Simple Dust

Update from the Trenches…

 “We keep looking to the LORD our God for his mercy…” Psalm 123:2

Dear Prayer Warriors,

Hello from Hot & Steamy Madang!  It’s not looking a lot like CHRISTmas here on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures in the shade on our porch are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the past week or so. The weather may not be “delightful”, but thankfully our JOY is anchored in something much more solid than weather and HE really is the reason for this holiday season!  It’s why we live and breathe this life while we have it! And, we couldn’t do this job we love so much here….if you weren’t doing your job there…so THANKFUL for all of you this holiday season!

The way to get around town cheaply in PNG is on a PMV (Public Motorized Vehicle).  This could be an old van, an open back truck, whatever you have to register that moves people. One thing that they have in common is they are usually decorated a little and always bear a name.  The one that I love passing on the road here bears the name “Simple Dust.” Every time we pass it, it reminds us of two things.  1) Madang is probably IS one of the top ten dustiest towns in the world and 2) we are truly simple dust – created from it, returning to it, living in that humility as we serve Him today.

So here’s the Simple Dust Update and a quick catch up on the ministries that you are supporting here in PNG:

Our PLANS/His PLANS Our plans for 2019 went something like this and was admittedly fairly aggressive:  Bill and Kelley and their teams build the teacher house this fall, move in by October, start the school building in the fall and be finished by the spring ready to start the washhouses and the second RVA house. HIS plan for 2019 went something like this: Bill and Kelley finish the teacher house halfway and have a great time connecting with their teams.  In August, Bill and Kelley step back into the e2 Training program here at NTM and fill in a needed gap and do LIFE with seven very cool families and 3 single girls (who each took turns living with us from June-November.) In September Kelley returns home to spend the month with a daughter who is struggling through a long miscarriage.  Bill and Kelley’s parents come in November to kick their backsides into gear again and now…the first week of December here we are …hoping to finish the house to where it is livable before we go to the bush for a 2 week visit with our Inapang churches. We knew this could happen…Our plans aren’t always safe when we put them into his hands. The words of Mr. Beaver of Narnia come to mind, “ ’Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King I tell you.”  He’s the King.  Period. And we live where he has us today with JOY because we know that He is GOOD!

 INAPANG Churches In 2 weeks’ time, we head into the bush again to spend CHRISTmas with our little Itutang church family.  We are excited to see them again.  Many have visited off and on the last 6 months, but it will be good to spend time altogether in the Word again. Bill will check the book of Hebrews with his language helper again while we are there and we look forward to getting more translation checked off this coming year. Kelley will be taking in four sets of literacy resources for 4 of our literacy schools that are still going strong there in the local villages.  This past year, we ended up re-writing the whole entire literacy course to make it more kid friendly.  Lots of work, but now that it’s done, we are praising God for the strength to have made it through that long process.  Please pray for us that we will be a blessing to the church family there during our visit.

 The RAMU VALLEY NTM WORKS ~ The fire is spreading through the Valley!! MUCH EXCITING NEWS THIS MONTH.  The first comes from the Kaje tribe which is just a few hours hike from us.  The Itutang have been praying for this group for many, many years since they first heard the gospel as many of them are married into families there. This week they are hearing the end of the four months of Creation to Christ lessons and many are beginning to believe!  When we first moved into the Ramu Valley there were no other NTM works nearby.  Now, the Tanguat, the Iski, and the Kaje churches have been born.  This is GOD’S POWER at work!!!! The other super exciting news is that the first Tanguat Bible portions have been printedwith the updated grammar and orthography and are being used!  This has been a huge project and we are thankful for Promise Vaughan’s faithfulness and dependence on the Lord to keep moving forward in difficult circumstances. Praises for part of God’s word in yet another language!! Please pray for our teams and the local leaders as we look to help them join together to hold on to the gospel and continue spreading it across the valley!

The Ramu Valley Academy Our passion for this school is only growing as we spend more time understanding the educational system and the needs.  Our aggressive schedule had us shooting for beginning school this year, but it has been very clear that next year will be much more doable at this point with our present reality. Please pray for our building teams that are set to come this spring and summer. Pray that they will be able to make it happen and bring the needed physical help. Pray for our Itutang building teams who will also be helping to get temporary housing and gardens ready for the student who will come next January!

The RVA Team The Kitchens family is here and full on into language and culture. They have been able to dive in as a family and seem to enjoy the country. Pray for them as they continue on in language study so that they can be effective in their ministries here.  We are so thankful for them and how the Lord has brought them alongside with a passion to see RVA thrive. Joshua Awangin (from Itutang) is now full time in ministry with us here at RVA.  Thanks to Broadway Baptist families for making that happen!

Our FAMILY/His FAMILY The two of us are doing great and enjoying this stage of our lives very much. We do notice that we can’t move as fast or do as much as we used to, but I guess that happens when you’re pushing 50.  J We miss our girls and sometimes nostalgically long for those days together around our little table in our bush kitchen with the red checkered curtains. But the nostalgia is always gets cut short by a twinge of guilt and a breath of thanksgiving… because the girls have their own very sweet little families are thriving there in Louisville, KY.  God is good.  He is holding them through good and bad and even allowing them that gift of suffering that he gives his children to train their hearts and souls and ready their spirits for heaven. Little Ansley is as cute as a button and it hurts every day not to have her nearby, but we don’t plan on letting distance stop the Facetimes and the chats anytime soon.  So thankful for the communication abilities these days! Our Body of Christ families here and abroad have continued to be in prayer for us and have continued in their strong support of Inapang Ministries and RVA and for that we are truly thankful today!

