10 Years With the Gospel: ANNIVERSARY UPDATE

The ‘Wanbel’ Factor & Its Affect on the Gospel Reception in Remote & Unreached Places…Ten Years Later

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”   Romans 6:17-18

 

 fullsizeoutput_1615A Tale of Two Testimonies and a Decade to Prove It

Many of you will remember the day – exactly 10 years ago today- when the Story of God & Mankind culminated in the narrative of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  On September 19, 2007, we wrote:

“The people sat and listened to the story of the cross today and then watched the short drama. As we broke into groups afterward, we were encouraged with what we heard.  It was a long day as we sat and listened and talked, but they are very much in awe of the fact that He was perfect and clean and yet he died…in fact without fighting back when he COULD have.  He had all power to do whatever he wanted and yet he WILLINGLY DIED FOR SINFUL UNDESERVING MEN!!!! 

That was an amazing day – and week.  We remember specifically hearing the testimonies of “Alambarə” and Gumentige in particular and rejoicing.  But, as we listened to testimonies, we listened with ears and hearts which knew from our culture study that Wanbel Factor was going to skew what we would be hearing initially and that the litmus test would be time…discipleship…and then more time. Today, ten years later, only one of these two men ever showed the fruits of belief. What happened?

What is the Wanbel Factor?

Social Harmony is a phenomenon of unity in PNG.  It is called in the local dialect ‘wanbel.’  This means literally ‘one belly’ or ‘one stomach’ and exposes one of the major themes of their culture, which is to live in agreement and for the village to “sit down together with cool stomachs.”  Other cargo cults beliefs can also play into this as some cultures believe that once a society finds the right words and actions to do with ‘wanbel’, they will find the literal road to western cargo and the margin between the living standard of the west and this third world culture will finally close. ‘Wanbel’ exists in cultures throughout PNG, although the implications and rituals will differ from culture to culture. Do you see some possible conflict of interest when the gospel is presented? Even reading this very modest definition of ‘wanbel’, the spiritual mind, although unfamiliar with PNG culture, begins to see the potential for “rice Christians” – people who are committing verbally to Christ for other underlying reasons. As Christians, we are never promised health, wealth, prosperity or ‘wanbel’ here on earth across the board. Luke 12:51 reminds us that Jesus himself asked, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you but rather division.”  The theme is throughout the entire Bible from beginning to end.  We see the burgeoning effects of sin on mankind culminate into a stream of constant divisions between those who repent in humility and those who rebel in self exertion. In many times and cultures, confessing with your mouth would result not only in division, but in instant persecution and possibility of death. But, what about wanbel cultures where the gospel is sometimes embraced without thoughtful consideration as a societal expectation?

The “Wanbel” Factor & Its Effects on the Gospel in Remote Unreached Places

So, how is the presentation of the gospel affected when dealing with the PNG ‘wanbel’ system which accepts the gospel as a whole society and what does the serious church planter  and missionary do about it?

First, we must know the languages and cultures in which we work. This understanding is essential.  We are bringing Christ’s very own good news to men. It is an important stewardship and calls us to predict, preach…and then disciple well. We must study culture well and understand that in many unreached and isolated societies where they have no formal religion prohibiting them from hearing the gospel, there usually has been a hopeless feeling of disconnect from the modern world and very little outside influence of any kind. When the missionary arrives and seemingly has life and material goods figured out and since there isn’t much else vying for the village’s attention, the missionary can often expect a village-wide turnout. Part of culture study is realizing that if the gospel is at that time truly believed and accepted by a majority of the village, it may be expected that ALL members of a wanbel society make a profession to this new allegiance together in hopes for true social harmony that will lead to the other cargo cult fulfillments. In this type of ‘wanbel’ society, it can also be predicted that any change, including the gospel, will most likely be embraced initially in full by the entire society with little to no persecution. This is very good as it provides the long-term church planter with an open area to work for many years.  This is also very bad because the purity of the universal church and the church’s growth throughout history has been brought about by such persecution.

