Monday, April 2, 2018

Jerung Survey Update

My sincerest apologies for taking so long to let you all know more about our recent survey trip into the Jerung language area. I started this the day after we got back, but then came down with a nasty stomach bug and was down for the count for a couple days.

For starters I want to thank all of you who were praying for us during the survey! I was concerned, before starting, that my ankles and knees, which have been problematic were going to be an issue for me as we worked our way up and down and across the mountains so notorious for their steep, rugged and unforgiving trails. By God's many special graces we were able to make the entire 48km trek, ascend over 10,300ft, descend over 9,600ft, crossing rivers and landslides with no more pain (for the most part) than tired muscles. It wasn't until the last 5km that my knee gave out, and I was able to gimp my way to our last destination. Amazingly my ankles, for which I had the most concern, gave me zero problems! Isaac came down with stomach issues and fever early on, but we were ready to treat with some antibiotics.  We're so thankful for God's many mercies along the way as we relied on the hospitality of the residents of the various places we visited, and had mostly favorable weather with not too much rain or other circumstances that would otherwise make it impossible to continue. The food was good. We had places to sleep. And one place was particularly comfortable as a couple foam mattresses and pillows were produced for us to sleep on! Overall, we were able to accomplish what we'd hoped!

Each place we went to, we would explain what we're doing and ask if it's OK that we're there and if it would be OK to sit and meet with some of the people and leaders. Once given the OK, and also being set up with a host family, we'd spend several hours asking folks about their village, any government services they have there (if any), gathering word lists (to compare language across dialects), asking about religious groups in the area, and whether or not each place might be interested in a church planting ministry being initiated there. For that, we explain the 4 things that make up such a ministry; One being that a team locates there, living full-time,  and learning the language and culture of the people; Two, that they'd develop a written alphabet for their unwritten language and teach the people how to read and write in their own language; Three, that they'd work to translate the bible into their language; and Fourth, that they'd teach them the bible. After making these things clear we'd ask them if those are things they'd be interested in having happen there.

All but one of the villages were pretty excited about the prospect. The invitation extended by the two closest villages to the Mibu area was beyond emphatic, and had the unanimous agreement among their leaders. This confirms what we've been hearing for several years now!

I'll share one story that shows just how God has been working on several fronts to prepare the hearts of these people to hear and respond to his word. In one of the villages nearer to Mibu, we stayed with a 'pastor' of a FourSquare church there. We had a few hours to talk personally with him before meeting with all the rest of the local leaders. During this time he excitedly shared with us his interest in having the gospel brought to the area. His interest is several-fold, one of which is having interacted with leaders from the Mibu church and seeing the change in the community there since God's word has taken root. But the other one that got him really excited is the one I want to share about. This gentleman was in Madang town some time ago where he ended up interacting with another NTM missionary who was running errands around town. Through further interaction with this missionary this pastor guy got a hold of some books that basically outline the redemptive story of the bible, written in Pidgin English (the trade language) and published by another of NTM's missionaries. So this pastor brought the books back and has been reading them. He's been so stoked by what he's reading! He was animatedly sharing with us… 'I went to a bible school there in Madang, and here I am a pastor of a church. But I'm reading these books and I realize I don't understand the bible at all. I'm teaching people, yet I don't know anything about what the bible says! I've never known these things before. And now that I see more and more what the bible is showing us I think everyone else here absolutely needs to know it too!'

