Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Please read - Answered Prayer!

Great news! God has answered your prayers in a surprising way! If you remember a couple weeks ago we reported about a group of 11 guys that came to Mibu with knives and bows and arrows making serious threats against the community there. Thankfully they did not hurt anyone, but they said they'd be back, demanding that they be paid on their return.

We asked you to pray for this situation among a few others.

Well just a couple days ago we got a report from Sesi who wrote that two of the men returned in the dark of night this last Saturday… and apologized!!! This is completely unexpected. In fact, this situation was deemed desperate enough that everyone agreed it was time to get the police involved. But for some reason, before the police ever got involved, these two men came to apologize on behalf of everyone else who was involved. They brought a cash payment and a whole 'rope' of betelnut to seal the deal (a standard cultural practice to appease someone you've wronged).

Their explanation was that one of the group, a known troublemaker, while from the area in general, is a vagrant who drifts around different places drawing in other potential troublemakers, like a little gang, and causing all kinds of trouble. In this case, he convinced them to attack Mibu, and has since run off himself. Meanwhile, it seems his comrades have come to their senses and realized just how serious their actions were. Serious tribal warfare has been started on less!

We're blown away as it is so counter-cultural for people in these situations to do an about face without some kind of serious external prompting, either through court, the police, or pressure from leaders… if ever! And even more so among those who have yet to know and share the common bond of the saving mercy and grace of Jesus. So it's easy to recognize in this situation that God, the one who knows man's heart, and who grants favor, has answered your prayers in an amazing way! The Mibu people seem a bit shocked too. They indicated the unexpectedness of this outcome given they've not really had a chance to initiate talks or anything like that yet! Thank you for praying.

In addition, we had asked you to pray for some false teaching that was going on in one of the outreach areas. One of the elders and a few other church leaders went over to the area where the false teaching was happening. They met with and asked the ones behind it all to explain themselves. After being shown how their thinking doesn't line up with what God reveals in his word, or with the fact that they've been saved by his grace alone, and being told the church doesn't associate with that kind of teaching, they acknowledged publicly that they were in the wrong and would not continue with the practices they'd been promoting. Please continue to pray for this situation because we want to see it worked out over time here, especially with the people they've already mislead. We're not sure where these guys' hearts are really at, but are thankful for the gracious handling of the situation by the church, and for their initial response to correction.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Please Pray

If you can remember, please pray for several things going on in Mibu at the moment. Our co-workers wrote it well in their latest update, so I'll just copy their words here...

Trouble last November

First of all let me say that this is not an email we have been planning or even looking forward to sending out, but rather on behalf of the Mibu church we feel compelled to send this out as they (and we on their behalf) are asking for prayer in this regard.  While we didn't have a lot of information until very recently, it has now been confirmed by several independent eye witnesses that a group of twenty+ armed men learned that there was missionary plane that had had an accident in the remote village of Mibu.  They devised a plan to hike to Mibu and loot the plane.  As they approached the mountains to the South of Mibuland a large contingent of the group found the hiking to be too strenuous and so they turned back, and only 6 of the individuals continued on from there.  Before their arrival, a crew of missionary aviation mechanics arrived and worked on repairing the plane which took them about 4 days.  (It took many months to secure a new engine and other parts which delayed this repair far longer than anyone was expecting.)  The morning the plane was scheduled to fly out of Mibu a group of men from other villages arrived in Mibu with ample supplies of alcohol.  Early in the morning they began sharing this with some of the young men in Mibu and got severely drunk.  As the plane was getting ready to leave they all went up to Mibu and began to cause quite a stir, even threatening to damage the plane and helicopter.   Many of the drunk men and boys (around a dozen) had to be restrained before the plane and the helicopter were able to take off, which they finally were able to do.  Meanwhile, as the group of armed men hiked towards Mibu, they passed through some neighboring villages in another language group bordering Mibuland.  There they shared their intentions with some eyewitnesses, and showed them some of their guns and hand grenades (no doubt procured on the black market in Lae).  A couple of days after the plane left Mibu they arrived and learned that they had just missed their opportunity.  From there they traveled north towards the coast, several Mibu people saw them as they traveled via side trails rather than take the main trails through the area.  They made their way to Da.  village where they sold a couple guns in order to raise money for their boat ride out of the area.   From there we've then heard a rumor that one of this group in December was killed in a shoot out with police during a failed break-in attempt in Madang...
Outside church building on a typical Sunday.