The Ugly Truth about the Housleys We love the line from the movie The Count of Monte Cristo where the old priest is asked if he really did hide the treasure map all these years. He turns to Edmund Dantes and says, “I’m a priest, not a saint.” Maybe not theologically correct, but sometimes we totally feel what he’s saying.  We want to say, “We’re missionaries…not bullet-proof spiritual giants.” Simple Dust.  For fifteen years, we have written you updates about the power of God and the amazing things that he is doing here on the front lines with His Word and His Spirit. For fifteen years, we have signed each update with the words, “By His Grace and For His Glory” and that is the truth…HIS GRACE. As we push into a brand-new realm of starting a school and finishing a translation and filling in gaps where needed, circumstances have sometimes pushed our buttons and challenged us NOT to find JOY in the day. Sometimes people are the trials and sometimes it’s just trying to get a simple order from the Hardware House in town…those things that sneak up on you and show you the little “rats” hiding in your cellar (CS LEWIS). We have definitely been stretched these past 3 years and sometimes we thought we were going to break completely. We were often amazed at how quick a bitter or cynical attitude springs up when we were emotionally and physically tired…even when we have literally seen God’s miraculous salvation with our very own eyes many, many times. So often, we reflected on how much like the children of Israel we really are. But God…what a sweet Father. We have been praying to “grow old gracefully” toward our Savior and not away from him like so many of the kings of Israel did. And when we pray these kinds of prayers, we must remember that He is not safe. He will answer in His way. His time. Usually through suffering. But, we also must savor the fact that He is Good.  In the end, He exposes, cleanses, and destroys those little “rats in the cellar” who so craftily hide in the dark corners of our hearts because of his deep love for us. He is goodness.  He is strength.  He is Sovereign overall.  We are simply dust…just sin-ridden missionaries, made into saints daily through the washing of the same Savior that we proclaim to the unreached here in PNG.  We proclaim Him and give every ounce of our being to His church and to His Commission because He first loved us and because He and only He is worth all of our lives, our daily breath, our energy and our time. So pray for us as we live and work here in PNG.  Pray that our hearts would continue to find our strength in his Word daily.  That we would love each other and others well.  That we would be quiet enough to hear His voice and to Respond to his leadings…wherever they may take us. Thanks for all the love and support.  We LOVE this job and LOVE being part of it with YOU!  Merry CHRISTmas!

By God’s Grace & For His Glory~

Your Simple Dust Missionaries here in PNG,

Bill and Kelley

 

 

A Time to BUILD…

“Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul”  Pr.2.10Ankongai Buildling.jpeg

 

Dear Praying Friends,

As we write you today, we are half way over the Pacific Ocean headed back from the US and a short break with family and friends.  We will arrive back to our home in PNG very soon.  We are thankful for a short visit home and that we were able to hit a few milestones…three birthdays and two of three graduations!  Our daughter Sabra graduated with honors from Boyce college with her Bachelor of Science and our granddaughter, Ansley, graduated from crawling to walking while we were home. The third graduation we will sadly miss this week, but our son-in-law, Austin, will also graduate with honors from Southern Seminary with his Masters of Divinity. We are super proud of our him and the rest of our family and thankful for God’ grace in each of their lives.

When we arrive home in PNG, we will hit the ground running with building prep for our teams coming this summer.  We are so thankful for the men and women who have sacrificed to come and be part of building a school in support of our Ramu Valley churches. We are excited to keep you all posted on how the progress is coming as we get started.

Thank you to everyone who prayed and loved on us while we were home.  You all know who you are and all of your love, giving, encouraging, help and friendships make our hearts smile when we think back on our time with you all.  We are truly blessed with the most awesome sending team we could imagine.  We pray that the Lord continues to focus your eyes on Him and give you an ever growing concern for the Task Unfinished!

Please continue to pray for our Co-Worker Promise who is stateside for a dental emergency and has been in the middle of full-on revisions of literacy and orthography of the Tanguat materials. Please pray that she will be able to return well and refreshed to finish this long process she has been working through. Thank you.

Please pray for our US teams who will be traveling, for my dad and a young lady named Corey who will be living/serving with us this Sumer and for the students who will be arriving for the opening classes of RVA in January.  We are in a place where we need your prayers and the Lord’s strength once again and we are sure that He will continue what He has so beautifully started in the Ramu Valley.  Thank you for being part of our team.  We love this job so much and love having friends and family alongside for the adventure.

By God’s Grace and For His Glory~

The Housleys

Building RVA

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
Ephesians 2.19

Members from the national church next door called Dabelle Baptist helped us paint, clean, and dig for this first build. Workshop and Guestroom COMPLETE!

