How would you explain the Biblical concept of justification to your nextdoor neighbor? How about explaining it to a recent immigrant to your area who is learning English? What about a group of people who speak a language with no one word for “justification”?
For us, one way to answer that last question involved bamboo joints and dirty sticks.
So what does justification have to do with bamboo joints and dirty sticks?
Well, a lot, if you happen to be a Tobo believer coming to our weekly gatherings to study Romans.
At the end of chapter 3, we discussed the fact that our faith in Christ does not mean that we stop sinning and become perfect people in our daily lives on this earth. But it does mean that God says of us, or declares of us, that we are straight and righteous people now. This not of ourselves, we know that we still mess up and sin on a daily basis. But the righteousness we have is that of our Lord Jesus Christ! When God sees us, He no longer sees our sinfulness, since Christ took care of the penalty for that when He died on the cross. Instead, He sees us as covered with the righteousness of His Son and our Savior. Wow! All that is wrapped up in that big term “justification”.
To communicate this important (and freeing!) concept of justification, I had Tingon bring me a nasty brown bamboo joint that was old and covered in dirt, and another freshly-cut shiny clean green bamboo joint (bamboo joints are hollow tubes with segments between the hollow spaces at top and bottom). These two joints were cut open at the top, and the bottoms left on, so they formed 2 long cylinders like large cups that a small child could reach their arm into. I then had Tingon bring me several dirty sticks, which I put into the dirty joint.
I had a number of curious eyes on me as I held up the dirty joint and pulled one of the dirty sticks out of it.
“Is this stick clean or dirty?” I asked.
“Dirty!” was the response.
“What about the bamboo joint?”
“It too is very dirty!”
I then took the stick and put it into the glistening green joint. “Is the stick clean now?”
“No, the stick’s still dirty.”
“That’s true. What about this joint?”
“The joint’s very clean!”
“Can you see the stick now that I put in down into the joint?”
“No, only if you take the stick back out.”
Then I put a few sticks into the clean joint, and left the rest in the dirty one. “These sticks are all dirty, and they represent us people. At first, we were all in the dirty joint, stuck in our sinfulness, in Satan’s joint and under the hand of (meaning control or power of) Satan and sin.
“Then, just as I grabbed some sticks and put them into the clean joint, God has put us into the clean joint of Yesu. Just as the stick is still dirty, we are still people who sin even after being placed into Yesu’s clean joint. However, just as the stick is hidden in the clean joint and all we see is the good cleanness of the joint now, so now God looks at us as hidden inside of Yesu and His cleanness. Because of the cleanness of Yesu, He now says of us that we are straight people in his eyes.”
At this point, there were lots of nods, smiles, and whispers of “Élok!’ (“True!”) from the group. I then asked them this:
“So, did God take some of these sticks and put them in there because they were a little bit cleaner or better than the other dirty sticks still in the dirty joint?”
“No, they are all the same, all dirty.”
“You’re right! So then we too are not better or cleaner than our friends who have not believed in Yesu. But we are now in a better place in God’s eyes, aren’t we?”
“Oh, yeah! We still sin even now, but God still took us out of Satan’s joint and put us into Yesu’s joint because of what He did for us!”
So, readers of this email, if you have trusted in Christ to pay the penalty for your sin once and for all, then you along with our Tobo brothers and sisters are all safely in His bamboo joint and God sees us in that special place as perfectly clean—not because we are better than other people, but as a result of the righteousness of Christ He covered us with when we first believed! Can I get an “Amen” now? Or perhaps an “Égat migi i élagék yamda,” (Tobo for “This talk is hugely true”)?
Thanks for continuing to pray with us as we explore the richness contained in Romans. Pray that these truths will find their way deep into our hearts here as we learn and grow and see God manifesting them in our daily lives.
Your fellow joint-heirs with Jesus,
Chad & Janeene (& Elijah & Zekey)
It has been a real privilege and joy to dive into the book of Romans with our fellow believers here in Toboland. We are currently poised to begin the third chapter of this incredibly deep and rich epistle, and so far we’ve been encouraged by the truths that are being picked up on and reinforced in people’s minds and hearts.
