Here is the story of the village where we will be moving:
To set the stage, we are going to be working among the Iski people. Their population is around 10,000. They live in the swampy lowlands of PNG. There are no roads or airstrips in Iski territory, so our only way in or out is via helicopter.
The next language group over from the Iski have a healthy and growing church among them that is the result of the efforts of an NTM church planting team (and, obviously, the Spirit of God) that has been working with them for the past 14 years. A few years ago, three bilingual Iski men made their way over into this other language group to hear the phase 1 teaching that was being presented there (This is a chronological curriculum that NTM uses that follows the story of the Redeemer from creation to Christ’s Ascension.).
After listening to several months of teaching, the three men believed the Gospel and went back to their homes in Iski. They were mere babes in Christ, and there was still much that they didn’t understand well enough to explain to others, but they knew that they wanted their families to hear this message. However, most of the Iski population is located a good day’s hike away from this other group’s nearest village, and very few Iski people know the language.
Despite these difficulties, the three men were able to convince around 300 other Iski people to leave their homes, gardens, and livelihoods, and relocate to a little hamlet (around 15 people lived there previously), two hours from the from the village doing the teaching. This meant transporting all of their families, possessions, and starter vegetables by foot and canoe, as well as clearing away virgin jungle to build their new homes and plant their new gardens. They wanted to be as close as they could be to the teaching that was going on, hoping that eventually they would be able to hear and understand “God’s talk” in their own language.
Initially, the families of the three men had intended to learn the neighboring language, but after relocating, they came to realize that learning another language isn’t an easy thing. (The two languages are totally separate and distinct from each other.) They weren’t able to learn the neighboring language well enough to benefit them. After realizing this, they began sending delegations to the group’s main church, asking them (via the very basic trade language) if they could get missionaries of their own, who would do for them what the missionaries had done for this other group.
This past July, their petitions were answered when our teammates (the Williamsons and the Tousches) moved into their village and began learning their language and culture. We joined the team this last week and are currently making preparations to build our house there. Our hope is to be ready to present the story of redemption by the summer of 2016 (or sooner, if we can, obviously)!
The people of Iski are hungry for the Word of God! Each day, our coworkers have a group of men and women waiting for them down in the village meeting house, ready to help with language sessions, and they regularly bring gifts of food to the missionaries’ houses, asking for nothing in return. When our coworkers have offered thanks for these services, the people have consistently replied, “We’re not doing these things for you. We want to hear God’s talk, so we want to do whatever we can to help you learn our language quickly.”
Please be in prayer for the Iski people!