 

BUILDING the Ramu Valley Academy ~ An Update

Hello again from the RVA team! It has been a while since we wrote a long update, but please don’t misunderstand our silence for a lull in the plans for RVA or for our family.  We have been beautifully busy in a blessed kind of way! Let’s get caught up!

RVA THANKS

We are thankful to announce again that the funds for the Phase 1 buildings of the RVA project have been raised thanks to the matching grant that we were blessed with last fall.  Thank you to everyone who has given so generously.  We know that there are many good charities that you could’ve given towards but you chose to make a difference in the lives of the kids of the Ramu Valley and we are THANKFUL!!!!  They have no idea what the Lord is doing on their behalf at the moment!  What a loving Father to provide for his needy children through his other children who he has blessed with so much!  It must please Him very much. So THANK YOU!  Thank you for DOING SOMETHING about a real need in the universal Body of Christ!

RVA PROGRESS

As most of you know, as soon as the funds were promised and met the Phase 1 goal, we began to order some of the supplies that would need to come on a container from overseas and we are anxiously waiting its arrival.  While we waited, we began building the workshop and a small guest room above that work shop (see picture above). This build took from January 15th – February 20th and will be the staging area for all other builds that will happen over the next 2-3 years. We are thrilled to have completed this workshop within budget and with a water well, a guest room, a water tank and power!  Praises to a God who brought needed help from NTM, from Australia and from the national church next door to be an encouragement and to show his love through them to us. What a beautiful testimony! Thanks to all who stopped by to encourage, talk, and work with us!

FAMILY

Once we finished the workshop, we were still waiting on the materials on the container from the US for the first school building.  So, we took the rest of the furlough that we skipped out of last year. 🙂  This put us home for two months (March-May) and allows us to hit three birthdays, Sabra’s college graduation and her husband, Austin’s, graduation from seminary… and Mother’s Day! So, we are currently writing from America where we are getting plenty of granddaughter snuggles and enjoying seeing our family on a more regular basis. The girls are both doing well in their marriages and lives and this gives us great joy. Our parents are all still faithfully serving the King as they walk with us towards the finish line.  We all want to hear him say, “Well done” and we are undeservedly blessed.

INAPANG CHURCH

Please continue to pray for our church elders and believers there in the Ramu Valley and for Promise Vaughan as she faithfully works at connecting believers back to the Word and to each other as the Body of Christ.  This is hard, long work and we are thankful for those who are praying for wisdom for each day’s worries. Anton and his family are doing well after the loss of his adopted 4 year old son last December.  He has been able to move around and encourage the churches again and is looking to adopt another son in the coming year.  Right now another matter for prayer is a big “hevi” with Promise’s main translation helper.  She is a very sweet and godly woman and is married to a very unbelieving and promiscuous man.  I think only the Lord truly sees the struggles this faithful woman has been through.  Please pray for her and for the Itutang church and Promise as they seek to encourage and help her and her children.

SUMMER PLANS..and TEAMS FROM THE U.S.ofA.!

After Austin’s graduation, we will hit the international road again and head back home to PNG. We cherish the time with our family and friends here, but we are blessed to have been given a joy and passion for the work the Lord has so kindly given us with RVA.  So, it is with both tears and excitement that we will transition from “home” to “home” as we continue our sojourn here on earth. Once on the ground in PNG, we will be busy gathering materials and supplies (and hopefully receiving our container!) and making preparations for our first work team.  We have FIVE teams of different sizes and from different states getting ready with passports and visas as we speak.  These teams will be rolling in one after another from May to September. Please pray for these guys and gals who are coming from Middle TN, East TN, California, Georgia, Kentucky and  Indiana. We are again SO blessed. Pray especially for our co-workers who will be joining us full-time as RVA staff this summer.  More about their journey and how you can help in our next update. So, we have much work ahead of us to do and many hands will make it lighter for sure.  There will still be more space for YOU to help this coming fall or in the spring or summer of 2020.  He left all of us only one job…”Make disciple of ALL nations” and all of us are supposed to be DOING that someway, somehow. So, if you know someone who isn’t sure what they are DOING to reach the nations and wants to know HOW to be more involved in either GOING or SENDING, please contact us and help them get in touch with the Great Commission in a more intimate way this year!

PRAYER REQUESTS

  • Pray for the individuals and teams coming to serve this summer – visas, safety traveling and on the job, health, and for attitudes of service and JOY in their lives from seeing the needs that can be met through what the Lord has blessed them with.
  • Pray for The Kitchens family who are joining us full time this summer as they are raising their support and transitioning their family of 6 into a brand new culture and life abroad.
  • Pray for Wisdom as we buy supplies and build.  We are building as low maintenance as possible which is sometimes more costly, but we are thankful for all the excellent expert advice we are gathering along the way.
  • Pray for the first students of RVA, that the Lord would prepare them in heart and soul for what is ahead and start now giving them a passion for the Harvest Work in their backyard.
  • Pray for us as we begin to weave and design the curriculum we have to meet the remedial needs and “catch up” our students to a seventh grade standard. (HUGE PRAYER REQUEST)
  • Pray for Meetings this summer and fall with provincial government and educational personnel to get our school certified as its own entity and to comply with national government standards.

