Jun 1, 2018
My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps 73:26, WEB)
Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me. (Phil 2:30, KJV)
We are preparing to return to the USA in about 2 months time from now. On the surface Kendra is run down from our high-stress rigorous living/ministry situation here in Papua New Guinea and we are not fit to continue in this setting right now. At this point she is recovering from a recent bout with malaria and also dealing with some heart problems that have developed. I have been reminded of the story of Epaphroditus (scripture quoted above). Deeper than the surface is the mind of God, His sovereignty, His will that has been foreknown from eternity past. We are learning to rejoice in His operation and how He does His work and how He chooses to station us and use us. He has had us pouring out everything (physically, spiritually, and emotionally) over the past years while we have lived among the Bulu tribe reaching them with the light of Christ. Now He is giving peace for us to rest and await His leading on the next steps.
Jesus once said: “I will build My church”. He has been doing that ever since and He has been doing that in Bulu. It did not start with us and it does not end with us. We are rejoicing in the opportunity that we have had thus far to be a tool in His hand in His building project here on the island. But we sense that this is going to be a major shift for us as we return to the USA. We are not sure exactly what that means but as we return and recover we trust that the will of the Lord will be made plain to us. We feel that we still have a place in the Bulu work but do not think that we will be moving back to live amongst them in the same way that we have been doing. The Lord knows.
We were thinking that we may be here another 2 years or so and that then the Lord may move us out but with the recent situation being that we are not able to minister here at this time, we are sensing that the Lord is allowing it and that He is in it all. He knows what He is doing. It has been a great lesson in faith to trust the Lord with the care and future of the little spark of life that has sprung up here.
I anticipate the next 2 months to be quite active and challenging. We have rented a house about 3.5 hrs from our village near the airport. Kendra will be staying there most of the time while she regains strength for travelling. I am planning to be back and forth to the village to pack, sort through things, minister to people, and possibly finish some projects that we have been planning. My brother Scott and his daughter Hosanna and Laura Erickson are preparing to come next month to help us.
Major prayer Needs:
- Wisdom to know what the Lord has for us to do practically.
o Possibility of finishing a well drilling project and building a chapel for the church.
o What to do with our things and our house (we can easily cause offenses and jealousies if
we are not careful).
- Strength for Kendra and the whole family.
- I need grace as I will be shouldering the brunt of things.
- Wisdom in communication and transition with the people (they will naturally take things hard).
- Doors to open and wisdom and grace to settle back into USA culture (especially with Kendra in a weaker condition right now).
- Also we sense that the devil is not happy and he still has plans to interfere with the work here in these next 2 months.
Apr 29, 2018
4 Older Boys and Dad After Road Construction
Greetings in the name of our precious Lord Jesus, who is with us always!
He has shown us so many countless mercies this last month and a half as we have passed through much sickness. Malaria, severe viral sickness, high fevers, dysentery, extreme weakness - shall these separate us from the love of Christ? Never. Let me tell some of what the Lord has done for us…
Our season of sickness started out the day of our twelfth anniversary, February 11th. What a sweet, beautiful, happy twelve years it’s been, thanks to the Spirit of Christ in our hearts!
It was a Sunday, and we had an under-the-house-full. Tyler preached in the morning while I taught twenty or so children in our Sunday school house. We were planning a little family get away for Monday or Tuesday to celebrate our anniversary. That afternoon Tyler started to feel unwell, and by the evening when people arrived for prayer meeting he was feverish, and unable to be part of it.
During the next week all the boys also came down with the same virus, with temps up to 103 or so, vomiting, and diarrhea. Our first mercy was that Tyler had just gone shopping and I had enough food to keep everyone fed! Also, he had just purchased a small generator to run our washing machine during the rainy season, (as we hadn’t had enough solar power and I’d been hand washing clothes), so now I was able to keep on top of the work, along with taking care of everyone. Tyler started feeling better after five days or so, then I came down with the same virus. Isn’t the Lord merciful? He didn’t allow us both to be sick at the same time!
Tyler, still weak himself, now had five sick little boys and a sick wife spread out all across the living room floor. He was valiant, cheerful and uncomplaining as he served us all week, in spite of his exhaustion. I was sick for several days, but instead of improving, I kept getting weaker. On Sunday we finally decided to pack up and head out the next day when the PMV (taxi truck) was running again. Tyler called a Christian man (Uncle E.) in town who is a friend of ours to see if we could stay at his guesthouse when we came in, and in the course of the conversation, our friend said he wanted to come get us himself that day! Which he promptly did, driving his truck the three hours out to get us.
