What are we DOING?!

“What in the world are we doing!? Whoa… slow down… pump the brakes!” This is a line Katie and I often find ourselves thinking as we continue to come closer and closer to our departure from the U.S. “Why would we want to go over there? It’s so much easier to live in America. We have friends here, and family. I don’t want to go to a place that doesn’t have internet.” These are all thoughts that attempt to ram us off the course of full time missions.
As Katie and I have continued in our training we have asked the Lord to mold us into the people that we need to be in order to survive and thrive on the field of Papua New Guinea. As we have lifted this prayer before Him, we have been challenged with the thought of just how much sacrifice the job calls for: leaving family and friends behind, leaving much comfort behind, becoming outsiders, having to learn a new language and culture, etc. When we dwell on these things, Katie and I can begin to falter in our resolve for following the Lord overseas. But God has been faithful and has answered our prayer for molding.
As we have found ourselves buckling under the fears of moving overseas, God has challenged us to see missions from a different perspective. One of my favorite Bible passages comes from Joshua 10. In this chapter Joshua and the Israelites are called upon to defend the Gibeonites from invading armies. The Israelites come to their aid, and as the enemy is being pursued, the Lord throws down giant hailstones to kill the would be invaders. After this discourse there is an interesting line that says, “There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.” What a funny little line. It gets me wondering about why God included the Israelites at all. Certainly the Lord did not need Joshua and his army to conquer the Promised Land. God could have just dumped hail stones on the entire land of Canaan and conquered all by Himself. Come to think of it, God did not need Adam and Eve, or Abraham, or Moses, or the disciples. He does not need any of us.

Not one of them will be able to withstand you. .

So why does He choose to include us? Why do we get to play a role in the story? The reason is because God loves us. He loves us so much that He includes us in His master plan. Just think: Is it not better to be playing on the field than to be sitting on the sidelines. What player of any sport was ever satisfied just to ride the bench? God puts us in the game, and we get the privilege of playing a role in how God is reconciling the world back to Himself. Wow! A privilege! It’s not just sacrifice. It’s a privilege!
This is how God has been challenging us to view missions. It’s not something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. Thank you Lord that we get to be a part of your master plan.

Is He worth it?

This semester kicked off with a bang!  Brooks Buser, a missionary to Papua New Guinea who planted a church among the Yembi Yembi tribe, came and spoke to us for orientation. He spoke boldly about a lot of difficult subjects, but the key take away point was “Is God worth it?” Is God worth it during the darkest, hardest days of our lives? Is He worth leaving family, home country and all you find comfortable to make sure that those who are dying without ever hearing the gospel can hear for the first time? Is He worth our obedience to his word where he commands us to go and make disciples of all nations? These were just some of his challenges.

{If you want to see the complete story of Brooks Buser’s church planting experience, check out this video!}

Okay, now for the classes we’ve been taking:

Suffering Class

There is no better way to kick off a semester than with a class on suffering!  Though it was a rather abrupt start to the year we really enjoyed this particular course.  Our studies took us through the biblical rationale and concept of suffering, which we then applied to realities on the field.  We were greatly encouraged as we looked at the topic of suffering from a biblical point of view.  One of the most encouraging conclusions we arrived at is the idea that God allows suffering to help remind us that this world is not our permanent place of residence.  Although this is not the only reason God allows suffering, it is paramount that we live with eternity in mind.  Suffering in this life helps us to not get too caught up in the things of this world.

Another equally encouraging conclusion from this course is the idea that God flipped death and suffering on its head.  God took the very things that were the tools of the devil (death & suffering) and used them to defeat death and suffering!  Jesus defeated death by suffering, dying and rising again, and so too we find ourselves saved by dying to ourselves and living in Christ.  The only way to be separated from our sinful bodies and the suffering we endure is to die.  Suffering is also used by God to produce endurance and hope in the lives of believers.  So God actually uses death and suffering for His own righteous means.  Now that is encouraging!  Though we didn’t do any actual suffering in this class, we feel that we have a better concept of the necessity of suffering in our lives.  Hopefully this is preparing us to endure through hardships on the field.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

 

Romans 12-15

In this course we discussed how fellow believers are to relate to one another, and how believers should relate with governing authorities.  These topics have a ton of relevance to mission work, because the number one reason missionaries leave the field is to due to co-worker relationships.  This particular section in Romans deals with how Christians should relate to one another, and resolve to not put stumbling blocks in front of another.  Relations with governing authorities is another area we need to have a biblical perspective on, because we will eventually be working in a country where the government is far more corrupt than anything we are used to.  How should we relate to the government?  Should we respect them?  What if they demand unethical taxes and bribes?  Is it ok to disobey the governing authorities? These are all questions the Bible has interesting answers to, and we need to know these answers and guiding principles if we are to relate properly with foreign governments (and with our own as well).

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Pre-Evangelism

This course deals with a large section of time in our church planting efforts.  Pre-evangelism begins when we enter a tribe and then covers all the time up to chronological Bible teaching.  Some of the activities during this period include, language learning, culture learning, worldview discovery, literacy classes, medical care, Bible curriculum development, house building, and much more.  In this course we discussed many of these things, and the attitude we should have while doing them.  We were challenged to always keep the end goal of a mature church in mind.  Even while building a house we can be intentional about church planting.  For example, we could build a house exclusively with westerners, not allowing the tribal people to help because they would just “slow things down.” But would this be a good witness to them? Wouldn’t it just serve to separate you from them even more? Instead, wouldn’t it be better to build your house with the tribal people’s help (and possibly a team from home that would be willing to work alongside them!).  Along the way you can introduce tools like a chainsaw.  You can take this tool that they have never seen before and teach them how to use it.  You may teach them and then watch them use it for a while.  Once you are comfortable with them using it and know that they won’t sever any limbs, you can walk away and let them use it without supervision.  Afterwards you can explain that what you did with the chainsaw is also what you want to do with God’s talk.  You want to bring them God’s talk and teach it to them.  And just like the chainsaw they won’t know exactly what to do with it at first.  But you are going to stay to help them learn how to properly understand God’s talk so that eventually they can take God’s talk to others.  This way, even through house building, the tribal people are starting to take ownership of the ministry.  This is just one way we were challenged to think intentionally about our actions during the pre-evangelism time.

 

Culture and Language Acquisition Practicum (Dobu)

This class has really been where the rubber meets the road for us.  Dobu is the name of a Papua New Guinean tribe that has a very different culture and worldview from our own.  The staff here have recreated a Dobu village and some of them are acting as Dobu villagers.  Throughout this course we have gone into this mock village to visit and talk with the “villagers” to learn about their incredibly different culture.  We are seeking to discover how their worldview works, and the bridges and barriers we would have to utilize if we were to present the gospel to these people.  The staff have done a wonderful job in recreating a realistic scenario for us, and we have had a challenging yet wonderful time practicing many of the skills we have learned up to this point.

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Gideon Michael

I wanted to write a blog about our baby boy because we have so many family and friends who live so far away and can’t see him growing or get to know his sweet little developing personality. We are so sad we can’t just have all the special people in our life meet our little dude, so I decided I would write a blog about our son to introduce you to him! Get ready for pictures galore, because I just can’t stop taking them!

Gideon’s birth was so wonderful. Actually…it was incredibly painful and long and exhausting and I have never experienced raw womanhood the way I did giving birth. But in hindsight, it was wonderful- the reality of bringing a baby into the world is just amazing despite the difficult process. But we are so thankful that there were no complications, and he came out very healthy at 9lbs 1oz, and 22 inches long! (takin after his daddy already!)

My mom was able to be here in Missouri for the birth, and the day he was born, Jacob’s parents flew out as well! My dad came a few days later and my sister and brother in law came out the following weekend. Gideon got a lot of love that first week!

It was a MAJOR shock to the system to realize its not just a cliché- that parents of newborns really do get NO sleep. The first night we probably slept an hour and a half total. Turns out all that wiggling and wriggling Gideon did at night in my belly… well that doesn’t stop when he comes out! Aka our son was nocturnal for the first two weeks. He slept all day, and partied all night. It was so hard…pretty indescribably hard (unless you have also had a baby and then you understand what I am talking about haha). But he made up for it in sweet snuggles!

