Each dot represents a Hamtai local church

Each dot represents a Hamtai local church

The Lord did a real spiritual work in the hearts of the early believers. They were eager to share the Good News with others. Many of them had relatives interior in the Kapau, Aseki, Karepa, and other areas of this large tribe. They carried the Gospel to them resulting in many churches springing up all over the tribe. As of 2007 there are 65 or more village churches, some having elders, though some are still small and without appointed elders. There are believers in some of the other Hamtai villages also.

In order to teach the leaders from such a vast area, the missionaries at the mission center held two-week Bible teaching sessions five times a year. Some of the men and their wives would walk up to three days to attend. At those sessions the missionaries, and later, some national teachers, would give teaching to meet the needs of the churches. These times were good for teaching newly translated Scripture portions. They had time to share church problems and discuss various topics, such as polygamy, divorce, etc. In addition, there was time to help each one progress in his or her literacy skills. These short-term sessions gave them opportunities to teach and practice in their local churches what they had learned before they came back to learn more. It also kept them from becoming westernized and isolated from their people, which often happens in larger institutions.

After the government introduced coffee growing for an income for the people, the people were more tied down with coffee gardens as well as their food gardens. So the classes were limited to three weeks three times a year.

In 1990 Corinne and I moved from the edge of the tribe interior, close to Aseki, and held a two-year Bible teaching class for church leaders. Thirty couples and 4 single men came, representing 22 village churches. In the mornings Malcolm, my translation coworker, and I team taught the Bible chronologically from Genesis through some of the epistles. In the afternoon there was one hour of literacy help for all in different stages. Then Corinne taught modules of Bible Study Methods, Church History, Family Life and Child Training. During those two years she was also able to train two men to replace her in supervising the church-wide literacy program.

For many years now believers have gathered for further times of teaching and fellowship at their three yearly conferences in the tribe, one at Easter, one at Christmas, and one around October. Since the tribe is large, the first two conferences are held simultaneously in three different areas of the tribe. However, the one in October is one general, tribe-wide conference held in one area for all who want to come. A church committee appoints the speakers and topics. Before a conference ends, a village will volunteer to host the one the following year.

In addition to those conferences there is a National Conference for attendees from any of the tribes in which NTM has planted churches. Those churches are called “The Fellowship of National Bible Churches.” It is not a denomination but a fellowship of independent Bible churches. That conference is held in July, being hosted in various tribes.

Also the Hamtai church elders and other leaders meet two or three times each year to discuss needs in the churches. I try to attend some of these to give further teaching or advice to the leaders.