I was so weak our friend and Tyler pretty much carried me out to the car, where I lay so spent I could not lift my head. This ride was a very sweet gift from the Lord, as I was really dreading the ride to Kimbe on the back of a flatbed with fifty to seventy other people. When we got to town our friend dropped Tyler and the boys off at the guesthouse, and brought me to the E.R., where his wife and sister met us. They got me comfortable with clean sheets and a pillow from the guesthouse, and his sister spent the night there with me. The nurses on duty (who were very kind and gentle), gave me an IV with fluids and medicine to treat the dysentery, but I tested negative on a simple test for malaria. There was no Doctor in the E.R. the whole fifteen hours or so I was there. The nurses handled other patients (as well as they could) with cerebral malaria, asthma attacks, dysentery, and what seemed to be a case of appendicitis during that time.
During the night a middle aged lady on the other side of the divider kept crying and moaning as she struggled for breath. I wanted to go pray with her, but was so weak myself I couldn’t get out of bed. I lay in bed praying for her through the night. Early in the morning she entered eternity. The nurses said she had malaria, T.B., and was also battling a cold/pneumonia. Sobbing and wailing relatives stayed by her side for a few hours till the nurses took her worn out body away. Eternity is so close!
Several times that night I had to be helped in a wheelchair to the bathroom down the hall- which had a sink with no running water or soap, no light, and was filthy with human waste. I held my breath and prayed for protection from all the germs.
There was one old man who had a bed set up in the corner of the E.R. One of the nurses told us that he lives there as he has asthma and often needs oxygen which is only available there. He was all alone (usually at least several family members attend those sick). His family lives on the mainland of PNG. And there he lives, often struggling for breath, sleeping in a little corner of a crowded ER, witnessing death often daily. Alone, sick, dissatisfied and angry at life in general. Please pray for him.
I stayed in the ER till Monday afternoon, when I asked to be released. I figured my recovery would be faster if I could be with my boys and have a clean bathroom. J Over the next few days I was very weak still and wasn’t seeming to improve a whole lot. Also Keen and Josiah were lethargic, sleepy, and getting weaker. It seemed to us that there was more going on than just the virus. We decided to visit the only private Dr. In Kimbe.
Dr. Tonar is a sweet Christian man, and very experienced- from emergency surgeries for burst appendix, to C-sections by candlelight. He did a thorough blood test, and said I had malaria and dysentery on top of whatever virus we all had. Four of the boys also had malaria-probably as a result of their immune systems being swamped with the virus, and unable to stay on top of the malaria any longer. He treated us all and prayed for us. Within a day of treatment I started to feel so much better, and started gaining strength, and the boys began to improve too, though we took several weeks to gain back our energy.
In a few days I was strong enough to walk unassisted, and within hours of that feat Tyler came crashing down sick again. He was quite sick and very weak for another week with a severe relapse (probably because he was so tired from caring for us), as the boys and I all recovered. The Lord provided all we needed and more during this time of extreme weakness. The Papua New Guinean guesthouse workers washed all our laundry, cooked most the meals (nourishing, gourmet food prepared by a chef) cleaned up after meals, swept, mopped, and even made our beds! They were all so sweet and did whatever they could to help us. I felt like the daughter of a very kind Father (which I am!). We were able to form relationships with some of the workers and Tyler was able to share the Lord with a few of them later, which was such a blessing!
During the time at the guesthouse before Tyler had gotten sick again, he spent some time looking for a car- a need we have been praying about almost ever since we moved to PNG, three and a half years ago. He drove with Uncle E. to look at a few in Kimbe and also looked into the options for shipping a used one in. They are so expensive here, even for an older, very used/beat up one (that would be reliable enough) they start around six or seven thousand U.S. Dollars. We committed it to earnest prayer once again as it would be such a blessing for our family and the ministry here. One day our friend who was hosting us (not allowing us to pay for our stay at his guesthouse) told us he had a four-wheel drive, 7 seater Nissan Patrol he would like to give us to use as long as we are living in PNG! What an answer to prayer! To say we are excited and in awe is an understatement. The Lord is so good!
Finally, after two weeks of resting in Kimbe, we were strong enough to head home (though still a bit weak). As our car was in the shop to have some things fixed up before we could bring it out to our place, we rode with twenty or so others on the PMV back to the village. It was a very eventful ride (as usual) with Tyler, Berean, and Keen perched on gas cans, me and Salem on a bag of rice, Judah on a grocery sack full of soap and canned tuna, and Joe trying to keep his balance on a sack of coconuts. There was a leaky ice chest that was trickling old fish juice across the floor, and whenever a rain squall hit we’d all quickly pull a big tarp over us, which flapped in the wind so wildly that those on the outside edges had to hold on tightly to keep it from blowing away. The gravel road is in a very bad state (what we call “bagarap” around here) after months of sometimes torrential rain, and we were thrown from our perches more than once. Tyler kept making me laugh really hard when he (wind flapping the tarp above his head, huddled and bundled up with a blanket pulled around his mouth, and a hat pulled down as far as it would go to protect from the wind as he was still coughing badly) would yell to me, “Pray for Phillip!” (the mechanic for our car).
