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!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Not A Place For Compromise

Pictured: The valley in which Tariknan is located (middle).

Tariknan was the first village the Mibu church took the gospel to after hearing it themselves. And there are a good number of believers there as a result. The Mibu church has taken the gospel to several other villages as well, even some in a closely related neighboring language. And the resulting believers in many of these outreaches continue to fare well. Yet from the get go one of the things that has plagued the small church in Tariknan is that there are many who struggle with their identity as God's people, Christ's bride, as separate from the rest of the world around them. While they're putting their trust in what Jesus did on the cross to save them from their sin, they've failed over the years to identify themselves clearly as a different group from those around them who do still adhere to the old way of thinking. They know that old way is faulty for sure. But they've been hesitant to stand up against it when it comes around to claim them as its participants. While the believers still live with them and work together with the others in daily life, they've always been hesitant to clearly indicate that that old way of thinking and the religious activities that surround it, are no longer what they identify with. They continue to succumb to pressure to participate in those religious activities and the group that maintains them. They compromise with those who still hold the former way of things. The result of this compromise, and of not making a clear point of distinction is that for years now, every time the church starts to stand up, shake off the dust of this world, and start to sink their roots into the life-giving truth of God's word, the unbelievers around them are able to threaten and influence their decisions so that they remain a mixed group. And when the biblical teaching threatens to shine more brightly, causing more people to step out of that old way of thinking, its stronger adherents tell the believers that they can't continue to teach, or use the community space to gather… and the worst part of it is that the believers are cowed into working out some kind of deal with them before they're 'permitted' to continue being fed by God's word! Despite the consistent advice of the church leaders here in Mibu, (and from us missionaries) and despite lots of handholding along the way, this separation has not yet happened.

We've seen some small steps taken in the last 6 months or so. For example, the church now meets together in their own little hamlet (top of hill, upper left of picture). But right now the church there in Tariknan is at yet another of these points where they're being pressured to show their support for the religious activities that would confuse their identity in Christ, blurring the line of distinction that marks out God's people as holy and wholly devoted to His worship alone. Until they end this compromise they will unwittingly find themselves with their feet planted in the space of non-commital, one foot in each world. Right now the leaders of the church are indicating a desire for separation and are asking for help from the leaders in the Mibu church to come help them stand strong as they explain why they are no longer participants in these things, and why they do not identify with those activities and those old ways of thinking. Please try to remember them in your prayers over the next few weeks as they are hopefully able to graciously, yet firmly, stand their ground.

We appreciate everyone who prays for us and for the ministry here in Mibu, and for those who provide finances each month to graciously take care of our needs and the needs of Mibu Ministry!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brought Back In

One area of the church in Mibu we've seen come to a place of maturity is regarding biblical church discipline. This is when someone is persistent, even deliberate in sinful behavior, having no remorse and showing no intent or even desire to be changed, despite repeated attempts by people in the church and its leaders to warn and encourage them. It's a natural outworking of those who truly see themselves as the body of Christ, bought with the price of his blood, called to be sanctified, made pure. When someone who claims to be putting their faith in the work of Jesus, yet continues to live in sin, and even defends their behavior rather than show repentance, the rest of the body recognizes that this person is not one of them. They know such a person poses a grave danger to the rest of the body who, though sinful themselves, at least recognize their sin, and loath it, and desire the purity that Christ offers. So the unrepentant person is removed from the congregation, to be considered the same as an unbeliever. The hope is that being put outside of the fellowship of those under God's grace would get their attention, and that they'd once again turn to the one who saves them. Such disciplinary measures might be hard for many of us to swallow when we hear of it, especially given our culture these days. The Mibu church struggled with the idea too! That is, until they saw the failure of NOT having biblical disciplinary measures in place to protect the church and keep her pure. So, more and more, they tried implementing discipline as seen in scripture and saw quickly just how much blessing is to be had through it! One success after another as people who were being excommunicated were coming back into the fold with repentant hearts and changed lives. They saw just how special and serious it is, this new life we're given through Christ's sacrifice on that cross! Through biblical church discipline the person is reminded of the futility and pain of separation that sin causes. Many times, we've seen that the result is that the hardened heart is softened and that eyes are turned to depend on Jesus, and to live in gratitude for what he's done for them!

