As promised, this month’s news shares details of the believers’ conference, held in late 2021 in the upper Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. Christians from 6 different people groups where our missionaries formerly worked gathered in the Siawi tribe. Since the local Christians are now overseeing their own village churches, these times together are a tremendous encouragement and help to their spiritual growth. Besides the host Siawi believers, the May River Iwam sent a delegation as did Ama, Iteri, Sinow and Sorimi. A few people from the Siawi church’s outreach and neighboring villages of Kauwiya, Iwau, Amto and Anu also came.

Of significant note – the Siawi tribe is one of the smaller language groups in the area. This is no trivial feat for the low population of Siawi people, with only a fraction of them believing in Jesus. Their faith and faithfulness shine brightly as this is not the first time they have stepped up to the plate to host the conference, though they have no way of knowing in advance how many people will come. Accommodating and feeding the crowd of attendees is a wonderful picture of their confidence in God.

Missionary John Hutteman helps head up oversight and ongoing discipleship of these village congregations. His parents were my co-workers at Aumi village, so he spent his teen years with the Iwam. Later (with his wife & sons) John worked in another ethnic group in PNG. He has a heart for encouraging these tribal churches and letting them know they are not forgotten! His ministry of standing in the gap for those of us no longer able to do in-person visits has been a tremendous blessing, not to just the tribal believers but to the former missionaries to each of these language groups as well.

Three National pastors from churches in the lower Sepik River area accompanied John to the conference. Alex (from Meska), Lambert ( from Anganamai) and Jim (from Malaumanda – the language group where John Hutteman worked), traveled to the conference with John and proved to be an invaluable part of the team. Since their backgrounds and lifestyles are so like the believers who attended the conference, they can understand the local Christians’ trials & troubles, and church needs, in ways missionaries can’t fully comprehend.

The theme for the conference was on holding strongly to our faith as there are good things ahead. (“Holim Pas Bilip, Gutpela Samting Bai Kam Bihain.”) John said that Joel (from Siawi) did a good job studying out the topic and each speaker taught their pre-assigned passages well, building the anticipation of our HOPE being finally, perfectly realized in the promise of a New Heaven and New Earth.

Special music, testimonies, dramas, and Bible memorization filled in between the teaching sessions. The conference ended with a special communion service led by Alex (from Meska). Because of the size of the group the biscuits (broken bits of crackers) and juice were placed in the center. While the musicians played, a steady line of men and women, young and old, believers from all these different people groups came forward to remember Christ’s death on their behalf.

After the conference the 3 Lower Sepik pastors (Alex, Lambert & Jim) and John spent time with each group of church leaders, listening to their concerns as well as following up on those areas of need identified in earlier contacts. Two BIG areas of continued needed growth in each of the young churches are:

  1. Church leaders modeling consistent, intentional teaching & training in their homes and
  2. Church leaders discipling faithful young men and women to do the same.

John shared this specifically about the May River Iwam church:

It was exciting to see so many young men and women (teens and early twenties) who came with Peter Tomas (from Aumi village) and Makus (from Painu village). The challenge with partnering with the Iwam churches has been the lack of interest by the (denominational) pastors to be involved in the past couple programs we had for equipping pastors in the Upper Sepik. There are many middle-aged believers who remember and desire ‘sound doctrine’ and are interested in participation, as well as a huge younger generation who need foundational teaching. I would really like to see the pastors of the Iwam churches, (at) Aumi, Painu, and Yapram (villages) participate in a (Building on Firm Foundations) training course.

Prayers for the Iwam will be muchly appreciated!

In other matters also needing ongoing prayers in Papua New Guinea:

Update on Mibu: The photo at the side was gleaned from online – a snapshot of the front page of the PNG popular newspaper. It shows a picture of the leader of the gang that has been terrorizing villages in the Mibu area. The man’s name is Warengguo. His son and many unknown others are a part of the violent group. The police have entered the area but no reports of them being able to find the group. Continuing prayers are needed!

From Wewak: Details are unknown but pictured right is Meta, one of the ladies who does housework for some of our missionaries, freeing them to home school their children and have time for local ministries as well. Meta was attacked while walking to her home one day. This is an all too frequent occurrence in urban areas. As God brings them to mind would you please continue to pray for the ladies who you have known from former letters– Meta, Lisa, Rosie, Paula, Susan (I wonder if she is even still living….) These are precious sisters in the Lord who continue to live under difficult circumstances and trying situations. You will meet them in heaven one day and your prayers for them now will undoubtedly help them as they endure the hardships of their lives now.

Thank you for your continuing prayers and support of God’s work around the globe. The evidences of your caring these many years are an ongoing encouragement and challenge to my life even now. May you see God blessing you bountifully in return with all His spiritual  blessings in Jesus!

Because Christ came and is coming again, we have and can share our HOPE !!!!
Hope Sharp