In the months leading up to the Bible Dedication the Simbari church had sent letters of invitation to 10 different villages. Some people from these villages were threatened by a religious group that opposes the Gospel. Because of these threats the Simbari church had no idea how many people would actually show up. But they left that in God’s hands and made all the preparations for all who wanted to come.
We arrived in the village a week and a half before the dedication to help with the preparations and to make sure our house was cleaned up and ready for some guests from the USA. The day we arrived was the first sunny morning in a while and some Simbari’s dressed up in traditional decorations to celebrate the arrival of the boxes of Bibles on the mission airplane. They danced around the plane while others sang worship songs as the boxes of Bibles were unloaded.
Thankfully there were no serious problems with our water pump or electrical system and everything in our house was up and running again without too much trouble. We did have some rats and cockroaches to deal with and then a lot of deep cleaning. The weather each day was very rainy and had us concerned about the Bible dedication flights but we just kept bringing those concerns to God in prayer. We know so many of you were also praying…Thank you sooo much!
Bible Dedication Day – 21st of September 2023
On September 21st we woke up to a beautiful morning. God held back the clouds and rain just long enough for the planes to arrive and for the Bible Dedication ceremony. Two planes brought guests in for the celebration. One with friends representing our PNG Field missionary support team and the other with representatives of our home support team including our son, Simon, Jeanne Best, and Sheila Carruth (both former missionaries with the Simbari) and two home church reps, Charlie and Cameron.
All the visitors were welcomed with singing and dancing and escorted to a grassy area where a grandstand had been erected for the occasion. The crowd included believers from the Wantakia, Aziana, and Wuzarambia people groups who hiked over the mountains for this special occasion. Some had arrived a few days early so they could help the Simbari church prepare to host and feed all the guests. Also in the crowd were Simbari believers from different villages as well as many others from the local community. We later heard that some of the guests were warned not to go but they ignored the threats and came anyway.
God’s power was evident in every aspect of the Bible dedication ceremony and it was so encouraging to hear the crowds’ audible responses and applauding as they heard God’s Word being read from their new Bible. There were four main speakers for the event and also four church members who read scripture portions. The name of Jesus was lifted up and many in the crowd heard the Gospel for the first time clearly proclaimed by the speakers and also by the scripture portions that were read in the Simbaris’ own heart language.
The final speaker talked about how the cover of their new Bible is similar in color to the traditional bark cape that they carry everywhere with them and use for covering themselves. He talked about the importance of taking God’s Word with them everywhere they go and that it’s truths should cover every area of their lives. It was a powerful illustration.
Another symbolic illustration was used when it was time to distribute the Bibles. Before the ceremony, Bibles had been hidden in a simulated ‘mumu’ earth-oven hole which they use to cook feasts (like a luau). At the end of the ceremony, David, Shari, Jeanne and Sheila came to the front and started removing the leaves and coverings from the hole where a spiritual feast of God’s Word had been prepared. While that was happening the speaker narrated that all the work of preparing the feast had already been done and now it was time to simply come and eat. As we pulled out the boxes of Bibles a crowd immediately surrounded us, holding out their hands for Bibles, and at the same time a worship team of Simbari believers were playing guitars and singing songs about God’s love and grace shown to us through His Son. We were overwhelmed with joy to see the positive response and were praising the Lord for each one who received a copy of God’s Word.
The whole day was marked by worship, joy and peace. Even when all the mumu feasts were being prepared later in the day there was no arguing or complaining by anyone and there was plenty of food to go around. We were so encouraged by the Christ-like example of the Simbari church as they fed the crowds first, not taking time to feed themselves until everyone else was fed. It was also touching to see how some of the families from the church gave up their comfortable homes for the visitors and slept in temporary shelters.
In the days following the Bible dedication, we heard comments like, “we have never heard anything like this and we have been thinking a lot about what we heard.” What they heard was the message of salvation through Christ made clear in the translation of God’s Word into their heart language. Pray for all those who attended and heard the Gospel, many for the first time. There were also invitations to teach more literacy classes so more people would be able to read the Bible. As the Simbari church has enjoyed reading their Bibles in the weeks following the Bible dedication they were meeting to plan how they would handle the teaching requests coming in. It was encouraging to see them strategizing while at the same time looking to God for wisdom and strength in taking God’s Word to other villages. Also pray that more and more Simbari people would desire to have and to read God’s Word in their own language.
The Simbari Bible Dedication exceeded our expectations. Salvation through Christ was clearly proclaimed, the Word of God was exalted, the love and power of God was on display to all. We give thanks to God for the work He is doing amongst the Simbari people group.