As this has become more and more of a normal practice for the church in Mibu they've developed beautiful, indigenous forms for celebrating the bringing back in of a brother or sister into the church! We've seen this happen twice in the last month and a half! The church expresses their excitement by bringing their newly welcomed brother to the door of their place of meeting, offering a prayer of gratitude for them, adorning them with flowers, and bringing them in with a musical procession, dropping flower petals before them, and sitting them in amongst their brothers and sisters. Nobody's looking down on the person. Everyone is aware of their need for Christ and just thankful that one of their bretheren is seeing their need too! Some of the leaders then share about the significance of the event! It's a wonderful, and genuine outworking of an appreciation of who we are as God's people! It's also one aspect of church life that reflects the kind of maturity that gives us confidence in their ability to stand on their own when we're gone someday!

Thank you to all of you who are praying for us and providing financial support to be able to continue the ministry here in Mibu. Seeing things like this are evidence that our prayers and support are indeed producing fruit! We couldn't be here doing what we're doing without your help!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Latest Happenings in Mibu

This last Sunday Sesi and I finished teaching the last of the 1 Thessalonians lessons; eight lessons altogether. There were a lot of new and exciting themes covered as we moved through the text to see what Paul had to say to the young church in Thessalonica. In particular we honed in on Paul's always-looking-forward mindset as he relates the church's existence to the eventual return of Jesus! In just these short few lessons we're hearing this particular topic coming up in discussions, especially as it regards to persevering in the faith! We want to keep seeing more of this as a sign of maturity in the church! Now that these lessons are done, I just need to clean them up, make a few corrections, then print them in book form for the church!

As we continue to move forward I'm putting on the final touches to 2 Thessalonians translation. Then on to developing those lessons and teaching them. After that… gulp… Revelation! This is a fun little graphic I made to use in the lessons; Jesus returning along with his holy ones.

Each weekend I spend some time with the leaders, challenging them in their walk with the Lord as it pertains to their role as leaders. We meet after church on Sunday and spend an hour or two sitting, talking, eating and being challenged about how to grow as leaders here in Mibu. One topic that has been particularly challenging to them recently is regarding humility. This is a principle modeled perfectly to us by our Lord Jesus, and stands in stark contrast to the 'big man' thinking that permeates PNG cultural ideas of leadership. Jesus encourages a very different kind of thinking for those who want to be great… to consider yourself lowly and be the servant of others.

We've been enjoying the companionship and fellowship of the Noyes family these last almost six weeks. They've come into Mibu to do what's called 'bush orientation', an extended taste of bush life and a time to wrap up their study of the Pigin trade language before deciding where and in what capacity they are feeling led to serve on the field here in PNG. The Mibu people have enjoyed serving them by helping them with their understanding of language and culture. We've heard lots of really positive comments about them from folks in the church! It's been a pleasure to have them here! Shannon has enjoyed many times hanging out with Sara. The kids have enjoyed helping with their children and playing with them. And Craig and I have enjoyed lots of strategic, theological, and other discussions! They're a great family and we can't wait to see how God uses them on the field!

There seems lately to be a wave of medical emergencies here in Mibu! The day the Noyes family arrived a young girl was brought up having been cut deeply on her leg by bamboo. Since then there have been 3 other fairly major emergencies. I keep joking with the folks here that they need to get rid of their bush knives and stay away from bamboo! Craig has done much of the stitching and aftercare. It's been an excellent chance for him to test his skills with some basic medical stuff, and also to see just how quickly medical help can turn into a bigger job than we can handle. You see, our strategy does not include doing a medical clinic here in Mibu. It's easily a full-time job, and it's just not what we're here to do. However when a friend is carried up, is in bad shape, and asking for help, we gladly help of course! Every now and then though it seems to come in waves, keeping us quite busy. Sometimes we go 6 months without seeing anything. Then it all hits and it seems like we're suturing 6 people back to back! That's been the story for us lately!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

First Thessalonians in Mibu!

