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?”

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 us, 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!

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!

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!

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,
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,
Mibu, Madang, PNG