Sep 17, 2018
September Update with Laura Erickson's Testimony Included
Click here for a Slideshow by Laura Erickson
Greetings to all,
Thank you to all who have been praying for us. We have certainly witnessed the Lord’s care for us during our transition to the USA – and we are still very needy for His help. We have now been in the states for almost two months. We are staying with the Niblers right now in Winston, Oregon. It has been a blessing to reconnect with brothers and sisters in this area.
Our last weeks in PNG were amazing! Packed with intensity and emotion and God’s Spirit moving. We were privileged to see several souls repent and trust Jesus! The church in Bulu is “taking off” so to speak. We are blessed to see that this work is not dependent upon us being there. This is God’s work. I remember one believer saying: “Tyler is leaving us but Jesus is not!” I am blessed to see that they are in connection with the Head of the body and I know that He is able to bring them into the fullness of life in Himself. Please continue to hold this young congregation up in prayer.
I have posted a report of Laura Erickson’s trip (BELOW) which helps to fill in the details of what was happening right as we were leaving Bulu. Also there is a link to a slideshow that she put together of her trip. The slideshow will help you get familiar with what it is like over there.
Though we cannot be with them physically at this time, we have a sober sense of obligation to continue to minister to this group of God’s children while we are living in America. They need prayer, encouragement, teaching, and financial support. I have a Po box set up in PNG and Peter (the pastor to the church) holds the key. We are planning to send them materials (Bibles, books, letters, photos, teachings, etc.) that would encourage them and enable them to grow in their relationship with Christ. Also we plan to send regular financial support. If anyone is interested in being a part of this ministry to them, feel free to communicate with us about how you can be involved. Also, as the Lord leads, I will be taking a follow up trip over there sometime next year.
Meanwhile, we are still looking for a place to settle. We are hoping to settle on the coast near Scott and Annie Schones. We sense that this next season will be getting resituated as a family after our last months of intensity - Just to get back into family routine and resting will be healthy for us. Please pray for us as we make decisions about all these details.
The Following is a Testimony From Laura Erickson’s Trip:
Praise the Lord, I am now safely home with a report of God's goodness and faithfulness to share. I'm sure the Schones will have more to add, but on behalf of them and with the events still fresh in my mind and heart, I have written an update for the benefit of all of you who have been praying for us.
"My Word Shall Accomplish." As I think over the amazing weekend in the kingdom of God that we recently experienced, this promise from Isaiah 55 comes to mind. God has been accomplishing some beautiful purposes among the Bulu, and I am so blessed to be able to witness to them, "that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." (John 4:36)
Last Friday, July 27, we all returned to the village (officially known as Kintakiu) where Tyler and Kendra's family have labored among the Bulu over the past 4 years. This was to be our final good-bye weekend, and by God's grace, Kendra (who had been feeling quite sick the day before) was well enough to go.
Tyler and Scott had spend several days earlier in the week at the village in a time of outreach, and meeting with those who had shown an interest in baptism. From what they related, it seemed that several women were soberly considering the call to forsake all to trust in Jesus and live fully for Him. Scott shared on the commitment being similar to marriage - choosing Jesus and forsaking all others. He had left them with the challenge to seek God and examine whether they were holding anything back, letting God's faithful Spirit determine the specifics. A couple others were desiring to renew their commitment to the Lord and have a time of confession with a special foot washing service.
So we took our winding bumpy drive out to the tip of the peninsula on Friday afternoon with anticipation of blessings ahead. Much of our morning had been spent in Kimbe (about 45 minutes from Hoskins, where we have been staying) with our last-minute shopping, including purchasing some rice and sausage for the planned farewell feast on Saturday, and loading the roof rack with metal roofing sheets for the "place boeng" (meeting place) being built. We were blessed with an uneventful drive in the private and relatively comfortable accommodations of the Schones' car, which they say is a huge improvement over the PMVs (Public Motor Vehicles) which was their main transport until earlier this year when the car was given them.