The first month truly is an indescribable blur.  Basically, Jacob was keeping me alive while I kept our baby alive… which is exactly what Jacob’s wise brother Levi warned us of. And its so true- hormones are nuts! Add to that the painful healing process your body is going through, and on top of it all you are averaging 3 hours of sleep per night (but only one hour at a time!). Mayhem. But against all that you believe to be true of your new reality, time marches on and suddenly our baby boy was not so nocturnal.

There are also some foundational baby truths we learned as first time parents such as: always, always expect that as soon as the diaper comes off during a diaper change, he WILL explosively poop. And if you have a little boy or have babysat boys, you know that there is also the factor of the flying pee which can attack at any moment, in any direction. And no matter what time of day you decide you want to eat a meal, that is the exact time your child will start crying to be fed. It’s uncanny. We have come to realize how important it is to put on a really cute outfit the day after a horrible night so you remember how sweet your baby really is. And on that note, how is it possible that they can turn into a different human at night? or maybe that’s just me…

We experienced a lot of firsts in that month… first time screaming his head off, first trip to the lake, first time breaking free from a swaddle (on day one, making sure we knew he HATED being swaddled), first bath (which he screamed through), first time in class with us, first time getting sprayed in the face with milk, first time peeing all over everything, first stroller ride, first time rolling over (WHAT?! slow down kid!), first time developing a love affair with his change table…I could go on… but you get the picture.

All of a sudden, Gideon was one month old! I couldn’t believe it when it arrived because it had been such a blur. But things were slowly starting to feel a little more manageable. I think maybe the hardest part of that first month is you are waiting for things to adjust back to the way they were before your life was rocked with a child who is totally dependent on you, but slowly you start to realize that life will never, ever be the same. And in some ways that is hard to come to grips with, but in others you couldn’t be more happy about it. It depends on the day and how well your child slept the night before LOL.

Gideon’s second month of life kicked off with the best surprise: HE SMILED!!! It sounds so ridiculous, but there is truly nothing more magical and life-giving than your newborn’s first smile. I cried. It is just the first sign that they may actually like you… that all your suffering has begun to pay off in a really tangible way. He woke up on October 6th, and after nursing him I said, “good mooooorning Gideon”, and he flashed back this sweet smile series which I miraculously got pictures of:

Well, basically this was the start of a month of changes in Gideon. He is so so sweet, smiling all the time and constantly discovering things. He has found his hands (which are constantly in a fist), he LOVES his daddy, and plays all kinds of games with him, he loves being outdoors, he loves his change table (still), he now absolutely loves bath time, and best of all, has discovered his voice! He and I can sit for long stretches where I just ask him all kinds of questions, and he just gazes at me and coos and talks back. It is the most enjoyable time! Overall, he is an incredibly good natured child who has his moments for sure, but overall is just a sweet happy boy!

Things have definitely been challenging these last two months learning how to become parents. I have never ever been so exhausted and feeling like I’m on my last legs. But just as so many people advised, it just gets better and better. It is so true!

We so wish we could introduce him to our loved ones back home, but are thankful for the ability to have the internet to introduce you to our son. We are just so in love and so thankful to be his parents! Today is Halloween so in honor of that, here is little Gideon as a pumpkin (outfit picked by daddy):

 

Worldview

A description of one key topic we have been focusing on in our classes here at New Tribes.

By Jacob DeValve

It’s been a little while since we last posted an update, but we hope you will forgive us as we have had our hands full with a little bundle of joy who entered into our lives on August 27.  Gideon Michael was born extremely healthy at 9 lbs. 1 oz. and 22″ long.  Since then he has been feeding and growing like a champ (which is really good but also a little hard on mom).  We are loving our little guy and learning how to be students of our son.

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As we learn more and more about how to be better parents, we have also begun our studies here at the MTC.  We are well underway in our classes, and we are thoroughly enjoying school as we seemed to be challenged every day.    So far our studies have focused on the topic of worldview.  This concept of worldview is the reason why our training is going to take so much longer than other organizations.  Let me attempt to explain.

A worldview is essentially the lens through which one sees the world.  We all look at the world through a specific lens and no two lenses are exactly alike.  However, lenses are often highly influenced by the culture in which we mature.  One’s worldview is made of basic core assumptions which always deal with topics like, “who am I,” and “who is God,” and “what is the purpose of life?”  These assumptions comprise a person’s beliefs about the way the world is.    Now here is where you’ll need to try and follow me.  One’s beliefs or one’s worldview affects one’s values.  In other words, a person’s values are determined by one’s worldview or beliefs.  An individual’s values in turn effect socio-cultural relationships, or the way in which a person relates to people and to institutions.  These relationships in turn determine one’s actions or behavior, which is what we actually see when we view a person.  The following is a diagram to help show how worldview works.

imagesBlue = Behavior

White = Relationships

Red = Values

Black = Worldview
The reason why concentric circles are used is because one’s worldview is at the heart of everything.  Every value a person holds, every relationship a person is in, and every behavior a person expresses, comes back to that individual’s worldview.  Let me demonstrate this with a real-life, tribal example.

Suppose you are in Papua New Guinea and you meet a husband and wife who cannot have children.  After months of trying to get pregnant to no avail you witness them go to a specific man in the community who claims to be descended from the buai tree.  This man greets the couple and after hearing about their predicament, he collects some fruit from this tree and gives it to the wife to eat while doing performing certain rituals.  After this short ceremony, he tells the couple that she will be pregnant in just a few short months without needing to have intercourse.  You have just witnessed an outward behavior.    Now we must begin to dig deep to understand why this couple behaved the way that they did.  As we go down to the relationship level we see that this couple relates with people and spirits in a very specific way.  Their relationships with people often revolve around knowledge of the spiritual realm.  In turn, their relationship with spirits is one in which they try to appease the spirits in order to live in harmony with them. As we travel down to the level of values we see that this couple values relationships with those who are spiritually knowledgeable.  They also feel that one ought to live in harmony with the spirits, and so they ought to appease the spirits.  Once you understand one’s values you can know a person pretty well, but to truly know a person you must dig down to their worldview.  At this level we see that this PNG couple believes that spirits are in everything.  One worldview assumption they hold is that spirits oftentimes must be appeased in order to get them to do something for you.  Another belief they hold is that the physical is always rooted in the spiritual.  There is never just a physical explanation, but always a spiritual one.  These beliefs are in turn effecting everything that they do.  This couple went to the buai man because of the beliefs they held concerning spirits.    The point of this example is to show that worldview effects one’s behavior.

The problem is, we so often do ministry by trying to change one’s behavior.  Or sometimes we get to the value level and try to change one’s values.  But if we only ever change one’s behaviors or values, we have not actually made any change to the core of that person.  In fact, we cannot truly change one’s actions or values without changing his or her worldview.  We must do ministry at a worldview level, which is a very difficult thing to do.  We must seek to actually help bring people to a biblical worldview.

Now some of you are probably thinking, “Why don’t you just go and share the Bible with people and let God’s Word change their worldview?”  This is a fair question.  The answer to the question is that we must be prepared to share God’s Word in a way that is understandable to its hearer, and in a way that confronts the hearer’s worldview. In other words, if we do not know a cultures worldview before we teach God’s Word, we will teach in a way that will not truly be understood by the hearers.  For example, imagine for a moment that you are teaching God’s Word to the couple in the example above and you never address their beliefs on the spiritual realm.  This couple would probably accept Jesus, but they would accept him as just another spirit that they would lump into the “good spirit” category.

This is a sad example of what happens all over the world in many ministries.  People hear God’s Word, but they never truly understand it, and end up adding Jesus into their pantheon of gods.  So without understanding worldview, we cannot present the gospel effectively.  If this concept is difficult to understand, try reading the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4.  Note how as Jesus talks with her, He gets down to her core beliefs.  Also note where the conversation goes and reflect on how much less effective Jesus would have been if He did not know about her worldview and the specific beliefs she held concerning worship.  Now the trick is figuring out how to change one’s worldview.  The trick to this is to present the gospel in a way that confronts a person’s worldview.  This is what we are currently being trained to do.

 

Missouri Musings

Well, after a whole year of not blogging, we are back at it! It seems a little lame to be writing about our life stateside, when our last posts were about crazy jungle adventures, but hey, life is always an adventure isn’t it?