God continues to work great things here in Mibu! His church continues to grow and mature! We are continuously grateful for being made a part of His work like this! And we're also thanking God for your gracious prayers and financial provisions each month! We're all part of the same Body of Christ, working together, whether it's praying, sending, or going, to see His great name known! And we're seeing the fruit of that here in Mibu! Thank you!

Sesi and I recently finished (well nearly all done… just a bit of cleanup on the last few lessons) developing the lessons for 1 Thessalonians. We got the first five lessons (out of eight total) printed and have begun teaching this great epistle for the first time ever in Mibu! We're already a couple lessons in, and it's going very well; already providing new challenges for the church here! People are excited to continue to work right on through.

Once the lessons were done, I got started right away on translating 2 Thessalonians. It shouldn't be too difficult to translate, though there are two places that pose some challenges for anyone doing a thorough exegesis. But I've just about got those ironed out here and hope things can move at an acceptible pace here soon. It doesn't help that I've got so many other things requiring my attention through the day. Both planned and impromptu meetings/discussions, house maintenance/repairs (gotta change the gas bottle whenever it runs out, etc), administrative and logistical stuff, and much much more! Whew! Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to fit 3 full-time jobs into each week!

One of the things the Mibu church has been doing the last several years, that I love, is that a contingent of leaders (both men and women) plans and goes around to the different churches to see how each is doing, provide support and teaching where needed, help deal with issues that have come up, and generally just be an encouragement and a force for unity. I hear them refer to this with a pigin term, 'patrol'. So they're doing a church 'patrol'. One of the key leaders who usually is a part of these patrols, is so busy right now he's unable to go. But I had the pleasure of overhearing his discussion with another leader as he prepared him for the task he was handing off to him! I heard such wisdom and discernment in this guy! And when I hear them talking about doing a patrol, and when I hear the reports when they get back, of their times with other leaders in these areas, I can't help but think that the concern for the church that we read of in the apostles isn't being modeled quite well by these leaders!

All in all, there are 7 different village church groups they'll be visiting starting next Sunday. I'll give a sampling of some of the issues they're wanting to look into and address. Some of them are positive, and some of them signs of a messy church. One of the places has a small group of folks who are holding on to some of their former idols… just in case. Another place, sadly, the believers aren't even meeting regularly and the leadership there just seems to be 'asleep' kind of doing their own thing. In contrast to that, another village is doing very well with a number of godly leaders, people genuinely interested in knowing God, and people taking initiative to keep the church growing and moving forward! There are two places that are fairly new Christians, the result of recent outreaches, who they just want to encourage to keep pressing on. And much more! So lots to pray about if you would take the time!

We continue to work especially hard to develop leaders in the church, specifically with the appointment of elders in mind. Each Saturday morning I spend time with the leaders teaching and challenging them in a particular aspect of biblical leadership. This last Saturday we had a big discussion about centrality of the quality of humility in the church in general, but particularly in it's leaders. The discussion was such a challenge, that those in attendance asked if we could go through it again with a larger group on Sunday after the worship and teaching service! Among many other things, this church needs skilled shepherd/elders who give sacrificially out of a deep care for the well being of God's people, and who can teach, guide, and protect. Please continue to pray for these leaders.
We celebrated Abigail's 7th birthday on May 11th! Can't believe how quick she's growing up!

A group of kids just hamming it up in Mibu!
Skyler and Maddie showing me the 'super cool' place they discovered in the jungle near our house!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Momentum in Mibu

One word that accurately conveys the last month or so since we last wrote is 'Momentum'. As our family life and work schedule have settled down into something workable for the long-haul, we see the momentum of ministry getting to where we like it to be. It's taken a lot to get there after coming back though. We are constantly having to balance between what needs to get fixed/repaired and the real work we're here for. It seems the former is giving the latter a run for its money and we're just having to learn to let certain things go so we can be sure to continue doing what we're here to do! It can be incredibly difficult at times! There are so many tasks vying for our attention!