We were blown away to be in this place away from home and see how God has been orchestrating from different angles to pique this man's interest in hearing more about who He is! And while the other leaders, too, were interested previously from having seen the changes in Mibu, this pastor's excitement is clearly sealing the deal in their minds. It's infectious!
Having Sesi and Lukas, from Mibu, accompany us was so so perfect! For one they're leaders in the church in Mibu who are planning on helping in any ministry efforts possible there in Jerung. Also their insights and cultural wisdom proved invaluable as we looked at each place, listened to people's stories, and try to evaluate where ministry might best be initiated, and what it might look like! And finally, it was really good training for them to be a part of that evaluation process; to get a better feel for some of the things that need to be evaluated. Sesi and Lukas were much more sensitive to subtle cultural overtones that we as expats have a hard time picking up on! For example, in one place, the leaders were pointing out 3 different areas they'd marked out where potential missionaries could build their homes. Regarding one of the areas, Sesi mentioned that any future missionaries would either want to avoid it or otherwise check very thoroughly because he was picking up that some sacred ancestral ground was attached to it. Such an attachment could spell early disaster in ministry because of the misunderstandings that could create! Sesi was able to pick up on this with teeny tiny cues in the language that were being used to show us the place. As foreigners, there's no way we would have heard or understood those little unintended hints. Even Sesi, once he tried to ask some clarifying questions, had a hard time getting anything concrete. These types of things can be incredibly difficult to understand, especially on these initial 'surface' interactions. They often stay hidden for years before being discovered through careful cultural study. Anyway, Sesi said since there are two other potential places to build in that village that we ought to just avoid that one to be sure. Don't want to mess with that.

Many of you are probably wondering what's next. We've been getting a clear invitation to the Jerung language for several years, we just did a survey which confirmed their openness and gave us a chance to sit with the local leaders personally, and also to evaluate each place, and how dialectical differences between places might play into the decision of where to start. Now we'll compile all this information into a report, share it with the field leadership, and make it available for those prospective missionaries who are trying to decide where they might best go to be a part of the spread of God's word. They'll now have much more information than they've had in the past. Our hope is that it'll be enough to allow for better consideration and eventually the placement of a couple families there in Jerung, in partnership with the church in Mibu!
Thanks again for all of you who prayed, and also for those who give financially each month in partnership with us in this ministry to the people of Mibu!

One of many bamboo bridges we crossed over strong rivers

Friday, February 16, 2018

Moving Through Milestones

It's been kind of sad to slowly pack things up from our humble home in the jungle of the last 14 years! A few days ago, we took advantage of our supply flight, and started sending out some of our belongings in preparation for moving out to town. We're going to need to do this with each supply flight over the coming months so as to minimize the cost of moving. Imagine trying to move your belongings using a helicopter and sometimes a small plane! We're hoping for the actual move to happen right after the first week of July.

If you've been following our updates, you've seen that Mibu Ministry has reached a major, strategic ministry milestone that was planned from day one! We're at that point in time where the church and it's leaders are mature enough that our continued full-time presence in the tribe can actually be harmful for their continued growth. So we as a team, and along with our consultants, have determined it's time for us to no longer live full-time in the tribe, and to move out to town, where we can continue to serve the church off-site. That doesn't mean our job is done in Mibu. Far from it! We'll continue to serve the church full-time, but from a different setting. But it's sad to start the process of moving. The reality is that this has become our home!

Moving out to town will allow us to focus more fully on some of the bigger jobs that are still left like translation and lesson development without so many of the interruptions of day to day life in the tribe. We're working on a system to maintain regular communication with church leaders. And we plan on making short term visits in Mibu several times a year to work with and train leaders, support the church in any way we can, and of course work together with our indispensable translation helpers! We've been working hard all of last year, and will continue this year, putting some final touches on the training of the church and its leaders. We're hoping to be able to appoint elders sometime soon here, prior to moving out! Yet another huge milestone in ministry! This is exciting! Imagine, going from having had no access to the gospel to where they're at now; a maturing church and the impending appointment of the first shepherd-elders!

Meanwhile we continue to plug along in the many areas of work we're involved in, translation (currently working through Revelation... whew, a tough one!), and developing lessons for 2 Thessalonians together with some of the leaders, discipling potential elders, and weekly training sessions with the church after they meet on Sundays. Everybody is gearing up for what will hopefully culminate in the appointment of the first elders in Mibu!

We would really appreciate your prayers for all of the work that is going on in Mibu and for our upcoming move, and for the resources needed to start living out in town. Thank you all for your involvement in this ministry through your prayers and finances and words of encouragement! We're so grateful for you!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Happy New Year from the Husa's in Mibu! We're reflecting on all God has done and continues to do here in the Mibu tribe. Toward the beginning of the year he saw us safely back to Mibu after a year long home assignment. Since coming back we shifted more of our efforts to the development of leaders in the church, spending 6 months meeting weekly with about sixteen leaders in various stages of growth to challenge them about godly and biblical leadership, as well as biblical wisdom regarding the care of the church. We also have been teaching 5 teachers how to properly study the bible in preparation for teaching. And then of course we have continued to make progress, though slower than usual, in the translation project and the development and teaching of expository lessons for each book! Then of course the church in Mibu has been busy as well, continuing with literacy development efforts, the care of God's people, and even starting another exciting outreach in the village of Joso, the very last remaining village in the Mibu language!

