At the edge of the village around the edges of the newly dug pit, some people clung to each other, others stood and looked on. The coffin of roughly split boards was lowered into the grave to the sound of wailing. At this funeral there were two kinds of wailing. One was the hopeless all consuming wail of loss from those who had no hope of every seeing their loved one again. The other wailing was of expressed grief, of missing their loved one, but it wasn’t the hopeless gut-wrenching wail. This was from those whose grief was tempered by knowing that they would see him again in eternity. The difference was the second group believed the gospel, that Jesus is the Messiah, and so like us, they too have hope in glory – that is what made the difference.
How did I get started on this incredible journey to work with national co-workers to reach the unreached and translate the Bible into a tribal language?
It started with my mom and dad who exposed my siblings and me to many people, cultures, and places; and who took us to all the Travelogues; and who opened their home to many guests.
It started with my pastor who began discipling my siblings and I when we professed belief in what Christ had done for us.
It started with my 7th grade Bible teacher who spent half the year teaching on missions.
It started with my first mission trip while still in high school to help build a church.
It started with meeting a missionary kid in college and listening to his stories about how the gospel changed the lives of a group of unreached people, hearing his passion for the unreached and knowing in no uncertain terms that he was going to be a missionary, falling in love with him, and then having to figure out if God was calling me to be a missionary too.
It started in 1990 with a short term mission’s trip to Papua New Guinea on a program called Interface. There I learned that I did have an interest in linguistics. I learned that I could learn another language. I was challenged in my beliefs. There I heard that the Bible teaches that people who had never heard about Jesus all have had the witness of Creation but have turned away from worshiping the Creator (Romans 1). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 2:12 and 3:23). I was struck by the reality that those who have not heard are facing a Christ-less eternity. Everyone needed to hear the good news that there was a Savior. That the job of telling others the good news about what Christ has done for us wasn’t given to angels; it was given to fallible humankind (Matthew 28:19). In a word, us. And it wasn’t just going to happen if we didn’t do it. Then I saw that there was a need indeed.
While we were there, a man hiked from several days away. He came with a piece of paper with signatures on it. He talked to our class about his tribe, he showed us on a map where they were located. His tribe wanted what others had, a missionary to tell them about the good news. He asked the class, “Who in this class will go back with me?” There was silence, no one would answer. There was no one on the missionary center available to go, there were no new missionaries in orientation.
After he left, we found out that this tribe had been asking for years and there still was no missionary available to come. The door to that tribe may soon close. We had to struggle with the questions: how many times can a group ask to hear the gospel, and no one come? How long do they have to wait? How many more have to die, before they hear? How many opportunities have been missed because people had not responded to Christ’s command?
As a result of the many influences in my life, I came to the conclusion, how could I NOT go? How could I turn my back on people who needed to hear?
My journey continued as I graduated from college, married Rick, and joined the working world to pay off college debts. We knew we were going to the mission field but had some obstacles to overcome to get there.
Fast forward to 2001 and Rick and I entered training with NTM. Then in 2004 our family headed overseas to Papua New Guinea. I did not end up going to that tribe in the mountains of PNG, but God led our family to the islands, to another unreached group, the Lusi.
In 2013, after years of language and culture study and preparation, our team shared the gospel with the Lusi people in their heart language for the first time, and began the process of discipling new believers. Augustine, one of the new believers, said, “My family needs to hear this.” And they became the next group to hear.
In 2014 Augustine’s father heard the good news of the gospel and became a believer, and only 2 weeks later passed away. God is so gracious; there are Lusi in heaven today. But there are still more Lusi who need to hear, who need to have the hope of the gospel, who have yet to be reached. How can I not go?