Sesi and I have been working hard developing lessons for 1 Thessalonians, which are nearly done now! We can't wait to teach through this epistle together! While there are a lot of good truths that will be learned as we go through this letter, the ones that are being emphasized a bit more have to do with Christ's return! Paul refers to Christ's coming again, and points people to his return so frequently that it's a topic worthy of some more attention here! Paul uses it as a basis for people to stand strong in their faith, and to encourage one another. The church in Mibu needs to have more of this in their thinking, a less ambiguous view and an anticipation of Christ's return. It'll help keep their eyes and hearts on the goal as they strive to grow in their faith! So Paul's first letter to the Thessalonian believers is a good place to start. Later we'll translate and teach other letters to expand their understanding of what God tells us about the end.

I was struggling recently in these lessons with how the terminology was (or wasn't) working to communicate the suddenness of Christ's return. It became clear that we were going to have to revisit that in the translation. As Sesi and I talked about it and worked out some better terminology, it got me thinking pretty heavily about what his return might be like. What we're given in this letter would indicate it will be quite sudden and drastic, unmistakable, and just dreadful for those who aren't waiting and looking forward to the return of their Savior! Thinking on these things most certainly does make us more apt to want to live a life of thankful servitude to the One who saves us from God's wrath to come! It should be really great to start teaching with some more emphasis toward the end goal here!

In other news, Shannon continues to invest a lot of her time homeschooling the kids, an effort seeming to require an ever changing strategy, and financial investment as individual struggles become clear over time. We're having to evaluate some of the curriculum being used and consider whether there might be some different things available to help with things such as math and language arts, where a couple of the kids seem to struggle the most and are getting behind. Now that Shannon is homeschooling all four kids, the time she has to spend with each child is much more limited and it's a daily struggle to get through it all. We're feeling more and more like having someone come to help tutor for a month or two… or even three… would be a wonderful thing to help us get past this speed bump in education. If you happen to know anyone… :)

We recently celebrated Ethan's birthday, where he wanted an insect/spider theme. Shannon and I enjoyed a simple celebration of our 19th anniversary where we had a dinner to ourselves (put a movie on for the kids in the other room) and a 'date' where we painted the walls in my office together. And then we have Abby's birthday coming up in just a few more days, where she's wanting a shopkins theme. Currently trying to figure out how to make that happen!

Two men sit in the house of a recently deceased friend to show their respects and mourn their loss. Their former friend is in the casket in the background awaiting burial, something that sometimes takes a few days while a chance is given to people to come from far away who knew the deceased and wish to come and mourn as well.

Some of the community leaders having a serious discussion about how to get the airstrip work back on track. Recent land disputes have taken the wind out of the sails once again.

We try to take our life science classes outdoors when we can. Here, the kids are looking at the piece of bamboo we marked a month ago, and which we check each week on the way down to the church meeting to track it's growth. This particular kind of bamboo, called 'bovat' here in Mibu, grows about 3-4 feet per week! I have a theory that if we could somehow listen to it, we could actually hear it growing :)

We want to express our sincere gratitude for all of you who are participating in this ministry to the Mibu people through your prayers and your regular monthly and one time gifts! We couldn't be here without you playing your part! Thank you for helping to make this happen!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Celebrating Believers in Tupibu!

(Grab a cup of coffee and sit down to enjoy this exciting update which is a bit on the longer side)

I mentioned in my last post that I had the opportunity to hike to Tupibu to be part of the plans celebrating the many there who are newly putting their faith in Jesus. I've been anxious for the opportunity to sit down and share my experience with you all!

First some background. We didn't even know the village of Tupibu existed until somewhat recently! One of the believers from Tariknan set up this little hamlet for his family back in 2008 for various reasons. Since then others of his family line have also set up homes there. Tupibu sits right on a main throughway for people coming out to the coast. As such one of the leaders in the Mibu church decided at some point it would be a good opportunity to build a house there to witness to folks who very often stop in Tupibu for a night's rest before finishing their long trek to the coast. And then a few months ago, the Mibu church, together with everyone living in Tupibu decided that it would be good to teach everyone in Tupibu about Jesus. These initial evangelism lessons carried on for several months, finishing up this last Friday. The result... most of the people there, 29 in all, have realized their need for Jesus and are trusting in what he accomplished on the cross and his resurrection!

