Missionary Journeys and… Literacy Coming to a Brand New People Group!!! A More Detailed Update of our Last Two Weeks for Supporters!
“…Paul sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” Acts 20:17
Thank you for your constant prayers and encouragement to us. We have had a very FULL two weeks in the Ramu Valley and are so excited to report to you what the Lord has been doing! This is a longer report for our supporters who want to know what we are doing in more detail so no guilt if you don’t read on! 🙂 Thanks for being a part!
Conference Time Out
Two weeks ago, we had a lovely conference up in the highlands meeting together with other fellow missionaries serving here in the Central Area of PNG. The full-time support staff and all the new missionaries waiting on allocation did a fantastic job of hosting, encouraging, and making us all laugh, too. The visiting church team from the US shared refreshing and convicting messages that we all benefited from very much. So thankful for the support teams that are spread around the country to facilitate the church planting works in the bush going strong. They are many times the unsung heroes and often the backbone of the Church Development movement here in PNG. After conference and after a few short teaching modules back at the orientation centre in Madang, we headed home to Itutang for another visit.
Itutang & Our Sending Churches Touch Once Again
We woke up early and loaded several heavy boxes of Bible Curriculum onto the dolly and then loaded them into the 4-wheel Land Cruiser. Ben Gauntlett, one of our favorite support team drivers, loaded us up along with one of the leadership couples from NTM Germany and we were off. Up the beautiful North Coast Road, past beautiful beaches and volcanoes, into Bogia township. We sat on the public boat dock and waited for our ride. The NTM helicopter made a perfect landing againstthe backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and we were off. Up over Manam volcano and across a vast inhabited jungle and back to our little home in Itutang village. We were greeted by Promise Vaughan, who works next to us with some bilinguals for the Tangguat ministry along her visiting missions pastor and his wife. They spent the next three days understanding the Inapang and Tangguat works and forming relationships with the people and us, hearing their hearts and administering sweet member care to our PNG-American village church team. Thankful for churches who are willing to spend and be spent to visit their missionaries on the ground and gather a complete picture of the church and her needs and then give welcomed advice and input. We were able to connect with sweet believing friends again, feast together every night on the sweet Itutang hospitality, and hear the struggles and joys that continue to face our home church in Itutang. We were encouraged by a new “elder in training” who shared God’s Word and by the mature elders who stood up after him and gave everyone even deeper insights and exhortations after the teaching of the Sunday passages.
Pray for the tribal church leaders, guys. They are pastors who deal with messy churches. They don’t get to write updates and post their results on social media. They just quietly work where the Lord has placed them and patiently look towards heaven. We are humbled and honored to be their co-workers. They will be the honored princes one day.
When the King returns, all the rules change.
First Books in a New Language
The following week, the visitors were off – back to America – and Promise and I and two of our Itutang Literacy Supervisors headed to the neighboring people group to assist the missionary team there in the formatting and writing of their first literacy primers in this mother tongue! Thankful for the Itutang supervisors, Ambo and Vinansus, who are bilingual and helped write some of the Reader material for the teams. Thankful also for Promise who came along and provided invaluable help and phonemic analysis input to the team there! The team itself has worked super hard and has done an immaculate job in their language learning, culture documentation, and literacy prep. The team has also had some really hard hits this year (deaths of parents at home, loss of a baby, medical medevacs) and we were encouraged by the way they (and their kids) are able to verbalize a new higher dependency and need to trust in Jesus. One of the little girls on the team wrote a song that spoke about the loss of the much anticipated sibling and how in the end we “...just gotta trust in Jesus.” Such a sweet time with the Kaje team and they accomplished 6 of their 8 needed books in a very short few days. Please be praying for the Goheens and Myers families as they continue on toward the presentation of the gospel message in this language. It was so fun to be representatives of three language groups working together and modeling the spirit of unity. Before they even hear Christ – we hope we help them see Him.
While Promise and I worked in the neighboring language group, Bill embarked on his own missionary journey to visit the 8 Inapang churches as well as the one in Tangguat. Over all, he walked more than 50 miles for the sake of meeting with Bible teachers and elders in each village church throughout the language group and offering encouragement and exhortation to them through the Word of God and a personal visit. He was encouraged by those he met with in each village and was reminded again that maturity is a messy process – but a miracle and work of God when we remember where they came from just years ago and where they are today.
The Bible teachers and elders all met up with him again early Thursday morning. This time they all hiked to him and met in the translation office. He was able to distribute more teaching curriculum to the churches that aren’t writing their own lessons yet and also books of the translated portions that we have in the Inapang language. He was also able to say goodbye one more time to them all as we head out the end of the year for a much anticipated time of rest at home in the US. After these meetings, Bill hiked once again over and found Promise and I. Promise hiked back home with the Itutang guys after our literacy goals were met and Bill and I hiked back out to the station where Ben G was once again waiting with that blessed 4-wheel drive vehicle and we loaded in our sweaty, stinky bodies and took off for our 5-hour drive back down the coast to Madang.
No Rest For the Weary 🙂
We arrived in Madang and the next day, we began PNG Field Leadership Team meetings. Bill is involved as the Church Development Director and I take minutes so it is always a busy week. We are so thankful for the leadership team here at this time. Such a joy to work and watch them process together. One of the items on their busy agenda was our proposal for the Ramu Valley Academy project! We have been thinking about this for many years and have been in process of passing this proposal through for the last year, now. So, we were elated that the PNG team here have given final approval! We had been fasting and praying this week with our churches in America and in Itutang that if this is something the Lord wants to do that it would be passed this time around and if not, that he would shut it down for us. We just wanted a little confirmation from Him as we step out into this next area of need for the Itutang church. Our PNG team here is forward thinking and will try this with us and evaluate the effects on the local churches and we are SO thankful!!! This vision started many years ago in Itutang and the details came together around the campfires of our Itutang church elders and as we brainstormed with them and now here we are! We will have more on this once we talk with our leadership team in the US and others and will let you know how you can be a part very soon. Thanks for all who have prayed. This was a huge blessing to our hearts this week. As many of you know, this has been a rough year in our lives and the life of our church and we are thankful that in all that comes, He keeps giving the grace for the Itutang church and us to say, “Blessed be the name of our Lord.” He.Is.Worth.It.
We can’t say THANK YOU enough. We could never be here without you and we can’t wait to see some of you face to face next year. We are beginning to think about our furlough plans and would love to add a visit with you to our list. Just let us know via email if you’re interested!
By His Amazing Grace and For His Glory Alone,
Bill and Kelley