By three in the afternoon we arrived at the jungle clearing with the red metal-sided house on stilts that the Schones had built. We unloaded and Kendra gathered a few baskets of personal belongings to take over to the neighbors. Soon we were trekking the short distance to Helen and Gabe's house. With a hand-crank sewing machine in one hand and a loaded basket on my head, I followed a string of little tow-heads with similar blessings to share. After our distribution to several thatch-roofed cooking huts, where a slight nod and quiet greeting acknowledged us, we settled down at Tuka's place to visit. Tuka, a young mother with three children, was working on a mumu (baking in hot rocks) of taro for tomorrow's feast. She had a 4-foot square fire covered with 6-8" rocks to heat while she milked coconut and chatted with Kendra in Tok Pisin. Nearby the children played tag and rolled a metal spool back and forth, and then cracked galip nuts to munch on. Next door the neighbor girl also had a fire going and was preparing banana leaves to mumu tapioc, and soon I was watching the process and sketching a couple little girls who were shyly hanging about. When we headed to the ocean for the children to wash up before dark, Kendra had been told to send over all the food we had bought for the feast so the ladies could prepare it for us. What a blessing!
Saturday dawned with a couple events that foreshadowed the momentous day ahead. In the silence of her prayer time, Kendra asked God for a birthday blessing for her brother Caleb: the salvation of a man named Dickson who had been in the valley of decision and much prayed over for quite some time. And in the neighbor's yard, the stillness of the morning was broken by a squealing pig - a valuable resource to the Bulu, saved for special occasions like funerals and weddings, was now being butchered in honor of the good-bye feast.
The morning was filled with last household distribution treks to the neighborhood. It was quite the fun to tote chairs and water jugs, storage containers and a giant wash tub to the designated people Kendra had in mind. The usual quiet of the local community was alive with a new focus and diligence as feast preparations were underway. We stopped by Gabe's place to watch the pig prepared to be cooked, the erection of a giant tent shelter, and the building of benches and tables. Helen's kitchen house was overflowing with helpers and onlookers, and the yard milled with children. With the anticipation of a busy afternoon, we took a quiet spell back at the Schones' house and enjoyed the gift of fried rice for a quick lunch.
By 1:45 we were all gathering for the pre-baptism meeting. More than 150 people sat about in Gabe's wide clearing - women and children mainly under the tent, with the men on benches and under trees. Peter, the brother that was baptized during our first visit to the village, began by stating that this is a gathering of believers, not the forming of any denomination or following of Tyler. This is a ground-breaking statement for this tribe already segregated by several groups with loyal followers. Praise the Lord for the vision he has put in Peter's heart for the people of God to be united in Jesus alone! Tyler went on to share an exhortation on the meaning of baptism, and then several shared their testimonies.
Tuka spoke of how she was sick last year and the doctors found nothing wrong and finally planned to put her with the terminally ill patients with no hope. She called out to God and experienced full healing and realized how much He cared for her. Since the Schones returned last fall, she has been earnestly seeking after God and two weeks ago shared with Kendra (the beautiful birthday gift that Kendra had secretly asked God for) about her desire to live fully for the Lord and be baptized. This past week she had been asking God if there was anything in the way, and the night before she had been given a beautiful dream of confirmation. In the dream, Tuka's relative, who has often mocked her faith, was going out "turtling" with the children, and looking back to shore saw Tuka's house radiant with light. This encouraged her greatly as a witness of what God was doing in her life.
Two other women shared their commitment to Christ as well, and then we all headed to the beach, a hundred yards off. As songs were raised to testify to their commitment, Tyler and Kendra baptized the three women: Annie, Tuka, and Agnes. A man named Pondi then shared his testimony and was baptized by Tyler and Peter. Meanwhile we were witnessing the answer to Kendra's early-morning prayer. With emotion, Kendra nodded toward Dickson, who was standing with Scott with a new resolve in his eyes. "God is answering my prayers!" she whispered to me in excitement.
Later we heard about the conversation that the two men had been having. Dickson: God has been talking to my heart and saying 'You need to give your heart to me before they leave.' Scott: If we don't respond to the Lord our heart can be hardened. Do you know what a callous is? Dickson pointed to a callous on his hand and when Scott touched it, he acknowledged: I can't feel it.
Dickson had once had a walk with God as a youth, but let bitterness turn him to a life of sin and many regrets. For the past several years he has been soberly weighing out the cost of living for God, but did not want to make a profession without going all the way. So, with tears of joy at seeing a soul yielding to his Redeemer's love, we witnessed Dickson's testimony, that he was counting the cost and choosing life in Jesus above anything else. Scott and Tyler accompanied him into the ocean waters as the song, "There is none that can touch my heart like You, Lord," was sung with conviction and praise.