This is where my little weekend trip comes in. When there are new believers the Mibu area churches make a really big deal about it! And why wouldn't they! More of their friends and family are now sharing in the great things Christ has done for them! They're genuinely excited for the new believers and so it's time to celebrate!

We got there late in the day on Friday. After bathing in the nearby river and changing into clean shorts and a shirt, I spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between eating, socializing, and napping! One thing I love about these trips is the simplicity of being. I'm away from all the complications of my house and running water and electricity and internet and all that junk (good junk though). So we get there, and find out that John (see picture) and his four wives who are new believers, will be hosting us. I was so thankful for just having  little foam mattress to sleep on, a tea kettle to boil water in for my cheap instant coffee in my little camping mug, and someone always cooking taro, bananas, pitpit, greens, and the special treat of some pig fat! Oh, and also thankful for a clean outhouse to squat in! I just loved the opportunity to have nothing else to think about except spending time with my friends and sharing in the task of being an encouragement to the new believers!

That first day believers from 8 different villages showed up in droves! Without a moment wasted, they all started getting their headdresses, grass skirts, bead necklaces, and other body decorations ready for that night's planned singsing. Many sat around the various areas working through the flowers, leaves, and grass they'd collected along their hike there. Stripping, cutting, and binding the items together into their colorful armbands, arranging their feathers, smearing red paint on their bodies, and tightening and tuning their drums things began to shape up.

As the sun ducked behind the mountains for what makes a much elongated blue hour, a gift was put together by each of the groups that came to show their support. Cabbage, pitpit, flowers, cash, and other little goodies formed a pile atop some banana leaves that were laid down for just this purpose. Everyone gathered around and shared their excitement for the new believers there and their gratitude for being willing to host so many people. A traditional handshake was done and the gifts distributed.

I needed another nap after this :) 

I woke up about 8 or 9 that night to the ongoing beating of drums and singing. These singsings tend to go all night long till sunrise. It's been a long time since I've stayed up all night through one of these. I usually try to sleep as much as I can (try sleeping to constant rhythmic pounding drums that you can feel) and when I wake from a shallow sleep, get up and go join the other observers till my eyes won't stay open any more. I then go back to the hut, sleep some more, and start the whole process over again! This time, the whole night was wetted with a constant drizzling rain. But that didn't stop them from singsinging their hearts out; nor me from enjoying my little bits of time observing through the night. It's always fun and interesting to hear the different villages' songs that they've made up to honor God, where in the past they used to sing to manipulate the spirits and their dead ancestors. (I have a short video of the singsing I've been trying for nearly 3 days to upload now, but thus far been unable. Hopefully I can post that for you soon!)

By 7am the singsing was over and everyone dispersed to eat, nap, and clean all that red paint off their bodies.

The rest of the day was fairly full of meetings. The main meeting was an opportunity for other believers to stand and share words of encouragement, warning, and wisdom to the new believers. I had a chance to share here along with the others. Such a wonderful time to hear more mature believers reaching deep into their experience with God to strengthen these new babes in Christ. And very interesting to hear what they see as important to share. It really affirmed to me the value of the work here and just how far they've come! We all heard some great wisdom that day!

We had a few other meetings that day revolving more around administrative stuff, and discussions for the urgent need for leaders to be faithful in their service to the church. Because how often do you have the gathering of so many leaders at once!

I heard one of the teachers recalling to me later that afternoon how during the teaching, when the people of Tupibu realized that Jesus paid the full price for their sin, in which they've been helplessly stuck, their amazement and shock was expressed in mourning the rest of that day right through till the evening! "It was wailing and crying like someone had died," he recounted. It was the gratitude felt when you realize the providence behind just barely escaping some disaster you had no business escaping. He said the people were like, "We almost all died without ever knowing this! We could have totally gone forever without knowing God!"

Let's hope and pray that this kind of gratitude is what continues to flavor their walk with the Lord from here on out! I think it's often the loss of the simple and joyous gratitude of being redeemed and made one of God's own, in favor of the many technicalities and scholastic exercises that make up christian 'religion' that can make our faith seem so dry and flavorless. I love seeing it when it's fresh and raw like I saw and heard in Tupibu!