Not content just looking back, we're also looking ahead, asking what our next steps ought to be for the health and longevity of the church. We're seeing see more and more clearly that we just may be at another incredible milestone in the Mibu Ministry; that point in time where it is best for the church to continue their Christward trajectory with less full-time presence of us expats. It's one thing we've been working toward all along here in Mibu! What might that look like? Well, we're talking about maybe moving out of Mibu, to a location in town where we can focus more specifically on translation and lesson development, and from where we can make short visits into Mibu to assess with the leaders how the church is faring, and encourage them in their roles. Right now we're talking about the possibility of this move happening in July or August. We hope such a move would accomplish several things; 1) give the church even more space to make decisions and grow on their own, and 2) give the local leaders a chance to step up in new ways, and 3) give us a chance to focus more wholly on the task of translation and a few more lesson sets that need to be developed.

2018 also looks to be coming with an increase in cost of living here. The financially strapped government is increasing taxation significantly on most imported goods, and also services offered in country. We're not sure what kind of increase to expect, but it's clear that we'll need to keep a close eye on our budget and be flexible with what our expectations are with the resources we have each month, especially if we do end up moving to town later in the year. That most certainly comes with unexpected costs and new, hard to anticipate expenses.

One thing for is for sure, as we reflect back, and also look ahead... We're grateful for God's ongoing provision for us! Though we don't know what the future holds, be it good or bad, easy going, or more challenging, we do know for sure that God is who he is and that he is a sustaining, loving Father God to whom we can trust all aspects of our lives. You are a part of that as you pray and give sacrificially for the benefit of his kingdom here in Mibu and beyond! Thank you to all our faithful prayer people and financial supporters!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas all the way from the misty cloudforest of Mibu! As we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus this year, we think back on how much more he has accomplished in the Mibu people's lives in 2017, and are so humbled that he has made us a part of that work. We're also grateful for the many of you who partner with us through prayer and your generous financial gifts! Merry Christmas to all of you!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Progress in Mibu + Giving Tuesday

Greetings from Papua New Guinea. We're excited to share some more news with you from Mibu! But first we want to thank everyone who makes ministry here in the remote Mibu tribe possible through your regular monthly donations and prayers! We couldn't do this without your support! With that said here are a few points we wanted to update you on.

Giving Tuesday
Today (Nov 27) is "Giving Tuesday". It's a great way to kick off the start of the Christmas season, by giving your time, effort, or finances to meet an area of need somewhere in the world! As you consider making a gift this year, don't forget the importance of church planting ministries such as Mibu Ministry where the gospel is being taken to places that previously had no access to God's word. We're seeing God do amazing things in Mibu and beyond as they maturing Mibu believers continue to spread the good news! We're also training many local leaders who are growing in their ministry responsibilities and vision. If you'd like to make a tax deductible donation toward ministry expenses as we continue to live and serve in Mibu you can follow this link

Follow up on Tariknan
You might remember that we wrote in our email update recently about specific struggles in the church in Tariknan; the very first outreach the Mibu church did back in 2006. If you missed it, please read the following to catch up As a matter of updating you, we have been really pleased to see how the church, both in Tariknan and in Mibu, responded! They were able to stand their ground, and refused to participate in the activities of the former legalistic 'church' system that is trying so hard to keep them under it's deceit. At the end, when the final call was made for the ultimate cave-in and participation, not a single person came for the so-called 'pastor' to do his stuff to them. Seeing nobody was interested in his wares, he became angry, threw his religious paraphernalia into the nearby shrubs, and yelled at everyone on his way out! ...Hey, don't let the door hit you on the way out! After years of submitting to their silliness the Tariknan church seems to have finally cut free of the cords that entangled them from the extremely syncretistic, and highly legalistic religious system that had ensnared them for so many generations! From here on out, I think we're finally going to see some growth and maturity there among the believers rather than always being held down and kept stagnant. When you compromise with the world the world holds you back. They stood their ground this time! I think some renewed prayer efforts regarding their maturity are in order folks!