Secondly, as church planters, we must pray for wisdom and be in it for the long haul. Time will tell.  That’s discipleship.  We must take the time to finish the work. We know from Scripture that God’s Word will not return void and he calls us to more than just preaching.  He calls to “make disciples of all nations” which requires that we spend time with people, hearing their testimonies and asking questions to make sure they understand the gospel well. And then, we wait.  While we wait, we do life with them. And while we do life, we give time for the Word to do its work – to divide the wheat from the tares.  We keep teaching and exhorting and praying.  This is a time for waiting on Christ.  Abiding in him and trusting him with the results. When we first presented the gospel, almost every adult in the village made a verbal profession of faith. Ten years later, in accordance with the parable of the sower, about 50% of these are still following, faithful or fruitful. Like the parable, many never had any change of heart or change of allegiance.  Some have even become cargo cult leaders who are actually persecuting and hostile towards the present day leadership of the village church once their cargo cult dreams were not realized. They followed the gospel like Judas who followed Christ while the going was good, but time tells the whole story.

In conclusion, as church planters working among the unreached and isolated, the gospel may be accepted well and without hesitation, which will require wisdom. When church planters are dealing with cultural implications on every universal level of life, they must think clearly.  Know the culture.  Know the worldview.  Be able to predict the response this particular culture will have to the gospel.  And, then stay to help them wade through the aftermath of the gospel impact on their culture.  Stay long after the “new” of the teaching has worn off and the confessions grow cold.  Stay courageously through the sicknesses, the deaths, and the persecution.  Help those who are walking in their new faith to keep their eyes fixed on that greater weight of glory and the hope that we have been promised.

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 9.00.21 PMTen Years Faithful 

As we continue to pray for “Alambarə,” we rest in the fact that he has heard the truth – many times.  And we rejoice in what the Lord is doing in those who have believed and their ongoing burden for those who have not believed and those who still have never heard. Take a look back at some of the first confessions of Kletus Gumentige, who has been functioning as a church elder for 7 years.  Gumentige saw his sin and repented and then began to see the entire culture around him with clear spiritual eyes:

September 19, 2007 ~ Today as Bill talked with Gumentige (Kletus) and some of the guys today, he read in Isaiah where it says that all who fashion idols for worshipping are fools.  Gumentige said to Bill, “That’s us right there…fools.  Remember when we went over to the other village and you saw our custom where we blow the bamboo pipes for the spirits?  Well, we had a meeting before that and said…maybe if we show the white man our biggest custom, they’ll show us their customs and we can find the road to money.  That was so stupid!  Now, I am thinking that God let us think like that and used our bad thinking to put our sin right out in the open.”  

This is only the work of a good, and sovereign God and He alone is worthy of praise.  May we all see our own cultures with as clear a view today. Please pray for Gumetintige and the other church leadership.  Pray for us as we continue to work and serve the Inapang church and finish the translation.  Our Itutang elders will be coming out to the orientation campus next week to share with the new missionaries and teach a couple of modules.  Please pray for them and Promise as they travel out via canoe/road.  Thank you for your faithful prayer and support these many years.  We LOVE being your ambassadors and serving side by side with you for the glory of the Only One Who Is Worthy! 

By God’s Grace and For His Glory~

The Housleys

Still Urgent, Because He is Still Worth It

Dear Praying Friends,

Thirteen years ago, we had just moved into Itutang and had begun to settle when the death of a child in the village jolted us to think about urgency once again.  Read again an email journal entry by Bill from August 24, 2004, a reminder that the need for urgency isn’t dead. Today, there are still those who are waiting for someone to learn their language and tell them the gospel story…and that He was and still is WORTH IT.

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August 25, 2004 Email Journal Entry…

Last week a young baby in our village died.  One day the little girl was fine and then a few days later, she was gone.  About 9 months of life and care…gone in a moment.  Yes, there was mourning and grief here, but mostly stone cold emotions.  The people here deal with death on a constant basis.  There is no way to cover it up, ignore it, or act as if it doesn’t happen.  It is always there, lurking everywhere. As we were walking through the village yesterday to go for a swim, my daughter said, “Dad, we need to hurry up and teach the gospel before another baby dies.” What Sabra was referring to is a thought that we have always tried to keep before us…URGENCY.  But, as I meditated on what she had said, another thought came to my mind…Why should we be urgent in our ministries and in our lives?

