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!!
Praise God! A believer from the Mina area attended our local believers’ meeting last week and with joy announced that 36 were baptized in Titirapok last Thursday and Friday! We are so excited for their obedience to what they are learning! Please pray for them as there usually is some level of persecution that results from this.
I want to say thank you to you who pray for the Mibu church. Whether you pray once a day, once a week, once in a while, or even just once, thank you!! Those prayers are indeed being answered by the Mighty God who alone rules the universe!
Many times over the past several months we have seen unmistakable evidence of our invisible but powerful God working in the hearts of believers here.
I’d really like to share with you two of those stories….
A group of us were hanging out one day talking when someone showed up from one of the churches planted by the Mibu church. This man had a letter written by one of the leaders of a local organization claiming to be Christian. This organization teaches a message of trying to earn favor with God by being good – a most impossible task.
The letter was written not by a New Guinean, but by a foreigner, who, much like ourselves, has come to this country bringing a message. Being written by a foreigner, it is automatically deemed as very important in the eyes of the Mibu. For anyone to leave their home and travel all the way to PNG, they must have something important to say. Also, there is a great respect for people who have been formally educated, as most here have not gone beyond an elementary level. Furthermore, this letter was typed, not hand written, making it even more official, more authoritative. Finally, it was written both in English (giving it prestige), and very colorful and fluent Pidgin, making good use of cultural illustrations which are so important to conveying a message here. In short, everything about this letter commanded, “I should be read and obeyed!”
The content of the letter was an exhortation to the Mibu church to embrace a false system of morality and ritual designed to earn forgiveness from God. As I listened to the letter being read, I started preparing my mind for a long conversation pointing the guys back to God’s Word, and gently urging them to have no fear of man. Yet, when the letter was finished, the reaction was not, “Okay, what do we do?” Instead, what I was hearing was, “There is no way that we are going to willfully put ourselves under a system like this. We have been saved freely by the efforts of Jesus Christ, and we are not going to abandon all that we have in Him for a system of rules that we cannot obey anyway.”
Without so much as asking my opinion, they tossed the letter into the smoldering embers that are always present in a Mibu home. After about a minute, several pages of the letter had still not burst into flames. This slow destruction of the letter wasn’t fast enough for them, so someone took out a lighter and lit the letter on fire. Everyone watched in pleasure as this evil temptation to abandon God’s grace vanished before their eyes. As for me, I just sat back, amazed at God’s Spirit, who truly does work inside of His people, causing them to become more and more devoted to Him.
The second story took place in one of the churches that was planted by the Mibu church. I love hearing these stories, because it is such clear evidence of God working in the lives of people who are being discipled by people whom we discipled. And in some cases, they are people who are being discipled by people who were discipled by people who were discipled by people we discipled. Spiritual great-grandchildren! 🙂 So, what happened was that one of those people went to town and saw a book that looked like it was about the Bible. It captured his attention, so he bought it and brought it home. However, the book was more about ancient religions, particularly the ancient religion of Babylon.
While the Babylonian religion is quite different from the religious system prevalent here up until just a few years ago, there are aspects in which the Babylonian religion would be appealing to people here. The system, just like the traditional religion of Mibu, worships things that were created, rather than the One who created everything. Both systems also rely on the thoughts of human beings rather than on the revealed truth coming from God.
And so, when one of the Bible teachers came across the book he was quite distraught. Let me say that the tendency here is to believe pretty much anything they see in print, especially in book form, coming from town. The teacher, when he reported this to me, was like, “This book that was being passed around was talking about gods that we don’t know. So I told them to stop until I could find out what the Word of God has to say about this.”
He came up to see me, shared all about what he had seen in the book, and asked me what the Bible has to say about it. This teacher hasn’t been trained yet on how to use a concordance (nor have we translated one into their language!) so I took mine and looked up some verses. We talked about what God says about the false gods of Babylon. He and the others listening were so encouraged to see how God’s Word once again speaks to the very issues that affect them. He plans to return and share what God’s Word says about this subject so that the church can be strengthened and encouraged.
Thank you once again for your prayers! They are making a difference! Please continue to pray that the men and women here would continue to look to God’s Word for answers to rightly deal with the issues that come up. And rejoice and praise God with us for His faithfulness!
Though over 75 believers were baptized after a Saturday church meeting several weeks ago, there are still many, many believers from Mibu, Beng, and Tariknan who have not yet been baptized. Some simply missed the service. Others are still feeling unsure about the meaning of baptism, and are wisely choosing to wait. Some feel upset that they were baptized as infants by a visiting local “pastor”, and are feeling pressure from outside groups to not get “re-baptized”. The reasons are varied, but the church is being strengthened as they are working out their beliefs based on what they know already from the Bible lessons. We are continually refreshed and encouraged by their progress, both as a group, and as individuals. Sometimes giving them the freedom to have time to think about and make their own decisions, and even disagree as they are figuring things out, is as hard as parents letting go of children. But watching them come ultimately to correct conclusions is pure elation!
In between the many knocks at our door three days ago was a knock from a young man named Weung. (Way-ung) He wanted to let us all know that he was ready to get baptized. We were happy to attend, though it was other believers closer to Weung who actually did the baptism. Another step of faith for them, and an exercise in letting go for us. It turned out that not only was Weung baptized, but about a dozen other Christians were waiting for the opportunity as well, and took it that day.
After the baptisms, we received a message to meet Keteng at his hut just up the trail. (For those of you who have visited us, you realize that this sounds very close, and actually is not. 🙂 Keteng had been mulling over an illustration from the church meeting the previous Saturday, and the “root of the tree” of his thinking (i.e. the “crux of the matter”) is that he wants to know what it means to walk with God. To let God empower him to live a life following after Him. The next half hour was spent discussing what it means to walk with God in this life, which was the perfect prelude to the study on the book of Romans. And it will give Keteng plenty to fill and stretch his mind around lying in his hut at night.
We are more thankful than ever for all that God is doing here in Mibu, but please don’t read that to say we no longer need your prayers!!! We covet them just as much, if not more. We all have so much to be thankful for, but the work is far from done!