May 18, 2016
We have been tremendously blessed and refreshed with the coming of our two brothers Scott Schones and Burton Salthouse, our sister Joyful Witt, and Reed (Scott's son). The Lord has used their visit to encourage us and to more effectively share the gospel amongst the Bulu people. Scott, Burton, and Reed are planning to stay till June 1st and Joyful will be here for about 3 months (Lord willing).
The Lord answered prayer in their trip and helped them through all the customs free of duty costs even though they carried a lot of items that usually would require duty fees. Also the Lord opened the door for Joyful to come into the country even though her visa/airline reservations were not properly arranged and she was told by an official that she would be denied entrance to the country. We are rejoicing that the Lord opened the way for them and has allowed them to come to fulfill the work that He has for them in this season. We are praying that the will of the Lord would be done in their visit.
Kendra and I have been refreshed to have other laborers in prayer and ministry here. Kendra has just been having a harder time with all the work load being about 9 weeks along and then the Lord sent Joyful – what a joy! We have had several good opportunities to share the gospel with others recently. Last night we were pretty packed out under our house while Scott preached and I interpreted. We are earnestly praying for the word to take root in the hearts. Please labor with us in prayer at this time of outreach. Pray that the word of God may run swiftly and bear fruit. Their are many spirits here that are blocking people from receiving the love of the truth that they might be saved. Let us pray and fight for the souls here that their might be an opening for them to repent and believe the good news.
We had a blessed privilege to give out a wheelchair to a boy here who cannot walk. The family was very blessed and we are praying that it will touch their hearts and help them to realize the love that God has for them.
Also we ask for prayer for our neighbor Paul. He cut an artery it seems and we have been attending to that. Kendra went and has been attending and praying over him. She was having much trouble trying to slow things down and came back to the house to talk with me while Burton was helping him out. And then everything just stopped and there is no bleeding. We are praising the Lord. The man's wife was saying how he was a good man because he goes to mass. Kendra was able to testify the truth more clearly to them. Please pray that this situation would work to the benefit of their souls.
Well we have many thoughts and ideas about how the rest of our time should be spent but we ask for prayer that we would simply co-work with God and be a channel of His blessing in this place. We are also praying that the Lord would clarify our vision in this time about the next steps in service here after our company returns to the USA. We feel we need the Lord to help us in this.
May 1, 2016
Our dear Jesus is so good, a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We are so thankful for His love which lightens our days, and fills our hearts with such joy!
He has guided and kept us through twenty months of living in Papua New Guinea.
The boys are thriving and growing, which is such a sweet gift. They are so full of energy and ideas, and our home is rather wild most the time. We are constantly praying for wisdom to raise these guys in a way that glorifies our Lord. They are each such a gift.
Judah has been thoroughly enjoying his nine month old German Shepherd puppy. They have wonderful times together. He is training her to chase pigs out of our garden, and she takes her job very seriously. She is a talker like no other dog I've ever seen, and is always telling us her little dog feelings.
He has also been keeping busy with building a fort in his spare time. He is a huge help. We are so grateful for him.
Josiah is Daddy's right hand man with construction projects, and loves to analyze the building projects so he can apply what he learns on his own projects. He has recently started building himself a fort- complete with cement to support the posts (from extras he was able to collect while Tyler was pouring cement under our house). He is turning seven May second!
Berean just turned five, and is in a very cute stage. He adores his Daddy, and shadows him wherever he can. His beloved cat Lightning disappeared a few months ago (people here tell us he was probably caught by someone and eaten), but Berean did very well with it. I feel God's grace was on him. He was given a new kitten a few days ago, and he promptly named her Lightning (the second). She is swaddled, cuddled, kissed, and otherwise very well taken care of, but has rewarded the boys with many scratches and bites. She acts a bit like a wild feral cat (as did our last cat). Tyler thinks the cats here are more closely related to tigers than what we have in America =).
