We had been waiting to hear it all morning and then there it was… the togui. Paska blew the conch shell (“togui”), the weekly signal to everyone who attends our gathering on Sunday that it was time for us to start. This was the day, the day that months of teaching had led up too, the day when the small group of unbelieving Tigak people who had been attending the foundational Bible lessons would hear clearly HOW they could be saved; the day they would hear of Jesus’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection on their behalf!
People slowly gathered and when it seemed like no one else was coming, Robin stood up to start the lesson. In spite of being sick, Robin did a good job of going back and recapping the details of mankind’s falleness in its relationship to God and where it began, back in the garden of Eden when Adam & Eve chose to disobey God and became separated from God because of it. The world was never the same after sin entered and neither was mankind’s relationship to God. Robin taught that although mankind had sinned and finds itself separated from God, His love for the entire world was so strong that He had a marvelous plan in place to bring people back into right relationship with Himself. In spite of some chickens making a crazy racket in the jungle shrub behind us, Robin taught through half the lesson as people intently listened and many took notes.
When Robin finished his portion of the lesson, everyone took a brief and necessary “stretch break” while I passed out juice to keep everyone alert. It’s good to be alert when one is about to hear the BEST news of their life! 🙂
Paska called everyone back to sit down so we could start the second half of the lesson. He started his portion of the lesson by reminding everyone of the sacrificial system and significance of the shedding of blood in payment of sin. He reminded everyone of the story of the Passover, how God looked at the blood on the doorposts of the children of Israel and spared their first born sons, he reminded them of Abraham and Isaac, when God supplied a substitute ram to spare Isaac’s life. The pieces of the puzzle were being put together and the explanation began of how exactly Christ’s death, in taking the punishment we deserved, paid the penalty for our sin.
I love Paska as a teacher because he is very sensitive and gets emotional easily as he teaches the truth that has changed his life. He got very choked up several times as he explained the beautiful truth of Christ’s death. It was clear to everyone how much this “good news” meant to him! 🙂 Aside from Paska’s tears, the mood of the hearers was like any other Sunday, everyone just looking, listening and thinking. At certain points in the lesson I would stop listening and pray fervently in my heart for everyone who was there listening who had not yet trusted in Christ, that the truth of God’s Word would be so clear and powerful to them that they would not be able to help but respond in faith! We were also repeatedly encouraged by the thought of how many of you Stateside were praying!
As the lesson came to an end and everything had been explained, Paska asked if anyone had anything to share. Here was the moment. The moment we were all wishing people would start popping up like popcorn and shouting out their belief! Tigak people aren’t really like that but still, I confess I had had a far stretched hope of this taking place. 🙂 Instead, one man, “P” leaned forward in his chair, straightened his reading glassed perched on his fuzzy yarn wig hat and said, “I’ve been wandering around aimlessly and then I came and sat here under this teaching. I believe in God’s talk all the way to the resurrection of Jesus.”
“P” Is a man of short and to the point ‘declarations’ if you will so this testimony of his belief was very in character. 🙂 Praise the Lord!
People were pretty quite in response to “P’s” talk but then “L,” (already a believing woman) started to speak up.
