here are some of their thoughts of where they feel they are at in terms of being able to stand as a church on their own…

“We’ve learned a lot, but we feel like we are baby birds, unable to get our own food, but still needing to receive food from our mother.”

“It’s like we are half-casts – sometimes understanding and doing the will of God, and sometimes acting out of our own selfish sinful nature. Almost as if the Holy Spirit’s power in us is flickering on and off. We wonder how we can get God’s Word to stick with us so that we can bear lasting fruit.”

“We need to understand the Bible better – sometimes we have thoughts and we don’t know if they are from God, or just our own thinking. And we need a practical theology – we need to grow in teaching our own families, we need to understand and obey good business principles because we will be solely responsible for acquiring the supplies for literacy and for ministry.”

“Some areas of theology we don’t understand. For example, in Revelation where it talks about the ‘7 churches and 7 lamp stands,’ what is that talking about?”

I thought these answers were very insightful in showing some areas of need that the church here has. I would like to also share with you what their answers to the second question were, but I will do that in a separate email in the next day or so…

More later,

J&B