That evening they decided that another singsing was in order. I was so tired, I think I actually slept through the night on my little foam mattress despite all the drumming and singing. I did enjoy the start late in the evening, and the end, early in the morning.

We started back early the next morning after quickly eating some taro cooked on the fire.

When we passed through Tariknan, we stopped at one of the local bible teacher's home for some food and to discuss some of the issues they're facing there. Wuri and his wife had cooked a nice meal for us. Our meeting kept getting interrupted by a fearless and persistent young cassowary (a large bird, a little smaller than an ostrich when full grown) intent on stealing the food right out of our bowls and hands as we ate!

In total, we travelled 12.24 miles, up and down over 14,000 feet of muddy, leach infested mountain slopes, rivers and landslides. It was exhausting but totally worth what we went for! God is being recognized more and more for who he is here in Mibu and the surrounding areas! We got to see one more reach of his kingdom extended to a new place, to new and grateful recipients of his abundant grace! We can't thank you all enough for your part in it; for supporting us in this ministry through prayer and regular monthly finances!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

After A Week And A Half

This last week we've been able to get most of our stuff re-situated, cleaned up, or otherwise repaired, and start to see the emergence of a family routine. Next week is the week that we try to hit the routine hard, getting fully back to the work we're here to do. That's the plan at least. As I say that, I realize my office space has become a storage place. So there's some work there to get that workable again too... well anyway, we're trying! We've been sure to make plenty of time to catch up with friends when they're around, and that's been good!

One thing that strikes me as we return is seeing how many people have built a house up here in the little hamlet where we live, near the airstrip. NEAR THE AIRSTRIP!!! That's the important part. The finish of this beast of a project is imminent enough in their minds that some are starting to live and garden up here so they can be close to the work. From what I understand, they intend to continue to live up here when the strip is done! This is a good sign!

I've been able to have several discussions with folks about the church. I've been to a meeting last weekend, will be having another this weekend, and we got to share in fellowship with our Mibu brothers and sisters last Sunday at church! We're still trying to discern what growth/changes have happened this year while we were away. It's a good start that we don't see anything concerning. In fact, the church leaders continue to do well. Can't wait to get the full feel of things and fine tune how we can serve the church best as we seek to help them mature to the point where we can leave. Of course the translation must continue on, but there are also lessons that need to be developed and lots of leadership training and discipleship. That's just going to take time to figure out more clearly where things are at and what areas to focus on. One thing we do know right now though is that we need to be showing folks more of what God's word says about Jesus' return.

Finally, this weekend I'm honored to be able to hike to Tupiboo (tu-pee-mBOO) where the Mibu church has been doing evangelism lessons the last several months. This weekend marks the last of these lessons! Can't wait to go and see for myself. So tomorrow I'm planning on hiking a ways over there and spending a couple nights. Saturday we'll hear the last of the lessons, and I'll share some encouraging words to those there who are newly trusting the Lord Jesus to free them from their sin and give them new life. I've clearly been in the States too long as I was getting laughed at this afternoon as some friends watched me pack and laughed, hinting that I'm over-preparing :) Hmmm... ditched a few things, but I am realizing that learning to go light is a learned thing... each time we come back! Can't wait to share with you all how our time there goes and how the initial gospel teaching has finished. Of course the gospel is never 'finished'. This is just the beginning of things at Tupiboo.

We're missing our co-workers who had to fly out unexpectedly Sunday morning, cutting our last time before they go on furlough short by a week. Angie came down with an illness that needed urgent attention by a doctor, so their family was medevac'd out. Being the only expats out here is always hard, so we would ask for your prayers for us please. Please pray that our sense of dependence on the Lord would be renewed each day. Pray for strength and protection from the Evil One whose attacks we have felt keenly here in the past. And finally, if you would pray for Geoff's other knee on this upcoming hike. Yes, I had my right knee worked on in the states, if you remember, and that one is feeling stronger than ever, but now my left knee has been acting up :(

We reflect each and every day on God's provisions through you all as you pray for us and provide for our monthly financial needs to live here and serve the church in Mibu! We are grateful for your participation with us in this ministry!

Geoff and Shannon

Friday, March 17, 2017

Our Return to Mibu!

