Sunday, February 24, 2008

Today...some professed their faith

This is the view from the back of our church in Kamkumung during our service this morning. Yes, that is Ian standing way up at the front there! Today was a day that brings much joy to the work here. Some 12 people--9 women and 3 men--professed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and became members of the Reformed Church of Papua New Guinea at Kamkumung. All praise be to God as He has been working in their lives to bring them to this point. In December of 2006 the Lord opened the door for us to begin working in Biwat Compound where they live. It has been a blessing to witness them mature and grow in their faith and knowledge of the Word since that time. We pray that this will continue! May they grow even closer to Him, until the day of our Lord Jesus!

Here are 3 of the 12. This is Agnes, standing in the middle and holding her daughter Leane, and with her other two daughters, Annie and Alosinda.

Agnes' husband and other daughter also joined the church today, as well as Annie's husband! The mother, Agnes, shared with us that this morning they had gathered together as a family and said to one another that now that they're members, this doesn't mean that they can become lax in their faith and commitment to the church. On the contrary, now they have even more of a responsibility to remain true to the commitment they made today before Christ and many witnesses. Agnes and her husband, Andrew have also decided that they will make a point to support some of the young people who professed their faith today,and whose parents are not Christians. We were so encouraged to hear that! Please pray for these 12 people, that they may be and remain strong witnesses for the Lord. Please also pray for all the people of Biwat Compound for there are many still living in darkness.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Bookstore Comes to Lae...

This wasn’t just any bookstore. This was the world’s largest floating bookstore! It came to Lae on a ship called the MV Doulos, or in English, the MV Servant. And that is what the 300 people on board the Doulos came to do, to serve. The Doulos is an old ship, built just 2 years after the Titanic. But while the Titanic sank, this old ship has kept on sailing to bring knowledge, help and hope to the nations of the world.

The bookstore stocks Christian literature, as well as general interest books about cooking, gardening, children’s books, etc. While the Doulos was berthed in Lae for the last month, it was encouraging to see many Papua New Guineans buy books…we hope this will cause more of them to love to read!

And not only did we get to browse for books right here in Lae, we also got to benefit from the teams that are sent out from the Doulos. One such team came to a settlement where we work, Biwat Compound, and slept there for two nights and ran children’s programs. Here they are, showing where they’re from—China, Switzerland, Mongolia, Japan and Germany!

And look at the smiles they put on everyone’s faces!

We also had a team go with members from our churches to the hospital to encourage the patients with the Word, prayer and some care packages, donated by Doulos. Another team went to Tent City to help finish off the church building there. We appreciated their building expertise as they fixed up some of the work that had already been done and then finished off the building alongside the nationals. We’ll soon post a photo of the finished building! For now, here’s one of the volunteers hard at work! (A good Canadian boy!) These teams made a lasting impact on the lives of the people here and we were thankful for them and their work!

Here's Karlyn, hanging out with Alosinda, while the rest of us worked!

We had good fellowship with some Dutchies on board too…actually, all of the food on the ship is shipped in from Holland, so they gave us some delicious strop waffles!!

This past Tuesday we said goodbye to our Doulos friends as they left for other parts of PNG, before moving on to New Zealand and Australia.

May the Lord bless and keep them as they sail and serve!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fruits and Veggies, anyone?

Welcome to the main market in Lae! We are so thankful for this market. It is always full of fresh produce, that is extremely cheap! We can buy our produce for the week--delicious sweet bananas, juicy watermelon, crisp lettuce, green peppers, carrots, onions, potatoes, and other more exotic foods--anyone want to eat a fruit bat or an eel?? All for about 25 kina, that's about $8 Canadian! We're thankful because across a mountain range in Port Moresby where our colleagues live, the market is not safe to shop at or the prices so affordable. Rumour has it that the Lae market wasn't too safe a few years ago either, but then they called in security guards from a certain tribe who apparently are excellent marksmen---they don't have to aim, because their arrows always hit the mark anyway. So the legend goes. And so there are no security problems at the Lae market anymore.

This may be the case, but it's still a little unnerving for me to be in such a crowded place, carrying a heavy bilum (string bag) in the heat of the sun, and trying to keep track of my son who's trailing along slowly behind me. And to add to all that, we're usually some of the few whiteskins there so we provide the entertainment for the day. Especially when Jonathan decides he's tired and plunks himself down in the middle of the pathway or splashes wildly through every puddle from the rains the night before.

There was one day a few weeks ago that he and I did witness an incident that made me feel quite uneasy. I noticed a crowd gathering near where the guards have a little office, and then I heard over the loudspeaker something about a woman who had stolen something. I couldn't quite understand the pidgin. And then they invited everyone to come watch while she was beaten with a stick. The crowd quickly grew. This was even better entertainment than the whiteskins. I quickly steered Jonathan away from there, not wanting him to see or hear any of it, and wanting to get away from the crowd because that's where pickpockets are at their best. As we turned the other way, I could hear the cheers and laughter of the crowd as they watched the woman being hit. A few minutes later, I noticed a woman walking quickly away from the crowd, head down, and hand covering her face. I gathered she was the thief. A few steps behind her was a guard, carrying the stick and looking as if he was going to go at her again. And that's what he did. People all around were laughing and I just couldn't help but think they were so cruel and immature. I didn't understand what was going on. And then I remembered that this is what you call a "shame culture", and therefore it wasn't so important that pain was inflicted on this woman--it didn't seem like she was being hit very hard, but that she was ridiculed and shamed, in the hope that she wouldn't try to steal again. The ironic thing is that in an impoverished place like PNG, any of the people who were standing around laughing at her today, could be the thief tomorrow, just trying to survive and maybe feed their children. Not really a laughing matter.