Goings on in Mibu
Please also continue to pray for the leaders in Mibu. I've been working with them a lot since we arrived in March, trying to continually challenge them as leaders toward preparation for elder roles. We've been seeing lots of growth, but also see the need for them to mature in the things they're learning. The biggest lessons with the most impact on their leadership mindset is the idea that in order to lead you must humble yourself and serve. This is the polar opposite of what the world around them says. The world around them emphasizes success and prestige, the indebtedness of those under you, and your own greatness. Jesus says to wash each others' feet, and that the first will be last and the last will be first. I frequently hear these leaders talking about how these concepts challenge their own thinking! Good! We're seeing more and more the results of realizing these truths as their own. I think it's time to take this material and start teaching it to the wider church congregation; both so they know what to expect biblically of their elders, but also for the elders in training to review and be given the opportunity to write some of these things out in small lessons so they, in turn, can teach others up after them when we're gone.
Our 'mantra' since getting back to Mibu has been 'we are leaving soon!' I make it a part of many many conversations, public talks, and teaching and discipleship times. This needs to be looming big in their minds as they're being asked to take some of these final steps toward proper shepherding of God's people in our absence. In some recent discussions with consultants we said that we'd guess it may be time to move out of Mibu within 1-2 years. That won't mean we're done in Mibu, but that the time for our full-time presence will come to an end, and that we'd continue to serve and train itinerantly. It also means we ought to be able to focus more full-time on some of the bigger tasks at hand… mainly translation… just working on it from out in town. So you can be praying for us to discern properly when that time is for us to move out. We feel it's important to have elders in place first. I have a list of 5 guys who I think are nearly there. They're 5 out of the group of 12-16 that I've been training who have a longer history of service to the church where they're faith in service has been tested and proven more than the others. They're also pretty solid theologically, though admittedly not so much when it comes to eschatology; Not YET at least! But I'm working on that!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

'Planim Pos' Training Comes to Mibu

Late last week, three teachers made the long journey from the highlands, down to Madang, across the sea, and up the mountain here to Mibu. Their purpose; they'd been asked to come put on a weeklong course called Planim Pos. Planim Pos is a teacher training course, specifically focused on teaching the gospel using Pidgin English. Pidgin English is the national trade language here in Papua New Guinea and is indispensible when communicating across language boundaries. While the work and ministry we do here in Mibu is all in the Mibu language, called 'Ma', it's become clear that having some skill and confidence in communicating the gospel in Pidgin English would open up some opportunities for them as they interact with their neighbors.

For example, there are a couple families from the coast who recently relocated up to one of the Mibu villages. Their purpose for moving up here was to be where the good news about Jesus is being taught so that they too might hear it. That's a problem when all the teaching is in the local vernacular, which they don't speak. We're hoping this course will prepare teachers to communicate the gospel as effectively as possible with those families.

When we started talking about the possibility of this course, we thought maybe we'd try a handful of students, maybe 15 or so, and see how it goes. The level of interest far exceeded this though! The number of people who registered for the course had to be whittled down to 45 just to keep in manageable! In addition, another 40-60 people audited the course! Which means they sat in on the teaching but just didn't get the included books, and weren't part of the practical exercises. The little building we met in was packed full, with people sitting around the outside, listening through the windows! I was blown away by the interest! People from 8 different villages and 3 different langauges were there. The village of Mibu was a bustling hive of workers, arranged ahead of time to host people and prepare food and take care of the needs of everyone there for the course.