We made it into Mibu! The last week has been more than a whirlwind of travel and working out logistics to get here! We are reminded of the many things we take for granted, like power, and communication, and water and food. Our thankfulness for the goodness of our Creator as he bestows these things on us for our sustenance is renewed as we come back to Mibu and find things 'challenging'. Yet the big picture is still that we have what is needed, even if not in the most convenient state as we've grown used to in the US.

As the helicopter descended we saw many of our friends that we've missed so much this last year! They were all there at the landing pad waiting for us to arrive! It was so fun to see them again and catch up at least a little bit on what's been going on in their lives!

The day we flew in there were three families, plus supplies, trying to get in. And with our family having been gone for a year, we had quite a few supplies to get us started again! In addition, our pilots were needing to get people from a nearby Finisterre Vision ministry out to town. Getting it all in on that day was going to be a long shot, but we were thankful to see it all happen despite the questionable weather.

We hit the ground running, working very full days to get our house back in order so we can live and serve effectively here in Mibu. Leaving a house in the middle of the jungle for a year means coming back to much mold and mildew, dust, ants and cockroaches, a non-working solar system, and internet that wasn't working.

Each day we focused on the highest priority projects, working through each room of the house with bleach and bug spray in hand. Each storage area and surface had to be cleaned out and then things organized and put where they belong.

We came back to batteries that would no longer store power. We've now installed just a single, low capacity battery, which means that we are going to be consuming power as minimally in the next few months as possible, just to get by. In the process of checking and troubleshooting, and also trying to get our systems back in place and working, we came across many of our devices that no longer work, adding more to the workload; fixing things needed to fix other things! Whew! It's amazing what you can fix (and how you can fix it) when you can't just go to the store to buy another! We also had to move our fridge and freezer down to the office where there is more reliable power, and also install some lower wattage light fixtures in the house so as not to use up too much of what little power we have.

It's been a challenge to keep in front of the laundry. A year of storage in the bush makes for a lot of mildew. In addition, the first night back in our own bed made for a feast for the residents we've tried for years to keep at bay… bedbugs. So all bedding, curtains, anything fabric had to be washed in vinegar, detergent, and with a healthy dose of permethrin to kill the little itch inducing beasts. We also did a thorough cleaning of our room and were sure to add bug spray to each nook and cranny of our wooden bed frame. We've not had any bites since!

Regarding our vsat internet system, it too was not working. Chris and I spent much time troubleshooting, replacing and fixing parts, trying to get it to work, but to no avail. Additionally, the nearest cell tower from which Chris is able to get a weak signal at his house, has been vandalized and is no longer working. We also saw that our radio antenna was destroyed by a falling tree branch and has been strung back up, hanging by a thread. With this barely working means we were able to slowly work out a solution to get our communications system back up. It involved bringing in a technician from Christian Radio Mission Fellowship with spare parts and vsat savvy. But Lucas, the tech, was able to get things up and running again thankfully! Turns out our coax cable was corroded by moisture, we had a faulty LAN connection on the modem, and the modem had not been updated in so long that it would no longer connect to the satellite system. For now, we have a loaner modem while our old one gets repaired. By the time all was fixed the clouds had socked us in and both Mike, our pilot, and Lucas were stuck for the night sleeping in our still messy house.

Meanwhile, our friend, Dave and his son, Caleb, who were visiting with our co-workers offered to help with some projects around our house. Never having a shortage of stuff that needs to get done, we took them up on their offer and they used what window screen we could scrounge up and replaced the window screens on about half of our house. This was a big deal because the window screens here fill up with mold and mildew. The spores then blow through the house and spread causing all kinds of symptoms of irritation and allergies. Cleaning the screens no longer does much good as they're quite old. So replacing the worst offenders for now has made a huge difference!

Coming back to all these urgent matters has made it difficult to spend the time catching up with friends like we'd like to. Hopefully very soon we can get these boots back on the ground, and refresh our relationships with our friends and brothers and sisters here in Mibu.

We're looking forward to having one more week together with our coworkers, the Walkers, before they head back to town. They'll be going on furlough in a few months so we're basically just crossing paths here. Hopefully we can get caught up on the many things that have happened this last year and keep the momentum going.

