I, Sean, travelled by car, airplane and helicopter over the course of a couple of hours and I arrived in a village where I spent four nights with the Aziana tribe. This tribe is unlike the other tribes I have visited since being in Papua New Guinea. This tribe no longer has missionaries living amongst it because there is no longer a need for a missionary in this language group.
Here, in the highlands of PNG, is a mature, growing, self-sustaining, indigenous church. There are several elders (appointed by their own people) who are leading this body of believers forward with the desire to see God’s name exalted amongst all peoples.
The purpose of this trip was to take part in a believer’s conference. This tribe along with believers from two other language groups get together once a year to receive teaching and to fellowship with one another. These other language groups hiked for two days to get to Aziana for this conference.
The Aziana elders asked three missionary friends of ours, who serve in the Wantakian language group nearby, to be the speakers for this conference. These missionaries are currently in the throws of learning an extremely difficult unwritten language that lies right in the middle of the three language groups at the conference. I was blessed to have these three guys invite me to join them for this conference and share my testimony to those in attendance.
During my time at the conference there were three things that God impressed upon me:
First, maturity isn’t microwavable. This indigenous church knocked my socks off with their maturity. The way they have handled false teaching, sin, and trials amongst the body in the years since the missionaries left is a testimony to the work Christ has done in them. This was not achieved quickly. This tribe had missionaries living there for 30 years! This wasn’t a flash in the pan; it wasn’t a case of save ’em and strand ’em. It was literally decades (plural) of blood, sweat, tears, and trials. Now the church is on its own and these believers are truly committed to the work of the Father.
Secondly, the work continues after the missionary leaves. One often thinks once the missionary plants a church, translates the Bible, and leaves that the outreach work is done. All that the church needs to do now is maintain the status quo. However, the Aziana church doesn’t see it that way. It has been over a decade since the missionaries moved out of this tribe and they are still actively doing outreaches to other Aziana villages. They are currently in the process of evangelistic teaching in 6 villages simultaneously! They have also sent three families to an entirely different language group to teach there as well. Much of the work done amongst the Aziana people has been done by the Aziana church after the missionaries left the tribe.
The last thing God impressed upon me was to be patient to find the right coworkers for our family. Walking alongside these three friends teaching at the conference strengthened my resolve to wait for the Lord to bring the right coworkers along. Sometimes we want to get into a tribe so fast that we don’t take the time to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page. Watching these men working together as equals, sharpening one another, praying for one another, and loving one another inspired me not to jump into anything that we aren’t completely comfortable with. God is faithful and will provide us with coworkers in His time, we need to be patient and trust Him for that.
Thanks for your prayers and support; we couldn’t do this without all of you alongside us! Continue to pray for wisdom in finding coworkers and a tribe to serve amongst.