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Last picture in Connecticut before we moved

 

A quick recap of why we are in Missouri:

After returning from Papua New Guinea last October, we knew we wanted to continue with New Tribes Mission to become career missionaries and be trained in tribal church planting. The next step in this process was to spend two years at the New Tribes Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Roach Missouri. No, you did not read that wrong, it is literally located in a town called Roach. Does anyone NOT think of cockroaches when you hear that?? … Me either. We applied, and were accepted for this fall semester, 2016. Well to add another twist to the story, we also got pregnant this year, and when we realized when the baby was due (the first week of classes at MTC) we were thrown for a loop.

Why oh why does it always seem that when you have the most perfect plan mapped out in your head of how you think your life is going to go, it NEVER works out that way? I swear, we have had so many ideas/plans for how perfectly everything would fall into place in the last few years, and God seems to constantly remind us (through rather dramatic means) that He is the one in charge, and no matter how much we plan and prepare and think things are set in stone, life can change in an instant sending our plans into the wind. I think I might actually be a little grateful for this in our life, though. I can’t even believe I’m saying it, because I have had my fair share of ‘temper tantrums’ with God, but I think I am starting to see the benefit of life being constantly upended for us. I noticed it the most with this move from Connecticut to Missouri…and that is  that I’ve let go a little bit. I’ve loosened my grip (a tiiiiiiiny bit) on trying to control my life because of how many times my plans have been shredded. And trust me, I do NOT have this mastered. But I did experience less “upset-ness” this move. (We have moved 8 times in 2 years of marriage, so I guess maybe that also has something to do with it LOL). But I am thanking God for this minor victory in my life.

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one of the views from campus

 

Anyways, all that to say, we made the move last week to Missouri (HUGE shout out to Jacob’s parents for helping us get here), and have spent the week exploring our new home. We live on a huge lake, which is VERY exciting. We have gone swimming almost every day since the “real feel” temperature on my weather app has said 100-106 degrees almost every day since we’ve been here. Add onto that me being almost 9 months pregnant and yea….its hot. But we’ve settled into our little apartment, seen the doctor who will deliver our baby, taken some walks, and talked a lot about how excited we are to meet our son!

And for anyone who is interested, here are some pictures of our new apartment:

(we have a room too, I just didn’t take any pictures of it haha)

It has been so wonderful to settle into a place where we know we will be for the next 2 years. Both Jacob and I have really felt like God is going to teach us some big things here at the training center. We also have some seriously huge decisions to make ourselves over the next two years, like where in the world we will go to church plant, who our partners will be, etc. We feel like we are right at the beginning of many new things, and it’s exciting!

For all of you who have prayed for us, THANK YOU. I really mean it when I say we felt the prayers, and have been really at peace throughout this transition.

Stay tuned for our next post which will most likely be an introduction to our baby boy who is coming in just about 2 weeks!! AH!

For those of you who have asked, here is our new address:

134 Main Dr. Roach, MO 65787

…Roach…it doesn’t get old…

EM TASOL….. (our LAST week in PNG)

We can’t believe that we are facing the end of our time here.  In some ways it has gone by so slowly, and in other ways it has FLOWN by. We have been flooded with thoughts this week reflecting on our time here.  We have had the privilege of sharing this journey with you through this blog.  I am thankful I don’t need to wrap up, in one concise paragraph, what we have learned here because, well, that would be impossible.  But to put it simply, God has shown us more of himself.  He has shown us his children, both the PNG natives as well as the missionaries working with them.  He has shown us His heart for them, how He longs to restore the broken human relationship with all of his people.  He has shown us his sense of humor as we have laughed so long and so hard with so many people, again, both missionaries and natives. He has shown us his comfort as we dealt with major adjustments and struggles throughout our time here.  He has shown us His wisdom through the missionaries who have gone before us and have taught us over the course of these last three months.  He has shown us His grace as we made many mistakes along the way.  And He has shown us His love surpasses understanding.  We have felt so strongly, the love of God, both in time spent with Him as well as through his children, both here in PNG and stateside as many of you have walked through this journey with us in prayer and support.

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The best part about this is we know it’s not the end.  We know, especially now after this trip, God has indeed called us to work with his lost children abroad.  We have seen the need and want to respond to it.

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I will come back to this at the end, but first let me tell you about all the excitement from this week!!

Some HIGHLIGHTS from this week:
– We had a workshop last weekend about interpersonal relationships.  One of the elders in the Itutang church (the one Bill & Kelley planted) was here on base, and we were able to meet him and hear from him.  It was unbelievable to hear him teach us on the importance of unity and godliness amongst ourselves when we go into a tribe.  One activity for the workshop was to draw inside a circle what has been on our minds and hearts lately.  We all drew things about family, and learning Tok Pisin.  Klatus, the Itutang elder got up and shared his with us.  He had drawn three sections and said (in Tok Pisin), “My heart is with the Itutang church and growing them, as well as our different outreaches to the Tangguat and other areas.” It was so simple, yet so profound.  Just a number of years ago, this man was lost and confused and thought white people were just the ghosts of dead black men.  Here he is, standing before us, with wisdom and godliness far beyond ours.  Meeting him and hearing him share bits and pieces of his faith was a joy to say the least.

Klatus
Klatus

– Jacob got to go on a nighttime fishing trip with his buddy Ramos! I’ll let him tell you all about that:

Last week Ramos and I had set up a night time fishing trip for this Monday night.  So around 7 o’clock I drove to Susu Banis where I was met by Ramos and a ton of little boys.  When I arrived Ramos told me that he wanted me to story (talk) with the head honcho of their village: a guy named Stephen. So Ramos sat me down with Stephen and a few other men from the village.  He then left me because he needed to round up a bunch more boys for our fishing excursion. So I was left there in the light of a tiny lamp storying with the leader of Susu Banis.  Stephen began to tell me how much he desired for a New Tribes Missionary to go to their original village which is deep in the bush.  He talked for quite a while about why they need a missionary.  It was heart wrenching to hear their desire for a missionary, and to realize the fact that there just is not anyone amongst their village capable of teaching them God’s Word.  There are many tribes in PNG who are just like this, waiting for missionaries to come and teach.  Of course there are other ulterior motives but how sad is it that many tribes are waiting to receive a missionary while there just are not enough missionaries on the field to reach them all.  After storying with Stephen, Ramos returned with many little boys and we headed off into the bush.  Ramos had made a spear for me and so we started our trek to the ocean.  As we went we used our flashlights to shine into the water and catch the red glint of the eyes of a fish or prawn.  The kids were very skilled at spearing the fish but I missed every time.  I am sad to say that I failed to spear a single fish on this venture.  But it was a great time.  We slogged through mud together, and waded through a mangrove, and fished for a long time.  At around ten they had caught quite a few fish and several prawns.  I then discovered the reason they were so excited for me to come fishing with them: they wanted me to taste all of these things.  So they started a fire on the beach and began cooking everything.  They would just throw the fish and the prawns directly into the coals and let them cook for a while.  Then they would hand the animals to me.  They told me to eat the prawns in one bite, so I did.  They were actually delicious, but just a little crunchy (they have an exoskeleton, tons of tiny legs, and a bony barb on their head).  They then had me try a fish that they called the longpela maus fish (it had a really long mouth).  This fish was very bony but it too had a good taste.  I ended up eating four prawns, one fish and a clam.  I had a few digestive problems after but it was well worth it.  For the next several days the people of Susu Banis were talking about this trip and they were so happy that I had shared in this event with them.  I say this not to toot my own horn, but just to show how important it is just to spend time with these people and to build relationships.  I did very little talking on this trip but just the fact that I tried their food brought me closer to them than I ever had been before.

Jacob and his buddies (Ramos is holding the mango)
Jacob and his buddies (Ramos is holding the mango)

– On Wednesday we got to go into town to see the Madang museum! Ok so the history buff in me was super excited about this J It was just one room, but there were so many cool artifacts from their history.  Sadly, their known history is only as long as Europeans have been involved since they were an oral society and nothing was written down until the 1800s.  But they still have some legends and stories dating farther back.  It was helpful to understand the history of the people we are working with, especially the extreme difference between tribal life in grass skirts, and large, exploratory ships from Europe with lots of strange new things landing on the shores of Papua New Guinea.

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– We have had some amazing times with our village friends this week.  Explaining why we were leaving was so hard.  They understood that we had to go back and get more training before we were ready to become full time missionaries, but we could see they were just as sad as us.  They treated us so well this week making us food, and taking Jacob fishing, and making bilums for me as gifts.  We are truly saddened to leave our friends and SO thankful for the memories and bonds formed with these awesome people.

my friend Evelyn
my friend Evelyn
Jacob eating some fish Evelyn made for us
Jacob eating some fish Evelyn made for us

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– Jacob was asked to organize an afternoon of games for the E2 team (our group of new missionaries orienting to PNG) traditionally called “Bush Mangi Olympics”! He did an amazing job! We broke up into two teams and had 10 different events to compete in.  Some included who can dump compost the fastest, a relay race around the base, building a fire and melting a frozen shirt, etc. Everyone had a blast!

