It’s tempting to let this be “melancholy month.” Normally at this point in past Home Assignment (HA) times I would be checking flights and purchasing tickets to return to Papua New Guinea. There would be totes to pack with their meticulously itemized customs lists of all the miscellaneous articles I’d purchased to take back to the field for another 5 year stint. That would lead to frenzied shopping to get things still needed to take back, knowing they aren’t available in PNG. And of course I’d be planning for a final fling to Indiana for meetings with 2 supporting churches, one-on-one visits with friends, and indulging in a lingering family time with my Hoosier brother and his wife.

Support missionaries meeting the Maliyali tribal team just arriving from their jungle location.

Meanwhile back in PNG it is school testing and conference time! This is rather like an annual family reunion when all the missionaries from the tribal locations, and many of our former Sepik missionaries now serving in support ministries elsewhere around the country, all gather at our mission center in Wewak. It typically ends up being a full month of fun and frivolity together. It’s happening now. I’m missing the meeting of like minds shaped by shared experiences, catching up with everyone and watching the kids grow up.

Yes, admittedly it is tempting to indulge the flesh and coddle the melancholy mood. My tears would be flowing like Niagara were I to pander to that. Thankfully God guards the heart and keeps me focused (other than the above indulgence) for His perfect plans for my today and the inevitable question “what’s next.”

So – what IS on the agenda that bars the miserable mindset and brings God’s delight to my heart instead?

  • Plans and prep for the spring fling to Indiana the latter half of the month. Yep! That bit of nearing the end of HA time is still on the agenda!
  • Ongoing correspondence with PNG field leaders, our personnel department at Ethnos 360 headquarters in Florida, and my home church in Wisconsin regarding my ministry once Home Assignment finishes in May. More about that next month when the details will hopefully be all ironed out.
  • Involvement with local church opportunities –
    • Bible studies, prayer groups, relationship building to work toward hopefully moving into more focused discipleship time. I’m spending hours working ahead on the lessons for the small Bible study group I lead. Once full-time ministry kicks again in June in there won’t be many free hours to devote to this!
  • Checking computer programs and files to make sure I’m “ready to start” proofreading and editing May River Iwam files when June 1st rolls around.
  • Trying (note TRYING) to walk daily to improve health issues.
  • Continued work to clear the clutter of 4 generations in the family abode. The days are full and though they may drag, the weeks and months are flying by!

This update would be all too anemic without the “Meanwhile back in PNG” content. Remember the Kaje tribe where the Gospel was presented late last year? The missionaries have been reviewing with the baby Christians all the lessons taught leading up to the Gospel, this time showing them how Christ is portrayed even in the Old Testament teachings. One of their methods of review is to gather the young believers into groups and give them a few of the pictures from the lessons most recently taught. They rehash the Bible stories and applications together then present their review to the entire group. This way everyone is reminded of not only the Bible story but also the way that has impact on their lives today. The missionaries will soon move into teaching from the book of Acts which presents principles like baptism, prayer, giving, and other aspects pertinent in establishing the local church.

In the Amdu and Pei tribes – Lesson prep continues and foundational Bible teaching will likely begin soon after the missionaries return to their tribal locations after the above mentioned school testing and conference gathering. The Amdu missionaries have already had a kick off meeting with their people. They showed photos they have taken during the past initial years living among them and reminding the people of their reason for coming. Until recently when literacy, translation and lesson writing were possible, the team had focused on language and culture study in preparation for being able to present the Truths of God’s Word to the Amdu in relevant ways. As is true with most tribal people, the Amdu live in continual fear of sorcery and unseen powers, and are very afraid and uncertain as to what happens after death. As the missionaries have spent time with them in every day settings, the Amdu are quick to agree that these fears still dominate their thinking. This makes many ready and excited to hear how they can be freed from a fear-dominated life. Please do be praying as the missionaries soon begin to teach the truths that will lead up to the presentation of Jesus as the one who has come to save us not only from sin, but from the fears that dictate the hearts of those without the Savior.

Fun fact of the day: I was sure I had a photo of PNG friend and mission employee Rosi making tortillas but you’ll just have to turn on your imagination instead! One of the missionaries in Wewak recently wrote, “Rosi started making tortillas the last week of January so in 4 weeks she’s made 194 dozen Tortillas! (She has rolled out 2,328).” Something to ponder, my fellow Americans, when you next buy tortillas ready made at the store!

Requests for prayer:

  • For our annual conference this coming weekend in PNG – that all will be encouraged and challenged together, especially those tribal teams who will soon begin the foundational Bible teaching
  • My travels to Indiana
  • I have been having car issues that I trust can be sorted out before leaving
  • Meetings and visits around Indiana
  • That I might faithfully share God at work around PNG and here at home, too
  • That God will shield my Missouri abode while I’m away (and always!) There have been break-ins at the unoccupied premises on both sides of me in the past week.
  • Heartbreaking ongoing family issues that I can do nothing about other than pray.

My sincere thanks to you for standing together with me these many years. Your faithfulness in your support of both my ministry and my personal life has been vital to my being able to carry on in all God has entrusted to my hands. I would not have been able to be so involved these many years but for you. Thank you!
Co-laboring to bring back Christ as King!
Hope Sharp