Blue Spring in the Ozarks

April blew into May with the visit of a long-time friend from Oregon and chances to explore SEMO. Kellie and I visited all my favourite old haunts and found a few new ones. Blue Spring (above) is definitely another example of the beauty God has blessed us with here in the Ozarks. The scene made life seem so incredibly peaceful and serene. Cool and refreshing. No sweat. No mosquitos! Troubles were miles away ….

But back in PNG: Covid continues to keep people wary. Several missionaries have had it though thankfully mild cases. It’s made it especially difficult for some who were trying to depart the country. A newly instigated rapid test at the airport came up with positive cases, though the travellers had tested negative the day before. Please keep praying for all impacted by Covid in PNG where hospitals are overwhelmed. The beds are full. Oxygen for patients is running out. There are few options for treatment. The scarcity of doctors and nurses in the country has left exhausted them as well as their medical supplies. Please pray for them. Pray too that they and the populace in general will be protected from contracting Covid. Pray for missionaries trying to depart PNG for their home countries, and for those whose Home Assignment times are ending and they are trying to return. Thank you!

Lembena tribe: The missionary families in the Lembena language group (Adam & Anna Ferguson, Jason & Tami Hughes and Micah & Laura Myers) continue in language and culture learning. Spending time with their village friends is a daily part of the schedule for the missionary ladies (along with family responsibilities, household duties, home schooling, etc.). Though the Lembena people have heard a synchronized version of the Bible they have yet to hear the pure Gospel truth. Works are a major part of what little understanding they have of religion. A relationship with Jesus as their only hope of salvation awaits the missionaries being able to explain to them in their own mother tongue. Let’s be praying with them to that end!

A recent update from Anna was filled with village incidents revealing opportunities for prayer with and for them. To abridge a few:

– The village health aid worker has been out in town so the missionaries are doing medical care in his absence. The main things they treat are malaria, infected sores, pneumonia and, sadly, caring for women who have been beaten by their husbands. Most recently that has included putting a woman’s shoulder back in socket and sewing up toes that had been severed by a machete. As Anna said, it can be easy to forget about the violence that is so commonplace.

– They recently treated a baby who was struggling to breathe. Treatment for pneumonia offered no improvement so the missionaries wanted to try a different medicine – but the family wasn’t interested. One of the ladies tried to explain saying, “The medicine would help if it was a normal physical sickness, but we know there is something else causing the sickness because the first medicine isn’t helping. His mom did not come grieve properly for the recent deaths here.” Anna and Tami went back later in the evening to check on the baby and offer more medicine, concerned he wouldn’t make it through the night. They found some village leaders facilitating a time of “prayer” to determine the root cause of this sickness. The sick baby’s mom was kneeling on the ground holding her baby as he struggled to take each breath. She began to pray with tears streaming down her face. A man sitting nearby translated for them, “She is saying that when she found out she was expecting this baby (her 4th son) she and her husband said they didn’t want another child. There is power in their words and this sickness is a result of what they said.” The mother began to repent and cried out through tears that she now really wanted her baby. As she cried out in desperation, the onlookers nodded their approval and they began to claim that the baby’s breathing was beginning to improve, so her confession had been sufficient. Although Anna and Tami didn’t see a vast change in his breathing, they headed home praying that he would survive the night.

They were relieved to see him still alive the next morning and thankfully he has seemed to recover from that particular sickness. He is still frail and sickly so they continue to pray that he will survive. We can pray with them that he will thrive so that one day he will be able to hear the truth of the Gospel. His parents too need to hear the saving message of Jesus so that they can understand that no amount of good deeds on their part can help them obtain health or prosperity. Anna says, “It is definitely a commonly held belief among the Lembena that if you live a righteous life God will bless you and if anything bad happens to you it is a result of some sin you have committed.”

– The Lembena people are constantly searching for an easier and better life. They currently think that to obtain that they must participate regularly in a “church” meeting on their land. Each family group is expected to host one such an event to receive blessing on their family and their gardens. Anna said,

They put an incredible amount of work into these events and people from surrounding villages come take part as well. They seem to view it as a ceremonial cleansing of the area and during the entirety of the event they are not allowed to smoke, chew betelnut or play cards in that vicinity. One of the upcoming meetings will be held on the location where a man was killed last year, presumably to make atonement or compensation for those who were involved in the killing and therefore cleanse the ground. From what we have observed of these events all of the emphasis is on the good or bad acts that people do and they believe that has direct correlation to their daily lives and even affects how these church events go. They put a lot of effort into performing by giving testimonies, singing and dressing in their best clothes in order for the Holy Spirit to give a message to them through the ‘prophets.’ It is bittersweet to know that we have the answers, the TRUTH, that they are seeking after, BUT we are not yet able to share that clearly with them yet. Seeing their deeply held beliefs and their drive to do whatever it takes to procure blessings in this life we are more confident that ever that is going to take a solid understanding of their core beliefs to be able to communicate in a way that they understand clearly and doesn’t lead to syncretism. Whatever new message they hear they are likely to grab hold of it and add it to all the other things they are trying. It is going to take a complete overhaul of their worldview in order for them to grasp the truth. After seeing some of the serious sicknesses here, we are praying that everyone will still be around to hear the message and that the LORD opens their eyes that HE is the answer to all of their searching!

Please do be praying for and with them as God brings them to your mind! 

Though my life personally no longer has such compelling stories to share, it is a blessing to be able to pray for other missionaries still on the front lines in God’s work in far off lands. Thank you for your part in all God is doing around the globe. Thank you for your continued part in my life too. So many transitions still ahead. God will lead in His perfect time. I appreciate your prayers that I will see clearly where He is leading.

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