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– On Saturday our team took a trip to Top Island together as a little goodbye trip for us.  It was such a special time to be together and relax on a gorgeous tropical island.  I did have to face my new fear of boats by getting in one again, but it was good for me haha. We had come to this island the second week we were in PNG, and it was so funny being there on our last week.  Sitting in the white sand, I took a moment to contemplate how much has changed since that second week.  How much I’ve changed since that second week.  We have learned so much and have seen God work in such incredible ways in our hearts, and both Jacob and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to come here. We had an amazing day with our friends who we now consider our E2 family.

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Some LESSONS from this week:

– We feel like there has definitely been some unfortunate timing of events to try and hinder our last week adventures here. Jacob sprained his ankle pretty bad a week ago.  It is totally fine and didn’t hinder him from much thank goodness. But it looks bad.  All our friends were so concerned for him in the villages and we got a lot of interesting healing advice. Another unfortunate incident was that I got worms!! UGH! How gross is that?! It is NOT fun to have worms, but thankfully we figured out what it was and I was able to take meds to kill them. We both felt fine this week and thoroughly enjoyed our last days here!

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– Sometimes when you are driving down the road, you not only have to compete with the usual maze of dogs and cars, but also a whole pack of people chanting and singing…

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-When you make a meal and invite some of your PNG friends, expect that you will get about DOUBLE the amount of people you are expecting! On Friday, we cooked a big meal and invited all our language helpers and their families over for a big THANK YOU meal.  It was a little stressful since Jacob’s friend Ramos has two wives, and both have kids, as well as my friends and another family we’ve worked with.  So I did the calculations and I estimated about 17 people would be coming to lunch.  In the back of my head I thought there could be more people coming, because when the word gets out that there is food, pleeeenty more people would try and squeeze their way in! Boy was I right- there were probably between 30 and 35 people who showed up! Thank goodness I cooked 15 cups of rice and 2lbs of pasta to go along with the chicken, sausages and veggies! There was not a single leftover! But here’s the thing, it was an AMAZING time! We enjoyed so much being able to thank our friends and spend the day with them on our home turf.  We have spent so much time at their villages watching them take care of us and teach us, that it was so nice to reciprocate and show them we like to take care of them and teach them too.  That is what friendship is.  Reciprocal.  We had a blast eating, playing volleyball, talking, and watching the kids have the time of their life trying to get mangoes out of the trees.

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-Sometimes boats just aren’t made to accommodate a 6’4 man and 4 excited boys! While I was sitting talking with my friend Rosewita, Jacob was led by her little boys out to their fishing canoe.  The little boys eagerly asked him to go out with them, which of course, Jacob did.  Rosewitas girls come running over to us dying laughing and telling us that the boys all went out in the canoe.  Of course I had to go see.  It was so funny watching the little boys laugh and laugh as the floated around, the boat barely visible above the water line.  Jacob said they got so much water in the boat haha!

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-Sometimes, on tropical islands, you find the most incredible starfish!

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– Saying goodbye is so hard.  This morning we had to say bye to the little church we’ve been attending every Sunday for the past three months. (Trinity, this is the church you raised money for in VBS!) The pastor Jepheth gave us a super sweet farewell during his service.  It was so hard to say our goodbyes after the service, not knowing for sure if we’d be back or what life will bring. But the best part about hard goodbyes is that you have made a relationship matter enough to make it a hard goodbye.  I keep saying this over and over to myself as we keep saying goodbye to the people we have come to love here.  Doesn’t make it any easier but I am so thankful for the relationships we have.

our E2 family
our E2 family

So here I am, sitting in the 90 degree heat of the night writing my final blog for our trip to PNG.  I want to thank each and every one of you who have sent us notes, prayed for us, gave financially to us, and encouraged us in so many ways.  We TRULY could not have done this without you.  And we really REALLY want to share more with you in person! So here’s the deal:

We will be getting back to the US on Tuesday.  Please, please email one of us if you would like to get together.  We would like nothing more than to SHARE more about our time here, and we also want to hear how things have been on your side of the world as well! So don’t hesitate, just shoot us an email and we can work something out! My email is: Katie.devalve@gmail.com, Jacob’s is: jcdevalve@liberty.edu.  We would love to chat!

Secondly, we are not done with missions! We are more committed than ever to pursue what God has for us through New Tribes.  This means a couple years (stateside) of training at the New Tribes Missionary Training Center in Missouri. We hope to be heading there Fall of 2016.  During those two years, we will be in full time training as full time missionaries preparing for the field. We cannot wait to see where the Lord leads us as we keep our hearts open to where in the world He would have us commit to full time.

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And finally, we will be keeping up occasionally on this blog with information on where we are headed and how you can be a part of it! For more info, check out our website at: http://www.ourjunglelife.com

Thank you again for your incredible support and love throughout this journey.  We can’t wait to get back and see many of you!

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EM TASOL

Lessons From the Dinangat Tribe

For the first time this week, we were able to see a tribal church! We stayed a few extra days in the highlands waiting for a plane to take us to Dinangat. We had met the missionaries to Dinangat (the Schlegel family) last week at conference, and they had offered to give us a tour of their tribe. So on Wednesday, we once again boarded a tiny prop plane ready to take on the mountains.

squeeeezed in
squeeeezed in

Let me just say, I am not the biggest fan of flying through mountainous regions on prop planes where you can feel every little bump and wind burst.  Jacob had to keep asking me to loosen my grip on his hand haha. The views were absolutely breathtaking though, and we were stunned at the majesty of the scenery.

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When we were a few minutes out from reaching Dinangat, the pilot pointed out his window.  I leaned over Jacob to see our destination.  Tucked away at the bottom of a bowl up in the mountains lay a small strip of grass.  Jacob informed me that this was our landing site.  My stomach sank.  How could the pilot possibly avoid hitting all these mountains to successfully land on that bumpy, banana shaped airstrip?!

see that tiny thing?!
see that tiny thing?!

As he began to descend, he circled two fist clenching times and touched down.  We bounced (literally) down the runway before coming to a stop right before a wall of bushes.  I was very happy to have my feet firmly planted on the earth again. (seems to be a theme for me this trip…). Jacob LOVED every minute of the plane ride! Maybe I need to ride more roller coasters to prepare myself for one day being back on the field and flying in small aircrafts.

at the end of the airstrip
at the end of the airstrip

We were greeted by the Schlegel family and some members of their tribe.  Unlike other tribes we’ve seen so far here in PNG, the Dinangat people are much more reserved.  We had to initiate conversation (in the trade language Tok Pisin) with them. But they were still all smiles and were happy we were there. Ralf Schlegel introduced us to some of the bible teachers in the tribe.

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Us with the Schlegel family!
Us with the Schlegel family!

Ralf gave us a brief overview of the Dinangat work:

The airstrip in Dinangat was built by the people in the 1980’s so they could have more access to the outside world.  With that access came a lot of other influences including many different, and mixed up beliefs claiming to be “Christian.” The Dinangat people never heard a message of salvation that made sense to them (since it was never presented in their heart language or in a clear manner) so they did not understand who God was.  They added him to their spirit list and did some things they thought would earn his favor, like singing songs to him and going to “church” on Sunday.  When the Schlegel’s and two other missionary families went in in the early 2000s, they began learning the Dinangat tribal language.  After they learned the language, they began literacy training with the Dinangat people.  Literacy is a crucial step because you are not only teaching them to read and write in their own language, you are modeling how to teach and disciple people.  You are opening the door for them to be able to actually read God’s word for themselves someday.

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The literacy teaching room

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After literacy, the missionaries began translating Bible stories.  Once they were translated, they began teaching.  The key to a proper understanding of the Bible, especially for tribal people who have no framework for knowing who God is, is to teach the Bible from beginning to end.  Chronological teaching is hugely important.  God’s story, his word given to us, is ONE story, with a common theme running through the whole book: redemption.  After months of teaching, the missionaries explained to the Dinangat tribe the importance of Jesus: who he is and how his death paid the penalty for our sin so we, imperfect people, could be right with a perfect God. Many in the Dinangat tribe believed and were saved!! They are now working on the Bible translation and have many books from the New Testament translated and distributed for the people to read.  The Schlegels told us that sometimes they will be walking around the village and see the people sitting outside reading their Bibles and clicking their tongues (a cultural signal that something is really good).