Getting Ready To Go To A Prayer Meeting (In the Rain)
The first few weeks of March we were very busy cleaning up our home and property. It’s amazing what can happen to a house in the jungle after just a few weeks of being uninhabited- it starts being reclaimed by the jungle from whence it came! We had left the house a mess and by the time we came back the mice, cockroaches, ants, and geckos had taken over. The solar system had malfunctioned and all the freezer food had spoiled (thankfully it was not a huge amount of food), leaving a gross mess to clean out. We ended up doing a deep clean on the whole house and yard, and it feels even more cheery and airy than before we got sick. The boys helped cheerfully, and we were so grateful to be strong and healthy again!
The boys are really enjoying being back in the village after being cooped up for weeks, and have gotten busy chopping, brushing, working and playing. I am so thankful for healthy children!
A month after the original plan, we headed off to Hoskins for our anniversary celebration. We spent two nights in a guesthouse as a family, and had a very special time together. Tyler took me and the two little guys out for dinner (the closest we could get to a date as Keen is in a difficult season- but he was so cute and enjoyed our “date” so much!), and the three older boys got to have a fun evening with our dear friends at NTM.
The second day there, a helicopter landed at New Tribes, and the kind pilot gave the boys a very thorough tour. The Lord also provided us with a couch (which we’ve been praying for), and a few chairs that some missionaries were getting rid of as they were leaving the country. Our living room now feels like a real living room, and we are really enjoying it!
The day after we got back, Tyler and Josiah headed into town to buy some groceries and check on the car. They ended up staying four nights to help work on the car (much to our mechanical Josiah’s joy!) and were able to drive it home. We are so excited and blessed. Tyler had a rack put on it, and we look forward to using it for well drilling, helping with emergencies in the village, family time, shopping for supplies, evangelistic trips to the other Bulu village, etc.! It is perfect for the needs here.
Although Tyler had planned to be here, at the last minute he ended up not being able to make it home for the Sunday meeting as the car wasn’t done yet. I felt a bit apprehensive about hosting the meeting without him at home, but the Lord encouraged my heart that it is HIS church, not ours, and He would take care of things.
Peter ended up leading the meeting, and he broke down weeping, hardly able to get his words out as he shared the heart of God for a pure and glorious church without spot or wrinkle. I was in awe, as I have never seen a Bulu man cry unless they are mourning. Even in severe pain they are very controlled. The burden of God and the agony of the Spirit of Christ was stirring in this man! Praise the Lord! May there be a deep move of the Spirit in this place, showing the deep love of Christ, and the beautiful holiness of our awesome God! Tyler and Peter continue to meet every week to pray together and read the word. It’s been so rich and fruitful. Continue to pray that God would raise up laborers in this place!
There is more opposition going on for those coming to meeting at our home from some of the Catholic family members in the village. Hard and humiliating things have been said. They have asked us to pray for grace for them.
The old lady who I’ve shared about who was healed from T.B. and has apparently been seeking the Lord since, had a weird spiritual attack last week, and was physically taken down under her house by an evil spirit. Her son had to go get her. Pray she will cry to God for help and deliverance, and renounce any witchcraft or evil in her life.
This last week we spent a Saturday setting up a zip-line for our boys. They had a great time helping Daddy on that project, and when they weren’t needed, zipped around the yard on a mountain trike (which also has a trailer, and thus fits all five at once, several on the trike and the rest in the trailer!), which was given to us by some missionaries when they left the island recently. The boys and some of their little friends have been busy making a road for the trike in their play area. It is a lot of work to make a road as bumpy and muddy as the road to Kimbe, which is their goal. Many loads of water and rocks, much digging of potholes, plenty of skidding out, (and a lot of very dirty loads of laundry), to make it just right.
That evening after we had all showered and popped some popcorn for a special story time before bed, our dogs started barking. We saw our middle aged neighbor lady, a friend of ours whom the boys call Auntie, limping up our path crying. Tyler and I ran down to meet her and helped her to a seat under our house. She and her husband had had an argument and he angrily threw a mug at her, breaking it on her foot. She was bleeding badly, and as I put pressure on the deep gashes she sobbed out the familiar sad story. After we got the bleeding stopped, I butterfly bandaged the three long cuts and wrapped her foot. We prayed with her, and as we could see she wasn’t ready to head home yet, we brought all the boys under the house and set up mats for a cozy little story time with Auntie L. We read an African Missionary story, and then she told the boys crocodile stories.
The next day at prayer meeting another friend of ours here who is a middle aged widow, asked for prayer as she tries to help her daughter come back home from another part of PNG. She was recently married, but was cut up badly when her husband went after her with his machete. He is apparently trying to kill her, so she is running away and coming back home. Then today I heard a younger sister of a lady in our part of the village was recently killed by her husband. A day or two later another lady in our village came with a broken arm after her husband kicked her. We are very burdened for the marriages here. There is a need for much prayer and breaking of bondage. The devil is such a destroyer.
