The first Simbari baptism took place this last Sunday. The morning started with a short service with some singing and a message that focused on what was accomplished for us through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Many visitors were present and they heard a very clear presentation of the Gospel. Then we broke up and hiked down to the nearest river and found a good spot. A crowd of 75-100 people gathered around and sat on rocks to witness the event. David gave a short talk about the significance of baptism. Then he gave his translation helper, Raymond, an opportunity to give public testimony. David then baptized Raymond. After that Jethro gave testimony and was baptized by David and Raymond. Then Rison gave testimony and Raymond baptized him and one by one they baptized the rest of the people. Here are the names of those who were baptized:
Each person gave clear testimony that Jesus completely paid the penalty for their sin through the shedding of His blood. They acknowledged that baptism couldn’t wash away their sins but it showed outwardly that in their hearts they were trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for salvation. We were competing the whole time with the noise of the river and wondered how well the crowd was able to hear but later we heard a young man amazed at how even the “uneducated” older believers were speaking out clearly and confidently about their faith. Afterwards he asked to meet with one of our Bible teachers on Friday to hear the Gospel message again. So we know the testimonies were heard by at least part of the crowd. After the baptism David prayed for those who had just been baptized and then the group moved up the bank of the river a bit where the noise from the river wasn’t so loud and we sang some songs of worship. The river was freezing cold so some were shivering afterwards but they still sang with real enthusiam. Then we headed back up the trail so everyone could get out of their wet clothes. Since it was our last Sunday before leaving for our 1 year home assignment the believers didn’t want the gathering to end. So after changing clothes and getting a bite to eat we played volleyball together. It was a good way to get warmed up again. We had a great time together and didn’t want it to end. In fact it wasn’t until 6 pm that everybody finally went home. Even though the believers are sad to see us leave for a year they know that the Holy Spirit will never leave them and that God will continue His work in their lives.
On Monday morning our family left our home in the tribe and there were a lot of tears as we said goodbye to our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have come to love so much over the last few years. As Raymond hugged David goodbye with tears streaming down his face he said to him, “It’s just that if you guys hadn’t come we would all be going to hell. We’ll pray that you don’t have an auto accident so you can come back to us” We praise the Lord for using ordinary vessels like us to bring the light of His Word to these dear people who have been in darkness for so long.
We are now out in the town of Goroka to participate in Esther’s pre-graduation events at the mission school. We have only a couple weeks left before we are supposed to leave the country and our passports are still in PNG immigration as part of a field-wide mission work permit renewal process. Please pray that we will receive our work permits in time for them to be stamped in our passports before we leave. Also we have not received our tickets yet even though we booked them in Janurary. Please pray that they will make it here in time for our scheduled departure.