Ralf reading us a section of Romans in the Dinangat language
Ralf reading us a section of the Bible in the Dinangat language
Their church building where believers gather throughout the week
Their church building where believers gather throughout the week

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Jacob has more to tell about our time spent with some tribal believers:

While we were in Diangat, we got to hear the testimony of one of the Bible teachers: Lucas.

Lucas
Lucas

Lucas shared with us about how he and all of the villagers used to live in fear of the spirits.  They believed that spirits were involved in everything, and they were especially afraid of spirits with ill intent.  Because of this, all of the villagers made their houses with extremely small windows.  Most of the windows were less than a foot wide and a foot high.  As you could imagine, their homes were very dark.  The reason for the small windows was because they believed that evil spirits would come into their houses at night via the windows.  Their reasoning was that if they made the windows small enough, then the spirits would be less likely to get in.  As Lucas shared with us he drew our attention to a new house that he was building.  As we looked at this new house we noticed that the windows were very large.  Lucas triumphantly declared that he was no longer afraid of the spirits since he had learned the truth about God.  Now he makes his windows large as a testimony to his trust in God.  Lucas now knows that he does not have to fear evil spirits.  His God is big enough to take care of him.

The big windows on his new house!
The big windows on his new house!

This is such a beautiful picture of God’s truth.   As I have reflected upon this, it is amazing that God’s Word is not just truth, but that it is a beautiful truth.  Truth is truth whether it seems good or bad.  It is true that Hitler orchestrated mass killings of Jews in the 20th century even though we wish it was not true.  But the truth of God is truth that brings light and not darkness.  The truth of God eradicates fear.  The truth of God brings life and light.  The God of the Bible came down and made a way for humans to come back to Him.  Though some gawk at this notion, it is the one thing that sets Christianity apart from all other worldviews.  The sad truth about humans is that we are all lost in sin and darkness.  This is truth whether we accept it or not.  We are all trapped in our sin and our depraved thinking, and we all need a savior.   Christianity looks outside of one’s self for this savior and looks to Christ.  God has made a way: what a beautiful truth.

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As I reflect on Lucas’ story I am also forced to conclude that God’s truth is transformative.  There is a common misconception today that is quite destructive: this is the notion that tribal people are happy with the way they live, and that they should just be left alone.  When tribal people in PNG are told that some people in the west think this way they are literally dumbfounded.  Just ask Lucas.  He lived in a world of fear and falsehood before he understood the gospel.  Everything he did was out of fear.  He was not happy with his life.  NTM missionaries frequently receive letters from tribes begging to receive missionaries, because they see how God’s Word has positively effected other tribes.  The goal of missions is not to change the culture of tribal people.  We do not want to see the entire world become westernized.  Rather the goal is to present the gospel and allow God’s Word to effect change wherever change needs to occur.  There are aspects of some tribal cultures that clearly need to be transformed.  Those that argue that tribal cultures should be left untouched do not know about marking women as witches and burning them at the stake.  They do not know that in some tribes here, when twins are born, one twin is buried in a termite mound because they believe it has a bad spirit that needs to be tortured and killed so it never returns to the village.  They do not know that women are treated as property and therefore a husband can beat his wife to death with her father watching on in approval.  They do not know that parents beat their children because they know of no other way to discipline.  They do not know that some tribes will offer human sacrifices to appease the spirits.  They do not know that cannibals eat other humans because they think they will gain the power of the person they eat.  Tribal people are not innocent humans who live a happy existence.  They need the Word of God, and we need to bring it to them.

Lucas' wife (who is also a believer) and their children
Lucas’ wife (who is also a believer) and their children

As we have been in PNG we have witnessed some of these beliefs firsthand.  We have seen the fear that animists live in.  We have talked to people who are deathly afraid of sanguma (evil spirits).  We have seen parents beating their children.  We have met those with multiple wives because the women are looked at as property only.  Bare in mind that I am not attempting to bash tribal culture, but rather to draw attention to the need of the transformative power of God’s Word.

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Me again 🙂  One of the most amazing things we’ve heard during our time here in PNG is the testimonies of both missionaries and tribal believers who talk of the visible transformation the Holy Spirit creates in the lives of tribal believers.  Somehow we forget as we go about our busy lives in America that the Holy Spirit has the power to actually change us.  Not just change our minds but change our actions as well.  How many of us wish we could be better in certain areas of our lives? This visible demonstration of Gods power in changing the heart of these tribal believers is something that has encouraged me since being here to get on my knees and actually pray for God to CHANGE me.  One thing Bill Housley always says is that planting a tribal church was like watching the book of Acts play out in front of him.  Change is not easy. Just read the book of Acts and see the growing pains everyone experienced, both the missionaries and the churches.  But that pain in growth produces life.  It produces a refined character and closer relationship to God. We are privileged to be here and to be reminded of God’s transformative power in the lives of ALL who put their faith in Him.

Ralf showing us the teaching the people did all on their own showing how old testament stories pointed to Jesus.
Ralf showing us the Dinangat teaching they did on their own showing how old testament stories pointed to Jesus.

We had an amazing time in Dinangat hearing from tribal believers. One thing that really struck me as we were flying home to Madang was seeing the tiny pockets of villages tucked away in the mountains.  I realized that this was truly what unreached people groups look like.  There were no roads to get in or out, no airstrips for planes to get in, and there was extreme terrain and days-long hikes to prevent easy walking access from a town. This is how some people can go their whole lives without ever hearing the name Jesus, how they will never get the Bible translated into their own language, and how they will live and die without knowing God.  These are people just like you and I who, because of their geographic location, are some of the last to hear of God.  But God loves these people too.  This is why He commands us to “GO and make disciples of ALL nations.” Both Jacob and I feel so privileged to have grown up with access to God’s word, and to be a part of God’s plan for reaching the world.

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We are back in Madang now, reconnecting with our friends in the villages and feeling very strange about it being our last full week in PNG!

Picture taken while we were still in the highlands
Picture taken while we were still in the highlands

Prayer requests:

– For excellent last experiences with our friends in the village, and that the goodbyes will go well.

Highland Happiness

MOUNTAINS! COLD AIR! RAIN! PROP PLANES! All of these and more make up this fantastic week at the central area conference in the highlands of Papua New Guinea!

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So New Tribes Mission Papua New Guinea is broken into 3 different regions: Sepik, Central, and Islands.  Once a year, each region has a conference where all the missionaries from that region come out of the bush in order to get together, hear what is going on in each other’s tribes, as well as the field as a whole.  We were able to attend the Central conference this week, located in Goroka up in the mountains (the supply and headquarter base for the central region are located here). It was an UNBELIEVABLE week.

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On Monday, Jacob and I along with Kelley and Bill (our leaders) boarded a tiny (and I mean TINY) prop plane to take the 30 minute flight into the mountains. I was SO nervous. I had never ever been in a plane this small with seemingly so little blocking me from the outdoors! But I swallowed my fear and got on board.  Jacob, on the other hand, was super excited.  He got to sit in the cockpit and wear the headset so the pilot could tell him everything that was going on.  It was nerve wracking at first, but I ended up LOVING it! It was amazing to have such a beautiful, aerial view of Madang where we have been for the last 2 months.  I could appreciate the tropical blue of the water so much more from above.

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I could also see firsthand why the “cargo cult” mentality we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts, is such a prevalent thing.  Here you can see the giant ships literally bringing cargo onto shore.

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The flight went smoothly, and we entered the mountains. The views literally took my breath away.  After being at sea level for 2 months, it was incredible to feel the cool air and see the looming mountains poke through the clouds as we soared through.  We only hit one spot where it felt like the plane just dropped and I was suuuper nervous, but it was over quick, and before I knew it, we were landing!

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coming in to land!
coming in to land!

We got a tour of the two bases that support all the central region missionaries, as well as New Tribes Aviation. It was so amazing to see the people and the place that makes living in the bush possible. I will take you on your own tour of the inner workings of New Tribes PNG:

New Tribes Aviation takes care of all transportation with helicopter, prop planes and Kodiak flights into and out of the bush.  They don’t just drop you off and pick you up though.  They do emergency evacuations, help you build your house in the bush, they bring you your supplies, and they just plain encourage you.

brand new kodiak plane!
brand new kodiak plane!

