…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…

“Joey, 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, Joey. 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.”

Reaping with tears of joy,
Joey and Brooke Tartaglia
Mibu, PNG