Keen loves on her in his rather rough way, and tells her firmly “naughty! Be gentle!” as his chubby little hands grasp her firmly by her neck.
His favorite expression right now is “Aiyo!” (a common expression here of surprise or disapproval).
He loves to help, and is always happiest when he is a right hand man.
Our little fifth (boy?!) is due December 18th. We are so grateful for the privilege of raising another soul. The boys are so excited!
Weeks nine through twenty are very difficult for me (with each of our previous little buddies) with morning sickness and exhaustion, and my Lord knew it would be more than I could bear with the heavy workload I have here daily- so He is sending our friend Joyful for weeks nine through twenty-two (planned months ago without any knowledge of God's plan to create a new life). He is so good to me! He loves me!
We are nearing the end of the rainy season. It is time to start planting more food in the garden, so with some help from neighbors and our four little men, we have beans, peppers, ginger, kaukau, tapioc, greens, sugarcane, peanuts, pumpkins, bananas, papayas, tomatoes, and pineapples thriving and growing in our garden, along with the weeds. =) We are enjoying having fresh garden food after a few months where most of it was not producing well because of the heavy rains.
Our water tank has been keeping us well supplied with water (after some trials with leaking and many attempts at fixing it, my patient husbands determination paid off!). We have a nice little concrete pad with a drain under a lean-to roof on the side of our house. Tyler walled in a section of it for a shower room, and the other part he set up for me to wash clothes and dishes, with a little spigot coming from the tank. It is an amazing luxury after our previous setups, and I am so grateful!
We have also been preparing for a group of our dearly beloved brethren in the Lord to come in a few weeks. Part of the preparations underway is pouring cement under our house (which has taken atleast nine days of work and many work crews as all the materials -except the cement-must be collected in the bush and brought to our home, then handmixed, poured, and smoothed!).
We are so grateful for the help of many of our neighbor men, who have made this project possible!
We are thankful for the opportunities to reach out to people here, and have been establishing some sweet relationships, especially with the children.
Recently one of our little neighbor girls borrowed our flashlight so she and some friends could go look for crabs on the beach. When she returned it later, she said they had not gone after all, because shortly after they started out, they heard what is called the “devil bird” crying. That is a bad omen, so they were afraid and came back. The last few months one person after another has died here, more than ever before (in our time here) at one point. Our neighbors tell us that the devil bird was crying a lot at the beginning of the year, so they knew this would happen.
There are so many fears that bind the souls of those who have not yet turned to Christ.
I was walking back from the beach several weeks ago, and as I walked past one of the fresh graves (of a gangster who was killed in a holdup), I saw a woman bringing a plate of food to put under the little tent that was erected over it. I later heard people believe that the spirits come to eat it.
A few weeks ago a baby girl died (most probably from pneumonia). The Mama lived way out in the farthest Bulu village, and was trying to get her to town when she died on the way (in our village, as they had to wait overnight to take the truck). This baby girl was born to a single mother, and the mother claimed it had no earthly father. When she died, the onlookers said she had eyes like the spirits, and she was taken to be buried inside the catholic church building (I'm not sure why- maybe her spirit was considered holy?). I feel the Lord was gracious in sparing her from who knows what kind of life with those evil beliefs surrounding her. But still my heart was grieved.
A few months ago one of the leaders of the village died after an operation in Port Moresby. He was the father of one of our friends here. We were very grieved to learn of his death, as he was an unrepentant elderly man. For several weeks after his death there were many customs going on around his death.
As he was a “Big Man” in the area, several hundred people came- from his mothers tribe, from the two other Bulu villages, and our whole village, and they spent most their time at the “house cry” (as homes are called for quite a while after someone from that family dies), which is about half a mile from our home. They were all camping out in little makeshift shelters and filling the homes, porches, and kitchen houses around his home. I thought the man's wife and family would appreciate some quiet time to grieve, but I was assured by my neighbor when I mentioned it, that they would feel quite lonely if they were left alone, and that they would feel comforted by having everyone stay with them for a while. Our village hosted everyone, so although a lot of the village spent the night at/around his home, the ladies would go back to their homes to cook in the morning, and bring food back with them to help feed the crowd.
