Papua New Guinea Update
It has been some time since we returned from working in Numba village, PNG, but even with the delay we want to update you on the work that was done there, as you are always so much a part of what we do through your prayers and support
The Long Way In
We decided to trek in to Numba village – the long way – coming in by the trail we had covered several times before. We had two people with us who had not made the trek before and didn’t want them to miss the “fun.” None of us had been over the trail since the cyclone hit two years ago, and we knew that a lot of damage had been done to the existing trail. We were about to find out first-hand just how much.
About four hours of trekking through the jungle brought us through Kohara village, where my friend Thomson Ivuta pastors the church. We went up and over the mountains and valleys until we came to the “garden hut.” This had been our stopping point on previous trips. The climb up to the garden hut is a one-hour grueling climb from the river below, which put us approximately one-third of the way up the mountain. Thomson and his wife Natalie decided to travel with us. We also had along some of the men who met us at the airport in Popondetta. At this point, we discussed whether to stay the night or go on and finish the trek in one day – something the natives do regularly, but none of us had ever tried. By then, it was about four o’clock in the afternoon, and we had about three hours of daylight left. We decided to go on.
Two hours later, we arrived at the top of the mountain. This mountain is so steep that you can stand on the trail and reach out and touch the trail above you at head height. We call one part of it “the staircase” because you feel like you are on a spiral staircase going up into the clouds. As we climbed through the mist and looked up at the shrouded jungle, it seemed we would never reach the top (I later remarked, after arriving in Numba, that I felt like Jack in the beanstalk story). We finally arrived at the top, just about dusk. Not until we started down the other side, and it grew increasingly dark, did we run into the part of the forest most affected by the cyclone of 2007. Huge trees were blown down, in crisscross fashion – like great matchsticks. The trunks were wet and slimy, and we had to walk along them, sometimes from one to the other, over hollows choked with undergrowth. We all had our share of slips, near falls, and crashing descents. Natalie was an angel, helping Nan over the most difficult parts. At one point, I slipped off a fallen log, disappeared into the undergrowth below, hoping on the way down that I didn’t meet with either a sharp branch or a venomous snake!
In addition to the chaos of the fallen trees, many places were washed away so the trail ran alongside the landslides that fell away hundreds of feet. At one point Thomson said, “Be careful of the landslide,” shining his light down to the left. The light disappeared in the mist – the slide was a huge void. After about 3-4 hours of navigating the jungle at night (a new experience for us all), we finally arrived – wet, muddy, and weary–but exultant–to Numba village. Jim Parlier and the house staff had food prepared, which had to wait until we could shower away the jungle debris.
New Student Intake
This year, Ese Bible Institute had an intake of 75 new students. As the word is spreading, some are coming from further and further a field. One woman said she had traveled for two weeks to get to the school. Some had come from the north, beyond Mount Lamington – a two- or three-day walk. These new students are excited at the opportunity to get a Bible college education. Many have been sent by their churches to train and return for ministry in their church. Logan Carnell took the incoming students in the initial class of Bible Study Methods and Interpretation. At the same time, he was introducing Mark Johnson to the method. Mark took over the class in the second week and did a great job! We expect to see him as a regular teacher at the Institute.
I took the former graduates through the book of Galatians our first week, and Logan stepped in the second week to do a survey of First and Second Timothy and Titus. We thank God for the men He is raising up to work as a team for the training of the men and women coming to the Institute. As I will report later, we are beginning to see the fruit from this work.
Virginia’s New Kitchen
As we’ve reported before, Pastor Michael Pijai’s wife, Virginia, is the force behind feeding all the students who come for training. She organizes the ladies of the village to bring fresh food from their gardens and ensures that all the students are fed well. You can imagine the workload of trying to feed up to 150 people per day from an outdoor kitchen with no running water and only an open fire to cook with. This is one amazing woman, energized by the love of God!
We thought it was time for Virginia to get a new kitchen. As a result, in two weeks, a whole new structure was erected. Jim overlooked the 30 to 50 workers who quickly gathered materials from the jungle and built the new kitchen-complete with storage space and counter tops (jungle style, split bamboo). Virginia was very happy with the end result. We all hope it will make her work a little easier. (Watch for the video of Virginia’s new kitchen!)
Graduates Take to the Field
Many of the graduates from the Institute are beginning to take the command to “make disciples” seriously and are spreading out to further fields where there are villages without any churches, some without any believers. While we were in the village, we met with two groups who are going out to evangelize, planting churches, and in some cases uprooting their own families to move into remote and needy areas. These men need your prayers, especially for health for their families, as some of the areas are extremely prone to cerebral malaria. Pray for Winston, who moved his family a seven-day journey into an area where there are many Muslims. Pray for Newton who did the same, moving into a lowland, swampy area with his family to evangelize in an area given to superstition and witchcraft.