We are very encouraged to see one young couple with their three young children who have been coming every week for meetings. God is at work in their hearts, and they are searching the scriptures. They have asked for prayer, that God would help them to stand strong. They are starting to separate from some of the customs here that are not fitting for believers. Pray for them! Pray for continued wisdom to hear and discern our Lord’s voice that we may fulfill the works He has for us to walk in.
We praise the Lord for grace and strength each day. He is so good, so full of loving-kindness as He teaches us and leads us in His ways. We are grateful for His continued faithfulness in our lives. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.
Salem and Papa Watching a Saw Mill Cut
Celebrating 12 Years - plus 1 month :)
Feb 4, 2018
God is so big! And He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
We have seen Him at work in the lives of precious souls, and it is so delightful!
Towards the beginning of the month we had the opening service for the new well in a part of the village called Matabalele. Tyler and Judah rode their bikes up to the upper part of the village to meet with the village leader first, and the younger four boys and I walked up the beach to meet them a bit later.
On the way to meet them, I swung by a hut to check on a lady who had called for me to come help her a few days before. She had a severe tropical sore on her leg- about 6”×5” of raw flesh, which she has been battling for the last two months (in Bulu Muri, the farthest Bulu village on the point of the peninsula), before coming here for help. Awful. She has been in much pain, but the calm, patient look on her face amazed me. I've seen it many times here… a resigned look when in tremendous pain. It's just how life is. Many family members stood around her as she laid on a bed of boards in the little “haus kuk”- waving flies off her sore, caring for her adorable round little brown baby, or just sitting and keeping her company. We prayed for her and gave what help we could (update: as I finish this letter a month after starting it, this lady is doing really well, and her leg is almost healed after a month of herbal treatments).
Afterwards we socialized for a while, watched some men putting up a house for a middle aged widow named Ellen (whose husband was poisoned several years ago, and who has attended a lot of births with me), inspected the cutest hut I've ever seen (it looks like it belongs in the alps, except for the thatch!), and waited for everyone to congregate.
The well opening ceremony was held in a big open place prepared with freshly swept dirt and a small table with a little cloth on it and a jug of flowers to complete the preparations. Three little girls sat on a board waiting for the festivities to begin in their Sunday best, combing their hair vigorously. Some people brought empty gas cans to sit on, boards, and woven mats made out of leaves.
When seventy-five people or so had gathered, Tyler shared about Jesus talking to the woman at the well, and the living water Jesus offers to all. He shared how this fresh, clean, water has been under the Bulu people’s feet for years, and yet they needed proper equipment and know-how to be able to tap into it. So it is with Jesus-He is not far from any of us, but we need to know He is there, have faith He hears us, and know how to call upon Him in order to be saved from sin and death. Tyler encouraged everyone to call upon Jesus, and to drink at the fountain of life freely!
Just the simple, sweet message of the simple, sweet gospel which is the power of God for salvation!
People listened intently. Afterwards Peter (The village leader), shared the Lord with everyone out of his heart for a while in the Bulu language, so we didn’t follow too well. Then we handed over the pump handle to two of the men who live close to the well, who are appointed to look out for it and help to manage and care for it. The villagers selected two respected men, so we feel that it will work out well.
There was much rejoicing from all as they tried out their new well. The babies were brought forward and washed vigorously by the teenage girls, little girls brought their pots to fill and walked off with full pots balanced on their heads, boys vied with each other for a chance to wash their feet and splashed each other whenever they could, and the rest stood back and enjoyed the spectacle.
A week after the well opening at Matibelele, the sad news reached us of the death of a dear little one and a half years old girl from that area. She was the granddaughter of my friend Ellen. She died of a lingering case of Malaria that had not been properly treated. That’s the third death here in this village since we got back a few months ago. So many people die. Death is a constant reminder of the frailty of life and the importance of living for eternity. It hit me especially hard as it was close to the one-year anniversary of one-year-old Gracie’s death from malaria (the baby I delivered on the boat). Both of them were babies of single mothers that had been offered to us for adoption. Both were very vulnerable and unprotected. I am so glad that they are safe in the arms of Jesus.