One prominent theme that has come out again and again in the teaching has been the gospel of grace through faith alone in Christ alone as seen in the key verses of the entire book, chapter 1 verses 16 and 17, and then in the rest of chapter 1 and into 2 and 3, the sinfulness of mankind and the wrath of God toward that sin which could and can never be satisfied by the good things we try to do to appease him. To many of us with a lengthy Christian background, these truths seem so simple that we often take them for granted. But even last Sunday, as we discussed the situation in chapter 2 of the Jews who were trusting in their religious heritage and ritual circumcision to make them clean in God’s eyes and clearly (in their minds) superior to the “heathen”, the application to the Tobo of today was not lost on many in our fellowship.
Stela Nangia, a very astute lady in our group, was tracking intently during the lesson and had this to share: “I have something to say. It is true what God’s Talk says here about how following many different customs like skin-cutting or doing other good works like going to church, how that cannot make us clean in God’s eyes. And many people in this area are doing just like Adam and Eve did when they sinned and then made the fig tree leaf clothes for themselves as a false covering to try to straighten their wrong. But we know that God saw it and was not satisfied, so He himself gave them the animal skins and covered them Himself and that is a good picture talk of how people want to cover their bad with their own good works and not believe in the sacrifice that God helped us with in Jesus. He is the only road to God, not these other things, and many people in this area have heard this but still do not understand or believe this. We need to pray for them.”
Many in our group are still quite shy about sharing their thoughts as they have been steeped in a culture of secrecy and reluctance to ‘go against the flow’ for decades and even centuries, so speaking up in this manner is still a stretching experience for people here, even believers. So you can see how encouraging it was, not only to hear this dear sister speak up in our meeting but also to hear how she’s really taken hold of these basic truths and going back to the gospel of grace!
Please be in prayer for us as we will soon be moving on from the universal guilt of man to a more in-depth look at how God is both just and justifier; that is, the amazing way that He in his righteousness provided Jesus as a sacrifice who properly took care of the sin problem and appeased His wrath and can now say of those of us who believe that we are right in his sight because the righteousness of Christ is covering us just as the new clothing God provided Adam and Eve covered them. These are exciting truths, and we would ask you to pray that our believers would all be faithful to come as we study these upcoming chapters of Romans which are vital to their growth as individuals and as a body.
Thanks for your continued faithfulness in praying for us. It is a real privilege to stand together with you as we watch God at work here!
Chad, Janeene, Elijah and Zekey
As 2009 approaches, we wanted to share an updated family photo, as well as look back and share some recent amusing things which give you an idea of the emerging personalities behind the faces of our boys.
Elijah is a big tall 4-year-old now, with a growing collection of caterpillars, frogs, future frogs (17 tadpoles to be exact), beetles, and other assorted local critters. He is also a man of many many words, many of them unexpectedly hilarious. When Elijah turned 4 on the 18th, he proudly told his little brother, “Zekey, I’m a 4 year old guy!”
One day before Christmas, Elijah and Janeene were playing with some cars. Janeene said, “I can do a donut,” and then demonstrated with her car the 360 degree “donut” spinout. Elijah, never one to be outdone, loudly exclaimed, “I can do a cinnamon roll!”
Zekey is still our “quiet one”, a little man of few words and many grunts. We enjoy a number of his words, though, including “guck” (duck), “gobgobgob” (turkey gobble), and “mah-men” (“Amen,” which he now likes to interject during our bedtime prayer times). He also loves to walk holding one or both hands in ours.
A favorite game of his is to crawl as fast as he can towards one of us, then if we crawl towards him on a “collision course,” he laughs and squeals and using his hands he scoots himself backwards along the floor just as fast as he came (we have smooth plywood flooring which slides really well).
We hope that 2009 finds you all happy and healthy and most importantly, resting in the big hands of our Lord. We thank you for your part in keeping our family out here among the Tobo people!
Love, Chad, Janeene, Elijah, and Zekey
We wanted to fill you in on some of the neat things that God has been doing in the lives of some of the Tobo believers as well as in ours.