“Where I came from [in her previous language before she married a Tigak man and learned Tigak], we have a Bible translation in our language..but we never understood the truth [pause as she tried to clear her tears] …but we never understood. It didn’t matter that it was in our language, we were never taught it so we never understood. We would try to read it but we didn’t understand. But I see… this is so, so good. Here, because the word has been translated into Tigak AND God’s Word is taught to us at the same time, if you hear this teaching from the start all the way to the finish of it- you will be able to know for sure where you are at [referring to being saved or unsaved]. I am praising God so much because I know that I have believed in the death and resurrection of Jesus! This and only this is what has made the way for me to be with God. [long pause as she cleared her throat] It is not my good actions, all the good things I try to do in my own strength that will allow me to be saved- NO WAY! It is true, I have believed this message of the death and resurrection of Jesus- this is the only way. I see that this is such a good thing for us here on our island… this is such a fantastic thing! This is not the time for you to play around! You need to come, sit down and hear this teaching. This is YOUR CHANCE! This is in your language! I am thanking God because I have been able to hear and understand, I believe this message! That is all. Thank you [fidgets in the sand to keep from sobbing].” :’)
After “L” shared, we think Paska was just excited and forgot that he was supposed to give others a chance to share. He stood up and announced, “Ok! Lets eat!” And then it was time for our meal with everyone. The time for public sharing had ended but our chance to talk to people individually had now begun! 🙂
Everyone had prepared food to contribute to our meal and it was quickly gathered and set out on a makeshift table made from a piece of roof copper over stick legs and covered in banana leaves. Among the food choices was Paska’s “famous” Octopus stir-fry and many other traditional village foods like sweet potato like food cooked in stone “mumu’s,” fish, rice and the root-like “taro.”
We enjoyed a meal with everyone and tried to make use of the time to connect with certain individuals and hear what they were thinking in response to hearing the gospel.
Through those conversations we were able to hear more testimonies and concluded from those that their were five new believers that day. Four believing woman, “G”,“T”, “M” & “S” and one believing man, “P.”
Each new believer expressed clearly in their own way their belief in the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus on their behalf. “T” said to me, “I really wanted to say something right after the lesson but I couldn’t because I was crying too much inside. My throat was full and I could not talk. But I was so happy about my belief in God’s way to life that he has made for me!”
Another new believer, “M” shared with me, “It is clear now. The curtain in the temple was ripped. That showed us what God was saying- it is finished! The way to a relationship with Him is open now. Now I believe in Jesus and now I am on his side and now I am his child. I just know when I see that the curtain was ripped open, I don’t have to be far away from God now. I believe this. This is true and I am so happy. That is all.”
How do I go about typing out adequate words to express how much we are rejoicing over these new believers in Christ? I cannot. We are praising the Lord continually for His faithfulness to draw people to himself. This review time of these foundational Biblical lessons was meant primarily for the Tigak believers, to train our two Tigak Bible teachers and to strengthen the other believers in their understanding before going on to deeper studies of the scripture. We believe these goals have been accomplished (Praise the Lord!). I couldn’t express it better than my sister “D” who shared, “You asked if we had any questions after this lesson and I do not. Everything is so clear to me. The truth is clear and I believe it! I want to say thank you to God!”
We did not offer a village wide invitation to everyone here this time (on purpose) but people just came anyway. Not everyone, but a small group came anyway. They felt the need to hear something that made sense. They knew they did not understand truth clearly and they were curious about what God had to say. Attendance for some was spotty, but some were faithful. And now we have new believers and several others we trust are very close to believing still.
Paska wanted to express to you how thankful he was for everyone who has prayed back in the States. He said, “Tell them thank you so much for all their prayers for the Tigak people. They prayed for us and now we have new children of God here. Tell them to keep praying for us and we will be praying for them, our family in God.”
We give all praise and glory to the Father for His marvelous love and help for the Tigak church and to us as a missionary team here. As we praise and thank the Savior for the new believers in Christ, we want to remind you that we continue to need your prayers. These new believers need to be discipled in truth, this is God’s desire for them, that they grow in Him and come to walk with Him in a close and dependent relationship. He desires that they experience abundant life in Him! We as the missionaries serving them need so much wisdom to know how best to help them and teach them. There is much ahead!
Also, this is not the end of outreach here. This is only the start of it, actually. There will be more evangelistic lessons taught to new groups of people in the future. Pray that MANY more Tigak people here would start to realize their need to know what God’s Word actually says about how they can receive eternal life. There are three false religious presences here on our island that are greatly confusing people, offering false teaching that keeps them completely blinded to the truth of Christ and His grace offered freely. There is a battle raging for the eternity of men and women and we need your active prayers to battle against it!
Pray also for the believers, that they would grow in their faith and become increasingly involved in drawing others to Christ and into discipleship!
Christ IS building His church!!