 We are urgent first and foremost, NOT for the sake of dying people…but for the GLORY OF GOD. Lost dying people in Itutang on their way to a tormented eternity without Christ is simply our family’s outlet of our zeal to glorify God with the breath and life He has given us today.  Let us each loosen our grip of everything in our lives that quenches this urgency…I find here in Itutang it is the simple things that keep me from being urgent…and it is usually those small things that I a doing to make myself more comfortable. For five months I have lived in a tent, eating without screens, plagued with the local insect life. Now, we have finished the screening on our home and have created a “safe haven” to relax in. Is this REALLY better?  For health and sanity I have to say it is. But, now we have a new battle to fight…the ease of sliding back home and closing the screen door and spending “urgent” time being comfortable.  We are not called to be comfortable in this lifetime. We are called to be soldiers…in active duty!  Our prayer for us and for you is that EVRY DAY we would fight the desire to be comfortable and use what comforts God does bestow on our lives to further enable us and ready us to be effective in sharing our hope in God with others.

By God’s Grace & For His Glory~

The Housleys

What a difference a decade makes…

Ten years ago, on this day….On August 24, 2007 we were 26 days away from presenting the final lessons of our 4-month Creation to Christ teaching in the first village of Itutang.  The following email was sent to our prayer warriors ten years ago today:

PRAYING FOR NIMANKAR

Today they (the Itutang village) heard about how the Spirit of the Lord came down on Jesus as he was baptized.  One of the meekest guys in the village came up after and said…do you think that if we believe in Christ that his Spirit will help us too.  Since we are always on the lookout for questions that might be coming from a heart of animistic manipulation or cargo cult, Bill started into an explanation of how the Help of the Spirit wasn’t for personal gain, for wealth, for…

Nimankar stopped him and said, “Bill, I hear what you are saying, but that’s not what I am asking.  I have heard God’s law and what He expects and I can’t do it.  What I am asking is if I “hang on” His talk, will He help me?”

OK. Fast forward one month later and Nimankar became a Christian.  Now, fast forward ten years later and Nimankar’s name is one of the one’s who went up for eldership this week with no discussion.  This is the definition of faithfulness or as Eugene Pederson writes, “long obedience in the same direction.” We are thankful for those of your who were praying for Nimankar then and are still praying for the church today.  We are also thankful for the hours of time that Matthias Mueller spent with this man while they were in Itutang before their medical, which also happened exactly ten years ago today.  Matthias’ influence in Nimankar’s life had a eternal impact on this man. We love you all and love watching what a decade does to a village full of souls. But, the work is not done, there are still more waiting to hear and souls that slip every day into a Christless eternity.  He is worth it. So, our question is….WHO ARE YOU IMPACTING TODAY?  It may be the difference in eternal destinations.

To hear more from Nimankar, click here 

By God’s Grace & for His Glory~

The Housleys

The Word of God is Not Bound!

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Just a few bowls of food for Promise, us and our elders from the U.S…..and the Swenson family, who completed their bush orientation with the Itutang church

Dear Praying Friends,

Good Morning from PNG!  We count it a privilege to have so many of you faithfully praying and standing with us still. It has been quite the year and we are thankful that on the good days and the bad days, we have Jesus ~ the immutable constant in our lives.  Knowing that his plans, his character and his mercies never fail and that he is collecting workers and building his church exactly the way that He wants to build it always gives us hope. Bill is presently translating 2 Timothy and studying through it together with the new orientee families here.  This week’s passage begins with…

“But the Word of God is not bound! So, I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”

What a great reminder as we read this together this morning to press on because He is truly Worthy – and no other reason. Some of you are asking for more details about how we and the other works around us are doing and we are thrilled for the vision that you continue to hold with us as this network builds. Here’s a quick update on the churches and future church plants around the Ramu and ways you can support with prayer:

Inapang:

Bill is on the phone with Anton as I write. The church is doing well – with all the normal struggles and heavies that come with living in community. They were encouraged by a visit by our co-worker, Daniel, recently. He was able to meet with many of the Bible teachers from the other 8 churches and was especially encouraged by the 5th church plant, which is about 3 hours away from us. The Itutang church is currently in the process of choosing more elders and deacons to help in the work and that has been quite a process and they could use your prayers for that. Please pray for the elders as they are carrying a lot of responsibility at the moment. They are no different from us – they get tired and need breaks and encouragement.  In fact, if any of you would feel led to write an email of encouragement to these men in English, we would love to pass it on to them when we visit again in the coming months. Just send it to bill_housley@ntm.org  Thank you!!!

Tangguat:

Promise is faithfully working on the translation project and although she has finished the draft of the book of Romans, there is still much checking and revising to do.  Please pray for her as there have been many distractions (both good and not so good) in the village and life in general.  Pray for stamina! She’s doing no easy job. From Promise, we have heard that the Itutang elders have continued to hold this work at levels that they hadn’t anticipated and they are still doing it amidst accusations that they aren’t doing enough. The elders have voiced concerns to Promise about the church disappearing altogether. It has been a continued challenge as the original teachers have disqualified themselves on different levels (either not teaching well or for sin issues), but the Lord is bringing up some key men who are newer believers to carry on with the work. There is a huge need for discipleship here. At a meeting this week on location at the Tangguat church, about 5 people showed up with a couple trickling in at the end. One of the cargo cult leaders also showed up and accused the Itutang elders of hiding information and the missionaries of not fulfilling their promises. This was discouraging for the elders, but they continue on with integrity. Anton called after this and reviewed with Bill how they had handled it and we are so thankful for the wisdom and love they still have for people who are so unthankful and full of false narratives. There are  people in two other Tangguat villages who want literacy and to hear the the Creation to Christ teaching, but have no one to teach them at the moment. Pray for men who know this language to be raised up and made ready to tell the life-giving story. Pray for the souls in these other two villages who are waiting.  Also continue to pray for encouragement for Promise and the ongoing translation process.

Iski:

This church is post-gospel and many of you have been following their updates already. God has been very good.  The church is alive with many believers. But, the nourishing work of discipling them through their real life day by day is just beginning.  Please pray for this team as they purpose to work together to disciple the Iski by walking through life and the rest of the NT with them.

Kaje:

Exciting days for this group! They are on the verge of finishing their orthography and beginning the literacy prep needed for developing their first set of books in the Kaje language! We just met with them tonight and are hoping that we and the Itutang literacy supervisors and another literacy consultant will be able to make a visit in the coming months!  The team has worked well and have been an excellent testimony.  We were able to talk with some men from the Kaje village this week and are encouraged by the relationships there as they talked so highly of Jon and Taylor and their wives.  The team is shooting for presenting the gospel in about a year’s time!  Pray for team unity, wisdom and stamina for the coming days as well as hearts who are prepared to hear truth very soon!

Housleys:

We are so thankful when we look at the work the Lord has done in the Valley in the last decade and we see clearly that the Word of God IS NOT BOUND!  IT WILL GO FORTH!  Hallelujah!  We are also super excited and thankful that we will be……grandparents soon!  This, of course, called for a change in our schedule for the coming year and we are looking forward to coming home and connecting with many of you that we haven’t seen since 2008-9 when we took a furlough trip through the States. Hoping to see many of you soon and encourage you and be encouraged by you as we share more face to face!

Thanks for standing with us in prayer as we work here.  We love being part of a team who encourages and pushes us back toward Christ and the strength that only comes from Him! We love being your ambassadors here in the Ramu Valley!