Lapilo: the central area base of support workers.  These people do everything.

Small view of the large Lapilo base
Small view of the large Lapilo base

Supply buying: When you as a missionary are out in the bush, you have no access to groceries.  What you do is send in an order to the supply buyers at Lapilo.  They will go grocery shopping for you, both at their store on base, and in town.  They will make sure your order is completely filled out, package it up, and place it on the proper shelf to get to you in your tribe.

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The Lapilo store where some American/European supplies are shipped to
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Kelley with one of the supply buyers!
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The wooden plaques say the name of each tribal work. The supplies are placed accordingly

Doctor: There are two medical doctors located at the base.  I could NOT believe how beautiful the doctor’s office was! It looked JUST like a medical office in the US! It was clean, they had tons of medications, eye charts, examination rooms, even a mini emergency room! They were very busy this week as all the missionaries and their kids were on base getting their yearly checkups. Praise God for the sacrificial service of these doctors who gave up great salaries in the states to come here to be medical missionaries.  Truly this field could not operate without them here to take care of everyone!

waiting room
waiting room

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There is a school for kids from kindergarten through to seniors in high school.  There are many teachers who have also given up their careers in the states and Europe to come here to provide solid teaching for the kids here. There are accountants, engineers, carpenters to help build homes for the missionaries out in the bush, electrical guys who install solar panels on the homes, plumbers, the list goes on and on.  We met an elderly couple working in a print shop on base who were literally beaming when they told us about their job.  They had worked in a tribe for many years.  As they got older, they moved on base and took up working the print shop so that missionaries could send in requests for bibles, literacy materials, and anything else they need printed in their tribe’s native tongue and not have to spend the time doing it themselves.  This couple told us that they loved their job so much because, “we are helping bring the gospel to all these tribes by allowing the missionaries to have more time learning language and culture and not having to take the time to print all their own materials.” They eagerly showed us a computer file full of material from each tribal work in the central region who they have printed material for (in the native tongue of those tribes). How cool is that?!

Missionary kids- they got to do VBS this week
Missionary kids- they got to do VBS this week

On Wednesday, the conference began.  Each morning, we gathered in a large tent and sang songs together.  A pastor from the states came to PNG to encourage and teach the many missionaries.  It was so great to be poured into by a pastor speaking in English! I forgot how much I missed listening to sermons and being able to be ‘fed’ from the word.  And we’ve only been here two months! I can’t imagine how the other missionaries felt who only get this once a year!

under the tent
under the tent

After the sermons, we would have a time for “field reports.” This was a time for each team to report what was going on in their tribe, and what God had done over the course of the year. I am not even kidding you, the work that is going on here in PNG is absolutely mind-blowing! God is using each of these missionary teams to reach his unreached people.  As we heard from different teams, I was brought to tears over their hardships, but also their joys.  The joy that each missionary exuded over the tribal church plants was tangible.  I will highlight just one particularly amazing story among the many we heard:

Tangguat: This is one of the most exciting examples of God working through his church to reach those who have never heard.  Back in 2008, Bill and Kelley Housley (our leaders) planted a church among the Itutang people.  After the Itutang heard the word of God and

Bill and Kelley
Bill and Kelley

believed, they became very burdened for a neighboring tribe (Tangguat) where many of them had family.  They realized if the Tangguat people did not hear God’s word in their own language like the Itutang had, they would not be saved.  They as a church, decided they wanted to do an outreach to the Tangguat to bring God’s word to them. But they needed help.  They had never done anything like this before, and needed someone who could to train them.  Bill and Kelley brought this request to the New Tribes missionaries looking for a place to allocate and told them this was very different than the usual New Tribes work, but that it was the opportunity of a lifetime to help come alongside the tribal church to allow them to reach out and fulfill the great commission.  One family (the Leneers) and one single woman (Promise) took up the challenge and began working with the Itutang church.  There were some bilingual Itutang believers who knew the Tangguat language. They taught the missionaries Tangguat.  The missionaries then worked alongside the Itutang believers to help them build a literacy program to teach the Tangguat people to read and write.  Once the literacy program was complete and the Tangguat had literate people, the Itutang church along with the missionaries began translating and formatting Bible lessons.  They worked through the whole old testament chronologically, translating key stories into the Tangguat language.  At one point, the Itutang believers met and one elder asked them, “whose work is this to reach Tangguat?” Half of the believers said “it’s God’s work” and the other half said “it’s our work.” Not a single one said it was the work of the missionaries. How amazing is that?! The day finally came for the Itutang to take the day long hike to Tangguat to begin teaching chronologically through God’s word.  Each day the Itutang believers taught, with almost the whole Tangguat village in attendance.  Not once did the white missionaries teach- it was all done by the Itutang believers.  When they taught through Jesus’ death and resurrection, explaining the significance of that, many, many Tangguat people believed and were saved!! Now the Itutang and Tangguat churches both encourage each other, teaching and learning from God’s word.

The Wantakia team sharing
The Wantakia team sharing

Tribe after tribe was discussed, and over the course of the week we were able to see an incredible picture of the field of PNG as a whole.  Guys, God is MOVING here.  Seriously- there have been so many churches planted in so many tribes here. But the beautiful thing to me is that New Tribes is not about just planting a church.  It is about bringing that church to maturity.  This means discipling that church through the hard times, translating the bible into their own language so they can have it to read, in their own language, for generations to come, and teaching the church how to multiply itself through outreaches to neighboring tribes.  Jacob and I were both so encouraged by the amazing work God is doing through His faithful servants here who are people from both Europe and America, just like you and I, who have considered God’s call to make disciples of every nation and faithfully followed Him to the jungles of PNG.

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But guess what every single one of them had to say about their sacrifice? “It is worth it. God is always worth it.” As we talked to missionary after missionary, each one said the same thing.  Even through the hardest things imaginable, each one said that to see God change the hearts of the tribal people before their eyes, bringing them from darkness into light, was worth every struggle.  It really challenged me to hear this.  Do I really believe that God is worth it? Even amidst the hardest times of my life, do I still think that? Often I do not.  The God of this world, who created everything including me, who watches humanity turn on him each and every day, yet loves them enough to kill his very son to provide a way for them to have peace with God- this is the God I don’t think is worth it?! Just goes to show how much growing I still have to do…

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We had a great time at conference rubbing shoulders with amazing men and women of God.  We can’t wait to get back and share more with you about the various tribal church plants here in PNG.  Here are the names of some tribes that have believers we will be worshipping with in heaven some day:

Tangguat, Pal, Dinangat, Simbari, Mibu, Tobo, North Wahgi, Itutang

Sharing about their tribe
Ralph sharing about the Dinangat work

And these are the names of tribes where the missionaries are still working on the language and culture, and the gospel has yet to be presented. Pray pray pray for them!

Menya, Wantakia, Manam

rubbing shoulders with amazing missionary women at a ladies lunch on Friday
rubbing shoulders with amazing missionary women at a ladies lunch on Friday

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We were able to do many other exciting things this week:

Explore Goroka:

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Ping Pong competition:

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I found my first PNG latte on American national coffee day!

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still good even though it was found in the middle of the grocery store 🙂

Jacob was able to play basketball:

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We participated in skit night:

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We went down this epic slip and slide:

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And finally, on Sunday, we got to drive out with a bunch of teens to a local cliff jump into a river.  It was such a great way to end this fantastic, amazing week!!

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Jacob about to jump!
Jacob about to jump!
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there he goes!
the pool we jumped into!
the pool he jumped into!

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Prayer Requests:

-With just 2 weeks left here in PNG, we are both excited and sad to leave PNG.  We feel like we are going to have a lot of processing to do and a lot of transition in coming back to the states, so just pray for our hearts as we prepare for this.

-We get to go visit another bush location this week! Pray for us as we interact with the Dinangat people (many of whom are believers!)

Our first Eval!