As you might imagine, checking Scripture is no simple task, but one that requires attention to detail and good concentration. My helper Kips was feeling quite sick before our check of Romans 1-3. We prayed, and God answered in a great way. Not only was Kips completely better the next morning in time for the check, he was better the rest of our time out in town and going back into the bush. You should have seen how happy he was. He related to me, “I was so sick, and I thought, how can I do God’s work of looking at his True Talk tomorrow and be able to think well? But now I see that God has answered our prayers and healed me today so that we could do that important work together! God is truly real!”
During our time at the translation workshop, Tingon as well was rejoicing at seeing God’s hand in his life. Just before leaving for the workshop, he was told of a problem in the clan dealing with some immorality that was going on. The young woman’s offended clan had said that the situation needed to be resolved by the middle of the week, or right about the time we were to return from the workshop, or steps would be taken. Obviously, this was heavy on his heart and he was beginning to struggle with worry over it. I was able to get word to them to tell them to wait for us. This still did not ease Tingon’s concern for his family back in the village. As Tingon shared his struggle of worry with Kips and me, we were both able to encourage him that having sent word back, the main thing to do was to pray and put the problem in God’s hands. We decided to pray for him right then and there.
That next day, it did seem as if Tingon was a different person with a weight off of his back. He said, “I also had decided to pray and ask God to help me not be worried about my family and the problem back home, and listen, God did help me. From that time, I wasn’t worried any more, and I haven’t been up to now! God gave me easy insides (peace) and I had easy insides and still do!” And the neat thing was, just a few days before we returned, we got word that the situation had been resolved without the need for him to be there. So God answered that prayer before we even returned. Recently, as Tingon shared some more struggles with another worry of his, he and I had the opportunity to look back and praise God as we remembered the easy insides He gave Tingon during that tough time. It gave me a good opportunity to remind him once again that God wants us not to stand in our strength and struggle and worry, but instead to give our worry to him and put it in His good hands.
And then, (…some of you know what’s coming here, right?) God has time and again recently reminded me to practice that same trust that I have been encouraging my brothers and sisters here to exercise. There are times when it seems like spiritual growth and progress here is slow. Most people in this community are hard-hearted and view our little band of believers with apathy at best and disdain, ridicule, and even hostility in other cases. And some of our believers are still struggling with the idea that they are different now from the others and such a small minority at that. Many, like Tingon, have worried that so many have chosen not to believe and that we are such a small group. And honestly for us as well it has been frustrating at times to see areas where the believers could take opportunities to be a witness to their peers or take a stand but do not always do that, or not without our gentle promptings. In spite of all this, the Lord continues to remind me through His Word not to worry but put it into His capable hands.
One of Elijah’s memory verses, Colossians 3:15, struck me lately and I have been meditating on this verse quite a bit lately. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful.” Wow—those 12 words speak volumes to my heart! May you also be encouraged by these words as the new year finds some of you looking for a new job, as many are tightening belts in the current economy, or some are dealing with the loss of loved ones during this holiday season. Whatever your unique set of challenges and hardships, I believe that we need to allow God’s peace to hold sway over our hearts and minds and that we can always choose to be thankful regardless of whatever God has for us. And then as we thank Him and meditate on his goodness to us, we will find as I’ve testified in the above stories that God is at work in our lives and the lives of those we love and care about, and in so many ways has blessed us far beyond what we were first seeing as we were focused on all the worries.
I’ll wrap this email up with 2 more stories evidencing God’s blessing and a glimpse of progress that he privileged me to see in the lives of 2 of my brothers here. A couple of weeks ago, I went up the mountainside to help Welsen work on his new house. As is typical, there were half a dozen other guys helping out as we cut and nailed hand-hewn planks onto the walls of the structure. I was working with one young guy, Nembos on one side of the house. As we took a break, Welsen showed us the large wooden door which he’d stolen years ago and then used for his older house Nembos mentioned how Welsen was a good guy now, and not only did I jump at the God-given opportunity to share the Gospel of grace with Nembos, but I quickly found Welsen joining into the conversation and it was my joy to let him jump right in and take over where I started! The talk did not continue for long, and Nembos did not give much of a response to the talk other than the typical Tobo outward agreement with what was said, but the encouragement for me was to see my brother boldly sharing his faith.
