For those who don’t know, my family and I have decided to join an existing work with the Hewa people. This means we will be partnering with a missionary family who have already established residence with the tribe and in this case worked with them for around ten years. Are there believers among the Hewa? Yes. Do some of them meet regularly each week for a church service? Yes. So why would we join a work like this? The long answer made short is that God has called us to make “disciples” and not merely converts and the Hewa still have a great need for discipleship. However, there is still more to our reasoning for joining this existing work among the Hewa people. The more we became aware of the Hewa and their way of life, we realized that even within their own language group there are many different dialects…some of which can’t even communicate with each other very well. So, even though some of the Bible has been translated into one of the Hewa dialects it will have little to no benefit to some of the outer dialect groups as they can not understand it, nor could they read it since no one has yet to work with them to teach literacy.
Of the original four missionary families that began working with the Hewa people back in 2000 only one family still remains with them. Some have returned to their home country after years of service and another has assumed a leadership role here in Papua New Guinea that had been leaving a big gap within our organization for some time. The family that is left, the Kopf family, has been in need of new co-workers as they realized the job was simply too big for one family. God began to move in our hearts to join the Kopfs in reaching the Hewa…and not just us, but another family as well, the Dunns!
So, now we are in the process of getting our house built in the tribe. This phase is proving to be so intensive that I’m not sure I could properly describe all the planning involved if I wanted to. However, I will just catch you all up on our latest adventure in this process…slabbing!!!
Myself, along with four incredibly hard working guys recently choppered into Hewa where we were graciously hosted by my new co-workers for two weeks. Our goal was to slab as much lumber for my family’s bush house as possible. I was very optimistic going into this trip. However, it didn’t take long for the cruel mountain terrain to knock me down a few notches. The guys and I seemed to face one set back after another the first few days and it was seeming as if there would not be nearly as much progress made as I had originally hoped. Some of setbacks included things like our trees falling down the side of the mountain rather than onto straight ground, bad weather, and a broken chainsaw (this is a pretty big deal when there is no Home Depot around for hundreds and hundreds of miles and a calling in the helicopter to bring in spare parts would prove the be the most expensive chainsaw repair in recorded history.) Despite our obstacles, the guys somehow managed to continue pressing forward with the work and produced a lot of house post, floor joist, studs, and even rafters and purlins!!! As I look back on this trip, it’s hard to figure out how we made it as far as we did, but it so easy to see that we were never without God’s help and protection. There’s just something about carrying chainsaws, axes and other sharp, pointy tools across log bridges that go across fast moving rivers that make you realize just how dependent on the Lord we really are.
In the end, we were able to produce nearly all the lumber I need for my house, got the septic hole dug (which is some extremely hard work when you are digging through rocky mountain soil,) got my house site cleared of all tree stumps and roots…of which there were many, and even got my holes dug and correctly aligned for my house post! I was very blessed to have the four guys with me and always the amazing help of many of the Hewa men and women. Our next trip come in a month or so, and by the end will hopefully produced a framed house with a tin roof. At this point we will staple tarps all around the sides and move in! When time permits I will begin slabbing siding for the exterior walls, but until that time we will happily call our tarped abode “home.”
Not long after arriving in Papua New Guinea I began to notice a disturbing trend among a lot of other missionaries here, one of which I now refer to as “Missionary Feet.”
What you need to know is that many people here simply don’t wear shoes, and if they do, 9 times out of 10 they wear flip-flops. So, as missionaries who want to relate to the people they minister to, it would just be impractical to sport the newest Nike styling as we hang out with our bare-footed friends…and super hot.
Due to this, accompanied by other “life in the tropics” factors, my dogs…despite my best efforts, have now entered the ranks worthy of “missionary feet” status. My soles have gotten to be noticeably thicker…and stained (if not from plain ole dirt then from the fresh piles of buai spit I manage to step in on what seems to be a weekly basis,) infections that are now just a routine part of life now, and my latest adornment (or lack thereof) is the loss two toenails, one that is hanging by a thread, or literally a painful piece of skin, oh…and a big toenail that looks as if I let my daughters loose on it with their Barbie toenail polish.
I’m not saying all this to complain…though I wouldn’t mind having all my toenails. I see it, rather, as a mark of being a part of the work that my wife and I have prepared for for a long time. So, to all my yellow toenailed, thick, flat, and stained footed missionary friends…it’s good to be a part of the club…I think.
