Thanks for your continued prayers for us and for bearing with us over these past few months of uncertainty. As most of you remember, our lives since January have revolved around Becky’s mother’s extended illness and her gradual recovery. As we mentioned in our last prayer letter, we are still working toward a return to PNG, but it may not be until January or June 2015. We wanted to take a minute to update you more specifically on what the next year is going to look like for us now that the Lord has laid out a plan for us.
First, some background information for you: IRS regulations for tax-deductible missionary organizations prevent us from remaining on “home assignment” indefinitely. Basically, if we are going to be home for more than a year we either need to (a) take on some other kind of “active ministry” with NTM in the USA or (b) we need to resign from the mission, something that we do not want to do.
Second, back in November the mission asked us if I would consider moving out of my school admin ministry at Numonohi Christian Academy into a position on our field leadership team in PNG. This new position would involve organizational shepherding and oversight for the church planting effort as a whole in PNG, rather than the school specifically. We were gradually warming to this idea, and were about to give the “go ahead” when our family medical situation arose.
Third, last fall, I took a full slate of classes toward a Master’s degree with Liberty Online Seminary.
Combining all of these factors, NTM, together with both the recommendation of the PNG field and the support of our home church, has given us the go ahead, to remain active with NTM in a “Continuing Education” status. The plan would be for me to pursue a Master’s of Religion with Leadership Focus. This will allow me to take leadership training which will enhance my ability to step into this new position.
A few things we would like you to understand about this plan, as best we can see it at this time:
· Our plan is to return to PNG as soon as Becky’s mother’s health improves to the point where we are able to leave, even if the Master’s coursework is not completed. I can continue taking courses remotely from PNG, or on a future home assignment.
· Although our plan is to return in January or June 2015, there are no guarantees for the future. Particularly, we want those of you who support us financially to understand this. It may be that after pursuing this path for a year, Becky’s mother will need continued care beyond the time frame we have outlined above. We do not think this is what will happen, but we want you to know that it is at least a small possibility.
· NTM will continue to receive tax-deductible gifts on our behalf as usual; however, we understand that some of you might rather not continue supporting us during this extra time away from overseas ministry. We want you to feel free to do as the Lord leads you in this matter.
It has now been 18 years since we first joined NTM and departed for Papua New Guinea for the first time. Many of you have been standing with us from the very beginning both in prayer as well as through your generous giving. We want you to know how much we appreciate the support that you have been for us. We do not view this as something we do alone. You are very much a part of each step in our lives. Thank you for your continued prayers for us as we continue down the path the Lord has marked out for us, one step at a time.
Gratefully in Christ,
Neil, for all of us!