Another day recently, a bunch of people were sitting outside in a large gathering when I found myself in a conversation with a friend and the subject again turned to the Word of God and belief. Ambox was with me and this brother is a very quiet, soft-spoken man with a dry wit but usually not too much to say. I was surprised and delighted when after my first few comments to the other guy, Ambox began to jump in and reinforce what I was saying and then again he finished up with a pretty good summary of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone! Again, the response was something to leave in God’s hands, but the message was communicated, and not just through me the white missionary, but through a guy who rarely even speaks up in our believers’ meetings!
So you see, God truly is at work here, slowly but surely. And one day, we may see more and more Tobo believers not only jumping in to share their faith, but even seeking out and initiating these conversations of faith on their own. Would you join us in prayer for men like Kips, Tingon, Welsen, and Ambox? That they would have boldness to share their faith, and that peace and thanksgiving would rule in their hearts even in the midst of opposition and apathy?
One more exciting bit of news…next week, Lord willing, the Tobo people will be taught in the book of Romans in their own language! We will take many months to move through this foundational epistle. I am still making good progress through the translation of the book itself, and would ask for your prayers as we as a team (missionaries and Tobo believers) work together to see the believers not only taught, but discipled in the truths of this treasure-trove of Scripture.
Thanks again for all the love and support, and my prayer for you today is that you would “let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and be thankful.”
Thankful for His peace,
Chad, Janeene, Elijah, & Zekey
Our little Zekey is now a one-year-old! We celebrated his first birthday by decorating the room with dinosaurs. Zekey wasn’t too sure what to think of his little baby triceratops cake, but once he got his fingers dirty and starting tasting that icing and chocolate, that was all she wrote!
It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly—it seems like just yesterday we were bringing him home as a 2-day-old from the hospital in Orlando, and now here we are with a cute little guy with an infectious crinkly-faced grin sporting a new grand total of 8 sparkling teeth, great dance moves and a real gift of musical rhythm, and a hollow leg to boot (referring to his endless appetite, that is).
Zekey nowadays loves to pull himself up to stand and can walk along furniture and legs now, and though he’s still not as verbal as our Elijah (who is a little chatterbox), he communicates lots with grunts, occasional words, and several hand signals he’s picked up from us like “please,” “thank you”, “all done”, and “more (food)” (which we think is his favorite sign).
We thank God for giving us Zekey to love and raise along with his older brother. God has blessed us this past year, and one of the greatest pieces of evidence of this is sitting in our living room flinging toy racecars across the floor at high speeds punctuated by loud squeals of delight, joining in the raucous fun along with exhibit #2 of God’s (big brother Elijah).
Thanks to you as well. Your love, prayers and support all add to the heap of blessings at the hand of our God during this past year.
Chad, Janeene, Elijah, and Zekey the yearling
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to express a verse like John 3:16 in another language? How about Paul’s epistle to the Romans? The Tobo language is a challenging language with its own unique set of words and phrases and ways of expressing things. In order for the meaning of Paul’s letter to get through to the Tobo people in a way they can understand, we have to know how to put words and sentences in the right order (which is often almost exactly backwards from how we do it in English) and not only do this, but also keep the essence of everything that Paul wrote as we communicate it in the Tobo translation of Romans. And of course we aren’t talking about translating a manual for putting together a bicycle or model airplane, but the written message of God himself to all people. Sound like a daunting task? Absolutely! One of our good friends has confessed to us that he would be terrified at the thought of taking on the responsibility of Bible translation. We too are extremely aware of our inadequacies for this work. Many great men of the faith have felt the enormous weight of the task. Consider the following quote from Martin Luther:
“I have undertaken to translate the Bible into German. This was a good thing for me, otherwise I might have died in the mistaken notion that I was a learned man.”
