After nearly 40 years in Papua New Guinea struggling to understand their reasoning and logic, I’m settling in to the land of my birth to – guess what! – struggle to understand the reasoning and logic that prevails in the USA today. A simple example of common sense from the jungle:

WHY, when walking along a trail, MUST one talk CONSTANTLY????? Couldn’t we have a moment’s peace to just enjoy the beauty, listen to the river rippling around a fallen tree, hear the birds and bugs, and just revel in the peace of the surroundings? Nope. Someone must be chattering. Continually. Loudly. Often pointlessly. Just gabbing. Or so it seemed. I finally asked. “You have to make noise,” my juvenile trail guide replied, “so if someone is out there doing something you shouldn’t see, they will hear you coming and run away!” (said with the intonation, “even a child knows that!”) Okay …. Having been educated in their reasoning it was maybe a bit easier to accept. A tad bit. My translation helper was quick to further educate me. “That’s true,” he said. “But too, they are afraid of the spirits. They think if they make noise the spirits will run off and not bother them.” Hmmmmmmmmmm….

So back to logic and rational thinking here at “home.” I struggle to understand – but know background and beliefs make a tremendous difference in how one perceives things. The common denominator seems to boil down to what one knows and believes about God and our relationship to Him. The needs are so great – no matter which side of the globe one resides. To borrow a quote from a devotional note our PNG area coordinator Greg Greenlaw recently shared: “God demonstrates again the nature of His grace; His pleasure in second chances, His expertise in redemption, and His knack for turning life’s tactical defeats into springboards for great victories.” May we pray to that end, not only for ourselves individually, our family and friends, but also for our country today.

Meanwhile back in PNG – With travel restrictions at least somewhat lifted in PNG, the new missionary team to the Lembena language group is again able to make strides toward the day the families will move into the tribe. House construction for the 3rd missionary family is underway and the families hope to be joining the husbands in the village in about 2 weeks! Exciting days!!!! but also ….. well ….. you can imagine and hopefully pray for this new team.

Over at Amdu the teaching proceeds slowly but ever steadily toward the day they can share Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as our Redeemer with the people there. Since each lesson builds on the previous one, it is crucial that people not miss any teaching sessions. Please do pray for consistency in attendance! The missionaries to the Pei people have completed the first phase of Bible teaching, laying the foundation thru the old testament so that Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” makes sense to the hearers. We now have brothers and sisters in Christ among the Pei people! They will begin the 2nd phase of teaching soon, reviewing the Old Testament lessons and showing how Jesus and all He would do for us was “hidden” in those old covenant events.

Among the Hewa people¹, a new school teacher has recently come to live in the village to head up educating the local children. This is a milestone as Jonathan and Susan Kopf plan to soon (Lord willing!) return to the States for a Home Assignment time. Susan writes, “First week of school was wonderful! Our teacher, Gabriel is doing a beautiful job! Each morning the day starts with the teacher blowing the PVC pipe at 6 am. The children hearing the horn, wake up and begin cooking their breakfast and lunch – sweet potatoes. As their food cooks in the ashes of the fire, the kids race to the river to bathe. The teacher blows the second horn at 7 am to let the kids know school will start in 45 minutes. When the kids hear the 3rd horn, they line up outside for the national anthem. These kids have never had to keep a schedule before but they love it! The joy on their faces each day makes my heart so full!❤ So thankful our kids can have their own Christian school!😃”

Here in SEMO² – Work is progressing on the umpteen May River Iwam files needing to be spell checked and proofread. Your prayers are certainly appreciated! All of co-worker John Hutteman’s formerly semi-finalized Bible lessons are now up to snuff, spelling and format-wise. I’ve also found another small stash of his work that is in less complete form. Once those are done I’ll move on to the lessons originally done for the Iwam ladies, hopefully converting them to be suitable for the masculine members of the church as well as the gals. Since it’s been so many years since I’ve actually lived in Iwam land, there’s a lot of vocabulary that leaves my thinking frayed and frazzled. A classic was from the original foundational Bible lessons. “Nantëu siren, siret ot pe kremtet nankani përik, sahana nankan toronani.” Something about us habitually putting the ot tree somewhere, and Satan repeatedly doing the same. ????? Yikes! Trying to follow the tangled trail of individual word denotations didn’t give me any sense of the overall meaning. My co-workers, like me, had long forgotten. It’s so good to be totally dependent on God alone for help. He is so faithful! He brought to mind a conversation with one of my translation helpers YEARS ago about the ot (sometimes pronounced ët) tree. That discussion was in reference to leprosy³ . Could “ot” be a spelling error? If so – more confusion — leprosy certainly doesn’t fit the context of that particular lesson! Combing thru a zillion other Iwam computer files the search was on for a thread of meaning. Suddenly – there it was – in a 2011 vocabulary list! (Proof one should NEVER throw anything away!!!) “Satan indeed, like we put habitually branches from the ot / ët tree (when making a fish trap blocking the streams so the fish can’t escape), he (Satan) repeatedly puts the same like that (making blockades to try to hinder God’s work.)” Of course! It makes perfect sense once one remembers the Iwam fish poisoning expeditions – though was I really expected to remember what sort of tree branches they used to make the barriers??? Thankfully God DOES remember and sorted it all out for me! Thank you, Lord!

My thanks to you for your prayers, too, as I muddle thru these old files. As you have prayed the scheduling quandary has mostly sorted itself out. 10-12 hour desk days early in the week make for shorter computer hours on Thursdays and Fridays – thus leaving time for the other tyranny of the urgent to get done. God has even added a necessity I hadn’t thought of. It seems that if one owns a car one must actually DRIVE that vehicle for extended mileage from time to time. I forgot that lesson from earlier in the year. A friend here in town will now help keep me accountable to drive enough each week for the battery to stay charged! And hey! If God so orchestrates things to take that time away from the computer, what can I say but “Thank you, Lord!”

My thanks to you too for your faithful ways of conveying your interest and support. May God give you a sweet anticipation of meeting your PNG brothers and sisters in Christ in heaven one day, knowing YOU have a part in them trusting Him and growing in their love for Him as their Savior and Lord.

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

¹Okay. I admit I’m cheating. ALL the pictures in this letter are from Hewa, used with kind permission from Jonathan & Susan Kopf. With lack of means to get current photos from the other tribal areas mentioned in this update I opted for these insertions rather than long boring paragraphs with nothing to perk ones interest. Thank you, Jonathan & Susan for sharing your pics!

²SEMO = Southeast Missouri – for those of you from elsewhere

³In case you are interested – the natural sluffing off of the bark of the ët tree is a good picture of what happens to the skin of a leprosy patient! Thus “Ët pe ki hyerki” = leprosy.