Happy New Year
We hope this correspondence finds you and your family enjoying the holidays, spending time together, and remembering the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I never tire of contemplating the significance of Immanuel – God with us! He is with us in good times and bad times, in the heartaches of life, in the joys of celebration, in the depths of mediocrity. There is no place we can travel, or anything that we can do, to be absent of His presence. The psalmist says it this way, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Ps 139:8-12).
At this current time, and the few months preceding it, we have been ever so needy of His promise to never leave us or forsake us. Back in 1998, when Dawn & I “signed on the dotted line” to serve in PNG, we determined that is was a life commitment. We believed the only thing that would keep us from seeing a church plant come to completion in PNG was health issues – if we were too ill to live in that foreign land. Well, that is what it has come to at this point. As you know, we have been on a medical leave from our work in Papua New Guinea for the past several months. We have been seeking medical help from various sources, and have been asking the Lord for His healing. Our time of medical leave ended with the completion of 2014, and we have not seen enough restoration to Dawn and Hannah’s health to warrant a return to PNG. So, since we cannot continue our church planting ministry, which requires us to be living with the Bena people in PNG, we have had to make the very difficult decision to resign from serving with New Tribes Mission. When it became apparent to us that serving in PNG was not an option, we sought other ministry opportunities within NTM, but found none that we felt were a good fit for us. So with the agreement of our home church and our mission leadership, we have formally resigned from NTM.
The typical way such a transition occurs within our mission is that we are given about 3 months to move from active missionary status to some other ministry or job. That means I will need to find other employment, and we will be making changes to any other connections we have to NTM (health insurance, life insurance, retirement savings, e-mail address, cell phone contract, etc). A few of those changes have already taken place (see new correspondence information below), but several still remain on my ‘to do’ list. For those who financially support us, that means that after Feb 28, 2015, NTM will no longer process any contributions sent in for us. That is the date for this season of service to be brought to completion. We are departing NTM with the “family leave” status. We will not be members of NTM or have any official connection with them. However, at such time as our health permits us to return to PNG, we can rejoin NTM to our full member status and can continue to serve the Lord with them. We are thankful to God for the 16 years that He has allowed us to partner with NTM to proclaim His Gospel message to one corner of the ends of the earth.
Regarding the Bena church, from our last correspondence from PNG, they are still not meeting together as a body as factions have separated them from fellowship. Please continue to pray that those children of God will grow in their relationship with Him, and that the fruit of that growth will be manifested in returning to fellowship with one another. We have heard recently from our former Bena co-workers that they might be able to return to PNG. They departed PNG back in 2008 due to health problems for the wife, where she could no longer function in the rough living conditions. After much rest and good help from a naturopath doctor, she has regained her health. She is feeling better now than she has in 30+ years. This couple is seeking God’s direction about the possibility of returning to work again among the Bena people. This is exciting news for us, and a big answer to prayer. The Bena believers are very needy right now, so having someone to come alongside them to encourage and strengthen them may be a big boost in their walks with the Lord. Please pray that this couple will get the ‘green light’ to return to PNG, and that they will be able to raise the necessary support to live & minister in PNG again.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR US?
That is the million dollar question. We are committed to be in Michigan for this school year since 3 of our kids are students in schools here. So I recently got a job as a project manager for a post-frame construction company to pay the bills after our membership with NTM ceases. I will be overseeing several build projects, making sure all the details are being taken care of to enable the build to get completed. I will pull building permits, ensure we are following the various building codes for each county we work in, schedule concrete deliveries, request inspections, contract with and pay the builders, communicate with the customers, etc, etc.
While doing this job over the next several months, we will be seeking the Lord regarding our involvement in the next ministry. Will that be a pastorate…will that be leading home Bible studies…will that be getting more connected with our home church here in MI…what will that be? We know of 3 churches that are seeking pastors, we know of the possibility of being involved in a church plant here in Michigan, or being involved in a college ministry. I was also recently offered to work with a house-flipping business as a manager of a new branch in the company. The purpose of this new branch is to remodel & sell houses in order to donate the earnings to missionaries and missionary projects. Maybe one of these opportunities will be what the Lord has for us, or maybe he has something different? At this point we don’t have a specific road to pursue, but God has been challenging us to seek the Director of our lives, and not just merely direction for our lives.
Thanks for your involvement in our lives & ministry,
Rich & Dawn