As I sat through many of the sessions taught by these three PNG citizens I appreciated more and more the effectiveness and benefit of their teaching. Practically speaking they had such great material to exhort and encourage both new and experienced teachers in Mibu! Their years of Christian maturity brought many invaluable insights! They communicated it so perfectly and powerfully too! Many things were reiterations of themes we've taught here over the years. Yet there was an incalculable value added by hearing these things not from expats, but from other PNG citizens. These three teachers from the highlands related through their encouragement and exhortations in a way that us expats just won't ever be able to do! Watching and seeing the benefit of the interaction between the church in Mibu and the three visiting teachers affirmed in my mind the absolute essentialness of our strategy to be more and more inclusive of networking and interaction with other national leaders and church groups. This will be a key element in the longevity and health of the church as the role of the expat continues to shift to more hands-off, background kind of tasks and the church here in Mibu stands more firmly on their own feet.

Thank you so very much to everyone who prays for us and for the church here, and who provide the monthly finances for us to minister here, being a part of making things like this happen!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Town and Back

Greetings from Mibu! We just arrived back here after nearly 5 weeks out in town. We usually only go out twice a year, but when we do it's usually crammed with various activities, meetings, supply runs, and a 2 week break. This update has been in the works since we got back 5 days ago, but busyness and illness have prevented me from finishing it till now.

We had a wonderful time at our regional conference in Goroka this year. Conference is one of the very few times we get to see many of our fellow co-workers, some of whom we don't see for years at a time. This year had some encouraging speakers from our home state of Arizona. We're so thankful for churches that bring teams like that to help put on conference and to be an encouragement to us!

After conference we moved to a different guesthouse, more accessible to the medical clinic where we needed to get some basic checkups, vaccinations, and that sort of thing… just gotta make sure everyone's healthy! We also did some additional school testing with a couple of our kids to help us better educate them.

We then headed down to Madang where we took a planned, and very much needed family break for 2 weeks. While we managed to keep ourselves busy, it was the relaxing kind of busy, going out to eat a few times, catching up with friends and meeting new ones, the kids playing with their friends and in their little 12'  blow up pool we keep in storage out there, swimming in the ocean, and sailing our little outrigger sailing canoe, Shan Skailyn. The kids are just old enough now that Shannon and I were able to get away by ourselves for a couple hours at a time! Think sailing dates and shopping dates! Don't let the word 'shopping' fool you though. Where you might imagine going to malls and the typical limitless fare so common in America, here it is second hand clothes, going to every hardware store in town only to come up shorthanded on the simple items you thought you'd find, and a limited variety of foods. Not to complain either though. When you live in the bush where there are NO stores whatsoever, coming out to town and just being able to roam around and maybe, just maybe, find a few things you're looking for, and a few things you're not, is a real treat!

And then finally we headed back up to the highlands where we wrapped up with a few meetings, visits, logistics and supply buying in preparation for going back into Mibu.

One bit of news we're really excited to share is that, if you remember a number of months back we put it out there that we'd love to have a young lady come out to help with homeschooling, and just be available for the kids. We thought it would be really good and healthy to have a relatable friend who can be a positive influence and a godly role model for a while; someone who's NOT family. Well right after we put that out there, Simona responded from Germany! We went to school with her parents in North Cotes, England, and last knew her and her family when she was very young, about 4 or 5! Well the discussions and preparations continued on, she received some short term training with New Tribes Mission, her visa was approved, and she finally arrived just a few days before we were scheduled to head back into Mibu! The kids have really hit it off with her and we're so thankful that she's finally here! You can be praying for her adjustment to a very different life here in Mibu, and that we can get a schedule that includes her helping with homeschool worked out in the next couple weeks. Simona is an MK (missionary kid) who was raised in Senegal. We're looking forward to our kids being able to relate with her and vice-versa over the next 6 months while she's here in Mibu! (photo pending!)

Oh, one more thing… the belongings we shipped from the states, including some wheelbarrows for the airstrip project, which continues to carry on here, some solar equipment (because solar systems prove to be a continual money pit :) school supplies, clothes, and more all finally arrived… roughly a year after we sent it! So the last couple days have been a crazy mad dash trying to get it all unpacked, assembled, installed, put away, organized, and whatever other words might apply to a small house filled with boxes! Add to that a still continuing battle with a stomach illness and you can understand why writing about our return has taken a while!

There's lots of ministry specific updates here too, so expect another email in the coming week or so!

Thanks so much for all of you who pray and give to help us minister here in Mibu. We treasure and appreciate each of you and your desire to be a part of the ministry here!