Part of this custom was that for more than a week the men of the village were going around the jungle blowing through a certain type of bamboo (which makes a really creepy howling/wailing sound). The women are supposed to think that it is spirits in the jungle, and so there were areas that only the men were allowed, and blockades on some of the trails to keep the women away.
As the men wander through the jungle they catch pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, etc... and eat them. So everyone was trying to keep their animals close to the house, and warning us to do the same. The bamboo blowing was quite loud, which was especially bothersome at night, when they wander through the jungle around the homes, sometimes waking us up with a start, as they would start up right close to our home. We were all feeling frayed and ready for it to be done before it was over.
Keen kept crying and running to me saying “me no like dat noise!” and was very fearful at naps and going to bed at night. He is now doing better at night, but is taking his nap under our house so he can be close to me as I do laundry in the afternoon.
One afternoon I had a big group of kids over helping me with mulching our beans, when the whole orchestra of bamboo blowers started blowing a certain way in the jungle between us and the house cry. Their brown eyes wide, they stopped their work and listened. Then they told me in hushed voices that they cannot go to the gardens or run around in the jungle after they hear that, or the men will catch them and punish them (with various mean measures), then put them in an enclosure that was built near the man's house, and their parents will have to pay to get them back. They were really afraid, and I had opportunity to talk to them about the freedom there is in Jesus, and the evil of such practices. I asked them if these were things Jesus wanted the men to do, or if it was the devil, and they readily told me that “tewel's” (devils) enter the men during this custom.
One day during this time Tyler walked up and sat with some of the guys up at the house cry. The Lord opened up a conversation with a man in his late seventies. Tyler asked him if he had repented and he said no, but he's planning to right before he dies. Tyler warned him that no one knows when they will die, and that he should turn to the Lord now! Later in talking to a christian brother here, we found out that this man is a well known “poison man”, or what we might call a witch-doctor. We pray he humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, that he may obtain mercy.
The more we get to know this culture, the more we see that the “customs” as they are called, is the fabric that holds everything together. It is a whole religion in itself, and takes nearly all their time, energy, money, and loyalty. The people often do not have good clothing or satisfactory houses, but it is not because they do not have money- the customs take almost all the money they make, and they borrow a lot of money for customs, too. Then the money that's not used for customs is used to buy drugs and alcohol. I am not saying this is true for everyone, as we have met a few exceptions, but it is VERY few.
Even among Christians, there are not many who have taken a stand against them as they need to in order to have true freedom and victory. Whoever makes himself a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. What are the customs? How do i begin to explain what I am still trying to grasp? Here's a try....
There is a big custom ceremony and feast when a man (and all his family) pays a bride price to his wife's family (which is not a one time payment, but many payments and many feasts and ceremonies, and goes on until the woman dies, when they have a payment ceremony after the death and the final one about six moths later). When a baby is about to be born, a custom ceremony/feast takes place. Every time a firstborn child goes to the lake, the island, or catches his first fish, a custom must be performed....When a child visits his parents village for the first time, goes to town for the first time, and on, and on and on- each time one of these events happen, certain people must gather, and each family member (family being much broader with even very “extended” family) are expected to contribute to the payment a certain predetermined amount of shell money, cash, or valuable items such as pigs, woven coconut mats, etc.... It is very expensive, and very frequent. And we've asked “what will happen if you don't perform expected customs”?
Well, the whole family will be angry with you, and will not help you when you need to make a large custom payment, and when you live in a village and are related to everyone, that is no small thing.
Often there are demonic beliefs and charms interwoven into the customs also, so it is not harmless in that way either.
