Jonny & Sue –
I want to record today’s events so I will remember them and I thought I would write them in a letter to you.
Let me start with yesterday – we worked on the 2 options for baptism sights – one in the place where we collect water and do our laundry, and the other that is over the hill and across the log. It was kind of fun as all the men and boys gathered together to help build the ponds. We worked making a dam which included some guys chopping logs, others digging hunks of mud and clay to fill in the holes, and others clearing the surrounding brush. I could not help to think that this was the 3rd grave that I helped to prepare in as many weeks. One for baby Jon, one for grandma Leso, and this one for the Adam portion of the 13 people that were going to get baptized. Purely symbolic I know, but symbolic of a grave nonetheless. We worked for several hours in the mud and water, laughing and enjoying a good time of fellowship.
Then on Sunday, we got up at about 6:30. I heard people outside, but did not think much about it as their always folks out around any time after 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. starting fires, collecting wood, etc. About 8 a.m. I looked out the window and realized that there were people meeting in the church. I grabbed my Bible and headed down. Yanis was leading those that were planning to get baptized in a little service – strengthening their hearts and teaching God’s Word and the important portions of the redemption story. I slipped in the back as he was wrapping up – and we discussed the order of the service. He informed me that we would first meet together at around 11 a.m. and I could share a bit before he shared from Romans 6:4-11. He was going to teach on how we are crucified and buried with Christ and raised to walk in the new life we are given in Him. I asked if I could share the story from Acts 8:30-40, and he said that would be good. I also asked to share from Acts 19:1-6 regarding the fact that several of the folks getting baptized had done so before, but they had done so in the name of another church and NOT with an understanding of Christ and His work on the cross. Now that they understood the salvation that comes through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross, they were getting baptized to testify to their new faith. He agreed that would be good for folks to hear.
The Service went great up here at the main village area, we sang and prayed and talked through the afore mentioned scripture, then we all went down to the creek and those that were to be baptized lined up across the dam. People gathered around spread all over the surrounding logs and hillside. There are quite a few outsiders due to the two recent funerals. Each person gave clear testimony of a life held in darkness. A life bound by the lies from Satan, his angels, and the Hewa ancestors. The talked of worshiping spirits in trees and rocks, and fear of witches and demons. They said, “Before the Hewa people were born, built houses and gardens we gathered food, and we died. They described their hopeless existence. Then they gave testimony of hearing of the true God Yahweh His power and perfection and His creation of the world. They learned about God and His plan for fellowship with humanity which had been broken by man’s sin. They talked about Christ, the lamb that was sacrificed as payment for their sins. They talked of believing that His blood washed away their sin debt and now they were going to live forever with Him at His ground. They said, “We are getting baptized today not for salvation, but as a testimony to God the Father, Spirit, and Son – The Three in One God. We are letting our hearts belief be seen by Him, by you men and women gathered, and by Satan and his evil angels. We want all to see that we are trusting in Jesus alone for our salvation. God has given us new life. Our old ways have been crucified and buried with Christ and we are going to walk as Jesus walked until we go and see Him at His ground.”
The other believers all clapped and then started to sing as each person walked into the water one at a time and was baptized by Eyaka, Yanis, and Faimbot. The last people to enter the water were our girls, Lauren, Layla, and Lexie. I joined them and with Yanis they too were baptized as a testimony of their faith in Christ alone for salvation. It was a special day for them, one I would not want to have experience anywhere else on earth.
It was all over and the girls wanted to linger a bit and swim, but that did not last long as the water was ice cold. Despite being too cold to swim, Angie and I and the 4 girls found ourselves lingering there at that creek. I don’t know if it was the beauty of the mountains, streams, logs and dragon flies that held us captive or if it was the beauty of the moment. It is incredible to see God’s handiwork in creation, but even more incredible is the work of His Holy Spirit giving new life to an entire community cut off from the rest of the world. Jonathan and Susan, if God had not allowed us to come here and learn this language – these guys would still be grinding out their meager existence in their hopelessness. I can’t help but think of the sacrifices so many have made over the years to pray for us, send finances, encourage us, and make this possible. I cannot help but think of the hours you have logged on the trail hiking through aches and pains so that this could happen. I cannot help but think of the blood, sweat, and tears – the best years of your lives you laid on the altar so that God could receive the glory He is due from the Hewa people.
And yet, all of our sacrifices seem insignificant when you consider what it cost Jesus. His blood, sweat, and tears. His strength, his will, his career, his comfort, and his choices. All sacrificed at Calvary. Why he chose me I will never understand, but I am eternally grateful for the hope I have for the future, and the joy I receive daily from walking with Him. I am so thankful that we get to do this ministry. It is such a blessing to be able to sit on the front row of the most incredible show in all of space and time. To sit on the precipice of eternity and see the God of the Universe reach down and touch the souls of mortal men and women that would otherwise live and die and never leave a mark in history. He reaches down in front of our eyes and saves The Hewa people and marks their names with indelible ink into The Lambs Book of Life. We get to see this from the best seat in the universe – we are seated with Christ.
It is such a pleasure to do this work, especially with folks like you both – Blessing upon Blessings for You, Susan and your family from ours,