Friends, we couldn’t be DOING this here without you all SENDING us from there.  THANK YOU.  Please continue to ask the Lord for grace and mercy for us as we walk forward where he leads. We want more than anything to see men and women of the Ramu to be equipped and empowered to work alongside us interdependently to see JESUS CHRIST and HIS SAVING POWER ALONE proclaimed from one side of PNG to the other.  He is Worth it!

By His Grace and For His Glory,

Bill and Kelley

When the “Spotlight of Suffering” shines on you, what will you do?

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Anton and his wife, Ogagarasem, 4 days after losing their adopted son

As promised, we are writing today with an update about the tragedy that happened at the Guam River just feet from our back porch this past month. As you read this, please pray for Anton and his family as they continue to grieve for their lost adopted son.

December 4th, Tuesday – Anton, our main translation helper and one of our Itutang church elders, hiked over to the village of Bogan with Bill and a few of the other elders and deacons to meet with the Bogan church leadership, listen to their reports, and to encourage them and to teach through the book of Jude. The time together was excellent and all around encouraging.  One of the Bogan elders shared some of his “heavies” that he has endured in the past months – including being beat up with a stick for standing up for justice in the community. As they walked home, Anton thought about what the Bogan elder had shared.  He shared thoughtfully with Bill, saying, “You know, all these years that I have been a believer and a leader in the church, I haven’t really been tested.  I haven’t had any really big heavies like that.” 

Exactly one week later, December 11, Tuesday afternoon – Anton was helping the young men build a grand stand area for the upcoming soccer tournament that our village would be hosting this year.  There would be 14 soccer teams and 12 volleyball teams from all over the Ramu Valley descending onto our little village.  Many prayers had gone up for weeks now for safety and peace among the players…and for LIGHT.  The believers were praying that God’s light would be seen by those who had not yet heard the Good News in their own language yet. The soccer field was ready and the trophies had been bought in town and were ready to be placed in the grandstand. We were thankful for Anton and his concern for the young men of the community and the way he used his time to connect with them even though he himself doesn’t play soccer. He went out early Tuesday morning and began working beside the boys. His wife, Ogagarasem, had worked with Anton and the rest of the family to wash additional sago, the local staple, to have on hand for the number of visitors coming over the weekend and now she was going out to their swampland to try and bring additional fish to the menu as well. She took along her 12 year old daughter, Lydia, as well. 

The day started as any other. Ogagarasem’s younger sister, Jorjina, a caring and usually meticulous caregiver was watching Anton’s other three smaller children.  Denəva, was working around the house with Jorjina, doing what little girls do.  Darin, 7 years old, was following a neighbor and using his round net to try and catch small fish to use for bait later.  The river was high and running fast and he kept close to the edge as he threw the fish he caught into the dugout canoe nearby. Sarəstən, their 3 year old son was in the stilted cooking house with the older girls, but cried to go down the ladder to watch Darin catch fish. Sarəstən was adopted when he was only a few months old from an island called Karkar. He was a bright and friendly soul and would call out and offer food to people who were passing by. He knew people’s names – including ours, but he liked to call Bill “Mangi” which means, “little boy” in the national creole. 

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Lydia holding her little brother, Sarəstən  18 months ago

The neighbor got permission to let him down and then left as Jorjina was headed down after him. As with many accidents, the next moments were blurred and only God knows which story is the one that truly happened next.

I left the metal classroom building with one of our teachers, Markus. We had been going over the diagnostics that we were using to test the grade 6 and 7 students there.  He followed me to my house, which sits next to Anton’s, and then he went down to see Anton’s children (his nieces and nephews) before heading home. As I stood on the porch, I heard the older girls begin to ask if he had seen Sarəstən. I went back down to the river edge and we began to call for him.  We looked along the bank, in the houses, around the school area.  Markus ran to get Anton and make sure that Sarəstən hadn’t taken off with someone to see his dad at the soccer field. Nothing. 

It seems the last one to see him was his brother, Darin, who said that Sarəstən had been standing on the bank and was watching him catch fish and then went back up on the bank a little. The best guess is that he walked over to the canoe to take a look at the fish that had already been caught and slipped into the rushing water between the bank and the canoe…and entered eternity. It was two hours before they could get to his mom and bring her back home where the village full on wailing and searching. 

I cancelled school testing. The young men cancelled tournament practice and drills. Work stopped all over the village and people came together to comb the water. They searched the clear areas and then began breaking up the logs jams as they checked in them. For three days, we searched.  Nothing.  