Visit to Seribu Village
I mentioned Pastor Lawrence earlier. He was one of my very good students in the first group that graduated. We took a couple of days to trek to his village of Seribu, to encourage the men he is sending out. They are building a “mission house” in the village to house visitors who come for ministry. We were welcomed by a great gathering of people and escorted into the village. I addressed the large crowd, then we feasted in the “wind hut,” before being taken to our quarters for the night. The next day, Logan, Eric, Mark and I each had an opportunity to speak to them (Eric took a class of children for a Bible lesson).
When we had stopped for lunch, the mother of the lady in whose home we ate, began speaking to me. Her name is Joyce, and she was speaking very animatedly. Finally, the man of the house, Japhet, translated for me. She said, “When the Japanese came (WWII), we suffered much. Then, the American soldiers came and helped us by driving the enemies out. Now God has sent you men, Christian soldiers, to come and help us in our Christian lives.” I was so appreciative of this old saint’s perspective, and especially her gratitude. Please join us in our prayers that the Ese Bible Institute will train and raise up an army of Christian warriors who will drive out the enemy, and bring the peace of God to these dear souls.
Children’s Bible Ministry (from Nan)
I had the opportunity again this year to visit several villages and present the children’s ministry. One favorite village is Kowawoki, where twice they have given a meager but gracious offering to help the children’s ministry in India. Last year when I was in their village, I recorded them singing a very cute song in English called “I’m free to be a servant of the Lord.” I took the song from PNG to India (along with their offering), and it quickly became the favorite theme song of my senior kids’ class there. So this year, I brought the kids in Kowawoki a song from India and taught it to them. Then we distributed some pencils to them from our contact in India. The whole village was so thrilled that they could have some back-and-forth interaction with the believers in India. When we left the village the pastor said, “It is so good to know that we now have a sister church in India!”
I left Numba a week ahead of the others, but Des, Mikal and Brianna remained behind to conduct a VBS in Numba village and the hiked to other out-lying villages with the children’s ministry. Des said she was especially impressed with the children of a nearby village called Daya, as they were so well-behaved and knew many, many memory verses. Their leader has gone through the Sunday School Teacher’s training from a few years ago and then on to attend the Bible College. Once more we see the encouragement of effective fruit from Ese Bible Institute.
After leaving PNG, we had a very refreshing visit with family and friends in Australia. First, we spent time with our daughter Katie, her husband Daniel, and our youngest son Gavin-all living in the Perth area. They are all doing well and following the Lord’s leadership in their lives. Please remember Daniel and Katie in your prayers as they have established a small, but growing, home church in Fremantle. Gavin has recently started university in Australia, and we would appreciate your prayers for him. While in Perth, we were encouraged to have the opportunity to do a conference at our old home church, Cross Road Bible Church. So many friends from the past were in attendance, and it almost felt as if we had never left Australia! It is encouraging to see the believers there standing firm in the faith and pressing on from the cross to the crown!
From Perth, we traveled to Canberra to encourage Tanya Horton and her family. You may remember us asking for prayer for this young lady as her husband was recently killed in a boating accident. She is doing a magnificent job of praising God through this tragedy; she is faithfully using it as an opportunity to share her faith with unbelievers and to encourage believers around her to dig into the Word of God as the source of answers in life. She is living proof that our greatest ministry often comes from our deepest hurts. Please continue in prayer for her.
From Canberra, we went to Sydney to visit our son Wil, his wife Kris and little Ari! Wil is about to finish up his thesis for his PhD at University of New South Wales, and they are about to bless us with another little grandbaby-the more the better! It is sometimes difficult as our family is living in three different countries of the world. We are thankful that God allows these times between missions to catch up with those we love.
We are at home in Arizona for a while this spring, in between conferences around the USA. Please pray for the conferences coming up soon in Florida, Northern Virginia, Phoenix, Denver, and Kalispell-and for my study and preparation for them. We hope to see many of you there!
Pray for Nan and her team as they prepare materials and lessons for the upcoming Children’s Bible Schools in India. She will be leaving in mid-April, and this year will be going to some more remote villages prior to the main CBS in central India. This will involve more time on the dangerous roads of India, so please pray for safety for her and the team.
BTBM continues to send out quarterly support to several Bible colleges and many indigenous workers around the world, as well as pastors living in remote and poor areas who strive to minister the Word of God to those around them. We thank all of you who are gracious in your support, since we are just a channel of blessing from you to the world – all by God’s grace!
Other Prayer Needs
Please continue to pray for Nick Bacon in his battle with cancer. The cancer has now spread to his tongue and mouth. He and Tammy need your prayers for strength and courage to stand firm in their faith.
Also, pray for Paula Edens. She was in our church in Conway many years ago. Her only daughter Amy recently committed suicide. Amy was a single mother of five children, and it has left Paula with much sorrow and a heavy load of trying to provide a future for these five little children.
Pressing on in grace,
Gene and Nan