Last week I walked down the trail a ways and prayed for an old woman who has been sick with TB for at least fifteen years. So hard to imagine. I've had a burden for her for months. I am asking God to touch and heal her. The health-care system here is incredibly bad, unless you have lots of money and can go to a private doctor. And even if it was good, at this advanced state in the disease there is not much that can be done. Later that day she came to our home with a gift of a freshly mumued Tapioc loaf to show her appreciation. Her whole family (she has at least four grown sons and many grandchildren) is very dark spiritually. Lots of lying, cheating, etc...I am praying she will become an old woman of the Lord and bring light to her whole family. Please join us in praying for her.
God has given Tyler and I a special love for a little ten year old girl here. Her father died when she was small, her mom lives immorally, her older sisters were badly abused by one of the men in the village, her little brother is severely handicapped (I have been told from parental drug use), and her grandma has TB (not the same old lady I mentioned earlier).
She is over frequently, and loves to help me with laundry, dishes, cooking, scraping coconuts, etc... She reminds me of one of my dear sisters, and is very quiet until I am alone with her, then she chatters my ear off, and I have a tough time keeping up with her pidgin! Keen adores her, and has readily accepted her as second mama. The boys really like her help with what they seem to feel is “girl work” (of which they have plenty- but I'm sure their future wives will thank me!=)). She has also been around for school several times. Last week she came with us to town (only her third time ever going that she remembers), and she was very handy, carrying a box of groceries on her head as we walked around town shopping! =)
We would appreciate prayer for wisdom in our ministry to her, and that the Lord would bring sweet light into her heart.
We are so grateful for the Lord's promise to give wisdom to those who ask. We have been seeing God fulfill that promise as we seek Him for wisdom. So many times we have felt completely unsure of how to respond to situations, and as we have sought the Lord, He has made the way clear to us! Especially in regards to Jesus' command to “Give to those who ask”.
We were rather puzzled over that for a while, as many times people would ask us for loans to do customs, empty containers for their drug powder, or other things we felt were not good for them, and we would think “Give- in this situation, Lord?”.
As we prayed about it, The Lord brought two different scriptures strongly to our hearts, one to Tyler, and one to I at different times over several days- the message of both was the same “Do good to all men”.
Oh what light flooded in! The greatest command is to love God and love our neighbor- if we are truly loving them, we will do only good to all. Sometimes love says yes, and sometimes it says no. God is teaching us how to walk in love, and how to be a blessing. He is so good, so faithful to His promises. May we have faith to believe and see more of His promises fulfilled!
The boys have had a few rough days after a wild town trip on Tuesday... We had a flat on the way into town and it was the most incredible tire change I have ever watched. The men were jumping on pry bars, propping the flatbed truck (which had a load of people on the back) up with a tire, the jack kept tipping over and plunging the weight of the truck down onto the tire which was being removed, and finally when that got figured out and the tire was back on, the truck wouldn't start and a bunch of the guys push-started it.
Town was a bit overwhelming... poor Keen gets tired of people touching him and feeling his hair, and says “mama! people, people!”
We were so grateful to be able to buy many of the things we needed (which doesn't always happen, as we only have two or three hours in town before the truck leaves again, and must carry almost everything we buy around town with us).
We felt led to go to town Tuesday, though Monday or Thursday is our usual. Later we saw the Lord's hand in it, as there was a rather intense hijacking/hold-up on the truck we usually take to and from town (which we had taken back to the village), on Thursday. Everything was stolen and the truck driver, crew, and owner were beaten. Keen's little two year old friend who is nearly daily at our home, was on the truck with his mama, coming back from shopping.
His mom was trying to keep him cuddled into her chest, but he turned and looked at the men with guns, and commanded them “yu go!”. Later he stroked his mama's face and said “Mama, yu alrite, me alrit- Jesus stap onetime yume!” (we're okay, Jesus is with us).
We are so thankful that everyone was okay, and so grateful for the Lord's sweet voice leading us in His path for us. That was apparently one trial He did not will for us to go through, for which we feel grateful.