Evaluation week!! The week everyone dreads, the week where everyone cries, the week we wish we could avoid. This is the week where a trained, New Tribes language consultant sits down with you and your language helpers to watch you interact, asks you questions, and evaluates your skill level to determine where you are in knowing the language. Then he places you in a level.  In order to be placed in a tribe, you must know the national language at the “capable high” level. The levels look like this:

Basic low, basic mid, basic high (word level- sentence level)

Progressing low, progressing mid, progressing high (sentence level- paragraph level)

Capable low, capable mid, capable high (paragraph level – discourse level)

Discourse level (fluency)

On Monday afternoon, Jacob and I went with Aaron (our evaluator) out to our language helpers Terri and Rosewita. The evaluation itself was nerve wracking, but also kinda fun.  Aaron asked Terri and Rosewita to tell us to do different things so he could test us on our comprehension.  We also had to translate short stories they told us.  Basically, the evaluator’s goal is to push you until you fail to see how much you know.  So at one point in the evaluation, Aaron asked Jacob to describe in detail a decathlon! Jacob did a great job trying to get out as much as he could about it.  Next Aaron asked me to describe the history of the lobster in New England.   Haha it was really funny to try and explain something so difficult and watch our language helpers die laughing at our attempts. They were so sweet about it too- Rosewita really wanted me to do well so every time Aaron turned his head, she would start whispering the right answers to me haha. But we made it through! Jacob is well above average and was placed at progressing mid.  I was at basic high.  We are both so excited to have had the experience of being tested since we know in the future this will be the same format for all our language checks wherever we end up! Thanks for the prayers you guys!

Terri and Jacob
Terri and Jacob

Some HIGHLIGHTS from this week:

  1. Jacob was able to get some really cool insights into Ramos’ beliefs about the spirit world.                                                                 2015-09-09 20.02.41

                Jacob speaking: As I talked with Ramos this week he circled back to a previous conversation I had had with him earlier.  He wanted to talk more about the spirit world and how the spirits have control over everything that they do.  He talked about certain men who work magic and sorcery, and about how powerful they are.  He then told me that he desires to hear the story that NTM tells so that they can get rid of the spirits and serve only one Big Spirit.  This conveys misunderstanding about the gospel message, but the desire to hear God’s word is there nonetheless.  I have been struck with the animist’s desire to appease the spirits.  The world Ramos lives in right now he thinks he must appease the spirits in order to live a safe life.  Though this seems foreign to us, it is actually a mentality close to the hearts of all men.  How often do we do things because we think we can earn favor with God, or obey God so that he will bless us.  Often times this is the mentality guiding our decisions.  We think God blesses when we do good, and curses when we do evil.  This is the type of God that everyone but Christians serve.  The difference between Christianity and all other religions is that in Christianity God showed grace and came down to us to make a way to Himself.  God reached down to man.  In all other religions it is up to man to find his way to God or to heaven.  But in Christianity all one must do is trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  There is no need to appease, as there is in all other religions.  God has appeased Himself by sacrificing His Son (who by the way is raised from the dead).  This is the truth that Ramos does not yet realize that he desires to know, but hopefully one day he will hear and accept it.

The lack of missionaries New Tribes has to send is so sad. New Tribes has stacks and stacks of letters written from tribes all across Papua New Guinea asking to please send them a missionary so they can hear God’s talk.  It is actually heartbreaking to read these letters.  People here are begging for the word of God and there just aren’t enough missionaries to go around.

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  1. We were able to rub shoulders with a bunch of missionaries from many different tribes over the course of this week as there was a conference happening here in Madang. It was so awesome to hear a bit about each team and their joys and struggles with their different ministries. Want to know the number one reason why missionaries leave the field? Co-worker relations.  You are out in the middle of nowhere in a tribe working with one or two other families and they are the only people who speak the same language as you.  It’s like a giant pressure cooker for your relationships.  Our leaders have impressed upon us the urgency of GRACE with co-workers and the importance of having a really good strategy statement.   A strategy statement is something you as a team must come up with together before you can go into the tribe and it lays out all the important ground rules and procedures you as a team will stick to.  This can really be make it or break it if you have poor relations as a team and have to constantly be coming off the field to deal with your issues.  It can also be really bad if you are not modeling good relations as the people are constantly watching your every move, and later you are going to be discipling them on principles from God’s  word such as UNITY among believers.  If they never saw unity between you and your co-workers, how are they supposed to understand how to do that?

    On Fridays we all get together and cook at the "haus kuk" on the grill
    On Fridays we all get together and cook at the “haus kuk” on the grill
  2. I got to learn how to make a bilum! Bilums are basically the PNG version of a backpack, baby carrier, purse, wallet, shopping bag all in one. It is a bag that both men and women carry with them everywhere they go. Their infants sleep in a specific type of them as well! Well one day this week my good friend Anastasia was working on one and I expressed interest in learning how.  She told me to come on Saturday and she would teach me.  We had a great time together with me struggling through just a few stitches and everyone laughing as I attempted to make the bilums.  It is hard work you guys! So we certainly didn’t finish, but I am excited to go back and continue working on it with them.                                                                                     20150926_090907 20150926_091235  20150926_091400

    The kids got bored so Jacob started teaching them a new game.
    The kids got bored so Jacob started teaching them a new game.
  3. After this stressful week of testing, we were able to get out for a little “break” on Saturday afternoon. There is a place called Jais Aben close to our base where they have a decent restaurant and an area to swim in. It was such a joy to be able to relax a little, get cooled off, and get the closest food to an American cheeseburger!
Jais Aben
  Jais Aben
Man needs his burger right?!
Man needs his burger right?!

Some LESSONS from this week:

  1. Ok, so you know how I’ve mentioned babies go naked here? Ever wonder what happens when they poop or pee? Found that out up close and personal this week! As I was making the bilum, a girl was sitting next to me holding a baby boy….who decided to pee all over my hand, which was resting close to him. I didn’t make a big deal about it because I didn’t really mind, and they get so upset about their kids doing things like that on the “white lady”. A little while later, a one year old decided he had to poop.  So when the ladies saw him about to poop on the tarp we were sitting on, they quickly stood him up against some logs.  He just stood there for a while until he finally pooped everywhere.  They wiped him up with a piece of cloth, wiped the poop off the ground and moved on with things.  Sorry if that was too graphic, but it was just so interesting to see the way different cultures handle child rearing…or potty training to be exact 🙂

    Paul Paul
    Paul Paul
  2. We saw a snake AND a giant toad this week.  Too many creatures lol. 20150921_074850
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  3. It has not rained a single drop since we’ve been here. No joke. I guess there is an El Nino right now causing a massive drought. They keep telling us that this bad of a drought hasn’t happened since 1997.  The people here are all living completely off their gardens so many of our friends are really hungry right now and have no food since their gardens have been ruined by the lack of rain.  They are living off of just a few potatoes a day, basically. Please pray that it will rain soon!

    garden
    garden
  4. Ok. This lesson is something God has really been impressing on me, and it’s a super hard one. OBEDIENCE.

I don’t like being out of my comfort zone 24-7 and I certainly don’t want to fly halfway across the world and make my home in some tribe somewhere, away from family and away from all that I know.  BUT here’s the thing… God has asked me to do this.  In fact, He asks every one of his followers to let go of their life.  Jesus says “‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25). God has asked us all to let go of what we want in this lifetime and embrace what He wants from us.  And here’s the tricky part- His plans may look different than what we want. If I could chose my perfect life, I would stay close to my family in America, make money, live comfortably, travel the world, raise my kids right by their grandparents, and live in relative peace and security all the rest of my days.  But guess what? That is not what God has asked of our family.  He has clearly asked both Jacob and I if we would follow him to a people group who has no opportunity to hear his word.  He loves everyone, and wants all his children to have the opportunity to know him and to be with him forever.  And here is where we get to practice that verse- losing our lives for Christ’s sake.

But Jesus didn’t stop at “lose your life.” He continues and says that when we lose our life, give up our desires in order to follow His better plan for us, that is when we “will find [our life].” We were reminded this week by a very wise missionary who had been through the wringer with his tribe that God doesn’t just love the unreached tribal people.  He loves me and Jacob too.  He knows what is best for us and what will be the best possible life for our family.  My view of an ideal life versus God’s view of an ideal life for me look totally different.  God knows, He KNOWS what is going to be the best for our family because He loves us that much.  The ball is in my court now to TRUST that God loves me and has the best plan for my life. So when people tell me, ‘Oh man I could never do what you and Jacob are doing’ I just chuckle because I can’t either! I CAN’T do what I’m doing! Really!  It is only because God has asked me to, and promised me that He would sustain us, that I can look at our future and say, Ok God, we will follow you.