The people at the market come from villages all around Lae, some waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, just to catch the bus into town to sell their food. Not to mention the hours they toil to plant and harvest the food from their garden. And then many of them sit in the hot sun for hours at the market only to make enough to cover their bus fare and maybe a little bit extra. We admire their hard work and appreciate the food they sell. Fruits and veggies, anyone? Come to Lae, and enjoy!!

Here's a woman at the market selling colourful skirts and the traditional meriblouses and laplaps.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Prayer for a family who lost a son

Today my colleague (Pastor Andrew Vanderheide) and I brought a young man’s body to the morgue. The story is heart-wrenching, seemingly senseless and not without some probably unanswerable questions. Yesterday afternoon a young man from our church, Benny, and his friend (wantok) of 17 years, were working in their garden on the mountain range outside of a place called Tent City. On their way home they decided to take a route to a bridge that traversed possibly the fastest flowing river in PNG called the Busu. Some 50 meters from the bridge, Benny’s friend convinced Benny to rinse off in the water and Benny agreed to his friend’s fatal decision. While on the edge of the river his friend’s foot slipped and he was pulled under the water. Lacking the ability to get out, Benny tried frantically to help him but couldn’t. And the torrent of water in a river punctuated with sharp boulders and rocks realized his early death. Benny thought that maybe he would still appear again down stream, alive, of course. But to no avail. He began to search down the river until darkness fell, having told a few others of the imminent fear of death.

The next morning Benny got up at 5:00 and began walking the length of the river. Four to five kilometers later as the river entered into the ocean, laid the young man’s battered body. Benny found his friend and carried him to the nearest village where they wrapped him up, ready for the morgue. We were asked to come and we did, praying with Benny and the people first, we took the body to the morgue.

At the morgue we were reminded again how different things are here than in Canada or Australia. Here death is not masked and made sanitary. We witnessed the cleaning and the deep cuts to the head, the wrapping, the opening of the morgue which is a simple container that is refrigerated. Having witnessed much already, the opening of the morgue and the ensuing spells forced Andrew and I to retreat to clean air. Death is not without sting and stench, we were reminded.

Of course we have many questions? What happened? Were they maybe high? Was he sick? But having spoken to the family about this, we realize that some things may not be answered, but yet our Sovereign Lord has this in His control. He alone numbers our days. His days were full. This young man had only recently been attending church in Kamkumung with his aunt who is a confessing member (his parents are in a village 12 hrs away). He sat under the preaching for the last 4 Sundays. I didn’t know this and I didn’t recognize him when I saw him. But we thank God for leading him there. Especially last Sunday I had the privilege of proclaiming the simple Gospel message from Ephesians 1:4-5. We pray he heard it and we commend Him into God’s Sovereign grace.

Please pray for the family. His extended family is hurt deeply by this. His parents probably don’t even know yet. Pray that this will not cause them to turn to anger (against Benny) or against God. But humbly walk through the valley of death in the courage and strength of the Lord.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Prayer for a 'potential' preacher/teacher

Since God desires to hear from us in all things, we solicit your prayers for a certain man, John Lanta, and his family here in Lae. We feel he has been fitted--by God's grace--for the calling of preacher and instructor of theology. He grew up in the Reformed Church in Port Moresby, has served as a leader in the churches in Lae for some 9 years and is well versed in Scripture and theology. He is also exceptional at mathematics and is serving as an instructor at the University of Technology in the math department. Although he doesn’t have a master’s or doctorate yet, he has been highly recommended by the department head to seek them overseas (England or Australia). He has been looking into this and has the backing from the University.

I have spoken to John about changing from a masters and possibly a doctorate studies in math to theology. Although we feel the Lord has led him to this decision-making-time in his life (having served faithfully for many years in the churches; having a love for teaching Scripture and wishing to go for further studies overseas), we, of course, can’t force his or his wife’s hand in this decision. The decision would probably mean seeking his Masters of Divinity overseas at the CanRC Theological College in Hamilton, Canada and, upon completion, serving outside of Lae in a new discipline, theology. The hope would be that he would serve as a professor at our Reformed Churches Bible College in Port Moresby.

In all this much, much prayer is needed. Please commend John his wife and their two young children to prayer as they process this life-changing decision. We know that the call of the Gospel is often a call to leave family, friends and some comforts for Christ’s sake. This is a step of faith and this faith is only obtained by God’s Spirit. Please pray for them as it seems the time is ripe for them to make a decision. And the need to have faithful men serving as teachers and preachers of God’s Word in PNG is paramount!