Angie and I recently helped host a Curriculum Development Workshop with about 35 PNG nationals from 6 different people groups where NTM has planted churches. It was a wonderful time of challenging these men to continue to step forward and take the lead in their families, marriages, and villages. The time was a huge encouragement to us as we sat with these men and opened God’s Word. Here is an excerpt from one missionaries letter follwing the workshop – I thought you might enjoy hearing his thoughts. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this team. It is a pleasure to serve HIM together with you – The Copley’s
I glanced at my mud encrusted watch and checked the hour as the prow of our dugout canoe swept in a shaky arc, circling back towards the distant shore. Four o’clock, Tuesday afternoon. The ten of us had been traveling since Sunday afternoon, homeward bound after a week long church workshop held at the support center for the Sepik region. Many memories and new friendships filled our hearts. Many experiences and new concepts occupied our thoughts. This time of teaching and fellowship was much more than a simple workshop for church leaders. It proved to be a time of challenge and encouragement for our young believers; young men still uncertain as to their own responsibility for the godly shepherding of other believers. The unsolicited testimonies and discussion coming from my tribal friends confirmed to me that God’s Holy Spirit was indeed working and molding their thinking to come in line with His Word.
And now we had almost made our way home. Martin’s steady hand on the tiller of the 40hp outboard guided our careful circle on the Sepik River, everyone suddenly alert and eager to check out the huge crocodile lazily sunning itself on the tree snag that reared out of the dark waters. Aching backsides forgotten, the men in front of me excitedly discussed the size and cheeky audacity of the reptile that was slowly rotating its toothy head in our direction. I watched and marveled how the weariness of the journey seemed to disappear from the bloodshot eyes of those before me. They were secure in the knowledge that we were only one more river point from home and family. The journey’s end was within reach.
I thought back a week and a half ago when we started out on this trip. My co-worker, Frank and I left the village with representatives from two different assemblies of believers. Travelling with five Siawi men and four Abau men, we had marveled how these traditional enemies were now learning to live in practical ways as Christian brothers. And here within the confines of this hollowed out log, Funwk, Nomo, Maikel, and Martin were eager to educate Samoliai, Malikai, Ofamo, Mabo and Steven on the ways of the river and of crocodiles and dugout canoes and village names. Maikel continued in his teasing of Malikai, cajoling him to sit exactly in the center of our unsteady vehicle; Malikai continued obliging him with a grin and a head tip from side to side in defiant compliance. I wished Frank could have witnessed the camaraderie on the return trip. But the Lord had allowed me to be a part of that journey. I licked my blistered lips, re-arranged the fuel jugs around my sunburned knees, lifted one wet and wrinkled foot from the sloshing water in the bottom of the boat and propped it over the side. As the hot sun warmed my bedraggled clothes and steamed away the soaking from the latest downpour, I looked at my dirty hands, caked with mud from the ongoing struggle to caulk our ship, scratched my scruffy chin and breathed a word of thankfulness. We were almost home.
Through wind and wave, darkness and storm we had come. Drenched by driving rain for hours at a time, lost and ill at ease during the blackness of night, we committed ourselves to making it home before Tuesday night. Frustrated with our perpetually sinking canoe, frightened by giant whirlpools and oncoming floating debris, we nevertheless pressed on. It fell to my lot to navigate into the blackness of night, totally helpless and completely relying on Funwk and Nomo, silhouetted up on the bow by their roving flashlights. They somehow guided us past all the hidden oxbows and islands on that serpentine river. Teeth chattering in the ongoing tropical downpour, everyone huddled under plastic, and water streaming from Maikel’s beard as he kept me company in the stern… But we were heading home. And we sensed God in the canoe with us.
The crocodile gracefully slid into the water as we neared, the only evidence of its existence being the suddenly bouncing tree snag from which he had disappeared. Everyone cheered at the spectacle, everyone secretly wishing he had the means to bring the trophy meat home. Martin maneuvered the canoe back upstream. I motioned him to idle to a stop. All was suddenly quiet. Funwk latched onto some reeds on the bank to keep us from drifting downstream. Then Siawi’s Malikai grinned at Abau’s Maikel, and stood up in the rocking boat. He led us in heartfelt thanks to our Heavenly Father for protection and provision throughout the journey.
As I heard mummers of agreement around me I was reminded of Martin’s comment made to me an hour before. We were passing an Abau man and his family in their downriver bush camp. He had excitedly waved us over and passed on the news that Maikel’s wife had almost drowned the previous day in the flooding river. Frank, having already flown back to the billage for some other responsibilities, was the one who had jumped in and swam to rescue her. As we left that landing, Martin had quietly praised God behind me, that in His grace, God had made it possible for us to come home without grief waiting for us. And I too, silently thanked Malikai’s Heavenly Father as Malikai continued on, praising the Lord for His goodness in bringing us safely home. The Lord in His goodness will bring each of us safely home.
Through life’s storms, through the heat of conflict, rain of disappointments and the shadow of death, beyond discomfort and trials and distractions that threaten to drag us down, His grace continues to be sufficient for each daily experience. Though many fears and doubts assail us as we move through periods of darkness, if we look carefully, our spiritual eyes can make out the Lord’s moment by moment directing up in front. When we are unsettled concerning the unknown future, when we don’t feel in control of our journey, when we feel ourselves sinking under the weight of unfulfilled expectations or regret, He is more than able to deliver us. We are committed to the journey home. We look forward with eager anticipation to that great arrival. He and He alone is the One who can safely bring us home. He has committed Himself to do this. Come on, look away from your own feeble strength and hang on to the promise that He is giving us the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Right now you may feel dirty and tired in your great journey home, but look up ahead! The last bend is approaching, and we are going safely Home, right where we have always belonged! Hang on… Home is near. (Kelly Luyendyk – Missionary to the Abau People)