Summary of the Work Mid-2012

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It was good to see many of our friends and family in the USA this summer. Here is an adaptation of one of the reports I gave . . .

My family and I have been missionaries in Alotau, Papua New Guinea, for the last eleven and a half years. During that time we’ve come back here to visit approximately every two years, so some of you have heard a number of reports from us, but for the others we’ll start with a quick overview.

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Millions of people today don’t live on any continent. They live in Oceania, which means the island nations of the South Pacific. The largest of them, north of Australia, is the nation of Papua New Guinea, or PNG for short.

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It is shaped like a triangular flag, and eleven and a half years ago we moved right to the tip of that pendant. There are now only two missionaries from churches of Christ in this country, two single women from Canada, and they are two plane flights away from us.

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It is PNG in the past was famous for so-called “Stone age primitives” and cannibals, but they have put their cannibalism behind them. They were discovered by westerners more than a century ago, and a pivotal battle of World War Two was fought in the very location where we live–no doubt a rude introduction to the outside world. (Pictured: Hadassah and Auntie Betty)
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Lest you feel sorry for us, we live in a town, Alotau, the only town in the region, with conveniences like running water, electricity, internet, general stores, and houses that would seem fairly normal to you Americans. And yes, my parents even sent us a Nintendo Wii, and one of those single missionaries I mentioned flew in to visit us, no doubt for the sole purpose of playing it with us (just kidding, Ruth). But actually our standard of living is normal for many in that small town.

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But all around are the villages where people fetch their water, grow their own food, and build their houses out of sticks and leaves that they gather from the rain forest. (Pictured: Molly and Roy Boremana and intern Jordan.) Are they poor?

 

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Well, they usually have enough food, so in that sense they are not usually poor. (Pictured: Susan)
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But in terms of money they usually don’t have more than a few cents, which they save up to buy machete-type knives, second-hand clothes, and, increasingly, cheap mobile phones from a company called Digicel.

 

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In many ways they’re being forced to jump straight from the stone age to the computer age. There’s an awful generation gap there that brings increasing crime and chaos to their society.
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We decided to go there partly because we realized that they have a hunger for God’s word.
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After we moved there we discovered that their receptivity is somewhat balanced by subtle but real persecution in the form of social rejection for those that commit their lives to Christ. In spite of this persecution, God led us to many people who were willing to accept Christ.
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Together with the Leslie Williams family we planted a church in the town of Alotau.
The Williamses left in 2010, but Leslie came back to visit last year (and should be back with Loopie and Baylee for a visit this September).
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The Craig Ford family also joined our team and helped espcially the town church to mature for almost six years. They just left also. (Here’s Craig and kids with Wesley, a village leader.)

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With the help of those families, we also reached out into the nearby villages, and now there are five other small congregations in the area.

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We’ve praised God as these six new congregations have learned to love each other and care for each other.
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We’ve focused on training leaders that could take over from us the work of spreading God’s love. (Here, Robert Taukum is speaking.)

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And, thanks to your prayers, those leaders have already taken up that work. They are even respected by other churches in the country as emerging leaders. (This is John Kirarata.)

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As I mentioned, in the past year and a half, the other two North American families have moved away (Jeri Ford is in the picture), and we are also in a transition stage.

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If God allows, we hope now to return to PNG for one more two-year term now, and then make our own permanent move to the States, probably mid-2014. (Pictured: Leticia)

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I’m excited about the potential of these next two years, partly because the work is more mature now, and partly because there is still so much to be done.

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There are still so many searching, hurting people who are desperate for the only thing that can make them whole, and that is the power and love of Jesus Christ. (Pictured: Gabriel, Dorothy, Pauline)

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These next two years may be our last chance to do our part and to equip the local Christians who will continue the good work after we are gone.

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Early on in the Gospels, Jesus called Peter, James and John, and those three turned out to be the inner circle that went with Jesus almost everywhere. Two years ago my report to you also focused on three men I was training. (Pictured: Pauline and John Utycho, Gabriel Kolen and Robert Taukum)

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But along the way Jesus gathered nine others, making a group of twelve men, and there were also some women that went with them. Similarly, my work has broadened, and I now help about a dozen men and some women. We led many of them through a year-long series of training courses during 2011.

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When we decided to focus on leadership development, we knew there could be a short term slowdown in growth, and that did happen. During 2009 and 2010 there were more than fifty baptisms each year, whereas in 2011 the number baptized was in the twenties.

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However, a movement cannot grow beyond the limits of its leadership. I believe that our multiplication of evangelists will result ultimately in more churches planted and more people reached for Christ.
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In fact, some of the more mature leaders are already starting to go through that same year-long curriculum with newer leaders that have arisen. For example, John K. is going through the courses with Marthy. That kind of chain reaction is what we pray for and we hope you will join us in that prayer! (In the picture, John and Marthy are in a “public motor vehicle” going to remote villages for outreach.)

