“Ring of fire” – what runs thru your mind? The Johnny Cash version? Try again. To deter his song loop-taping thru your thinking, let Wikipedia help you mentally shift gears to the Pacific Ocean’s 25,000 mile long horseshoe shaped basin of earthquake prone “oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes (more than 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes).” That’s the “ring of fire” this letter is about!

 Bare bones background – Back in 2009 three NTM missionary families were invited to live among the ~1500 people on the island of Biem – some 120 km (80 miles) off the coast of Wewak. The Busers, Chens and Depners have spent the years building friendships, learning the local language and culture, launching a literacy program, preparing Bible lessons, beginning scripture translation, doing foundational Bible teaching and seeing a church established on the island.

Discipleship of key Christians was done and church elders ordained. Since early in 2017 their local church has been functioning entirely with their own men in leadership and late last year all 3 missionary families moved off the island and into other ministries. As they continue working on translation of the New Testament into the Biem language, they are also involved in meeting various vital needs in support ministries here in Wewak and elsewhere around the globe. End of story??? Not by a long shot!

Potential & plans: Since Biem is relatively “close” to Wewak, people from the island have occasions when they need to be here in town. The missionary team has put much thought and prayer into finding opportunities to connect Biem believers with local Christians, and also doing an outreach to others of their language group who are living long term here around town. Meanwhile over on the island – the local church on Biem has been pursuing plans to begin the foundational Bible teaching on Kadowar, another island in their people group. Kadowar islanders however were dragging their feet about issuing an invitaion for the Bible teachers to come.

Suddenly God intervened! Psalms 104:31-32 — 31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works. 32 He
looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke. (KJV)

On the 5th of January the long dormant volcano on Kadowar Island began rumbling leading the entire population of 400-500 residents to wisely flee to nearby Ruprup – another island of their ethnic line. Within 24 hours Kadowar erupted leaving the miniscule mountain devastated by ash.
Local government and army officials were soon on the scene to assess the situation, test for volcanic activity on nearby Biem Island, and
instigate tactics to relocate the entire population of all 4 islands (roughly 3000 people) to ground on the mainland of Papua New Guinea.

What we saw from Wewak

Up close and personal – Kadowar Island

At that time, scientific experts also checked the volcano on Biem Island but found no evidence of current dangerous activity. That left those islanders in a quandary – to move or not to move? Big question! Only about 70% of the 1500 Biem residents wanted to leave their land. Then the wind changed. Ash from Kadowar has devastated their gardens. Having no freshwater source on their isle what little clean rain water (not polluted by ash) they have been able to collect is fast running out. Even the salty sea water which they customarily utilize for cooking has become too polluted to use. They too must give more serious consideration to potentially moving to the mainland.

The land allocated for the relocation is on the coast “at the end of the road” several hours southeast of Wewak. It will undoubtedly be a long process fraught with frustrations and difficulties so please be praying as plans progress thru the government offices, the local land owners, and members of the Biem language group. Pray too as these islanders make the transition from their well known and loved island existence to living on the coast.

As plans for accommodating the language group on the mainland get underway, it is exciting to consider the potential of this relocation from
God’s point of view! With the majority, or perhaps all members of the Biem tribe eventually settled together at ONE location, the opportunities for foundational Bible teaching to the entire language line are greatly improved. You can be praying with the Biem Christians for all that will be involved to bring that about!

Other related matters for prayer:

  • Wayne and Gail Chen from the Biem missionary team are currently in their homeland of Taiwan while Gail continues to battle recently returned and now terminal cancer. She has endured okay with her current treatment regimen and they would like to come back to PNG in March to be here for our annual conference. Won’t you please pray for our sweet sister Gail and that the whole family might indeed be able to attend our upcoming conference!
  • Thomas Depner (from the Biem team) and John Hutteman (Malaumanda tribal team missionary) have begun teaching the foundational truths of God’s Word to the PNG men who work in maintenance and security here on our mission center. At their 1st Bible study only 2 of the 10 men attended. Employee Rubby (from Kadowar Island) was away that week checking out the land allocated for relocation of their tribe but he, along with 3 other men came for the second session of the teaching. Please pray for a greater interest on the part of our men employees, and that as Thomas and John teach, these men might come to see their need of Christ as their Savior.

THANK YOU for caring for the people of Papua New Guinea. Thank you for being a part of the team God has designated to continue His work here among them. Our duties and tasks may differ but in God’s eyes each is equally essential to ongoing outreach around the globe. It’s great to be working together with you toward the eventual completion of God Church.

Co-laboring to bring back Christ as King!
Hope Sharp

Psalms 97

1The LORD is King! Let the earth rejoice! Let the farthest islands be glad. 5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 9 For you, o LORD are most high over all the earth! (NLT)