 By God’s Grace and For His Glory~

Bill and Kelley

From Radical.net

Read about our friend and brother, Anton, in this blog from Radical.net called “Unreached to Disciple-Maker”

http://www.radical.net/blog/post/from-unreached-to-disciple-maker-a-testimony

A special thanks with this blog goes out to those of you who have served so faithfully by continuing in prayer for the Inapang and all its ministries. Some of you have served in prayer and giving  for the last 13 years of our ministry. Thank you. We are all such dumb and broken vessels and yet the Lord puts us together in teams to build his church. Amazing Grace. 

By God’s Grace and For His Glory~

The Housleys 

“I Have Hidden Your Words in My Heart”

“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you….I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us.”  Psalm 119.11,13

As most of you know, Bill and I are out of the tribe right now. We constantly pray and call and correspond with Promise and the church there in Itutang, but its not the same as being there in person and hearing their daily stories face to face of God’s provisions.  But today, this week, this is where we are – living vicariously through Promise who is on the ground with the church there. 🙂   This past week she related some news and we asked her to write it up for us to edit and share with you.  Please read and be encouraged:

A small group slowly gathered at the Itutang village church. Some with eager anticipation of an afternoon’s entertainment. Some with nervous laughs and comments as they contemplated what they were about to attempt. They drifted in one by one and sat around the edge –  other than a few brave men who made their way up front. The Inapang church is memorizing and reciting Romans 8:1-18.

As some of you know, when you are translating into previously unwritten tribal languages, there is often no neat compact word to sum up a concept like “propitiation” or “justification.”  Often, it takes a phrase that actually describes the process. Understanding that, think about Romans 8:1-18 in English.  Nice and compact and still a challenge for us to memorize.  Well, Romans 8:1-18 in Inapang is about twice as long as it is packed with terminology that has to then be meticulously unpacked for the reader to understand the meaning clearly in his mother tongut.  Memorizing these 18 verses in Inapang is a big deal.

Cletus (Inapang church elder) started off the afternoon by standing at the front of the church and confidently reciting Romans 8:1-11 in Inapang. When he finished, the crowd clapped with enthusiasm and expressed their amazement—a nearly word for word recitation! In Inapang! (Those eleven verses are about 300 words in English, but again, it takes 800 words to say the same thing in Inapang.)

One by one, others went to the front of the church to recite some verses from Romans 8. Some recited several verses. Others just one or two. Several ladies and teenage girls joined the recitation in spite of nervousness and some trembling voices. Everyone who had studied was encouraged to try and the results were met enthusiastic clapping and encouragement.

Looking around during the gatherings, one thought that would come quickly to the mind of many Western observers is, “Where else in the world is reciting Scripture on a Sunday afternoon the most interesting thing happening in town?” It’s one aspect of Itutang village we love—the interest in God’s Word.

This past Sunday, one month after the first gathering, the group gathered again. This time Anton (Inapang church elder) started off and recited Romans 8:1-18 all the way through—the only person so far to complete the entire passage at once. Three others continued on from where they left off the month before and also finished. Several other men recited the next verses they had learned. Then, with some trembling, the ladies and teenage girls took their turns standing in front of the group and reciting their verses. Clapping, handshakes, and words of encouragement were given to all those who recited – whether one verse or eighteen.

At the end, Anton distributed bright yellow t-shirts to those who had completed the entire  passage and reminded the others that more t-shirts await those who complete the passage next month.

Outside the gatherings, you would have heard Cletus, Anton, and others discussing this passage that they have now spent weeks meditating on and marveling again about the wonderful truths it contains as they summarized its teaching from our glorious salvation that begins the passage all the way down to the wonderful truth in verse 18 – All the heartaches and pains of this life seem trivial compared with what is awaiting believers.

We are so encouraged that with the knocks and tumbles of this life – with the verbal persecution and the hard life that they endure every day– that they are still finding their hope in the Word of God…and are hiding it in their hearts!  Please pray that the Lord would use these memeorized verses to bring these truths to light during their day to day life and give the STRENGTH and JOY..and keep them from sinning against our Great God. 