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Diane also does a lot of excellent classes for women, and together we’ve done a marriage seminar.

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A lot of Diane’s material for the women, like on anger management, was so good that we men ended up reusing a lot of it for ourselves. Hopefully she won’t sue us for plagiarism!

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We are also seeing some of the more mature women following Diane’s example, organizing themselves to teach other women, so praise God for that. (Pictured: Warwick, Esther, Daisy A., ? and Maria)

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Diane and I were overjoyed that our daughter Hannah was baptized in September of 2010.

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We also praise God that Hadassah was baptized in February of 2012.

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And we are thankful for Rochelle who is already loving God, and for Faith too who is just a lot of fun.

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We and our daughters enjoyed our latest interns from Harding University. In order pictured: Tessa, Erin, Samantha, Jordan (the young man), and Auburn. Some of them even delivered babies while they were here! All were a blessing to us and to local people.

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Now let’s look at a few of the local Christians, starting with those three that I was focusing on two years ago. John Kirarata is the only full-time worker there.

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He and his wife Siggy are 100% local to that area. Most marriages in our area are struggling, so we thank God for John and Siggy’s marriage and pray that it will succeed where others are failing.

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John brings life and energy to the church. He smiles broadly and sings loudly and well. He greets people and enjoys them.

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Sometimes a people person like him will shy away from talking to new people about Jesus, but not John. He stands out as the most evangelistic person there, always teaching and baptizing new people. One verse he might share with us is Romans 1:16, which says, “I am not ashamed of the Good News, because it is God’s power that saves everyone who believes!”

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John was recently recognized by the town church as one of three who are likely to be future elders. We should be praying in our hearts that God will guide him and all of them.

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The second individual I want to focus on for a moment is Wesley. He had a year of physical suffering that really discouraged him, but he never gave up on God and never turned to magic, which was a great example for everyone.

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After he recovered, he continued to be a powerful example by doing something almost unheard of: opposing his family’s use of a witchdoctor. His uncle was sick, and Wesley and his wife took him in and cared for him and prayed for him. When the uncle went against Wesley’s wishes and called a witchdoctor, Wesley said in effect,  “If you do this, I’ll have to stop praying for your health for a while, because you can’t worship the true God and false gods at the same time.” The witch doctor came, and shortly thereafter the uncle was rushed to the hospital with a worsened condition, which was surely a sign from God showing the family that Wesley was right and that God wanted the uncle to repent. Wesley then continued to serve and pray for the uncle while the uncle was in the hospital. Perhaps one verse Wesley might share with us is Matthew 4:10 “Jesus said, ‘Get away, Satan, for it is written, you must love the Lord your God, and serve only him’!”

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Wesley also does not worship the false god of money. I offered to pay him to cut our grass while we’re gone, and he agreed, but he asked that I pay him in a lump sum large enough to pay for fuel so that he can run a chain saw and cut some small logs to build a needed church building. He does not have many opportunities to earn money, but he was willing to give it all up for God’s work.

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The third man is Robert. He is the flurry of activity that helps to hold together four house churches in his area. His only method of transportation is his feet, and he uses them to visit the Christians. It is so hard to find people who are willing to do that, so you can imagine what a joy he is to me.

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He has experienced very hard times in his personal life, and yet in spite of the discouragement, he proves again and again his ability to lead the church.

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If he were here, he might echo the words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 15:9-10–“I am the least of the apostles, not even worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been wasted. I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

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He led his house churches for the first time to host the area wide retreat this year. This was a major achievement for him and for these house churches. He is deeply impacted by the prospect of the missionaries leaving, and he is willing to face that challenge head on. May God help all of us to work hard for his church.

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I’ll just focus on one more person: a single woman named Sinai. Way back in the early days when I was not bringing many people to Christ, she heard me preach a simple sermon about how God is planning a world full of love, and she said, “I want to be part of that.”

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Through the years she has seen most of her friends fall into sexual sin, but she never has. Instead she has become more and more involved in teaching young women. Once she was attending a training session where I was begging them all to reuse the materials in teaching others, and the next week she was the one that had used them in teaching a teenage girls class. Perhaps if she were to share a verse with us, it might be 1 Timothy 4:12–“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for believers in speech, life, love, faithfulness, and purity.”

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She helps organize gifts for the hospital patients each week, she is trusted with much of the church finances, and she is also becoming a very close friend of our daughters. Pray that she will continue to be faithful and not fall into the temptations that are so prevalent.

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Please pray for all of the Christians you have seen in these pictures as well as for others who have chosen Christ or who may choose Christ in the near future!

2 Responses to “Summary of the Work Mid-2012”

  1. Sheila Says:

    This is wonderful! Thank you for all the time you spent writing and putting this together! God bless you, sweet friends.

  2. Tate Williams Says:

    It is great to hear about how my home is doing. I miss everyone there and I am happy knowing that the church is still growing.

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