Oh and one more thing, we're looking to start back up with homeschooling after the Walkers leave. It's always hard to get the momentum going when not having done it for the last few weeks. Plus everyone's in a state of transition still so that adds to the challenge. We'd appreciate your prayers regarding this please!

Thank you so much to all who are praying for us and supporting us with your finances! We're so grateful to be back and ready to serve the maturing church here in Mibu. We hope you'll be encouraged by all that God continues to do here!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Back in PNG!

We're scheduled to fly into Mibu tomorrow (monday our time) where some issues with our house and internet system await our attention. Which brings me to my next FYI... While it seems likely that we'll be able to fix the vsat system within the week there is the possibility that we may not, and that the fix may be up to a couple months in the making. While the system is down we will have no ability to communicate via email or facebook and the like. If you don't hear from us please let that be a reminder to continue to pray for this issue and for us as we 'rip off the bandage' of the convenience and comforts we've enjoyed so much this last year in the US :)We are thanking the Lord for safe travels to Papua New Guinea! All our luggage made it too! It really is a significant thing to get from there to here, on the other side of the world. I think we often take it for granted anymore.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Heading Back to Mibu

What do we say about this last year here in the U.S.? A year is a long time to be away from our normal home and routine. But it also feels like not enough time in so many ways. It's flown by very quickly, yet we're anxious to get back!
This last year we've had the chance to connect with new church congregations, meet new people, and develop new ministry partnerships. We've felt the love and support of so many of you as you've spent time with us, prayed for us and with us, and have contributed financially to the Mibu Ministry. Thank you so much. These things are so important to us when we're over there, so far away. It's a huge encouragement to us and also an affirmation to continue on and finish this job well in Mibu!

We've travelled a lot more than usual this year. We did over 12,000 miles of road trips, taking us through 23 states! We got to visit friends and supporters along the way. We ended up staying a month in northern Michigan with Shannon's parents which was a great opportunity to spend dedicated time with them! We were able to show the kids many key areas and history of this great country to deepen what they learn in school.
Speaking of the kids, we chose to continue homeschooling this year, though Ethan was at a Christian school 3 mornings a week while his sisters took enrichment courses at Eagleridge all day every Friday.
We looked into and took care of many medical things. Shannon and I had way more x-rays and MRI's than we care to admit, two surgeries, several other procedures, and a hearing aid for me. We checked the health of the kids, and tried to rule out any concerns that may have popped up over the previous 4 years of living in PNG.

We, along with the help of our core team, put on several very successful fundraising events from the Photo Gallery, to the Bluegrass Gospel Concert, and then the annual garage sale! We've been able to see our support change from a $1600 per month deficit to just a $700 per month deficit. We're still hoping we can make up that last little bit in the next month or two here and get our support to a full 100%.

In all this, we moved a total of 5 times this last year! Housing was much more of a challenge than what we've experienced in the past.
And now we're standing right on the precipice as we get ready to make the jump again from this land of comfort-a-plenty to the land of the unexpected, where our trust in God's great provision is sure to be stretched and tested. It's knowing this that this last week of preparation we feel a bit of adrenaline surging through our blood; much like I imagine an athlete must feel as he nears his big race where he knows who he really is will be revealed through testing. We know we're going back to some adversity. We've heard that our solar system is shot, and we have a less than ideal fix we're going to try to implement to get us by a few months while we wait for our proper batteries to arrive from the US. We've also just learned that our internet system which we've come to rely so heavily on for the many logistics of living in the bush has stopped working. We're still not sure what the problem is there, or how long or how much money it's going to take to fix it. Coming back to a house that's been mostly unoccupied for a year in the bush usually results in some unexpected projects to get everything functioning again. But we are so looking forward to heading back (and the adrenaline helps us put longer hours into our preparations) and being a part of what God is doing there. We're looking forward to being with our friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and supporting and walking with them further into the maturity of their faith.

So folks, March 7th is the date that we're planning on departing Phoenix and heading half-way around the globe to our home in Mibu. Please pray us on our way; not just for our getting there, but also for our getting settled again, getting everything working again, and readjusting back to life and ministry in Mibu again.