VIllage Boys Unsuccessfully finding lice in our boys hair (a common pastime among the Bulus)
You may remember the old woman we had asked prayer for a couple years ago, who had been sick with TB for many years (from what dates the family gave, it sounds like at least seven years). One day she and I had met on the trail going to the bush water hole, and she had told me of the sickness she had suffered from for so long, often spitting up blood, and almost continually feverish. She was very thin and gaunt, with very sad eyes. She asked if we had any medicine that would help her, and after asking questions of her and her family, and consulting my village health book, it seemed to me that even with aggressive treatments for a year or more (which would be nearly impossible with the difficulty of transport out here), she did not have much hope as the TB was already well established in her body. I had a strong burden to pray for her from that point, and we and some of the other believers prayed over her several times over the next year. We also helped her get to the hospital for some testing. At the end of that year, right before we left for America last year, she came by with a gift of mumu tapioc, and was absolutely beaming with joy. She said the Doctors had tested her, and she was disease free! Now that we’re back in the village we've seen her quite a few times, and she looks so much better! She says she’s still doing well, and she’s been going to church meetings nearby our place. Some of our friends here were telling us a few days ago that she has “Tanim bel” (repented) since God healed her. Please pray she will be a bright light to her family, as they are very dark. We recently cut up a big dead mango tree for her to use for firewood. As we sat together visiting I marveled again at the change in her countenance, and the healthy glow of her face. Praise the Lord! She can’t seem to smile enough, just bursting with joy.
Several nights this week I was awakened by people loudly calling my name outside our bedroom window. I jumped out of bed with my heart pounding the first time, and followed my neighbor Scola down the trail to meet a young man from Bulu muri being carried up from a boat on the shoulders of two buddies. They carried him under our house and I treated a machete cut on his leg which had been bleeding badly. He was in a lot of pain due to a tight tourniquet that was wrapped around his leg to stop the bleeding since he had cut it earlier that day. Several guys were with him along with his elderly parents. We got the bleeding stopped and Tyler and I prayed for him before we went back to bed.
A few nights later it was a little girl from our village who had stepped on a glass bottle and deeply cut her foot. She was hardly awake and dizzy from loss of blood when I got to her, but with prayer, young coconut water, a good amount of cayenne pepper and a pressure bandage, she was stabilized and went on the truck to town the next day for stitches. Each medical emergency is observed by a group of usually at least ten to twenty people, while I vainly try to keep things sanitary. There is usually a very helpful assistant available, and I am amazed at the gentleness of some of the tough young guys when they are helping. It is also really neat how respectful everyone usually is when I pray.
Bullet hole from a homemade gun in our taxi truck that gets us to town.
This was from a holdup on the road
One of our constant prayers for this place is that God would raise up more laborers for the souls here. Since we got back here a few months ago, we have received requests to hold a weekly chapel at the school, open an elementary school, run a clinic, hold preaching meetings at the weekly sports meet, do house to house evangelism, drill private wells, start a weekly singing night to teach people songs…. The list goes on.
Some of these things we see a real need for, and would love to do, but we are only two people, and we are quite busy as it is. But what potential there is! It would be quite easy to get one hundred students or more, all very eager to learn English, and teach them English from the Bible. So many possibilities!
We are finding comfort in the fact that God sees the need, and we are not expected to meet anything beyond what He appoints to us to do. He is able to meet those needs in other ways and through other people. Pray we do not get distracted from what God shows us we are to do. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to raise up more laborers for the harvest is plenteous but the workers are few.
Right now we are focusing on praying, loving and training our children (and taking care of our home/property), Sunday meetings, weekly discipleship meetings with Peter, and well drilling. On Sundays we have started to have a prayer meeting up at Peter’s house in the late afternoon, which has been really blessed and sweet. We have been very blessed to see many come who are hungry for God, and have had amazing times of pouring out our hearts to the Lord together. The Spirit of God has been meeting us bringing a sense of His great love along with a deep conviction of sin, and we look forward to what God is going to do as we seek His face together.
Cutting Boards For The Children's Bible School House
We also felt peaceful about starting a Sunday school for the many kids that come to services. Often the meetings would start out with 15-20 kids, but there would only be two or three at the end, often with the adults running them off for being too disruptive. We have felt a burden that they would know they are loved by God, and have often thought of the verse “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Tyler, Peter, David and the boys all built a “Sunday school room”, which is basically a wooden platform with a tarp tent over it. There have been 20-25 kids coming, and we've had a great time! I am teaching them Jesus Loves Me, My God Is So Big, God Loves Me, and His Name Is Jesus, all with hand motions, which they love. They love to learn English songs. We are reading through Matthew, as I feel a burden to show them who Jesus is, that they may fall in love with Him. I am very grateful for the help of Peter’s wife, Annie, who will repeat what I say (the right way) when my pidgin doesn't turn out too well! I made play-dough for them to play with after one of our Bible lessons, and was completely mobbed with twenty-five little bodies crowded around me with outstretched hands. They had never seen play-dough, and loved it! We are looking forward to what God is going to do among the children. Pray for them! Most of them come from homes with drinking, drugs, and fighting. Annie has informed us that many children who want to come haven’t, because some of the parents are making fun of the children when they want to come, saying,” You’re going down to find Jesus, are you?”