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Day three of combing the Guam River area through our village of Itutang

Meanwhile, without any closure, the mourning was ongoing day and night. As unbelievers also came to search and mourn, they brought their stories with them. Consider the grief of losing a child this way, no idea of what actually happened, no body, no closure. Then, add to this the great animistic skill of hypothesizing and storytelling…it’s brutal.  Anton and Ogagarasem heard accusations that they were bad parents leaving their children at home (although they were left in very capable hands and did nothing that every other family in the village doesn’t do every single day). They heard that they were to blame because they weren’t there.  Jealous accusations came and they heard that they were to blame because they stay at the house too much like a white man (Anton had saved his money up several years ago and has a tin roof and water tank for his family to have fresh water, but still is on of the hardest workers with one of the biggest gardens in our area.) They heard that it was Ogagarasem’s little sister’s fault and that she should beaten and they heard threats that she would be killed. They heard that he wasn’t really in the water, that he would be like another village story that happened over a decade ago, where the boy showed up five days later, just lost in a garden. They heard that it was the spirit of another girl who drowned about 7 years ago in the same river and that she pulled him in. Days and days of lies compounding the pain of losing a child to this fast flowing body of water.  I watched them sit at the bank and weep helplessly looking at the place where he was last seen. I could only imagine the sifting that was going on in their hearts and minds and wondered, “What would be sifted out as lies and what would prevail as truth? What will this do to their faith?”  Mourning went on through the night for days. Our bed is only 50 feet from their house and so when a new round of wailing hit the night air, we would wake and pray quietly in our beds, begging God for strength and mercy for Anton and his family.

Wednesday and Thursday – these days were a blur, but Bill and Promise and I along with other believers all took turns speaking words of comfort and truth and encouragement, but these were hard, sifting days.  One believing friend came and reminded Anton of the pain of King David when he lost a child and reminded him that God gives life and takes it away – no one else. He encouraged them to eat something.  About 30 minutes later, Anton asked for a plate of corn that had been cooked to be brought over and they ate it. A woman came by and spoke to them and reminded them of the suffering of Job. She reminded them that Job was blameless and yet was tried and, in the end, blessed. She encouraged them toward belief in God’s goodness as well as his sovereignty in this hard pain. 

This tragedy was a blow – a swift and painful one.  The impact left this sweet couple wounded, raw, and open…and all eyes were on Anton and his wife.  Would they blame the sister?  Would they call for her to be beaten or killed? Would they blame God? Would Anton forsake the sovereign and good God that he always preaches about to others? The spiritual battle roared over our village for 4 days as we searched for a little brown body…and prayed..and waited.

December 14th, Friday morning about 10am – Anton and his wife walked over and said that they wanted us to eat with them. We said that of course we would and asked why.  They said that they wanted to cook for the village and that we were invited.  We offered to help with the cooking and donated some food as well. That night, as the sun sank over our village, 4 days after the river had swept a village son from all of us, we gathered in silence to hear Anton speak and to eat with the grieving family. Work and play had stopped out of respect for the family, but the soccer tournament officials had already begun to arrive and were also gathered with us now. Everyone was here waiting to hear what would happen next. 

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December 14th, Friday afternoon – The food was put into plates and placed between their sleeping and cook houses. Anton stood beside the mass of plates and began to speak.  His speech is paraphrased here:

Thank you all for coming to eat with us tonight.  You know that we have had a big heavy come to our family. It is a very hard thing to have a son taken from us like this and not to have a body to bury. I don’t know why this happened to us, but I have heard many stories from some of you. I want you to hear this well.  When you come to my house, don’t be talking about how you think he died or about him at all.  It hurts too much.  Some of you are saying that a sanguma got him or that the spirit of the water took him.  I don’t believe these stories.  You who are believers in Jesus know what God’s Word says.  God is the only one who gives life and he is the only one who takes it away.  God took Sarəstən. He doesn’t tell us in his Word exactly what happens to little ones like this who are too young to understand their sin and the Good News. But, Sarəstən, at his mark, knew who God was.  He asked me last week who made the water as we were walking through the bush and I told him God did.  God gives life and God takes life.  Last week, I was walking with Bill and telling him that I haven’t had any hard heavies come up in my life. This was true.  Now, Ogagarasem and I  have had this very painful heavy come up in our life and it is good that we are tested.  I have spoken strongly with many of you about the goodness and power of God and I am going to stand up on God’s Word still.  I am not angry at anyone. Although, I may not come to the games, I want you boys to resume practice and to play.  I also want to tell you boys thank you for taking time to help me search for my son. Play your soccer games and play well and don’t be worried about playing while this heavy is still with us. I want the rest of you all to go back to work.  Sarəstən is in God’s hands.

The speech was not without tears and moments of silence and afterwards Anton came over and held our hands as he talked with Promise and Bill and I.  He thanked us for praying for him these past days.  He said that he knew that many people were praying because even though many people spoke truth to him, it hadn’t help him rein in his thoughts and doubts. He was really struggling with the goodness and sovereignty of God for the past three days. But then, that Thursday night, he was alone and he said God just assured him through his Word that this was in his hands and He could trust him.  Nothing about God had changed since Tuesday. God was the same.

There were many more moments that made us stand in awe of the power of God and to give praise that He gives His Holy Spirit to indwell and to help and empower mere mortals to fight these spiritual battles. And, later that next week, Bill was moved to see Anton out on the soccer field with all the young men around him as he prayed for them before their game. There is light here in the Ramu Valley.  Light that brings peace that passes all understanding. What a blessing to know these people.  To see their raw lives that cling unashamedly to Christ. To see true faith in a community in action. To see the Spotlight of Suffering reflected and magnified to honor Christ as the tragic story was spread along to the neighboring people groups who came to see a soccer game, but brushed up against an ambassador of Light of the World. 

