While we wait out the winter, our coworkers have returned to the tropical breezes of Papua New Guinea and are plugging back into their ministries there. Nate was able to take a trip into the tribe to visit the Pal church and do some digging on some issues that have come up since we all left the country last summer. He accomplished a ton while he was there, and we are so grateful to hear from him what he saw and heard from a wide range of people. We’d like to pass the update on to you so you can know how to pray and stay current on what’s happening in Pal land.
First—things to praise God for: Many believers are experiencing the struggle between moving forward in sanctification and being pulled backward by their old sin natures. This struggle is timeless and universal, and while it is never fun to see someone struggle, we are encouraged that they recognize there is a difference between what Jesus wants and what our own sinful hearts want and that they have chosen which side of the fight they are on: they desire to let go of the things of the world and be more like Jesus. Please pray for them as they sort out what is a God-given responsibility (caring for family members, community obligations, etc.) and what is a worldly distraction (searching for wealth, desiring notoriety, etc.). Also, praise God for the great spiritual growth in so many of our friends and that they are faithfully trying to walk in the Spirit.
Next—church matters to pray about: Nate mentioned that several of the teachers who taught lessons while he was there seemed very unprepared and sometimes veered away from the truth of Scripture during a lesson. This is a BIG DEAL! Coming from an oral culture, public speaking has traditionally been done off the top of one’s head, but when it comes to God’s Word, that won’t cut it. Some of them just don’t know it well enough yet. Please pray that they will develop habits of always going to the Word and not speaking from their own “thinking.” Pray that they would be bold enough to call each other out and encourage each other in this way as a teacher group.
Another big deal is unity among the teachers. We purposely brought in men from different clans to be in the teacher group, and the different clans are not used to working together or putting each other first. Pray for genuine love for each other as teachers; that by itself would be a huge testimony to the community that God’s love is different. Also, many of the teachers are not giving enough to the job – some leave for weeks at a time to go earn money at the coast, some don’t prepare for their teaching assignments, and some are just plain shirking. This leaves a lot of the responsibility on a few of the teachers and increases their chances of being burned out. We have heard from a few that, because they were carrying so much work already, one couple had to step back from their role with the literacy school. Unfortunately, when they did, everything went to pot and they had to step back in again. These faithful teachers care deeply about leading the church and helping the community, but they can’t keep this up indefinitely. Please pray that God will convict those that are shirking, that they would repent and step up, and/or that He will raise up new faithful men and women to join the team.
Finally—community “heavies”: A long-standing feud about land ownership in an unreached Pal village has exploded into serious violence in recent months. Along with physical attacks, houses have been burned down and many threats have been made, scaring people so badly that they have fled and are taking refuge in other villages. We hate to hear things like these, and it is a reminder of the depth of the darkness against which we and the Pal church are fighting. As of now, there has been no violence against the church or in our village, but the rumors are flying, and people are afraid. Everyone is nervous and on-edge—so much so that when shouting was heard from the jungle one night, the people were convinced that they were under attack and were gearing up to go fight when they realized it was just a neighboring village celebrating after a successful hunt. Please pray for an end to the violence and for an end to the rumors. Pray that the believers would stand up for the truth and denounce these evil practices. Pray that they would feel compassion for their unreached neighbors and answer God’s call to preach the Gospel to them. Pray against Satan’s lies and his work.
There is so much to pray about, and so much to praise God for. We are anxious to return to PNG and visit our jungle home and our brothers and sisters there. But we know that God is holding them and helping them, and we are thankful that because of this time that they’ve had on their own they know it now, too.
Matthew 16:18b “…I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”