So we see the difficulty of the task and are sobered by it. This is good. But does this mean we shy away from it? To that I would say, many Bibleless people in the world are counting on someone willing to throw themselves and their inadequacy on the Lord and look to him for help as they take on this task so that these people too can read and understand what God dearly wants them to know. The book of Romans is an especially important message for people, as it tells us how we can be made right in His sight and enjoy everlasting fellowship with Him, not to mention how we as believers can live our daily lives in the power of the Spirit and growing in that even as we look forward to future glory with Him (yes, even in the midst of our often mundane and even painful lives here on this earth). This rings every bit as true for the American mom running ragged from shopping to school to soccer practice as it does for the Tobo mom toiling by hand on a steep mountainside harvesting sweet potatoes to help feed her family. The truths of Romans are just as relevant for the busy Christian businessman in the US tied up in meetings or in rush-hour traffic as it is for the busy Tobo Christian man outside of his village chopping firewood in a cold, steady rain and building log fences for his pigs.
So we are very thankful for the wonderful men and women God has provided to help us in this great work of Bible translation. The introduction to epistles translation workshop proved to be a valuable time of gleaning from the wisdom and experience of translators from PNG, Indonesia, and the Philippines. We spent most of our time during the 2-week workshop studying and working through the first 6 chapters of Romans and discussing how to communicate the truths in other languages so that God’s Word will truly communicate to the people in these their heart languages.
Many of us translators who converged on this workshop brought 1 or 2 of our local translation helpers along with us from the villages across PNG that we call home. A real highlight of our time occurred on the very first evening where a missionary friend and I went down to visit with these men around the fire outside where they were housed. My Tobo translation helpers Tingon and Kips were very excited to tell me that “We all just finished giving our testimonies. Every single one of us has believed in Yesu!!” They were so happy and the talk went on for several more hours. I had virtually nothing to say, just drinking in the enthusiastic comments in the common trade language of Melanesian Pidgin about the Lord’s work and the great things He has done. What an encouragement to those guys to see that no, they are not alone. They have brothers in Christ, some of whom are facing similar opposition from their friends and family and communities for their newfound faith. We are looking forward to returning to the village and sharing about this wonderful time of fellowship. Thanks be to God!
After the workshop ended, Tingon sat in as Kips and I evaluated the first 3 chapters of Romans in the Tobo language with consultant Wayne Baker. We were so thrilled to see that Kips was able to repeat back the content truly and consistently with the meaning of these Scriptures, and even some of the longer paragraph sections were no problem for him to pick out the main themes and supporting details of Paul’s arguments in these passages. The check went very smoothly, and we praise God for helping us see the good fruit of months of hard work and help from a number of people both on our missionary team and our brothers and sisters in the village. This is a huge encouragement as we press on in translating this incredible epistle.
I would encourage each of you the next time you grab your Bible to stop and breathe a quick prayer of thanks to God for giving that most precious of gifts to you—His words in your language!! And then also add a quick prayer for the Tobo people who are still waiting to get more of that gift.
Thanks so much for praying for us and for these our (and your) brothers and sisters in Toboland. We thank God for you!
Chad, Janeene, Elijah, & Zekey
Hi from beautiful (and hot) town!
Elijah’s first question once we arrived was, “Are we going to be staying at the ant house?” Actually, we did end up moving to the other half of the duplex where those pesky ants were during our last visit here. We are happy to report that we’ve seen relatively few of them this time around and so our stay has been less stressful and more “ant-i-climatic” than before!
These few weeks we are between our annual conference and a translation workshop, and so in the meantime we are taking a break and enjoying some good times together as a family. Janeene and Zekey have both been sick and feeling kind of miserable with some sort of cold-type virus, so that hasn’t been too much fun, but otherwise we are doing well and taking the opportunity to get in some fun and fellowship with friends here that we don’t usually see more than twice a year.
Chad has done some shopping in town, swimming and jumping on the trampoline with Elijah (though swimming on the trampoline has been challenging), and trying to play nursemaid and chief cook (poor family!) and bottle washer. But before you feel too sorry for him, he’s planning to go scuba diving among the gorgeous coral reefs offshore this weekend. It’s rough out there, but someone has do it!
Janeene has been resting and trying to kick her illness and has still managed to get in some time internet shopping as she’s been up to it, and some of her friends have had some visits with her as well. It looks like she’s starting to feel a tad better now, but still unable to join Chad on the dive.