There have also been problems since we got back from the U.S. with people mocking those who come to the meetings at our house, and saying that we are their god, (because they did not continue to have meetings when we were gone). Some people believe that we are here on a secret mission, and are saying we are acting as missionaries as a cover up. Please pray that the lying, mocking, accusing voice of the devil will be silenced, and the truth of Jesus will shine forth. We wrestle not against flesh and blood.
Peter Witnessing to Dickson after a Service
Getting to town for needed supplies has been more challenging than usual since coming back to PNG. The truck has been running more irregularly, and sometimes after getting up at 4:30 or five in the morning and walking ½ mile to the truck stop, the truck just doesn’t show up. A few weeks ago we were trying to get back to the village and ended up waiting in a hot little restaurant all afternoon as the truck was running late, and we didn't get home till late that night. A few weeks ago, Tyler, Judah, and Berean headed into town on Tuesday for food and well drilling supplies. On the return trip the truck was low on brake fluid, and they had to get off the truck along with twenty or so others to walk down one of the steeper hills as the truck went careening ahead of them! The adventures we get to have!
A few days later Tyler had to make the trip again as our solar inverter went belly-up. No major happenings, except that the day before was payday at the nearby palm oil plantation, so there were three trucks loaded with lots of people going into Kimbe to buy stuff. The neighboring tribe knows when the workers are paid, and has held up the truck frequently in the day or two after payday and robbed everyone, so the police escorted the truck through their territory. Josiah went with Tyler, and they arrived home at 5 pm, which is good time.
We have been really enjoying getting to know a little family that lives near us. They have been over frequently, and seem to have a hunger for God. The mama of the family recently taught me how to properly cook Sak Sak as mine almost always turned out weird. Sak Sak (sago) is a fibrous substance with a flour-ish sort of consistency. It stinks when uncooked, but smells fine once cooked. It is harvested from the inside of a tree. I can buy a five gallon bucket full for about $15, and it makes nice little loaves when cooked with coconut. Anyway, she taught me how to mix it to the right consistency with coconut, and how to wrap it with leaves before cooking it. It’s so yummy and we eat it for breakfast all the time.
One of the fun things we've done as a family lately is to cut rounds (with our chainsaw) of some of the big dead hardwood trees in the jungle near our house for the neighbors to use for firewood. The boys love to help, and it is easy for all of us to go along. It is quite a social event, with lots of people involved.
Some of the other fun things we’ve done this month are: making a raft out of bamboo with friends, making chocolate cake for Keens four year old birthday from the cacao trees around our home, weaving walls (for a house Judah’s building) out of bamboo strips, making stilts, cutting boards with a chainsaw (and building the Sunday school room with them), spear diving in the reef, cleaning up our property, planting (peanuts, rambutan, pineapples, avocadoes, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and lemongrass), Harvesting (and eating!) our first couple pineapples and soursop, eating lots of guavas off of our trees, playing with the neighbor kids, butchering a rooster that kept waking us up at 4 a.m., teaching Salem sign language, cooking on my gas stove, having deep theological discussions with Keen, walking home through the village after dark with friends after a really good prayer meeting, reading the testimony of Jonathan Goforth as a family…. life is full and God is good.
And now for my favorite Keen quote of the month! I was singing the song “All my days, all my days, I will worship you Lord all my days…” when Keen piped up (He is second to none for always having a comment to offer!): “We should worship God every day. Some people turn away after one day, but we want to worship Him every day; ‘cause He is the Goodest Guy- ‘cause He gives us fruit, and food, and health, and strength, and life, and love.” To which I could only add, “Amen!”
Keen and Salem
We have entered the very windy, rainy season. Right after the service this week a huge storm blew through, causing chairs and the guitar to fly across the floor, trees to come crashing down, the roof of the Sunday school room to collapse, and some of our solar panels to fly off the roof, gashing a hole in the roof on its way. The rain was blowing in under the house where we were all talking and learning songs. There must've been 35 of us huddled together in the one dry corner, waiting for the storm to subside. I was so amazed as those gathered calmly watched the storm, and went back to singing a beautiful favorite of David's “Lord I seek your holiness, Lord I seek your righteousness, I come to you in brokenness to lay my life at your feet… I long to see you face to face, to stand in awe at your throne of grace. Draw me to your blessed, holy place. And I will worship you… Father God I worship you. And I will worship you with all my heart.” These people are accustomed to facing the elements every day, and they are so tough!