A couple weeks ago I left on a dawn departure on our mission’s Cessna 206 to be taken to a bush airstrip in the Highlands of PNG. From there, myself and three other guys hiked about 14 hours to the location of a missionary’s bush house.
Before I got married I was a fairly avid hiker, however, this hike was without a doubt the most physically challenging event of my life…it claimed 3, maybe 4 (time will tell) of my toenails. Within the first 20 minutes my thighs were already burning and, being a bit older now than before, my knees were aching due to the steep terrain. Throughout the hike I pulled countless leeches off of myself. At one point my knees were hurting too bad to risk the descent upright, so much of it was spent on my rear end scooting like like a child…thankfully my pride had been left on the trail many miles behind. It may give you an idea of what the hike was like to know that the helicopter later did the same path as we hiked in 5 minutes flat.
Once we were at the bottom there was an old tree serving as a bridge waiting for us to cross a very rapid and rocky river. From this point it was 4 1/2 more hours of the steepest climb of my life…one of which left me feeling like a little girl (no offense ladies.)
With about 2 hours left in the hike, two of the guys forged ahead in order to get the house open and supper ready as I was literally having to take breaks after every 10 steps or so. By “take breaks” I mean collapse on the trail with my face in mud (it rained on us about half the day.) Luckily, the missionary whose house we were going to tear down stayed with me and was so incredibly patient and encouraging. When I told him “I’m so sorry to slow you up like this, but I only have about 10 steps at a time in me now,” he replied, “Well, then that’s how we’ll get home…10 steps at a time.” ***side note***this missionary has now been back in country for only 6 months after breaking his back in two places while in his tribal location, and he OWNED this mountain. When speaking to a Hewan guy about how well he hiked the guy replied, “Yes, he walks in the bush like one of us.”***
Once we finally reached the summit it was only a 20 minute hike down to the village where the house was. However, about this time we heard the other two guys calling out as they had gotten lost on the trail and it was now long past dark (close to 10 p.m.) These two guys being friends of mine, I felt it, umm…necessary to give them a hard time that I beat them to the house.
We arrived at the house, washed, ate, and passed out. A week’s worth of rest and recoop would have been excellent, but there was much work to be done as we had to have the missionary’s house completely torn down in four days and ready for the chopper to haul it in sling loads to the new location to be rebuilt.
The tribal group these missionaries work with are semi-nomadic and have once again decided to move (with talk of settling down this time to build an airstrip) and the missionaries were forced with the decision to move once again (this being the 3rd time) or call it quits…they continue on.
After the first four days, the chopper flew in about 7 more missionaries to the new site to help with the construction of the new place. It was such a great experience to work with all those incredible men.
I know this post is long and there are many pictures to come, but it would be a great disservice not to say how hard working and dedicated the two missionary families we went to help are. I feel so very fortunate to have had this time to work along side them and to have learned from and be discipled by them. It is unbelievable the trials they have endured only to continue the work that shows no promises of getting any easier. Thank God for these families!
Ok. There is so much more to tell as God taught me many things these 10 days, but on with the pictures….
Since coming here to Papua New Guinea, I often take trips to the local haus sik (hospital) here in town. As people from the tribal locations where our missionaries work become too sick to treat there in the village, they will sometimes be brought here to receive more extensive medicine and possibly operations. Those of us here, will then provide some simple food, and encouragement as we can until they are well enough to return home. Even in the States, where medical care (as expensive as it may be) is sterile, air conditioned, and relatively comfortable, hospital visits still have a way of effecting you emotionally. Here, where I have to carefully examine where I step as to not fall through a rotten floor board, am found constantly wiping away the sweat from my forehead, and where I am always swatting away flies…well, I find it hard not to think on these experiences long after I leave.
My latest trip to the haus sik was by far the hardest, as I stood next to a man who honestly looked as though he was simply waiting to die…not waiting to receive medicine, not waiting for his body to strengthen…just waiting to die. The hand of bananas and dried fish we had brought for him seemed far too insignificant at the time. Even though my language skills are slowly improving I suddenly felt frozen, and the desire to lay the bag of food on the bed and just walk away was nearly overwhelming as I thought that I surely had nothing to say that would bring peace to this man. I felt helpless and I felt useless.