Elijah has been eating up every moment out here, tagging along with the older kids, eating ice cream, grabbing frogs and chasing lizards, swimming and running around, riding his little bike with training wheels and yes, would just as soon set up a camp on top of the trampoline to stay there 24-7 if he had his way!! He is just bubbling over with excitement and energy and is never at a loss for words to describe how much fun he is having and wants to keep having.
Zekey has been crawling everywhere for some time now (and that at a very fast pace), but just this last week decided to start pulling himself up to stand propped up by low-lying furniture. This is often punctuated by loud peals of hearty laughter and funny faces, so I guess this makes him a “standup comedian” now. Naptime and bedtime is now preceded by an endless period of popping up and peeking over his crib walls to jabber at his brother or whoever else will lend him an ear. His vocabulary consists of such words as “da-da”, “gecko”, “koko” (the Tobo word for baby), and “ha” (which is supposed to be “hi”). Alas, repeated attempts to coax him into saying the most important word “ma-ma” have continued to fail. Much to Janeene’s chagrin, the little stinker will just smile and say “va-va”, “tha-tha”, and virtually every other consonant found in human language except “m”!
So what’s next for us? On Monday, we meet up with 2 of Chad’s translation helpers, Tingon and Kips. The 6 of us will then fly up to Goroka. Janeene and the boys will stay at our mission center with some friends, while Chad and the guys go attend a two-week epistle translation workshop. Please pray for us during this workshop, especially for Janeene and the boys who will be apart from Chad.
After that workshop, we will get Romans 1-3 checked by a consultant, then all fly back to the village to resume our ministry there of discipleship and translation. It has been a real joy to spend time with our Tobo brothers and sisters, and we look forward to getting back to the village again.
Thanks for your love and prayers and your sacrificial gifts! We could not be here were it not for you, so thanks for your part in God’s great work here!
Chad, Janeene, Elijah, and Zekey
Time sure flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? It’s hard to believe that this is our first update to you since moving back to our village home. One word to sum up the last month would be—growing.
Growing as a body—yes, the Lord is growing his church here. Not so much numerically at this point, but the growth is definitely noticeable among several of the believers here. You know how children grow and you can’t see any measurable progress as you are with them on a daily basis, but once you’re absent from that favorite little niece or nephew (or grandchild for some of you)…..whoo doggies, can you ever see how much they’ve shot up in height, girth, or both. Their faces fill out or thin out, they just look that much older since you last saw them!
Well, after about 8 months away from the young church here, we have seen some marked growth in lives. The first believers’ meeting we went to after we arrived was led entirely by the guys who are teaching back through the Phase One lessons as a review. Not only are these guys doing a great job team teaching, with each of the 3 men taking a portion of the lesson, but others in the group are sharing from the Word, reading quite a bit faster than before, leading worship, and praying, all with no prompting from us missionaries. In fact, the only involvement I have had so far (praying, sharing) has come after THEY have asked ME! What a joy to see them using and exercising those gifts God has given them even at this early stage!
Growing as individuals—one telling mark of this is that in the few short weeks since returning, we have seen each of the teachers come to us with questions and looking for some advice and spiritual encouragement. They are wanting to be faithful to the Word and to set the right example for the others, and we are cheering them on in this as well as encouraging them from the Word and praying together with them. Wow- what a privilege to see their maturity in recognizing the need to be discipled as well as disciplers.
What a good reminder for all of us of the need to be interdependent and connected with each other as the body of Christ. None of us is too busy or too isolated from others to justify separation from the rest of the body or to tell others that “we can’t go this alone or in our own strength” while not ourselves practicing what we preach. So as we’ve told each of these guys during our one-on-one times and also our weekly men’s meetings, “God is standing on the road of our meeting together and helping you and us to strengthen each others’ insides and he is really strengthening them in all of us!” A looser translation of this would be, “God is using our meeting together so that we encourage each other, and through this he is encouraging all of us spiritually!” Amen!
