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!

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!