As I write this closing, I am cuddling my sleeping, freshly washed, wispy haired, sweet baby. We just had another big rainstorm, and the air is warm and still. The boys are all tucked into bed for the night, thousands of insects are singing, the trees are lit up with fireflies, and thunder rumbles somewhere nearby. I can hear the sounds of the village- dogs barking, children calling, people laughing and talking. What a blessing to look back on the day and be able to say; ”Thus far the Lord hath helped us.” It was a full, busy day as usual, with housework, schooling the boys, and helping Tyler fix the Sunday school house from the last big storm. In the evening as we were preparing for dinner, a group of people came with a young woman in a wheelbarrow. She was in a lot of pain with what seems to be appendicitis or an obstructed gut. We spent a few hours with her, prayed over her and gave her an herbal drink to help if it was obstruction, encouraging them to take her to Kimbe in the morning if she was still in pain (please keep this girl, Lydia, in prayer- she is now in the hospital and we fear for her life and soul). Her parents took her home and we fed the boys as another storm whipped around us. I am pondering life. Our days pass so quickly on this earth. Lord, teach us your ways and lead us in your paths……
Dec 20, 2017
To all you dear ones,
Praise the Lord for His mercies. They are new every morning. I am so grateful to have new mornings- they are a great gift from our Father. Today has been a challenging day.... between roller coaster emotions, a constantly chattering three-year-old, bickering brothers, miscommunications with my dear husband, etc... It’s time to recount some blessings, of which there are so many!
A sweet reminder of the Lord’s goodness came to me tonight from a certain little mischievous, tough, energetic, tousled blonde, almost four-year-old boy who happens to be obsessed with Giants, and is constantly comparing various things and people to determine what or who is the biggest and strongest. As we stood in our little tin shower room together and I washed the grime of the day off of him with fresh, cold rain water (of which there is an abundance as we go into the rainy season), he pelted me with questions ranging from “Why did God make mosquitoes to bite people?” to “Is Uncle Nate (his hero) bigger than Giant Despair?” (Giant Despair lived in Doubting Castle in Pilgrim's Progress).
As I racked my tired brain for good answers (“ask daddy later”, or “that one you should ask God when you get to heaven!”), he made a statement that scattered the clouds of discouragement that had built up all day; “In Heaven, everybody is bigger than us... (in his vocab, bigger and stronger are interchangeable) Jesus and God are bigger than us. Giant despair is littler than Jesus ‘cause everyone in heaven is bigger. So Giant Despair is like this big (wet little fingers held a couple inches apart) compared to Jesus!”
Salem - after a church meeting
Tyler and I have both faced some big spiritual battles since coming back here, but we have seen Jesus prove to us over and over again that; “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world”.
Several weeks ago I was under extreme spiritual attack for a few weeks. It felt like a dark cloud was trying to completely choke out the sunshine in my soul. It got so bad that I wasn’t sleeping well, and one night I hardly slept at all, tossing and turning with dark thoughts and crying out to the Lord for mercy. Early the next morning the Lord impressed on my heart to call a sister in the Lord to pray together. I headed down to the beach in the early morning darkness to where we get cell service and rang up a dear prayer warrior. We prayed together for a while as I sat in a little thatched shelter watching the day wake up and the fish jump. By the end of our time together the devil had fled. Praise Jesus for his power!
Last week I was laid low with extreme fatigue, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, and felt dizzy and lightheaded to the point of feeling as if I was about to pass out often. I could not carry Salem much for fear of falling with him and had to direct the boys in chores and the little bit of school we fit in from a hammock or chair. Days turned into a week, and I seemed to be getting worse. My wonderful husband was so sweet to me, cheerfully shouldering a lot of the home front load. He spent a lot of time making meals that were a little homier to try and tempt my lagging appetite.
Sunday night after a busy day with church meetings at our home I was really exhausted and dizzy. Tyler and I talked about going into town the next day to see the Doctor, but decided to spend some time more earnestly seeking the Lord about what to do. As Tyler and I sought the Lord for His will that night, my sweet Lord kept reminding me of something I'd said a few times when all my guys were sick for a few weeks recently; “I'm so tired I wish I was sick so I could rest.” In a joking sort of way, but with a bad heart underneath.
The Lord convicted me of my lack of gratefulness for the amazing strength He had given me in that season. Also, the Lord showed me that I was also having a bad attitude during my sickness, because in the midst of feeling sick I had needed to continue to help run the home from a sitting position and really wanted to escape all the needs to just curl up and rest. Self-pity was talking loudly and I had listened to his lies. I had grieved my Lord with my rebellious attitude. Monday morning during our family time of seeking Jesus, I confessed to Tyler and the boys and asked their forgiveness for not serving them more willingly and with thankfulness during that season of their sickness. They graciously forgave me. We all prayed for the Lord to raise me up and to rebuke the devil, and my dear husband anointed me with oil as he prayed for healing. I began to rapidly improve and within hours I was able to get back to work. The LORD is so good and merciful. He is a very good Shepherd to our needy souls! I'm so glad He doesn’t leave us alone, but continues to speak to us, convict us, shape and mould us!