Growing in grace—in the past, we missionaries have been protective of the gospel of grace in our midst and have been quick to correct those who would try to add erroneous thinking (i.e, “We also need to do this, and then we will get eternal life”) that would render the grace of God through Christ irrelevant. Since coming back, we have observed especially the teachers, but also some others in the group have now been quick to correct those errant remarks and remind everyone that we need to stand on the road of what Christ has done for us already and not in our own thinking or strength or any good behavior of our own.
How refreshing to be poised and ready to speak up in a meeting and then find that other brothers and sisters “take the words right out of my mouth” and actually say it better than I could! In Tobo culture, saving face and avoiding direct conflict, ‘letting things slide’ at the expense of truth is normally paramount, but what we are seeing in our fellowship is a “Spirit thing” and not a cultural thing (nor is it a “foreign thing” or a “white missionary thing”). Praise God!
Growing as missionaries—That is, now I am talking about US! God has used this month, along with all its adjustments to remind us afresh of our own inadequacies and weakness, and that we absolutely need HIM to be able to function in our daily lives. In returning here and getting “back in the saddle”, we have faced a more challenging time than ever before. We’re sure that more than a little of this has to do with the adjustment of coming back as a family of 4 rather than 3! We need God’s wisdom and his grace in dealing with things as they come up, as well as strength and stamina. Along with the encouraging process of growth, we do feel the s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g which we know leads to growth. Although uncomfortable at times, this stretching is good for us, as we need not focus on ourselves and our progress, but instead on God and His process which He uses to grow us.
This is where you come in—we need your prayers for us as we grow and stretch. Pray that as a couple, we would communicate well together. This is more of a challenge out here than you would think. Pray that us as a family, that we will be faithful as parents to invest in the boys lives spiritually and spend good quality time with them (again, you would be surprised at the challenge this can be, even on the mission field). Pray for us as a team as we work together, make decisions together, and most importantly encourage each other and sharpen each other spiritually.
Can you see any growth here?
That we may all keep growing,
Chad, Janeene, Elijah & Zeke
With most school graduations (at least in the US) still a recent memory, we thought we’d assign grades to the events of the past several weeks, and we came up with nothing but A’s (wait, does that mean everything has been perfect? Read on….)
Here are the straight A’s for you:
ASTHMA—2 days before we left the US, late on a Saturday night, we awoke to hear Elijah coughing and then gasping for air. His face was swollen and he had trouble breathing. So we quickly administered some allergy medicine and when his symptoms did not improve quickly enough, we rushed him to the ER at a nearby hospital. Once there, we were relieved to see that Elijah’s breathing improved and he was no longer in distress. The doctor suspected that our son may have had an asthma attack and gave him a shot to help keep his airways clear, another relief for us given the long air travel ahead. Ever since that night, Elijah has shown absolutely no more problems, and we still wonder—was it an allergic reaction to something specific, or does he suffer from asthma? We are hoping to learn more when we visit our mission’s clinic on Tuesday, just a day before returning to the village.
AIR TRAVEL—Thanks for praying. This was the most challenging trip across we’ve had so far (may be due to having 2 young children instead of only 1 or none on our previous journeys). However, in spite of the combined and largely sleepless 37 hours in airports and airplanes (so far) and in spite of the numerous episodes of Zeke spewing the contents of his bottle on his feeding towels, himself, his clothes, us and our clothes, we were encouraged by the friendliness of our fellow travelers, many of them expressing how good our children were and several who took pity on our family and helped with getting our groggy entourage and copious carryon baggage out of the planes and into the terminals. (Incidentally, it only took the second of poor Zekey’s infant formula eruptions for this thick-witted dad to finally understand the need for all that carryon luggage we wrestled from plane to plane. If I had to do it again, I would seriously entertain the idea of our family just wearing terrycloth bathrobes on the trip).
ARRIVAL in Papua New Guinea—When we made it to our region of PNG, I was tempted to kiss the runway, except that I might have risked burning my lips on hot asphalt. We have been so glad to have the week here to adjust to the time difference, see good friends here, take care of supplies and travel logistics, and reacquaint ourselves with the heat and humidity of coastal PNG, the frequent power outages which make for some dark stretches of night, and ahh yes, that brings me to another A…..
