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.
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:
To read more of this dissertation, click here