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Anton praying with our soccer team before the game

Pray that Anton and his family’s grief will be comforted and that they will use this experience to comfort others as the Spotlight of Suffering singles out the true children of the Suffering Servant and allows those who believe to experience the momentary afflictions and prepare for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparisons. Anton was an animist eleven years ago.  Today he is one of my spiritual heroes and mentors. 

Today – When the spotlight of suffering shines on you, what will you do?

Only By God’s Grace,

Bill and Kelley and the Itutang Church Community

Ramu Valley Academy End of Year Update

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The Ramu Valley Academy grew out of an interdependent vision between us, our sending churches, and the tribal churches we serve int eh Ramu Valley.  RVA’s vision is to provide an educational venue that combines foundation Bible teaching, practical skills & discipleship, quality education, and safety for the children of our NTM-PNG church plants to learn more about their world and its Creator – to know Him more and to make Him known throughout the Ramu Valley and PNG.
This vision is slowly BEGINNING to move to reality thanks to a gracious God and YOU – the conduits of the physical graces of help and financial support! Thanks to all of you who have been praying and giving towards the Ramu Valley Academy project! As you know, we began raising funds February of 2018 for the first phase of the school project which includes three teachers houses, three classrooms, a washroom, a workshop and a manager’s flat.

As of the end of December of 2018, the funds for this phase of construction has been raised/ promised! It’s time for work to BEGIN!!!!

We are praising God for the way He has gone before us and stirred up hearts to PRAY and GIVE and GET INVOLVED! Our School Administrator, Eric Kitchens, will be en route to PNG with his family this year and we also have a couple of building teams lined up as well to pull your funds into a physical construct where learning can take BEGIN to take place. There are so many working on this from the various angles of construction, legal, educational, curriculum development, logistics and shipping materials, etc, etc. We are so thankful to be part of a larger global team who want to see this educational facility serve its stated purpose!

Please continue to pray for us as we move forward.

We have many needs and requests:
We are praying Psalm 90:17 – the same way we did so many years ago as we walked wide-eyed up the mountain of tribal church planting among the Inapang people group.
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands!” Please pray this with us!
  • Pray as we develop a curriculum that will best serve the ESL and other needs of our students who are coming from rural and often failing educational systems.
  • Pray that the Lord will grant us favor in the eyes of the government and other officials that we will need approval from.
  • Pray for those who are working with us on the legal and financial sides to keep us above reproach as we form this new school.
  • Pray for our Board of Directors who are located in both the US and here in PNG – both ex-pat and citizens, that we would have wisdom as we walk forward.
  • Pray for the students. Pray that hearts would be softened and open to the gospel. Pray for hearts that will serve their local churches and communities. Pray that Christ will be made known through their lives and that the education we provide will propel the Great Commission here in PNG.
  • Pray for those of us who will teach and disciple that we would be sensitive tot he Holy Spirit and speak truth in our daily lives.
  • Pray that we would be loving, gracious, kind and yet courageous to do what He calls us to do next as we move forward with the RVA vision. It is not without adversity, within and without, that we go forward. And yet, the support and encouragement both here in country and overseas has been overwhelmingly encouraging to us as we walk where He leads us. Pray for physical strength and safety as we begin building in the coming weeks and continue to work with teams through the summer.
Thanks for taking time to read this RVA update and to commit these things to Christ, our anchor and our strength. Please take time also to THANK the LORD with us for his gracious provisions!
By God’s Grace and For His Glory~
The RVA Team
 
Want to do more?!! Click on the links below to see how you can BEGIN to play a bigger part in the lives of the children of the Ramu Valley!
  • To support Eric, our RVA School Administrator and his family through monthly giving as they move overseas to serve here in PNG, click here: ETHNOS360 Kitchens Family
  • To be part of the physical BUILDING crews this summer click here: Go:BUILD! and email the address at GO:BUILD!
  • To serve and share your gifts by TEACHING a core subject or a practical skill or sport (for a year at a time or for a shorter 1-2 week intensive course) click here: Go:TEACH! and email the address at GO:TEACH!
We will BEGIN putting together a schedule and syllabus for the year 2020 very soon!
Thank you.

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Reflections from our time with the Inapang churches…

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’  Mt.1:23

Dear Praying Team,

We’ve just returned from a two month visit with the Inapang churches in the Ramu Valley here in PNG. What a blessing it was to be back with our citizen and ex-pat team there and to see the continued growth among our brothers and sisters.

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The Lord’s Supper with the Itutang church

This general update is one of reflection and of encouragement and thanks. Thanks to those of you who give and pray so that we might continue to be part of the local church and life of Itutang and thanks to Jesus Christ who gives us all a reason to celebrate this community we have through his Death and Resurrection. In the coming weeks, we will be sending out two more updates following this general report of our time in Itutang. One will highlight the giving towards the Ramu Valley Academy this year and the second will be a short narrative about a horrific drowning that took place on the banks of our Guam River right outside our house and the response of the family who lost their young son. There is truly a spiritual battle going on and we are thankful that the Author of Creation saw fit to write down the “end game” to keep us encouraged in our earthly fight as we journey together towards that celestial city. We are thankful that when the King returns, all the rules change and we certainly look forward to that day when Faith becomes finally Sight.

