It’s Sunday morning. You arrive at church and are likely met at the door by a team of greeters, welcoming you to the service. You probably enter into a nicely carpeted sanctuary complete with padded pews. You’ll sit with your husband & family or friends. Piano / organ music, or maybe guitars, drums and other instruments fill the air. Words for the songs will be posted on a screen so you don’t have to heft that heavy hymnal. If you have small children, there’s probably a “cry room” or perhaps even a nursery where others will watch your tiny tots so you can enjoy the sermon without interruption. You’ll appreciate the song service, prayer time, maybe a choir special. Also, good Bible teaching with the scriptures posted “on the screen” so you don’t even have to bring your Bible. There will be a clock along the Pastor’s line of vision so you know he’ll be keeping to the time schedule. You worship in comfort with heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Nice restrooms are under the same roof should the need arise. Maybe even coffee & donuts between Sunday School and the worship service. It’s all too easy to take such luxury for granted!
Church looks oh, so different in much of the rest of the world! Like PNG. Perhaps there’s a church building, or maybe you’ll meet in someone’s home. As you enter you’re liable to stumble over everyone’s shoes, conscientiously left at the door so as not to dirty the floor. Men will sit on one side of the assembly area and women on the other. Little children will be free to wander about during the service, as will any dogs, cats, chickens or other critters who may also attend. You MAY have a roof overhead and a bench, or sometimes just a log, to sit on. Or not. The floor is comfortable too.
If you’re a mama with young noisy children, mayhap you’ll sit outside, in the sun, on some leaves on the ground trying to keep your little ones quiet so as not to disturb others. Should baby be uncooperative the congregation may even ask you to LEAVE. Music will most likely be a guitar or two. There’s no need to have visual helps for singing as with only a few songs in your language– you’ll already know the words.
If you are privileged to own a Bible you will gladly carry it with you in your net bag, and be eager to pull it out and follow along when the Pastor reads the morning text.
The message may be lengthy. Then another speaker or 2 may stand to “support” the pastor’s talk. Few will care how long the service goes. If they do, they will just get up and leave. The rest will stay tuned in to the teaching, anxious to learn more of all God has done for them and His promise to help them just in eternity someday, but TODAY too.
Foundational Bible teaching (sometimes daily) is going on in village churches around Papua New Guinea.
Missionaries Ben & Missy Hatton shared this about what’s going on with the Amdu people:
Going through these lessons again has been very good for the Amdu believers. In fact, we have had to remind them not to answer every question we ask before the new students have a chance to think it through and answer themselves. The believers have also been reviewing each week with family members who are listening to the teaching. We challenged the believers to prepare their minds for the conversations that are coming so that they are ready to drill down into the thinking of those people who say they believe. This is not culturally comfortable for the Amdu people. But it is necessary to identify if a person is grasping the truth. So, pray for them as they work alongside us in the coming weeks. When we leave on home assignment in mid-May our co-workers, the Allens, will be here on their own to carry things forward as far as disciple making and translation are concerned. Pray that our last couple of weeks together will be encouraging as we hand things off to them.
Elsewhere around PNG: Over at Lembena where the missionaries are still in the early stages of their work, 2 young men – Nandiam & Paul — who have been instrumental in teaching them the Lembena language and culture, have died. In reflecting on their loss of these friends, Adam and Anna Ferguson wrote:
Wailing echoes throughout the village as the people mourn two deaths within less than a week. Pain and hopelessness are two words to describe the recent scene here in Lembena. These deaths have rattled the community leaving them desperately sifting through possible explanations that go past happenstance. The leaders of the village gather and discuss possible causes…
– What sin had they, or someone related, committed to warrant this judgment?
– Did they have a dispute with someone earlier?
– Did they owe money to someone?
– ‘Surely God is not happy with us because of all of the card playing and betel nut chewing!’
They must find out what caused the sickness in order to bring equilibrium back to their daily lives. Having a form of Christian religiosity mixed with animism, they believe that God or the spirits must be continually appeased in order to ward off evil spirits or the suspected working of ‘poison’ which ultimately causes sickness and death. They must pinpoint the offense and offer extravagant displays of grief to show that they are sorry. Every community member is motivated by fear of death to stay in God’s good graces so the ground will reap fruits of material blessing. It is a constant, endless, hopeless struggle for the people because no matter how hard they try, they can’t create the utopia they so desperately desire.
As we uncover more of their thinking we begin to recognize the wailing symbolizes fear and desperation intertwined with the grief. As they sit and wail the moms and grandmas keep an extra close eye on the young children, careful to keep them from wandering off alone, since the spirits might be seeking to harm. In the week or two following the death no solo trips to the river are allowed, but there is safety in numbers and a large enough group is considered sufficient protection from the spirit of the deceased that wanders the nearby river.
Nandiam and Paul both lived here in the village since the time we arrived nearly two years ago. They helped teach us their language and their way of life. We had hoped they would both be able to hear the Gospel teaching in their language one day. As we sit with the people in their grief we have nothing to say to comfort them. We too have felt overwhelmed, although for us we are overcome with the weight of knowing these friends have gone to a Christless eternity. Although these times are difficult, the hopelessness shifts us into a higher gear. We are more eager than ever to finish our language studies so we can start developing lessons and bring the true hope of Jesus into their lives.
We who are basically living in the lap of luxury can be praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are seeking to lead their local congregations to grow in the Lord. We can pray too for the missionaries on the front lines as they experience and endure the days to bring the Good News of Jesus to people who “still sleep in mosquito nets.” Thank you for caring for God’s people not only in your own neighborhood but also around the globe. We will be privileged to meet these dear fellow believers in Christ in heaven one day!
Because Christ came and is coming again, perhaps today! we therefore have …
Hope Sharp – Retired NTMPNG
One more prayer request:
Over in the Siawi tribe Nokee and his wife Kati recently lost their youngest child. They also have a very deformed 3-year-old daughter. Her spine and ribs and hips are all extremely twisted. She can function pretty well though her condition is debilitating. Nokee recently took her to the nearest hospital which involved a long river trip then paying for a public bus/truck. One of the greatest concerns is that her condition puts her at a greater risk of complications when she gets sick, i.e., a cold is more serious for her as her lungs have more difficulty coughing to clear her airway due to the extreme twisted state of her ribs and spine. She has also begun to have some urinary problems…not totally sure if it is UTIs or something else. There’s likely little if anything that can be done for this little one. Won’t you please be praying though, that God will work mightily in this child and her family’s lives? The missionary (Linda Krieg) who ministered among the Siawi people for many years wrote,
Please, please be praying for Nokee and Kati, as they face this yet another spiritual battle as well as the heartbreak of watching their little one suffer. God is definitely at work here, using their lives and their spiritual modeling before the believers in Siawi, as well as the unbelievers all along the way.”
So many needs. So many opportunities for us to uphold in prayer our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe.
Thank you for caring and being a part of seeing God at work. Though we may never know specific outcomes to these prayer concerns here in our lifetime, we’ll be privileged to hear their stories firsthand one day when we are all gathered around God’s throne.