Trouble near Mibu

Some of you may have seen been following my travelogues of my journeys in and out of Mibu.  During my trip out of Mibu in November there was some postings I made regarding the people in a village outside of Mibuland that were furious over the recent deaths of two prominent people.  They were cutting down trees blocking all the roads leading out of their villages to determine who had worked sorcery that resulted in these deaths... (more on this in a bit)

Trouble Last Week

Last week one of the elders of the church in Mibu sought our help in contacting the police in the area.  Recently a believer in Da.. village (same village as referenced above) was being disciplined by the church there for unrepentant, unfaithfulness to his wife.  Often times when individuals are confronted they react very differently.  This individual decided to act violently.  He began lashing out against others and damaging houses and other property and threatening to hurt others.   We haven't gotten a lot of details of what has happened since then, other than that he hasn't stopped being belligerent but instead continues to cause trouble. 
One of the gardens after the attack

Trouble this Sunday

During church services this last Sunday, 11 men came into Mibu with faces painted black and armed with machetes and bows & arrows.  They forced the believers out of the church and rounded them up away from the building down to the basketball court area of the village.  There they expressed their anger that one of the Mibu men had insulted his wife who was from one of their villages.  They also proceeded to blame the Mibu people for being the ones who had worked sorcery on the two men who had died in one of their villages back in November.  For this they were ready to execute some Mibu people! Additionally they were demanding K5,000.00 and a payment of 5 pigs.  Some community leaders seeking to calm the situation invited the men into one of the houses.  During the discussion when they thought the situation warranted it, they told the men that the insult they heard about wasn't true (both the husband and wife in question agree it was blown both out of context and proportion), and that the accusation of sorcery was also completely untrue, because Mibu--unlike many other places in the area--hasn't been practicing sorcery since the Gospel came and was accepted in 2006.  Still, one of their comments struck a nerve and the group snapped.  In an attempt to kill, they nearly succeeded in injuring two Mibu men who thankfully were able to run to safety.   At this point everyone in the village fled, leaving the assailants free reign.  They then proceeded to attack vanilla & food gardens claiming that they would be back as they left.  Later in a report, Mibu people were able to identify 6 of the 11 assailants, one of whom is a known murderer.  The church has now sent this report to the authorities regarding these six names along other details of the incident. 

Please PRAY!

D We have encouraged the Mibus with the words of Jesus in John 15.  We are promised in scripture that we will have trouble in this life, especially if we choose to live godly lives.  The Mibu church has weathered difficult times before, but it certainly feels like the enemy is ramping things up many more notches.  We imagine there are those in the church who are scared, rattled, and possibly looking for the easy out.  PRAY they will stand firm in what they know to be true.  PRAY that they will not cave to the cultural norms, but instead rely on they power God to show himself strong on their behalf.  PRAY that the police are able to come quickly and help address the matters in a helpful way and restore some order to the area.  PRAY through it all that the Mibu church will be a shining example to their neighboring communities, and that these accusations and troubles that are coming their way don't affect the peace that has come to be associated with them.  Pray for our friends, our brothers and sisters, that they will seek the face of God, and walk humbly in his ways.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Exciting New Mibu Ministry Video

As we head into the closing season of 2018 I’m reflecting on the phenomenal things that happened this last year. This video sums up how these years of language learning, bible translation, teaching, and discipleship came together in a huge ministry milestone; the appointment of the Mibu church’s first elders! Check out our vimeo page for the longer versions (18 min and  46 min) if you’re looking for more of the details.

Thank you all for partnering with us in this ministry! It’s been so encouraging to see the fruit of this ministry over the years!

If you'd like to know how to contribute to the ongoing expenses of Mibu Ministry please check out our Ethnos3
0 page here. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Translation (and other) Progress

Wow! The last couple months have been quite a whirlwind! In early September I was able to spend a couple weeks back in Mibu to work on the translation of Revelation with Sesi and a few others. My time in Mibu was wonderful. I am loving seeing how Revelation is shaping up and communicating to those I've tested with for comprehension! I missed having my family there with me. They were unable to join me because my visit couldn't be made to happen over a school break. So Shannon and the kids remained out in town.

For the last few days in Mibu, one of our church development consultants paid a visit to talk with the church leaders about an outreach to the neighboring Jerung area that they've been asking about. NTM has been looking for a couple families to allocate there to initiate a church planting ministry in partnership with the Mibu church. The meetings we had were to get some specifics regarding the nature of the partnership. For example, what ways do the Mibu church see themselves able to partner in the outreach to Jerung. It was fun having Nate come in and spend time with the leaders. I enjoyed hearing their thoughtful discussions with someone other than myself. Sometimes the different situation of being an observer can help me look at things from a slightly different perspective, and also open my eyes to some of their thinking that I perhaps wasn't perceiving from within my normal bubble of life.

