Independence for the Pal church has always been the goal. From day one, we knew we couldn’t live there forever, and that thought was in the back of our minds during everything we did. Last fall we made the decision as a team that it was time to remove ourselves from the daily workings of the Pal church and support them from a distance. We had fallen into the uncomfortable place of having become a crutch; they had proved they were able to do almost everything that was needed on their own, but it was easier for them to do what they had always done and lean on us. For everything from decisions about who would teach the Bible lesson in church to how to solve the problems that came up in the community, they deferred to us and would only give their own opinions when we specifically asked.
So we left. Now the crutch is much farther away and harder to lean on. We are still here, talking to them on the phone, praying for them, making trips in to visit them every month or so, but they are standing on their own. And it is a little bit messy.
For those of you who have been praying for our Bible teachers, thank you. And don’t stop. Everywhere they turn, there is false teaching being harbored in the hearts of the people. And though we are constantly encouraging our teachers to stand up against the false teaching and to support each other in order to present a united front against heretical doctrine, that can be hard for them to do when the people with more status in the community are saying outright: “Sit down and shut up. We don’t want to hear what you have to say.”
Tomorrow Chris and two of our coworkers will go to Pal for another visit. Part of that visit will include standing alongside our teachers and helping them to draw the line in the sand. Now that we missionaries are no longer there, the sheep’s clothing is coming off and the wolves are becoming bolder, yet they are continuing to live among the sheep like there is no difference between them. They say things like, “We all say Jesus is true. Of course we do! But this verse in the Bible doesn’t mean what the white skins said it means. It really means this…..” They start out bleating like a sheep, but they end up growling. We cannot allow them to get their fangs set and drag away members of the flock.
But there are encouraging things happening, too! The literacy school committee has been organizing meetings to deal with school issues, and they have brought in new members to help manage the three schools they are now overseeing. The dispensary team is faithfully serving the community every Monday by seeing patients and selling medicine, and they will soon send a team to town to learn from members of a different tribe how they have been restocking their medicine supply by visiting various pharmacies. Also, the Word is being taught every Sunday by our Bible teacher teams, and it is studied every Thursday night in village groups. And the teachers continue to meet together every week to encourage each other, talk about problems that come up, assign teaching duties, and carry on the work of feeding the flock. Lastly, we hope to have 4 more New Testament books ready to be printed before we leave for home assignment in June.
Please pray that the Pal church will move forward from Chris’ visit with discernment—that they will understand the need for watching out for wolves while still reaching out in love to their neighbors who are not yet saved. Pray for boldness for the believers and especially the teachers as the wolves attempt to dominate community discussions. Pray that the lives of the believers would reflect the holiness of their Savior so that those who see them will “turn their stomachs” and say “Jesus is true.” And thank God for his Holy Spirit that dwells among the Pal church even though we do not. He is their teacher, and He can do a much better job than we ever could.
Meanwhile, the kids are all doing very well at our mission school. Micah plans to try out for the basketball team next term, and Cole had hoped there would be a school play he could try out for, but it doesn’t look like that will happen. The girls love being in class with friends, although Bailey wishes she could still do home school so that she could be finished with all her work before lunch! With the kids in school, Maggie has much more time for translation, and she is currently working on Matthew, Colossians, and Philippians. She is also enjoying the opportunity afforded by living in town to play volleyball and sing in the choir. Chris is working on Revelation and Galatians, as well as doing comprehension checks of Matthew since he gets to be on the ground in Pal and work with translation helpers. Chris is also enjoying his work as a language consultant and his weekly games of men’s basketball, soccer, and roller hockey!
Thank you for praying for us and for the Pal church.