On Tyler's Birthday the boys and I were working on our morning chores. A few women came walking up our trail and sat down under our house (the proper place to sit if you want to have a discussion or visit with someone). I went down to talk to them, and they asked if I would come take care of one of the young men in the village, who'd gotten in a fight with some of the other young men, and his hand had gotten cut with a bush knife. Tyler asked if he could come down to our home (as Tyler and I were both feeling sick), but they said that his enemies were in between our home and his. So, I collected my stuff and headed up with them, leaving the boys to finish their work under Tyler's care, though they all wanted to come. As I went I prayed for strength. I felt the Lord encourage my heart and fill me with new strength. When we arrived about half an hour later, I found a young guy of about twenty in a lot of pain. My heart bleeds for the people here. So much fighting, violence, and death. His hand was deeply cut across the muscle and tendons of his thumb, and down to the bone on his finger, and it had bled a lot. I cleaned both the cuts and super glued the finger wound closed, then applied antibiotic ointment and packed it with cayenne pepper powder to stop the bleeding, which slowed and then stopped over the next twenty minutes. His thumb wound was really bad, and I told him I would pack it with cayenne powder to stop the bleeding, but he needed to get to the hospital the next day to have surgery to reconnect the tendons, or he would lose the loss of it. As I worked I prayed for wisdom, and laying my hands on him prayed over him. There were about fifty people gathered around watching by the time I was finished.
The next day I heard he had taken a boat to a part of the tribe even further from the hospital, probably to evade the police. He will lose the use of that thumb unless the Lord intervenes.
Later I found out that they do not usually reconnect tendons at the hospital here. So I could've done all that would have been done if I had known. There are many people with disabilities here- usually from the fighting, especially because they are not able to get reconstructive surgery. My heart yearns over the young men, especially- young boys my little brothers ages. God has so much more for them! Oh God, reach the hearts of these young men!
The next morning Tyler and I were awakened by gunshots up the village a little ways from us. Around here, that's always a bad sign, as guns are illegal, and the only ones who have them have made them themselves or sneak them in for the purpose of fighting. Within minutes that whole area of the village erupted with sounds of fighting. Tyler and I prayed together, then he headed off to see what he could do, and I interceded for the situation. He came back a while later, saying no one was killed, and the fighting seemed under control for the time being.
The last few days have been rather tense as the community leaders try to make peace, and the police have come and arrested some of the young men.
From the time they can barely walk, the baby boys are encouraged in fighting. We have watched adults teaching the little boys to run around hitting people with sticks, and everyone laughs. After years of this, they grow up to be wife beaters & fighters, especially dangerous when upset or drunk. Please join us in praying for revival of the fear of God in this area, that He would break down the demonic strongholds that bind people!
One blessing the Lord has given us is that the people here are very respectful towards us, and even when they are out of control with each other, are almost reverent towards us. It has been a blessing, because it allows us to step in to try to help bring peace.
The tribal fighting continues over the land payment for the oil palm plantation. The payment has not been made for several years, but recently the payment was finally made. Because of corruption in the group of men in charge of it (who are community leaders and part of the tribe), it was almost all spent by one man- on a luxurious hotel in town, drinking binges, a personal car, a sawmill for one family, etc... It was supposed to be budgeted out to help the people build better houses and invested to help create income for all the people. So, naturally there were a lot of people upset, and several men were arrested and held in prison for a few days (one of them our next door neighbor). There seemed to be no reason for them to be arrested, except that they opposed the man who was stealing the money from the tribe, so we think he must've bribed the police officers to make the arrests.
My nerves have felt worn out the last few months from everything. I feel over-sensitive and jumpy, though I don't feel afraid. I think it is just because of the effect on my naturally high-strung personality of the nearly constant drama- waking up to a seven foot long constrictor killing our chickens in their coop (it's happened three times- and we're discovering how tiny of a hole a snake can squeeze through!), a chicken thief breaking into our coop three times in one week and stealing Judah and Josiah's special hens (and other chickens), constant people, fights, the outpouring of raising four little boys in a foreign culture where I still don't feel very relaxed, the trial of being so far away from all our loved ones.... it all adds together and is wearing on me.