The elders of Mibu had the chance to record a message to another church (the Mesi church, where Nate works) on Nate's phone. So great to see them passing on little nuggets of encouragement and wisdom to a younger church.

Since coming back to my family in town, I've been in an all out battle to keep the momentum going forward with Revelation, and am now ready to work with my translation helper again on the next couple chapters. To that end, Sesi is planning to fly out here today (Wed, our time) and spend twelve or so days with our family while he and I work together. If all goes well, he'll be flying back to Mibu on the 19th. We're really looking forward to hosting him for a bit. When I told the kids, they got all excited and said they couldn't wait to see 'Mr. Sesi!' Hopefully he'll be joining us by lunchtime!

The kids did eventually have a two week school break after their very first term. It was a much needed breather before jumping full into their next term. I was just telling someone recently that they seem to be doing much better and that we're seeing improvement in their schooling abilities. Turns out that while they're definitely improving, I realized I spoke too soon after receiving a couple emails from teachers informing us of missing assignments and some failing grades. So we continue to plod on, helping the kids learn good study habits, and keeping track of assignments, and actually turning them in!

In my last post, I mentioned some social difficulties our oldest has been having. Those difficulties continue but we're seeing her growing in her maturity in it. At the same time, a few of those relationships have also changed for the better… just a little bit. So it's progress, but please keep praying.

While you're at it, please keep praying for that plane that is STILL on the ground there in Mibu. There is still a 24 hour security detail watching that thing to be sure no harm comes to it. It's a task that was getting old a month or more ago. But as things tend to go here in PNG ("the land of the unexpected") it's just one holdup after another. As soon as one thing gets sorted, something else falls out of place.

Thank you so very much to the many of you who pray and support us in the Mibu Ministry! Your time and financial sacrifice continue to be an encouragement to us to keep laboring here until the work is done! We hope that you are equally blessed to be a part of this ministry with us!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Long overdue update

With all the changes in the last couple months it's been difficult to sit and write an update. Yet there's so much to write about! Our new circumstances after moving to town still make for the daily exercise of being flexible, and figuring out what it's going to take to make things work out here while still serving the church in Mibu effectively.

I've been finding my 'flow' more and more as I continue the fight to maintain priorities of bible translation and lesson development among the many other things that vie for our attention. Currently I'm making progress in Revelation, as well as lessons for elder training. I spent the last year and a half in Mibu putting together weekly lessons based on scripture that would challenge and grow potential elders. After seeing how God has worked through those lessons, I'd like to see them move out of outline form (which was really just meant for me to teach from) to a form that can be printed in a book for the current elders and other leaders to use to both remind themselves, and also continue their training of other leaders. So that project is off the ground now as well.

Beyond juggling the two priorities of translation and lesson writing, there are quite a few other things that have kept us busy. The biggest thing has to do with transitioning the kids from a homeschool setting (which is pretty much all they know) to a more traditional school setting. Longer days, with homework after, keeping track of assignments and other tasks, turning in assignments, and all the rest of it is all new for them… and for us. We've found that most evenings we're needed for helping the kids stay on track and learn how to manage their time, work and play.
We're also being faced with the reality of what it means to have raised our kids in the jungle for so many years with little interaction with other expat kids. There is a big difference between how our kids think, and play, and what they value, and how they process life than many of their western peers. That's not to say it's better or worse. Just saying it's clearly different. Kids pick up on that difference and just don't feel as comfortable around each other. It's a new challenge for us as parents to figure out how to teach and coach them (especially the older two) on how to navigate these waters where they have the ever conflicting sense of being foreigners even in the company of their own. Their ethnicity, language, and their passports give an expectation of belonging. Unfortunately those expectations are dashed on the rocks of daily interaction with those who have been more thoroughly enculturated in their US culture. Our eldest especially is having the hardest time making friends out here. She really wants to make friends, but most are just ignoring her for some reason. Her age-mates exclude her from activities. Some don't even respond when she says a cheerful hi to them. It's hard (depressing actually) to watch her struggle with it and not have answers for her. It seems a crucial time to remind her where her true identity is, and where it is not. We also tell her that hopefully with the passing of time and growth in maturity these difficulties will diminish. Sorry if that's kind of bummer paragraph, but that's been one of our biggest struggles these last couple months. Perhaps if you have the time you could pray for her regarding that, and for wisdom for us, as we struggle to help her be encouraged.
On another note, I'm sure you remember that the Mibu airstrip was finally completed, inspected, and opened! Unfortunately the first plane to land there had an incident resulting in a prop strike. Thankfully nobody was hurt. But the prop and the engine were destroyed. The mechanics went in and removed the damaged parts, and are now awaiting the arrival of their replacements. Meanwhile, the folks in Mibu have been maintaining a 24 hour per day security detail to be sure that the more curious, and especially outsiders whose intentions cannot be known, do not go near it. This long-term security detail has been maintained by 10 men on rotating shifts each day and night. It's turned into a long job and has required quite a bit of communication back and forth with encouragement, solutions, and trying to take care of their needs as they protect the plane. The job is quite out of the ordinary for them, and I can sense they feel it's become a bit of a drag. They keep going though. I'm sure that as the end of this longer-than-expected job nears they're looking forward to being paid for their work. This too is something that, for a few initial weeks, has kept us busy writing emails and other communication. Hopefully the plane can be restored and flown back out sometime soon here.
A late development (as of today, Sunday) is that I'm going to be going into Mibu on Tuesday morning. I'm looking forward to this time when I can work on translation recording with Sesi and have some time to sit with the leaders and see how we can encourage them!