Later we heard an amazing testimony of God's witness to this man's conversion. One of the brothers singing, closed his eyes in prayer that God would send a sign like in the day of Pentecost to convince the onlookers that this was God's work. As Dickson was immersed in the water, several unbelievers saw a "balus" (bird or dove) flying over him and dip down. "It is the power of God!" one particular man, who had been opposed to the Schones, told Dickson with tears of emotion. "You will be next!" Dickson replied.
And indeed, there is a wonderful evidence of God softening many hearts. Tuka's husband, Ballu, has been earnestly attending the meetings for several months and is almost persuaded. And, later in the evening, we heard hints of another hardened heart opening to God's mighty transforming love. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
First we had the grand good-bye feast. Three long wooden counters, built under a large tree, were loaded with pots and wrapped banana leaves, testifying to the cooks presenting their best for the occasion. Gabe offered a prayer of thanksgiving and then had everyone form a line to be served. It was quite a sight to see so many eager caramel-faced children, holding metal plates, pot lids, and plastic containers, crammed in one long line. We were personally served heaping plates of rice, meat, and tapioc mumu as we sat under the tent shelter on a tarp. We waved off flies as we ate heartily - the freshly caught fish and fried rice were favorites. Kendra assured us that whatever we couldn't eat would be greatly appreciated by the crowds of children. And it was true, nothing leftover was wasted and soon happily full people were visiting around.
We soon headed back to the Schones' house, where a few friends stopped in for personal visits, including Dickson and his family. When they all left, we headed upstairs. We were all worn out and ready for an early bedtime, but couldn't resist spending this last evening together in the bush, sitting around in the Schone's cozy family room and reviewing the miracles of the day! "Elsie even asked me for a Bible," Kendra said in an awed tone. "She has been so hard and cynical, but something is softening in her."
Sunday morning Kendra was up early sweeping the cement floor of the meeting area under the house. We were expecting a gathering of believers for an early morning foot washing and communion service within the hour. Chairs and benches were set around and a mat spread out for the children. One by one, now familiar faces began arriving - Peter Loco, David and Lena, Agnes and her son Meli, several women with a few children, even tall, composed Elsie. Praise the Lord! Gabe and Helen, Pondi, Peter and Annie, Antone, and at last, Dickson. His home was a couple miles up the jungle trails, but he had made it! Soon Tuka had joined us as well, and Tyler opened the service in prayer. Scott shared about our walk with God from 1 John 1, and spoke on how foot washing can be a symbolism of receiving Christ's cleansing from the dirt we pick up walking through this world - as we confess, He is faithful to forgive. Both Antone and David shared their desire to forsake all hindrances in their walk with God and live for Him fully. Tyler and Scott took turns washing their feet in a metal basin with a bar of soap, while the rest of us sang. It was a precious and solemn service.
This was followed by Tyler sharing about the symbolism of the bread and juice we were partaking of in communion. We had previously discussed if other elements more typical to the Bulu culture should be used, but it was decided that we should use some bread and red juice that was brought from town. Everyone was encouraged to examine their own hearts for whether we should partake, and one by one we went up to the table to tear off a piece of bread and take one of the plastic cups Scott had filled. After singing and prayer, we partook together and it was a sweet and beautiful time, as our hearts and voices united in the song, "I am the Bread the Life" and several others on our Savior suffering and dying for us.
I am the Bread of Life
He who comes to Me shall not hunger
He who believes in Me shall not thirst
No man can come to Me
Except the Father draw him
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
On the last day!
It was now 9 o'clock and there was to be a general church service at Peter's house. I and several others opted to go by foot. We followed Meli on trails through the insect-humming jungle and past houses along the coast, and up through gardens of bananas and tangled vines, until we arrived in less than twenty minutes at Peter's "back door." Many had already gathered in the spacious room under his house. Peter's wife, Annie, offered me a seat beside her on a bench, and soon we were singing as more gathered in. There were over 60 Bulu by the time the rest of the Schones showed up - twice the amount that had attended the meeting two weeks previous.
