This is a very brief update for reasons that will become clear as you read on. The events of the past few weeks have left very few places untouched throughout the world including Papua New Guinea. We’ve been following closely the unfolding events in North America and Europe including toilet paper shortages and “shelter at home” orders. Here in PNG we are also being affected and wanted to get word out to you as soon as we could.

First of all, we are doing OK! As of this writing, there has been only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country and that person was medevaced out of the country shortly after diagnosis. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution there have been several government measures designed to restrict movement of people and stop the spread of any undetected illness.

Here is a statement from our mission:

NTM PNG is continuing to work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 situation. The Papua New Guinea government did confirm the country’s first case of COVID-19 on 20 March. This was determined to be an imported case with no evidence of local transmission. Our Crisis Management Team remains focused on our response to this situation. This enables our Director Board and Area Leadership to continue focusing on organizational goals within the country. As a mission, we are dedicated to operating within the guidelines provided by the PNG government.

Several of our NTM PNG members have chosen to leave PNG and return to their passport countries. Core church development functions continue to be the priority for those members who remain in PNG.

In the midst of much uncertainty, we appreciate your continued prayers.

Personal Impact

There have been two big impacts for our family in all of this. The first has been in our plans for our upcoming travel back to the USA in May. Most international flying in this part of the world has ground to a halt due to border closures in PNG, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries in the region. Thus our original tickets were cancelled by the airline. As of yesterday, the USA is organizing a repatriation flight that we are trying to join that is planned to depart next week! Because this could potentially be the last opportunity to leave the country for awhile, and in view of our graduating senior (see below), we are hoping to be able to be put on this flight. Assuming this comes together, we would appreciate your prayers over the next few days as we pack furiously and say some hasty good-byes.

Going along with this has been the closure of NCA for the rest of the school year. Cara will be spending the next several weeks finishing up her classes on her own, and although the traditional graduation ceremony was cancelled, the class held a small diploma ceremony for the families earlier this week. We realize that these kinds of changes are happening the world over right now and not just unique to our situation here! We are thankful that none of this has caught the Lord by surprise, and we cling to his promise that ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes! (Romans 8:28)

The Last Graduate

We are so proud of Cara’s accomplishments, finishing up her high school career, and we look forward to how God will use her in the years to come. Like her siblings, she is planning to attend Texas A&M University next year, and is looking forward to living with Katie in College Station.

She has been blessed to have had the opportunity to volunteer in the local hospital (“haus sik”) in the labor and delivery ward for the past few years. She has also been able to spend some time in our mission medical clinic as well. All this has led to a desire on her part to pursue some kind of degree in a medical field. She is not sure exactly what at this point, but trusts that the Lord will lead her as she continues to walk with him in the years to come. Congratulations, Cara!

Keep Praying for PNG

Even though our departure from PNG is at hand, we ask that you continue to pray for the work here as three language groups are getting ready to hear the foundational Bible teaching in the coming weeks. Specifically, the missionaries among the Amdu, Pei, and Wantakia language groups have lessons prepared and are nearly ready to begin.

The government is currently prohibiting gatherings of over 100 people so this presents some extra challenges to our teams who regularly teach groups of several hundred. Pray for wisdom during this time of crisis, as we seek to present the Gospel while still obeying the government’s policies.

We are so grateful for your prayers and support for us over these many years. Thank you!

Neil, Becky, and Cara Burleson