JOY
JOY

Prayer Requests:

-Rain in PNG so our friends can have food

– We are headed out to the highlands for the next week! We are sooooo excited to see a totally different landscape of PNG and to participate in the central conference (where all the missionaries working in the central region come for a week of meetings). Pray for our travels as we are flying on a little prop plane and I am nervous haha!

-For the Lord to continue to work on our hearts

Tumbuna Time!

This week’s adventures have left us totally enthralled with the culture of PNG!

On Wednesday, we celebrated Papua New Guinea’s 40th Independence Day! We had so been looking forward to seeing the celebrations. We are really close to downtown Madang where we heard a lot of the action was taking place.  Jacob’s language helper, Ramos, told him he would love to accompany us into town to show us around and hang out with us for the day! Benson, the son of Terri and Rosewita (our other language helpers), also came along. Jacob had arranged to pick up Ramos at his village so he could get to town with us.  When Jacob arrived, a whole crowd of people were waiting to be picked up! In typical PNG fashion, if one person has an opportunity to be brought somewhere, everyone else will try to get in on the deal.  Thankfully, Jacob was able to limit the masses to just two extra guys…but it was a lesson in what happens when you offer your services in this culture!

These were the decked out cars on the roads that day! Can you even see it?!
These were the decked out cars on the roads that day! Can you even see it?!

Well we didn’t really know what to expect in town, but man did we underestimate the crowds! Hundreds of people had gathered in the main market/park area where there was a small band playing music over a loud speaker.  We picked a spot and sat down, waiting to see what would happen. As we sat there, I looked around and realized we were the ONLY foreigners there.  Jacob, Jason (a missionary friend) and I were the only white people and were getting quite the stares. Sure enough, my thoughts were realized as I heard the announcer say, “we welcome our three foreigners to our celebration! I can see you right in front of me!” Well that certainly got the hundreds of heads turning in our direction as I tried to dig myself a hole to hide in. haha!

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Stickin out like a sore thumb 🙂
PNG pride
PNG pride
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If people look like they are spread out weird, its because they are. Everyone just sat in the shady spots to avoid the sun lol

The first event was a drum line consisting of men painted blue and white.  Apparently they come from the highlands of PNG.  When the people saw them entering the field, their reaction was so interesting. In America, we all sit and watch as events unfold in front of us.  Not so in Papua New Guinea! Everyone rushed upon the drummers to get as close as they possibly could to see the action! They marched right alongside the drummers through the field.  The conductor had this huge baton and kept swinging it really close to the kids (I think to try and beat them away). I began to wonder if I was actually going to see anything if this mob trend continued.

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Where’s the drumline? Oh wait you cant see them buried in the crowd…

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Next up were some young women in bright, plastic grass dresses, who gathered on the hill.  Once again, people rushed forward to get the best seats.  As the music began, I was surprised to hear club style music and see them break out into modern dancing.  Every time they shook their hips, people cheered!  The people around us began to get frustrated with how little they could see of the dance (or the girls legs. Or both). They started shouting at the people in front to sit down.  As they were shouting, this woman goes running into the crowd with a stick from a banana tree and starts yelling and whacking people out of the way so everyone in the back could see! Hahaha talk about crowd control! Proudly, she kept turning around to us in the back, beaming and swinging her stick like a club, not caring which kid she was smacking!

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And speaking of crowd control, there were apparently some very strict rules on drinking in the field.  At one point we saw a large police officer go running into a group of people under a tree. Everyone backed away exposing a man who was obviously very drunk and lying on the ground.  The police officer started yelling at him, trying to get him to stand up.  When the man refused, the police officer grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him slightly off the ground. He wound up and kicked the guy full force in the face! We were all pretty horrified to see it, but our PNG friends just laughed at us and told us that he was a drunk man and probably didn’t feel it.  Still, it was more than a little intimidating since I’ve only seen things like that on TV, not two feet in front of me.

Next up were traditional dances from different regions of Papua New Guinea called “tumbuna sing sings” (the songs of the ancestors). These were by far my favorite! Groups of people dressed in their traditional garb headed out to the middle of the field, formed into circles, and started chanting, dancing and singing.  They went on for hours in the blazing hot sun!

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Here they come!
Chanting and dancing, dancing and chanting
Chanting and dancing, dancing and chanting

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Another thing I should mention is that here in PNG, it is totally ok for older women to go topless.  A while ago it was ok for any woman to be topless. Today, due to the influence of the west, only old ladies will really be seen walking around the village or working in their gardens without a shirt on (at least closer to the cities).  This change in tradition was most evident after the traditional dances, where all the younger women would immediately cover their chest, walk over to their stuff, and pull on a t-shirt on.  A few weeks ago we were talking to a guy in a village who said no one from his village had clothing until WWII. He was very proud that his grandfather had received their families’ first clothes from the Japanese, whom he was helping during WWII.  They had only been wearing grass skirts or animal skin to cover their private parts, with nothing on top for men or women.  We heard another funny, but kind of sad story of a man who had received his first pair of pants from his uncle.  His uncle excitedly helped him put the pants on.  Later, when his uncle came back, the man had cut a hole in the back and front of the pants.  He had forgotten how to get the pants off, and really needed to go to the bathroom! Haha! The typical dress we have experienced here in Madang is as follows: babies are naked, little boys age 6 and under are almost always naked, and little girls under 8 are almost always topless with a skirt or shorts on.  Women who have children will breastfeed anywhere without covering and without concern of exposure (which is so contrasted with typical American society where they try to cover up in public), and we have heard some HILARIOUS stories from the missionaries of their experiences with topless ladies.  For the Papua New Guineans, the focus is placed on women covering their thighs.  Initially it was slightly surprising to be in such a different clothing culture.  But you get used to it pretty quick.  One day in town I saw some German women walking around in short shorts and I found myself staring and thinking, oh gosh! Something is really wrong here! And then I realized how crazy it was that I had already become so used to the PNG standards of modesty- because in America I wouldn’t have given a second glance!

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Eventually, we left the field because Ramos and Benson really wanted to see the swimming race nearby! We gathered on a steep hill overlooking some pretty polluted water.  We heard the shouts that the race had started and a bunch of guys came bursting out from a cove.  About a quarter of the way into the race, one guy started struggling and threw his hands up like he was drowning. Everyone in the crowd started dying laughing at him! Sometimes it is just so funny to me how different our cultures are; I was sitting there really hoping that the guy actually wouldn’t die and everyone else was laughing haha! A boat came out and rescued the drowning man and I felt so bad thinking how embarrassed he must be.

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One of the last things we saw was actually a perfect representation of the slow influence of western culture on PNG.  A group a girls in traditional dress headed out to the field to do a dance. But instead of singing the traditional slow song, an upbeat song came over the loudspeaker.  Ramos and Benson told us that the words of the song were in their tribal language, but the wild drum beat had been added in.  It sounded like music you would hear in a club, but it was the traditional, tribal lyrics.  And although they were dressed in traditional clothes, they had added all kinds of modern moves.  It was such a strange clash of modern with ancient.

These girls did the tribal/modern dance
These girls did the tribal/modern dance

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One of the very best parts of the whole experience was the deepening of our friendship with Ramos and Benson. They took such good care of us.  They kept warning us to hold onto our bags, asking us if we were ok, and keeping us away from spontaneous fights that would break out. They eagerly told us all kinds of neat things throughout the day, explaining some of the traditions that we didn’t know about.  It has been so neat to see the friendships with them blossom as the weeks have gone by, especially for Jacob.  He and Ramos joke around all the time, and have this genuine, mutual friendship developing.  When Ramos sees Jacob now, he calls him brother.

Overall it was an incredible day filled with so much learning and insight into the world of our friends.  We loved getting to be a part of the Independence Day celebrations.

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The rest of the week was spent in the villages doing lots of language practice.  We have our first evaluation coming up tomorrow.  Basically that entails a language consultant from New Tribes coming into the village with us to observe us, ask us questions and have us tell stories to our friends in the village to see where we are at with language.  We are both nervous and excited to see how far we’ve come in the language learning process.

We have been so SO encouraged by everyone at home and I can’t tell you how much we appreciate all the notes and prayers you guys have sent our way! We have been growing so much through this journey and it’s been great to feel like we can have you right along with us (in spirit). We love sharing with you and we love hearing what’s going on in your life, so feel free to drop us a message at any point of things you need prayer for! We also love answering questions, so if you have any, please feel free to comment here or ask me or Jacob on facebook! Thank you thank you!