We continued in songs of worship for awhile, and then Tyler shared a message on Jesus, Our Good Shepherd. Though he spoke in Tok Pisin, I could follow fairly well with the Bible references given, and was blessed as the vision of God's care and gathering in of His scattered and lost sheep was presented. This was followed by how Jesus called Peter, in John 21, to feed His sheep, and Peter's own exhortations to the one who "feeds the flock of God" in 1 Peter 5. The work of God among the Bulu is God's special work, but He has raised up faithful shepherds to care for and feed the sheep. Tyler took this time to acknowledge how it was evident to him and Scott that God had raised up Peter to shepherd the flock of believers among the Bulu. But that he wasn't appointing Peter to replace him in ministry, because it wasn't Tyler's church, but God's.
A time of exhortation and testimony followed which was greatly blessed as many agreed to the witness and recognized how Peter's life of serving his community won their trust, and saw his faithfulness to the Lord. Elsie then notably testified how the Lord had won her heart, especially as she saw the evidence of God working in the lives of others, and how she had found salvation and joy in Jesus. There was a spontaneous clapping as the gathered believers rejoiced together at this wonderful transformation! Dickson's testimony, too, was full of great joy in what he was experiencing in Jesus. Both Elsie and Dickson are natural leaders in the community and we are looking forward to seeing how God will work through them. After a time where the men laid hands on Peter and prayed for him, the Schones sang a farewell song to the little congregation dear to their hearts.
The next couple hours were spent eating a lunch back at the Schones' house, which was now to be Gabe and Helen's, and packing up to go. The Bulu neighbors and friends began gathering in the yard - some sitting under the trees or closer to visit under the house. "Aunty Lena" washed out our lunch dishes and relayed a special greeting to Joyful from Elsie (who she remembered from her stay with the Schones two years before). At last the car was loaded and Gabe offered a fervent prayer for our safety and travels. Then came the final good-byes - handshakes all around, but now punctuated by the emotions of many overflowing eyes and hearts. Booboo (Grandma) Mary's voice rose in loud sobs as she clung to Kendra for some time, and Salem, being quite overwhelmed by all the goings-on, added his wails. Finally we must all climb in the car, along with Peter as final escort, and start our long drive back to Hoskins. A sea of over eighty brown faces and a multitude of waving arms was our last glimpse between the palm trees of this beloved people. Though now out of sight, they are forever etched in our hearts and we look forward to seeing many in eternity, if not before. Praise God for His wonderful work among the children of men!
Our travels home were punctuated by a flat tire - our first car trouble of the whole trip, which testifies to God's keeping power and preservation of vehicle and passengers over quite treacherous roads. The Lord's care and mercy was shown to us in several ways. It was a quarter to seven and dark, but Peter directed us to limp along to the next driveway, where he knew a policeman lived. The men jacked up the car and put on the spare, only to find that it was too low on air to carry us anywhere. At the policeman's suggestion we pulled into his drive while Tyler called friends from town, Elvis and his wife, who had given them the car. Gabe, back in the village, also heard about our predicament, and soon help was on its way.
While we waited in the insect-humming stillness of the jungle night, we admired the stars through the leafy canopy above, found a jungle rope (several twining vines) to swing on by cell phone light, and glowing fireflies and luminescent mushrooms to marvel over. It was quite a nature field trip! Around 8 PM two vehicles pulled up - Emmanuel's PMV truck from the village, heading into town with a crowd of passengers, stopped first. Tyler called the Kimbe Guest House (operated by Elvis) to see about us taking a ride in to have supper and wait there while the men worked on the repair. As arrangements were being made, someone got out of the truck and started cracking galip nuts in the glow of the headlights for the Schones children to enjoy. Just then a driver came from town in a government (think "comfortable") car, sent by a friend of Gabe to pick us up. What a thoughtful gift! Soon we were being expertly driven down the pot-hole pitted road the last 40 minutes into town, cold air blasting and everyone anticipating some good food at the Schone's familiar retreat spot. Around midnight Tyler and Peter joined us with a new tire on the car, and sleepy, clean and fed we were all home to Hoskins at last. Though the night was shortened, it was an adventure we won't soon forget!
By 8:30 the next morning, Scott, Hosanna and I were flying above the green jungle-covered mountains of Papua New Guinea. As I got my last glimpses of the peninsula shores where we had spent a momentous weekend, I was blessed to now personally know this remote tribe that God cares so much about. I have come home with many precious memories and new friends to keep in my heart and prayers.
Click here for a Slideshow by Laura Erickson