This Visit was a Time of Reflection…

In the initial days of missionary team formation we, like most missionaries, thought that our  “team” will always be these two or three families who are setting out to bring good news to a new language group. We pray, like most new teams, that we will stick it out together to see the work to its completion and maturity. Those are good and worthy and biblical thoughts and prayers, if short-sighted. Now, standing on the ridge of 15 years of church planting and look back over the valley we’ve traveled and consider what we thought then and what we hear from our local church elders today, we realize that our vision was incomplete.  For us, that initial “team” formation was crucial and we were blessed with some of the best families we could’ve asked for. But, that “team” lasted only three years before the gospel intervened and transformed our “team” to include more than just us. Now, brothers and sisters from Itutang who were now filled with the same Spirit, they now had the same seeds of the weight of the Great Commission and a desire to pursue holiness growing inside them as we had. Our team had expanded.  Our Body had grown. The long-term team that we often forget to strategize toward in tribal missions is truly that integrated Body of Christ. And, as we have matured alongside of them in our understanding of tribal church planting, we have come to see that our lives must bend to this Body, this team, their needs, and their community and ways of dealing with “the world” in their culture through the application of biblical teaching and practice. Finding  true relationship in the world of tribal missions often means putting off your own expectations of “community” and being accepted authentically into their real lives and together functioning as the Body of Christ. These new indigenous team members are wise and godly men and women who would surprise you with their knowledge of both Scripture and…their insights into the missionaries’ lives that they have been witnessing for over a decade. We all have much to learn from them if we take time to listen. For those of us who want to be part of the answer for more interdependent relationships within the local national churches, these men and women hold a wealth of wisdom and we are thankful to be able to learn from them. 

The local church team and community that exists in Itutang today is one that has an inter-dependent core of leaders including ourselves, the men of God who the Lord has called to serve as elders and their wives, the church deacons and their wives, Promise Vaughan, and the believers of the Inapang churches. Our time in Itutang this CHRISTmas season was a sweet one full of care, community, and CHRIST. Our souls were fed as we sat under the elders’ teaching through 2 Peter. Our hearts were encouraged as we were cared for and encouraged by the body of Christ and the raw and real community there – a community the world would call one of poverty and yet they are rich. They are not only rich with the endurance that comes through suffering and trusting in Christ alone, but also rich in their wisdom and their hope of eternal glory. They live and long for that celestial world and their joy in that hope contagiously affects those who rub shoulders with them and gives way to new and deeper longing for the eternal inheritance than one had before. In the coming weeks, we will share with you Anton’s story – an elder in Itutang who has just experienced the terrible loss of his son. His wisdom, his grace, his faith in Christ Jesus have shown us that there is a maturity there that sometimes we fail to see in ourselves and other missionaries here on the field. Life here is not an adventure for them. It is real and raw and painful and the maturity that comes through living on the edge with nothing to hold onto but Christ is something that calls us to awe in the One True God from whom all strength comes. These believers are our heroes. The world offers them no comforts. They are men and women of whom this world is not worthy, but you will see them in heaven. They will be sitting with kings and will be enjoying the rewards of their suffering and fruit and labor and trust that they walked in during their painful years here.

So many times this visit, we had people come and sit and thank us for coming and for staying and for being the mouths that brought the message of eternal salvation that they cling to now. We tell you that so that you might hear this: We could not have come with this saving message of hope without you, our team, behind us. Thank you for making a difference in their eternities. Thank you for giving. For praying. For encouraging. For visiting. Your labors also are not in vain and one day you will see the fruit of your labor, rejoicing around the Throne. And the work is certainly not done in the Ramu Valley, so please keep praying.

Although our hearts long for our family at home and our hearts are heavy to be away during this holiday season, we are so thankful to be here doing what He has called us to do.  We love this job and still feel the privilege and the responsibility of it every day. We long for the day when we stand before the Master of the Harvest and want more than anything to hear Him say, “Well done. You worked with my children where I sent you and with power that I gave you. Enter into your rest.” Thank you for being there so that we can be here.

By God’s Grace and For His Glory~ 

Bill and Kelley

An extra! 🙂 From the dissertation called “From paternalism and dependency to partnership and interdependency: Transformation of mission within the Reformed Churches in South Africa in the KOSH Region in post-apartheid South Africa” by Young Moo Kim:Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 6.41.00 AM

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 6.41.09 AMTo read more of this dissertation, click here

 

 

His Provision & Blessing…the rest of the story

“…in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.” Ps.68:10

IMG_4433Bill bought RVA a wheelbarrow and we’re ready to work…as soon as we return from our time in Itutang –  January 3rd!!!  🙂

