Some Highlights for Praise and Prayer from Papua New Guinea: Lembena: A recent update from Adam and Anna Ferguson (Co-workers Jason & Tami Hughes and Micah & Laura Myers) in the Lembena language group brought back stark memories from my May River days.

Fergusons wrote:

The village was in an uproar. …. We rushed to the ‘(first) aid post’ and found a woman lying on the bamboo floor with a stick in her mouth, I assumed it was to open her airway. With her eyes rolled back, (we) stood there appalled …. Our closest Lembena friends and language helpers, mostly young men, had taken sticks, stones and fists to her until she lay blacked out. …

… Until then, the darkness here had never felt darker. We have seen all out brawls between husband and wife, large rocks launched at a spouse, an arm mangled by a post in the hands of an angered husband, a man kicking his wife on the ground until enough guys can peel him away ….

After a few days … passed and the woman was recovering from the incident, I reluctantly asked my language helper (one of the men responsible for the beating) for his thoughts, in an effort to understand ‘why.’ He explained that she had continuously been unfaithful to her husband (who himself was off trying to find a second wife), which brings shame to her entire family. If this offense was left unpunished they risked bringing a fight from the enemy people group that her husband is originally from. They had tried bringing her before the village leaders in a court case where she had been fined with paying some money and some pigs for the repeated offenses. When the incidents continued even after that, the duty to control her fell to her family. ¶ His ultimate answer for their actions, ‘How bai mipela stretim pasin bilong pamuk meri? Wanpela we tasol.’ (How will we fix her adulterous lifestyle? There is only one way.)”

Boy did that bring back memories! Eons ago, back with the May River Iwam, it was fire ants. They would tie an “erring” woman to a tree and put biting red ants all over her. She would be left like this for hours, or even overnight. If this method failed they would stab her in the thigh with a bone dagger. The resulting wound would become infected and the woman immobile, unable to stray. Such methods would be repeated until the gal would “mai pi yenik.” = learn her lesson – or die from the process. The lesion would invariably fester, threatening and maybe even taking her life. The Iwam, too, originally knew no other way. Only the Gospel that saves from the penalty for sin can also save from the power of sin in our lives each day.

Ferguson’s also wrote: “We are truly eager to finish this task. Seeing their captivity to the lies Satan has held them under for generations gives us motivation to continue pressing on with language study. All the while trying to understand more of their culture and their worldview, so when it comes time to present the Gospel we can combat the lies engrained in their thinking and intertwined with their way of life.”

The 3 families on the Lembena team are at stage 2 of 9 levels of culture and language acquisition. A lot of this time is invested not just in learning how the Lembena think and communicate. Building relationships NOW is key to being trusted when the time eventually rolls around that the missionaries can begin to communicate God’s Word to the Lembena people in their own mother tongue. Won’t you please be in prayer for the Fergusons, Hughes and Myers families as they live and learn there in Lembena land.

From an established local church among the Siawi tribe also come some prayer needs. The Siawi Christians daily face dealing with spiritual and cultural issues with the Holy Spirit (instead of missionaries) as their guide. Now retired missionary Linda Krieg lived, worked, translated and taught for many years among this tribal group and recent correspondence to her from Siawi friends brought these needs to light from their village church:

  • One of Linda’s Siawi friends shared that, “… he was saddened to see the opportunity to make money pulling men away from the church and things of the Lord.” Linda commented in her update, “Since we’ve seen over and over how the hunger for riches corrupts morals, I hated to hear it was making inroads there. Instead, I had hoped that added finances meant a better standard of living. … To earn money is not a sin, only what you do with it is important.” We can be praying with Linda to that end for the Siawi people!
  • Another matter for prayer: “While there haven’t been many positive cases of Covid-19 known in PNG … there HAS been a number of serious illnesses. … untreated tuberculosis … is a constant threat there. Malnutrition and malaria always take their toll, too. Please do be praying for remote people groups everywhere who are often fully aware of there being a pandemic causing havoc throughout the world with little or no medical help, no understanding of what a virus or germ even is, and living in fear of evil spirits and Satanic activity causing all the illnesses and deaths.”

    Family photo from 2014 or 2015
  • And for praise!!!! “… good news from the (local) missionary couple that the Siawi church sponsored to help with an outreach to the man’s home village (another language group). Malakai reports that they have taught from many of the chronological lessons, from Genesis through James… and he was asking for more lesson materials. … You may remember this man – it was his young son who lost his lower leg to a brush hog accident while visiting a nearby Bo village. Malakai and his wife stood strongly through that incident, without demands for retribution and without walking away from the Lord, which was a tremendous spiritual example for the little church family he was leading in the other village. It sounds like the Lord is blessing their work there and they are seeing maturity and growth among the believers.”

On the SEMO (South East Missouri) front:

  • Work continues on finishing Iwam materials though at a bit more relaxed pace these days. I recently found more files that need to be spell-checked and formatted – some lessons from the gospel of John that I did with the Iwam ladies. Only the first 10 chapters seem to exist though. Whatever happened to the last part of the book ???? Memory fails me. It is always good, however, to have something constructive to do, eh!
  • The Iwam concordance is ready to move into the formatting stage once I resolve a simple but important issue – getting the program to use Iwam spellings for the abbreviations of the New Testament books. I fear a total Paratext program update is my last hope of fixing that problem. So how do I go about doing that ??????????
  • I am also waging war on the battle of the bulge, an accumulation of overweight baggage amassed during my months of 40-50 hour weeks at the computer. Attempts to walk 3-7 miles on any “temperate” day are often conflicted by the daily schedule. Good conflicts: Prayer group and Bible studies at church, taking a friend to do her errands and shopping (and seeing it become a discipleship time!), kitty cat checks for a family currently out of town, other such opportunities God sends my way. It is giving me a glimpse of what God may have me involved in when the dreaded “R” era rolls around. Thankfully I haven’t had to set that date yet!

Time to sign off lest I break my self-imposed  limit. My thanks to each of you who care and pray and otherwise support God’s work in Papua New Guinea. Eternity will tell how great a part your involvement has played.
Co-laboring to bring back Christ as King!
Hope Sharp