Coming home, I think that this has been one of those months that is challenging to sum up in an email! I think parts of my trip to Mibu will probably just continue to leak out here and there as I process and remember all that God has done in me, through me, and before my eyes. He is so worthy of praise!! Visiting in shorter spurts really opens my eyes to the growth that continues to take place in the Mibu and Mina churches. Thank you for praying for me, and for my family while I was away from them. Thank you also for praying for this remote area of the globe, where the gospel is still so new!
One of the highlights of my trip included hearing the updates from the leaders of the church plants that have come out of the Mibu church. The village of Tariknan, which has struggled with ups and downs since the beginning, is seeing true life change in areas of gambling, stealing, and immorality. My heart thrills at hearing what the Word of God is doing in hearts, and knowing that the other unreached villages to the east of them are seeing this, too! In fact, one of those villages in the next language group over is now asking for the gospel to come to their people as well.
In Dagave they struggle with baptism, hearing conflicting views from different groups. I really don’t know why my friend and church leader, Keteng, decided to be baptized while he was in Dagave. However, my heart rejoices that God used it to motivate many others in Dagave to follow his lead!
As expected, not every area is moving ahead smoothly. These churches continue to need prayer, teaching, and discipleship. These young churches are on the forefront of enemy territory, spiritually. They struggle with desires to return to old thinking, with remembering those who are outside their daily interactions, and keeping zeal at times for moving ahead. (Sound like us??) We thank God for them, and pray for their continued growth, and the spread of the gospel in their mountain range.
May God continue to build His church!!
I sat in Keteng’s hut talking with him while he shaved down a new wooden handle for his shovel (a nice, mindless task). There was some small talk – how they are receiving twice what they usually make for their coffee, how the local fish ponds are doing, how muddy the trail to Saidor is, day to day life stuff.
I had to smile when Keteng said he had a question from his daily Bible reading. I can’t help but mentally rewinding 5 years to when he heard the gospel for the first time, and his continued growth and faithfulness never fails to inspire me. Anyhow, his question was from Genesis, when God first gave people (Noah) permission to eat animals, but He instructed the people to always drain the blood out of the animal first. Keteng was pondering how this might still apply to us today.
In truth, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that. It is such a different life for most of us, shopping in the meat section of a grocery store; whereas all the meat Keteng has eaten in his life has been butchered either by himself, or by a family member or close friend. Keteng’s question is more than just theoretical! How many times have I watched them butcher pigs here, how they catch the blood and cook it up with some greens and eat it as a sort of blood pudding? And how many times do I do things natural to my own culture without stopping to wonder if it is pleasing to the Lord?
Keteng and I were able to sit and spend several hours talking, comparing Scripture, and just thinking about his question. Even the silences made me happy, enjoying the unhurried freedom to sit and ponder that comes with a decade-long friendship. If this isn’t discipleship, what is? Oh the joy of reflecting on God and His Word together!
Our conversation served to sharpen us both, and has us both still thinking.
It truly is for conversations such as this that we have come this summer. So often we do not need a shove in the right direction, so much as someone to walk along with us part of the way.
On behalf of these precious people we have come to serve, thank you for sending our family here this summer!
For His Glory!
In two more days, our family heads back to PNG!!! Thank you so much for your prayers as we go.
~For us to tie up the loose ends before we go on Thursday.
~Safety on the trip, and that we would be a blessing to those we come in contact with along the way.
~For our supply buying day before we head into Mibu (we’ll be buying our supplies for the whole summer, and packaging them up in just one day).
~For our hike into Mibu (it’s about a 10 hour hike)
~For God to use us to bless the Mibu church. That He would be glorified in and through us.
We hope to touch base again after we get to PNG!
Just three weeks until our departure date to spend the summer continuing ministry in Mibu, PNG!! In some ways, it is familiar – suitcases and duffel bags, weighing up, planning and preparing, thinking for several months at a time. In other ways, this trip feels different than ever before. We are going for just the summer break, while the kids are out of school. We plan to return a little before school starts again, with both the girls in high school and Solomon in jr. high. Thanks to donations towards the trip, as well as four garage sales, we have been able to raise $9,970 towards the travel costs! Just a few thousand short of the actual costs, we decided to go ahead last week with the ticket purchase, in hopes that the rest will continue to come in.
So, besides being the first time our entire family has gone to PNG for a shorter trip, this will also be the first time we are heading to PNG under our new organization, “Finisterre Vision”. After 15 years with New Tribes Mission, we have resigned and have started another organization locally in Arizona, whose focus will be very similar to New Tribes, but much smaller and more specific. After we return in the fall, we will resume training people from the Phoenix area to go specifically to the same mountain range where Mibu is located, and where many other groups have yet to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. During the school year, we will train and send missionaries to the Finisterre mountains in PNG. During the summers, we plan to work in Mibu, continuing to teach and disciple and mentor the churches there, where our co-workers are still translating the Bible.
We would appreciate your prayers for our trip, that the Mibu language would come back quickly, that our kids would find creative ways to be involved, that we would bless our co-workers this summer, and most of all, that God would use us to strengthen the Mibu and outlying churches.
Lots of changes, lots of work to be done!!
For the love of Christ,
PS Thank you SO MUCH to those who contributed items to the garage sales, and funds through ACSTO for the kids’ school this year!! With the four garage sales, we raised an astounding total of $2,400 towards our tickets!!!!! We are awed! And donations made for Shiloh and Solomon to be in school this year covered all but $2,000 of their tuition for the whole year!!! Thank you to everyone who contributed to meeting our needs this year. God is using you to meet our needs and allow us to continue in service to Him and to the churches in PNG.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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,