It was then that the woman who had come with me to the haus sik, a veteran missionary here for many years, took this man by the hand and began to explain to him what the doctor had just shared with her. The outlook was not good for him and chances were that he would most likely not survive this illness. Then, with extreme compassion in her voice she began to encourage this man to take hope…hope in knowing that even if this sickness takes his life, that God has prepared a new home and a new body for him, a perfect home and a perfect body…one with no sickness, no pain, no worries. She bowed her head and began to plead with God to grant this man His peace and His grace to see him through it all.
Soon after praying we left this man with the bananas, a few dried fish, and because of the compassion of a great missionary woman, hopefully some peace and comfort as well. I have never heard this woman claim any greatness on her own behalf. In fact, just the opposite is true…she’s an extremely humble lady, kind-hearted, and for a new missionary like myself (who knows nothing and has much to learn) is a great example of what God can do through us if we are willing to turn our lives over to Him.
“Projek Haus” UPDATE: Yesterday we had an offer to match any donation for our house building needs up to $2,000. We are so excited to report that it has already been met! Praise God for the faithfulness and generosity of His people!
AND!!! We now have a 2nd offer, again, to match an additional $2,000. So, any funds given, up to this amount, will be matched…essentially your donations will be doubled! Thank you all so much for your consideration, generosity, and prayers!
Another thing that would be a big help would be simply to share this need with anyone you think might be interested in getting involved. Being overseas makes it a little more difficult to make our needs known and we could use as many advocates as possible.
If you would like to make a donation towards this project you can do so by going to the “Give” page on this website or by visiting www.pushforpng.com for more information. Also, if you are interested in becoming a regular monthly supporter of this work you can also do so at these locations. Additionally, if you would like to keep informed with our family, the work here in Papua New Guinea, and current prayer needs, we send out a regular e-mail update and we would happy to add you to our mailing list. Simply, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a request to be added and the address you would like for us to use:
Jessi and I (and our girls) want so say a big “THANK YOU” to all of you for your support. It means the world to us.
Our team is currently raising the funds necessary to buy the materials and tools we need for building our house in a tribal location. The funds will actually serve for more than just our “house,” but more so for a “mission station,” as this project will involve building our’s and our co-worker’s homes and office space for the countless hours that it will take to learn an unwritten language and translate the Bible. Much of the lumber we’ll use will come straight from the jungle around us and be milled by our own hands. What materials we are able to canoe in via river access will come at a high financial cost. It’s an exciting time and a reminder that we are one step closer now to bringing God’s Word and His message of love and forgiveness to a people group who have never heard. Hard times are ahead…we know this, but we are eager as we anticipate how God will provide. Please pray and consider becoming a financial partner to help us complete our bush house and take the Gospel to the unreached. You can donate online by going to the “Give” section of this website, or by visiting www.pushforpng.com for more ways to give. Thanks so much for considering partnering with us in this endeavor. We certainly could not being doing this without the encouragement and support of so many people!
One year ago this week I was awaiting a biopsy to find out if I had cancer or not. I was informed two days before Christmas that my chest x-rays I had taken in order to receive my Visa had shown some abnormal lymph nodes. I’m sure you could image my shock…as well as my wife’s. We had been preparing for years to be missionaries and Bible translators, and at this time it looked as our plans had come to a halt.
When the biopsy results came back we were elated to find out that I did not have cancer (we later found out that both my pulmonologist and my surgeon thought it was going to be Lymphoma.) I did/do have something called Sarcoidosis, however, but God has allowed this to be more than manageable and we have been serving in Papua New Guinea now for almost eight months.
There’s so much God taught us through this past year, but above all we learned much about His faithfulness. Even when God chooses to allow us to suffer, it is for our good. I think that in our sufferings we get a chance to experience the comfort of God’s eternal promise to us in a much deeper way. At least for me, in my sufferings I found God much bigger than I once knew Him to be.
“Our God of Grace often gives us a second chance, but there is no second chance to harvest a ripe crop.” — Kurt von Schleicher
I’ve often heard from veteran missionaries that one of the hardest things about this work of tribal missions is the time shortly after you present the Gospel message for the first time. It’s not uncommon for the people who understand, to ask the missionaries if their fathers and grandfathers knew this “talk,” and if so, why didn’t they come and tell their fathers and grandfathers.