As many of you know, our village was constructed a few years ago for the sole purpose of hearing God’s Talk. Every man, woman, and child here has moved a day’s journey into the jungle, leaving behind their access to government schooling, a medical clinic, and easier access to trade goods. They have worked hard to build new houses and plant new gardens. They have defied their culture by living side-by-side with other clans (a big deal), on borrowed ground that they have no claim to (a bigger deal).*
Our villagers have lived under a conglomeration of their ancestral beliefs and misunderstood Western religious practices their whole lives. They have tried their hardest to do everything that they were told, but no matter how many masses they attended, penances they performed, prayers they said, or resolutions they made, they inevitably found themselves right back where they started: “We are unchanged. We fight and quarrel just as much as we did before. We steal, we cheat, we sleep around, we beat our wives and children; we have done everything we were told to do, but we are still controlled by our desire to do bad things.”
Our people have expressed to us over and over that they want nothing more than to leave their old beliefs behind and trade them for what the Bible teaches. They have seen the life-change of the people of a neighboring language group (who have had NTM missionaries working among them for the last ten years), and they want to experience that change for themselves. But until a new way of life is presented to them, they have no option but to think the way that they always have.**
For five years our people have set themselves apart, living in this cultural anomaly. For 2 ½ of those years our village has had our team living among them, learning their culture, learning their language, developing their alphabet, teaching literacy classes, and working to translate God’s Word and develop chronological Bible lessons. Our team has been working tirelessly (or, more accurately, to the point of much tiredness) in our effort to ensure that when the message of salvation is presented to our Iski friends it will be in a way that they can easily understand, as well as in a way that will highlight the tension points of their current beliefs with the message of the Bible.
And now, after all those years of waiting (for the people) and working (for our team), we are less than TWO WEEKS away from starting the first ever village-wide Bible teaching in the Iski language! On February 6th we will begin the first of 70+ lessons that will introduce the Iski to the God who created them, loves them, and longs to have them brought back into fellowship with Him. We will start at Creation, move through the Fall, follow the promise of the Redeemer through the Old Testament, make known the person of Jesus, the power of the cross, and the promises of our future. We will introduce them to the character of God, the destructive power of sin, the purpose of the Law, and the magnificence of Grace.
For two hours each morning, five days a week, Jason and Andre (our teammates) will stand up and teach our entire village. Speakers and audio files will be made available each evening for our different village hamlets so they can hear the morning lessons again and go over review questions. We will be making Scripture passages available (in the Iski language), so our literacy school graduates can see for themselves (and for the sake of others) that the truths we are presenting in our teaching are not merely our thoughts, but truths that are straight from the Word of God.
Please, please, PLEASE, be in prayer for our village during these next months! Our Iski friends are going to have the strongest pillars of their worldview brought into question during this time. They are going to regularly be forced to choose between what they have always assumed to be true and what the Bible says is true. The humblest among us will still struggle with accepting our complete separation from God and our absolute inability to do anything, in and of ourselves, to change it.***
PLEASE pray for our team, as our workload will only increase during this time, and there are still lessons to be written, translation to be done, and an entire village full of people that will be struggling to understand what God’s Word is saying. This work is already stressful by nature, and that stress is only compounded during an intense teaching time like this! Please ask for a special measure of grace to be given to us as we strive to communicate clearly, to love one another whole-heartedly, and to move forward in unity. Please pray that God would use our frail, fallible selves to accomplish great things in His name.
Please pray for the birth of the Iski church!
* In Papua New Guinea, land is the people’s most valuable possession. In an agrarian society, where gathered food from the jungle and gardens sustains life, there is nothing more important than a clan’s claim to their ground. Living on family land, surrounded by family, is the basis for our peoples’ society. By relocating to a different clan’s ground (with permission) many of our villagers have given up their main source of security.
** Everyone believes SOMETHING (nihilism, agnosticism, naturalism, etc. are all, themselves, belief systems), and it’s impossible to turn from an existing belief to nothing at all. Our existence in this world, and the accompanying sorrows and joys that go with it, demand an explanation.
***This is especially true in the case of an animist, who has always believed that spirits can be manipulated by man if the right actions are taken. Every problem in life is believed to have a means of correction/avoidance, if only they could get the formula right.