Please be praying that I learn to find complete peace in my Jesus and that I would learn to hide my self under His feathers in a deeper way. I know He is able to carry me through. I feel God is speaking to me that He wants to teach me yet another lesson in reliance upon His perfect strength in my many weaknesses.
I want to glory in my infirmity, press deeper into my Father, and see His promise of supernatural strength fulfilled in frail little me.
I've been living off of two scriptures the past few days as these emotions have threatened to undo me, and have found sweet solace. “His strength is made perfect in our weakness”, and also “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is able who will NOT allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.”
Some days I just want to escape- but there is no where to go- no family to visit, no friends to stay with. This is where we are. I've been thinking about Christians who spend years in prison. Where do they go when the pressure becomes too much? What option do they have but to press deeper into the heart of God and to find all they need in Him? I once read a poem that said something to this effect “Not always out of our troublous times, and the dangers so fierce and grim, but in, deeper in, to the place of our one sure rest, in Him!”
This morning I read this encouraging word from George Mueller;
“I trust in thy word” Psalm 119:42
“Just in proportion in which we believe that God will do just what He has said, is our faith strong or weak. Faith has nothing to do with feelings, or with impressions, with improbabilities, or with outward appearances. If we desire to couple them with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His word, the heart is at peace.
God delights to exersize faith, first for blessing in our own souls, then for blessing in the Church at large, and also for those without. But this exersize we shrink from instead of welcoming. When trials come, we should say: “My Heavenly Father puts this cup of trial into my hands, that I may have something sweet afterwards.”
Trials are the food of faith. Oh, let us leave ourselves in the hands of our Heavenly Father! It is the joy of His heart to do good to all His children.
But trials and difficulties are not the only means by which faith is exersized and thereby increased. There is the reading of the Scriptures, that we may by them acquaint ourselves with God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.
Are you able to say, from the acquaintance you have made with God, that He is a lovely Being?
If not, let me affectionately entreat you you to ask God to bring you to this, that you may admire His gentleness and kindness, that you may be able to say how good He is, and what a delight it is to the heart of God to do good to His children.
Now the nearer we come to this in our inmost souls, the more ready we are to leave to leave ourselves in His hands, satisfied with all His dealings with us. And when trial comes, we shall say:
“I will wait and see what good God will do to me by it, assured He will do it.” Thus we shall bear an honorable testimony before the world, and thus we shall strengthen the hands of others.”
We are learning to feed on the faithfulness of our Father and to find our satisfaction not in circumstances, but in God. He is enough. More than enough.
May the Lord fill all you dear ones with His sweet presence and love, satisfy your souls craving with His spirit, and make you more like Himself through the trials of life.
Mar 10, 2016
Current Battle – Call for prayer
The Bulus are in the middle of their customary rituals because of the death of an important elder in the community. This ceremony lasts for 1 week. There are people from all over the place coming to take part in this ceremony. Today I went to the location to talk to people about it. I am gaining quite an education on their beliefs and am seeing more clearly the demonic aspects involved in their rituals. Most of the people involved also profess to follow Yahweh. What a confusion. They were excited for me to take part in the “festivities”. All I need to do is follow the rituals to the spirits and then I will be protected and can look at the sacred spirit things, etc. I told them no and that a Christian cannot partake in this. Many of them are church goers and had differing responses to my challenge. Some justify it as only “white magic” and that they are not harming anyone. Others tried to just laugh it off. Others hung their heads a bit and knew that what I said is true but are still bound in their beliefs. One man (from another area) agreed with me and said that he had changed and was not a partaker of these things anymore. Man will come up with so many excuses to not fear God only and serve him in truth. Please join us in prayer during this time that the Lord would bring revelation and open the eyes of the blind and also that we would effectively battle in the power of the Holy Spirit. He alone is able to bring revelation and bring men out of darkness into the light of Jesus.
In Christ's name,