Last week on Monday morning we began the much awaited Bible teaching program. Instead of meeting with the whole village we met with three separate extended family lines in order to comply with the wisdom of PNG’s national leaders. The first extended family line class was well attended by the core families on that list, and while they were shy at first, not knowing all what to expect, things warmed up quickly and the expressions changed from curios to attentive joy, to personal conviction on many faces over the course of the 90 minutes we spent together.
We shared two main thoughts with them in our opening lesson. First, that serving two masters is impossible (Matt 6:24) and, second, that God was there before anything else was – He was the first (Ps 90:2). When we shared with them that we believed they are a people trying to hold on to their ancestors traditions and at the same time trying to grasp an understanding of God and so are like a person trying to serve two masters, there was no hesitation from anyone. “That is us!” they said with one voice.
Using a string with 6,000 beads on it to help our friends picture how much time has passed since Creation was a real eye-opener for the whole group. Our simple point was that their ancestors traditions are not ancient but recent. Only God’s eternal word is talk from the very beginning. We also demonstrated how God’s knowledge of the past dwarfs our knowledge of the past. The Amdu people can remember up to 6 or 7 generations of names but no more than that. Compared with the details recorded in God’s word of the genealogy of Christ really brought the point into clarity that not only is God the only one speaking from the beginning but that his talk has substance.
We pulled some of the punch of the first lesson by introducing them to other people groups around the world who are stuck in the same predicament. We watched video together of people worshipping the Ganges River, chanting to spirits in the Rainforest, and dancing traditional dances in the mountains in Europe. Our personal testimonies that we all shared with them, too, were evidence to them that their struggle is a common struggle and the answer is clear; God’s Word!
The most encouraging part of the week for us was how well the review questions were answered at the end of each session with each group. Many of them have caught exactly the message we were trying to convey to them (Please keep praying especially for our older friends here who find it hard to concentrate for very long – that they will be able to grab ahold of these important truths!). This might seem a small thing to you, but it’s an enormous achievement to us. Remember we are crossing the culture and language divide. The fact that what we have challenged our friends with is resonating with them means God has enabled us to speak to their hearts.
One friend met Benjamin under our house first thing the day after his group had heard the teaching. He told Benjamin that in the early dawn hours after he stirred the fire for the first time he fell asleep and had a dream. Trying to describe the dream he burst into tears. When he composed himself he said that he dreamt about Benjamin holding a flashlight and calling him and his wife to come. Then he wept again. He said, “Benjamin, what you and Bart taught us has stirred our hearts and we’re thinking so much about it,” and he was in tears again. We can’t tell you how glad we are that hearts are tender toward this message.
In the coming week we are going to be in the story of Moses and the burning bush; or better said, Moses meets Yahweh! The meaning of God’s name and his exhortation to Moses to proclaim his name to all generations (including children and women) are implications of the story that will sit down hard against what the Amdu people’s ancestors valued the most; the power that comes through secrecy and name! In contrast to this tradition veneration of secret names, Yahweh God is out in the open with talk from the very beginning that has substance like no other talk has. How can we hold on to any other word? This is the target we are trying to hit with the Amdu people this week. We’ll also be talking about the creation of angelic beings in the unseen realm as God’s first of many insanely generous, creative acts. This too – generosity – is another highly esteemed core value for the Amdu people. We’re peeling back the layers and showing that Yahweh God is like no other. Pray that they would grasp this and allow these truths to sink down in and become their new foundation for seeing and understanding.
We have a full teaching schedule this week as we will be meeting with each of the three extended family lines at two different times each. Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning and afternoon. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. Pray for the faith to be the conduits to God’s power in each of these sessions. We can’t thank you enough for your prayers and how they impacted us this past week. We can’t wait to see how God works this week. Benjamin and Missy