YHWH Yireh
His Provision and Blessing Through Repentance

A story of God’s work this week and a financial update

We are more and more convinced that our God is not just interested in the end (since He is already reigning); he is also  VERY interested in the means of our lives. Sometimes the circumstances of our lives throw us headlong into unexpected and unwarranted difficulties or misunderstanding. Sometimes sinful heart issues keep us spiraling in an unloving pattern of behavior that pulls us down spiritually. Sometimes the physical pain and sicknesses of this fallen ground seem to battling to remove all truth from our hearts that God is perfectly good in his sovereignty. The unending list goes on and on like the digits of pi, which makes it quite easy in the midst of our valleys to have the truth of God’s grace in our lives suffocated by the smoke of doubt and unbelief. That is when we must be grounded in His character and what He says about the lives of His disciples (Lk.21). His Word tells me that his goal for me isn’t first and foremost about my happiness (notice I didn’t say joy) or my wealth or physical contentment or that I have a positive social network who “like” me. It’s not even that I have an overall sense of well being and comfort. No, His goal for me is much more lofty.  His goal for me is to be broken, suffering, dependent…and still full of Joy. And, because of who He is, He promises not to let one sin destroy that good plan He has for me. He promises to discipline and train my heart to seek only Him…and then He does it!

Theory to Practice…
This past week as Bill and I sat in our little morning spot on the porch swing, we watched the sun rise over the vast Pacific Ocean. We read and prayed through the list of people and concerns that have etched their needs on our hearts the last couple of years. We also prayed again for pure hearts and for forgiveness of others as we ourselves have been forgiven. When we were done, I went upstairs to make the bed and sat for a moment looking out the window to the property down below where we want to build the Ramu Valley PNG school. I was struck once again by the hugeness of the endeavor before us and our own not-enoughness and I prayed again for His wisdom and His blessing and that He would establish the work of our hands. As I sat still on the edge of the bed, the Lord spoke the way He does when we are quiet and broken before Him and he said very clearly to my heart, “My blessing comes through repentance.” What?! I sat longer, waiting to make sense of what He was saying. And, because He is a good Father who doesn’t hide his wisdom from His children, He brought to mind something that Bill and I had forgiven, but like a child with a security blanket, were still grasping on to that one little corner. When I talked to Bill about it, he agreed and for a couple of hours that slow Saturday morning, we discussed and prayed… and we let go. It’s such a weight that is lifted when sin is confessed isn’t it? The next day was good and the national pastor at church was used as another living conduit as he spoke about the very things Bill and had discussed together the day before – even using one of the same passages. I love God’s Word and the way it is truly ALIVE and  how he uses it to give direction and confirm what He is teaching us again and again. 

The next morning, we woke up, read, prayed and thanked the Lord for always working to make us more like Him and asked for his daily help once again. Then, we started the day, busily trying to get things together for moving back into the bush this coming week. Later on, when Bill was in town buying supplies, I got a text from a friend who works at a fellow missionary training centre asking about our RVA fundraising. I told him the remaining amount and just as calmly as could be, he texted back saying that there would be an official letter coming, but that they would be able to help finish off a good portion of that amount for us! What?! I sat down on the floor covered in tears and worshipped. He is the Provider. He provides for the needy..those with physical needs and those with spiritual needs….sometimes He provides both at the same time! He doesn’t just want to work through us. He wants to work IN us. He wants to make us pure vessels that He can use for His glory. He wants to break us so that we know that Our only boast is CHRIST’s WORK & GRACE in our lives. What treasure in such unworthy jars of clay!  What pleasure to build this school so that others can KNOW THIS AMAZING & PERSONAL GOD MORE and MAKE HIM KNOWN here in Papua New Guinea! We are thankful for the believers scattered through the Ramu Valley this morning who are praying with us and trusting in Christ and who are being blessed because of the Body of Christ spread around the world. We are thankful to know that HE has WON the battle and that though there are trials and wounds galore on this fallen earth, the Song of the Lamb is not fading.  No, it is growing in strength and volume as we see those from every tongue, tribe and nation join our numbers to sing with us, “He is Worthy!”

So that’s our story – a little longer than some of the previous updates, but we wanted to share these three things as we walk along the Ramu Valley journey that began so many years ago in a little village called Itutang. 1. God doesn’t need us to do this work; He gives us the privilege of joining Him in His mission. 2. Bill and Kelley are two rotten sin bombs (thanks Tami Hughes for the new lingo) like every other messy, maturing Christian and still need prayers daily that we will walk humbly with our God, and 3. God’s WORD is always fruitful in His children, leading us towards personal repentance and holiness. So, we couldn’t just report numbers this month without letting you know the spiritual work that He is doing along the way….BUT, we do need to officially include the numbers, so here goes:

$544,000         Total Goal
-$499,210.02   Total Raised
 $44,789.98     Left to go!

In 7 months, the Lord has been so kind to raise up the funds to this amount already. We will be going bush in just a few days and then we will be out of contact for a couple of months ‘til the NEW YEAR!  We are confident that in January of 2019, YHWH Yireh will have gathered up all the resources that we need, both finances and people, to make 2019 – the year He built a school to support the local churches here in Madang Province, PNG. Please also keep praying for the specific future students that the Lord will raise up for us to disciple here at RVA! Praising God for his provision this morning through YOU – the Body of Christ!  Now, to steal from one of our heroes, William Carey… we are expecting great things from God and will attempt great things for God because #HeIsWorthy.
 
By HIS Grace and for HIS Glory~
Bill and Kelley