Thank you so very much to all of you who give and pray for us to be here doing this work! We appreciate your monthly generosity! We couldn't do it without you!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ministry Partnership

For over fourteen years now God has sustained us in the middle of the jungle here in Mibu, often doing so in unimaginable ways! Regarding both spiritual and physical needs, he has always been there! Not because we deserve it, but because he is gracious in continually drawing us to himself and making us a part of the work he is doing. We can look back at an extensive personal history of God's provision in our lives and ministry! When it comes to financial needs, we've seen him work primarily through people like you who are moved to give each month to support the ongoing ministry in Mibu where we aim to see a mature, growing church who has access to God's word in their own language. God has brought this ministry through many milestones! We've just recently appointed the first elders, and we ourselves are making some big life changes as we prepare to move out of our cozy little jungle home of these last fourteen years, and out to town where we'll keep pressing on ahead with bible translation and lesson development, and also working with the church leaders, making regular trips into Mibu. With these changes, and a few others that will affect our regular monthly income, we've been evaluating our budget. Right now we're estimating roughly a $1000 per month deficit. We want to put this need out there to all of you who have been following the Mibu Ministry. Would you prayerfully consider whether you might partner with us in this 'end-game' phase of the Mibu Ministry? We hope that you find it a joy and a blessing to partner with us, and we hugely appreciate your ongoing prayers and your financial help!

If you wish to contribute, this webpage will show you several convenient options. All gifts are tax deductible.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The First Mibu Elders!

Today, Sunday June 10th, was a phenomenal milestone in the history of the Mibu church! These last 16 years of sacrifice and investment, not only by us, but also by the many who have prayed and given financially to this work of God has brought it from the point of no church, to fledgling and then thru numerous stages of a maturing church, and now to a point which we celebrated today where the very first elders were appointed!

Meet Petrik, Moombi and Lookas (left to right).

God's hand in the elder training and selection process has been amazing to watch, even right up to the last minute where he made it abundantly clear that one of the four originally slated elders isn't quite ready yet. We certainly can't make these men who they've become today. Only God can do that!

The church service today to appoint these elders revolved around the idea that Jesus is the one who has prepared and equipped these men, and how every single person in the church of Mibu has seen and agrees with this fact. Everyone in the church has had a hand in the selection and approval process. These things flavored the entire service today, and the excitement was palpaple as every person there participated in the recognition and confirmation of Petrik, Moombi and Lookas as their first elders! At one point the entire congregation participated in showing their agreement by laying their hands on them while a prayer of blessing was prayed over them!

When we got back from furlough in March of last year, we were figuring it would probably be 2 or 3 more years before the leaders and the church would be ready for elders. But as we went along we soon realized that the church was more ready than we'd thought! We put in motion a plan to continue training them all through last year and this. We also realized that the congregation needed to be readied to have elders. They needed to have a biblical understanding of what to expect from their elders, and what their role would be both in the selection and appointment process, and also beyond that as they support and pray for and accept the authority of their elders as they guide and direct the church.

Today was the culmination of all that preparation! To sit in and participate in that service was surreal! We couldn't help but sense the perfect leading of the Holy Spirit as various guests came and shared wonderful and perfect words of encouragement… just what everyone needed to hear! It was such a cool thing that happened today!

Keep your eyes open for some more info and pictures on social media. If you don't already, be sure to follow us on facebook and instagram!