 

The Body of Christ – Brothers and Sisters of the Same Father

“So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individual members one of another.” Romans 12:5

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So thankful to have had the opportunity to host believers from several people groups around PNG this week at the Madang Training & Recruitment Centre for various meetings. Three of our own Itutang elders and one of our literacy teachers joined our PNG literacy consultant team for the introduction of some new literacy software that is going to make constructing the materials for new indigenous literacy programs much easier and more accurate.  They did a great job and we are excited to try it out on our own literacy materials and do some revisions as we move into a more kid-oriented program in the future as adult literacy is coming to an end in our language group. Thankful for the McDaniels, our NTM International Literacy Consultants, who flew in for this workshop with us. What a blessing to learn from them!

Besides the literacy workshop, the Field Leadership Team was also in full swing.  Two of the elders from the Islands area of PNG sat in with our Directors to discuss some key Church Development issues, which is affecting some of our tribal churches.  So thankful for these wise men who are able to think biblically and are concerned about the gospel, for its opportunities outside their borders and for their next generation of believers.  We also had a few men from another area here in Madang who shared a burden on their hearts concerning partnering with a local church to so a cross cultural outreach.  Please pray for the tribal churches of PNG!

Many nights this week, Bill was found out with the men listening in the background to the conversations between these tribal church elders.  Thankful especially for Kaikou and Kewaka who have been to Itutang several times before to give us church evaluations and just spend time with the leaders in our church.  Our elders carry such a large burden as they look after their church and support the other 7 churches in the Inapang language group.  So, it was good to see them be able to discuss their own worries and concerns and have other older elders listening and giving input.  What a blessing.  Spending nights out talking with all of these amazing believing men and women, we are reminded once again of the realness of the need, the urgency of the task and the stewardship that we have to do what we have been sent here to do. Thank you for your monthly prayer and support that allow us to serve the Inapang churches and work to train men and women who have come to join the team and help in the task. 

A short story:

You will remember hearing about Joshua and Amelia.  They are an Itutang couple who moved out to Madang with us when we began living itinerant here.  They have been excellent and faithful co-workers and have been such an encouragement to every new orientee family who comes through the training program here as they pour into their lives.  We absolutely love their hearts. 

A man named Ato stood before the class of new families and pointed out the places on the map around him.  Places where they have family and friends who are asking to hear the gospel, but no one working in that language group yet.  Amelia was shaking her head as she listened and whispered under her breath, “God, please send someone to help them.” As they listened to these men from the Mibu tribe share their story and needs, they were both burdened. They wanted to help.  What could they do?  As you can imagine, living on the centre here, they receive a lot of clothes and small things from missionaries who are passing through. They keep an action packer full of these things for times just like this.  They pulled out the box and took out some clothes and things and packed them together and went to find the two men.  Amelia came over so excited the next day because they were already wearing the clothes that they had passed on to them.  She said, “This is what we are supposed to do.  Some people give to us and we give to others.  This is what the Body of Christ does.”  Amen and Amen.  Please pray for Joshua and Amelia as she is now pregnant with her second child.  She has lost one in labor before, so please pray for a healthy delivery here next fall!

Today, about 30 men and women from Itutang and Mbongen village came to the centre in Madang to pick up our elders and take them back up North Coast Road to catch the motor canoe back into our little neck of the woods called Itutang. Anton shook hands hard and looked in our eyes and said, “Thanks for taking care of the needs of our bodies, but also for hearing our underneath thinking and strengthening us to keep doing the work of the Lord.”  And, I thought of what Amelia had just said a couple of days earlier, “This is what we are supposed to do.  Some people give to us (you all – financially and prayer/encouragement) and we give to others.  This is what the Body of Christ does.”  So as you look at the picture attached to this email, please take time to see the faces.  This is the Body of Christ – our brothers and our heroes of the faith – men who need love, support, and encouragement just like you and I.

We are reminded of this in George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons when he writes, “-we shall never be able, I say, to rest in the bosom of the Father, till the fatherhood is fully revealed to us in the love of the brothers. For he cannot be our father save as his is their father; and if we do not see him and feel him as their father, we cannot know him as ours.”

Thank you for your continued prayers for us and our family and the Inapang churches.

By God’s Grace and For His Glory~

The Housleys