ANTS! They are a fact of life in much of this country, and everyone here battles these little critters, who can find a speck of sugar left on a counter within minutes. However, once we settled into our temporary quarters on the center, it was apparent to us that there was a larger than normal colony of tiny red sugar ants who were not content to search for crumbs of food. Oh, no—they craved intimate acquaintance with every article of clothing we had in the house, and they boldly penetrated every seam and pocket of our luggage by the dozens. Camera, computer, envelopes containing nothing but papers—they were irresistibly drawn by the allure of all things Mankins. Thankfully, after a few days other housing opened up and we gratefully vacated the premises after hours of tediously and methodically extricating the pesky formicidae from our personal belongings. We have now been fully educated on all the nuances of the term ‘antsy’.
AMUSING ANTICS—How could a bunch of silly ants dampen your spirits when you have 2 great boys who are highly entertaining and amusing on a daily basis? Elijah has been enjoying the other missionary children out here on the property, tagging along whenever he can, and enthusiastically greeting each passerby in the hopes that they will invite him to do whatever it is that they are enroute to doing. He has been jumping on the trampoline, riding bikes, and playing toys with friends and even keeping his little brother entertained with his unique brand of silly charm. Zeke now has 4 teeth, a penchant for trying out various sound effects, including spraying his brother and parents with “raspberries”, and has recently perfected the art of the "GI Joe crawl". He scootches on his belly across the room and seems very proud of his newfound ambulatory skills. To the delight of his father, his vocabulary still consists entirely of one word—“Dada”. Elijah, on the other hand, has a prolific vocabulary, which he likes to expand by repeating what he hears, including such gems as “exponential”.
ANTICIPATION—After no small effort by our shorthanded but amazing mission aviation program, we were able to book a flight into Toboland on Wednesday morning at the crack of dawn. We along with the Williamsons are all praying that the good weather will hold a little longer and allow us to get back into our village home safe, sound, and stocked up for the approaching rainy season. It will be so good to get back to our home and enjoy the fellowship of partners and friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, black and white. Oh, and did we mention—the only ants we see inside our mountain home are those that hitchhike in on boxes from the coastal areas and we deal with those quite easily. So we are quite spoiled in that regard.
We will be as busy as ants as we resume our village ministry, but what a joy it is to be involved in this task of discipling the Tobo believers and equipping them for their task of discipleship as well—a task which is the heartbeat of God—after all, we and they have been purchased with the blood of His only Son!!
AWESOME—This is who we serve—an AWESOME GOD who is faithful to work in and through our lives as we trust Him to do HIS work among the Tobo people of PNG.
Happy to report straight A’s,
Chad, Janeene, Elijah & Zeke
Animated and Adorable!!!
Thanks for praying for us—here are some specific requests:
APPOINTMENTS—we would appreciate your prayers as we see the doctor and get the boys immunizations. We are also hoping to get some medicine and supplies to be prepared just in case Elijah does have asthma while we are in the bush.
ADJUSTMENTS—the kids have been super, but we can tell that so many changes have taken somewhat of a toll on them (and us as a family). Thanks for praying for us as we return, get our living conditions back in order, brush off the language cobwebs, and deal with the struggles of slower communication with the outside world (radio reception remains horrendous, and there are often delays in sending and receiving emails from our radios in the bush), and also as we get up to speed with Jason and Nisae and all the happenings of the last 8 months, and adjust as a foursome to life in the tribe after our time in America (both places are wonderful, but wow are they vastly different worlds!)
ATTITUDES—along with all the adjustments and all, we are asking prayer that we would have Christlike attitudes through it all and remain dependent on our Lord. This is all about HIM, not us, and we need to be mindful of that when life throws all those other A’s at us—good and bad.
Good news—we got the visas & passports we’ve been waiting for! We will leave the US on Monday night (June 9th). Please pray for us as we make the looong trip from Dallas to LA to Sydney to Cairns, Australia, especially with an energetic 3-year-old and his 7-month-old brother, and then as we make our way up to PNG just a couple days later. Once we get our feet on the ground there, we’ll gather supplies (and our wits about us), and fly back into the village to settle in again. Thanks for praying for us during this time of tears, travel, transition and thankfulness!
Chad, Janeene, Elijah, & Zeke