We have been enjoying lots of cool (75-80), rainy weather around here. It feels a bit like home! Tyler recently built school desks for the boys on our porch, and it looks like a real school room! We've really been enjoying it. The porch is such a nice, breezy, private area to school. We also changed our schedule around a bit and are now doing school in the afternoon instead of the morning. It's working so much better as we are able to complete chores in the morning and the boys are able to work with Tyler as he works on well drilling or projects around here, and we are more available for drop in company, which is most common in the morning. Then in the hottest time of the day (the afternoon), Tyler spends time studying, working on projects, or seeking the Lord with Peter, and the boys and I do school.
Tyler is continuing to teach through Matthew 5-7 and the Lord is doing really neat things in people’s hearts. We are encouraged to keep sharing the Word, for it is a living seed. A few weeks ago he was sharing from chapter 5:38-48 on loving one’s enemies and blessing those who curse you. In this revenge- driven culture, it struck a very deep cord, and the whole air seemed heavy with awe at the word of God. Nothing happens by “chance” here, and whenever something bad happens, people seek for the reason, often using sorcery to try to figure out who is to blame. In the courts, medicine-men (witchdoctors) testimonies are taken into account as credible evidence. There is always reprisal to the one who did the wrong. Right now there is a battle going on between our tribe and a nearby island tribe. I don't know who “started” it, but our people are wanting to revenge the deaths of three men from Bulu who were killed last April. One of our friends (whose grandson was one of those killed), was recently telling Tyler of his determination to kill those who killed his grandson. Pray that people would repent and that they would be filled with the love of Christ, which enables us to forgive.
Our area of the village has been relatively quiet the last month or so. Although, yesterday there was another holdup on one of the trucks we take to town. No one was killed, praise the Lord! It's so sad to see people wasting the precious life God has given them! He has such good and sweet plans for those who surrender.
One of the young teenage boys here in our part of the village has a fear of God and seems to be seeking him. He has been over nearly every day since we got back here, and he and the boys have a great time together. Today I was washing laundry under our house as the boys taught him how to play Go Fish and Spot It. It was so hilarious! They were talking a mix of pidgin and English, and all five of our boys and Meli were quite entertained for at least an hour. Lately the four big boys and Meli have been keeping busy in their spare moments building little houses back in the “fort area”, (as we call the shady piece of land behind our house) that is designated “boy territory”. This is where most the hole digging, tree chopping, fort building, well drilling, and canoe carving takes place. They are getting quite skilled!
Meli and Keen
While I was sick, the young mother I asked for prayer for went into labour. I was unable to respond to their call for me to assist her at the birth (although I prayed for her!), but it went well, and she delivered a healthy baby girl. The first few days the baby barely nursed at all, so she brought her to our house. I taught her to sterilize a spoon to feed the baby her mama’s milk, as she wasn’t strong enough to suck well. She fed really well with the spoon, and gained enough strength to nurse within a few days. What a precious little soul in the sweetest little body! A rosebud mouth, chubby cheeks, soft black curls all over her round head-life is such a miracle!
Recently two brothers in their early twenties (young men are called mangis here), that live a few miles down the beach came to talk with Tyler. They had some good honest spiritual questions, and seem to be seekers. He had a wonderful conversation with them. They said that they are confused about truth. I wish you could have seen the earnest, hungry expressions on their faces as Tyler shared with them. This is the first time I can ever remember young people coming just because they wanted to talk about spiritual things. We are so encouraged, and continue to pray for the Lord to stir up a deep hunger for himself in this place! They asked if he will come preach at their weekly ball games (starting in the spring), when nearly the whole village gathers together. We appreciate prayer for wisdom on that. Their Dad introduced the Seventh Day Adventist denomination in Bulu, then later joined the Bhai religion. Before we had left PNG last year, Tyler had met him and had several good conversations with him. Tyler had felt the Spirit leading him not to try to argue about Christianity versus Bhai with him, but just to simply ask if he has found freedom from sin in his religion, to which he admitted he hadn’t. Tyler then shared the power there is when the Spirit of Jesus enters a human heart, and the freedom he has found walking with God. The man was deeply touched and wanted to hear more, and invited Tyler to come visit his home sometime. Please pray for the Lord to lead the way and timing on that.
One of the young couples in our community have been coming regularly to the meetings on Sunday. We have also been spending time getting to know them during the week. They are almost the same age as Tyler and I, and have four precious little ones (one of which is in heaven). We are really enjoying their friendship, and have been so excited to see signs of the Lord’s work in their lives. Please keep them in prayer as you think of It! Their names are Tuka and Balu.
Judah and Salem Celebrate Their Birthdays At the Vanderdecker's House
Tyler, the boys, and some of the guys here have just completed another well. It is in an area of the village with exceptionally poor water, and they deal with a lot of sickness as a result. Peter and Tyler are planning to have a big “bung” (gathering) the day that they put the pump on the well- both to lay down the laws that the community has decided on for well usage, and to have an opportunity to share some living water! Bulu people love to bung, so it'll be fun. Please pray that the Lord will anoint the time with His sweet presence.
May the Lord build up his kingdom!