This past Sunday was a joyous one as four adults confessed their belief in Jesus Christ and became members of our church. Two children were also baptized. Praise be to God!
They are: Tono Abitoko, Noipe Silas, and Damien and Margaret Paino.
Noipe's son Rapaiel being baptized.
Damien and Margaret's daughter, Athalia
with a beautiful smile as she is baptized.
Tono was quite emotional as he read from John 1--The Word Became Flesh.
Andrew and Natalie and girls also joined us for the special day as they arrived back on Saturday!
Everyone was glad to see them, especially Louisa!
Glad to be together again...
Please pray for Andrew and Natalie--they found out on Monday that they had 2 days to pack up everything and get it into the container! They have been madly packing since and at the same time dealing with a nasty stomach bug that has hit all 3 of their girls already, and some members of our family too!
Today was Jonathan's last day of school. Totally different school year than Canada, which we're still getting used to. But as of today, the summer/Christmas holidays are here! I think he probably could've kept going since he loves school, but I'm pretty happy about not having to prepare school lunches for a while or rush out the door at 7:30am, Monday to Friday!
The new school year will begin at the end of January, when he will begin Grade 1...finally. He's a little miffed that his Canadian cousins and friends started in September already!
We are thankful to say that he received a special award this week--for "Outstanding Citizenship". The school follows a 'virtue program', focusing on a different one every week. These virtues are also very Biblical, even though it's not a Christian school, per se. Anyway, he received this award for consistently showing these virtues throughout the year.
This is he...he was just a little shy about going up in front of everyone and wouldn't show his face... He felt a little braver once the other 'outstanding citizens' joined him! With some of his fellow classmates... As any parent can attest to, it is a joy to watch your child grow and learn right before your eyes. This year had its challenges too, but we are thankful to God for what Jonathan learned and accomplished.
It's been 6 weeks since his sudden and violent death, and yesterday the body of young Jackson Willy was finally sent some 600 km north and $1000.00 Cdn/Aus dollars later to be buried on his parent’s traditional land. As is always the case, it forced a kind of crisis of cultures on me (Ian) when I was again asked to lead their funeral service or haus krai (house cry). In the West death is too sanitary, too hidden. Generally speaking in the South it is too exposed, too raw…or maybe just real. The painted faces and bodies with coloured clay, the heart-wrenching wailing, the great cacophony of groans and shrieks, the sense that I am invading a nuclear family’s last respects (even though the family is 150 large), the throwing of dirt and hands and limbs and not to mention the body beginning the decaying process, left me trying to find my cultural-bearings. What am I to do here? I did what Christ has called me to do: I opened His Word and preached from Lamentations 3:16-29, trying to pour out the rich promises of the Scriptures in the face of death and challenged them to look for the reason for hope in the face of death and sin--Jesus Christ. Sadly, many of the ones who were wailing, in what seemed to be in utter despair, only moved a few houses down and kept on going as I preached. After the ‘service’ we sang, “How great thou art’ in Pidgin and the body was trucked away to the airport. I pray some found hope in the solid reality that Christ has risen victoriously over death.
This is Jason, Sandy and their little son, Hansley. They are a young family from our church--and young in their faith too, you could say. Neither of them were raised with Christian parents, but they both want to serve the Lord now, and Sandy's mother also is a member of our church now. They've been married for almost a year, although their relationship did start out on rocky ground. It hasn't been easy for them as their families do not completely approve of their union either. And to complicate matters, they live with her parents, with his parents living very close by in the settlement.
The past few months, Ian and I have been meeting with them regularly to talk about what the Bible says about marriage and family life. In the middle of all of this, they had an argument and both of their mothers got involved (which made matters worse), and they were separated for a short time. Thankfully, they are back together now, but we know that it will take a lot of prayer and the power of the Spirit to keep this young family together and enable them to have a strong family and marriage in the Lord.
Their son is a precious little guy and is of course the one caught in the middle when his parents and grandparents don't get along. We pray that the Lord will guard and keep him and that he will grow up to know and love His maker.
We share all of this with you to simply ask you to remember them in prayer.
Ian travelled to Port Moresby last week to attend the graduation at the Reformed Churches' Bible College.There were 9 graduates who received a Diploma in Reformed Studies. Three of them are students from Lae, and the two men would like to continue on in their studies and next year begin the three year Diploma program to hopefully become Pastors one day.
The graduating class singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
PNGers love to share stories through drama. This is Gami, one of the students from Lae. She is a strong woman of the faith and a good leader amongst the women. She shared some words of thanks, especially for the wives of the missionaries (Rita Versteeg, Odette Douma, Cheronne VanderHeide and Sjannette Hagoort) for their tireless work in supporting the students and the college in countless ways. Here is Jerry Isaac, also one of the students from Lae, as he receives his certificate from Pastor Henry Versteeg with Principal Wayne VanderHeide in the background. As a representative of the Board of the College, Ian shared a message on Hebrews 13:13--being willing to go outside the camp and bear the disgrace Christ bore. We praise God for the Bible College. It is still incredible to us that God raised up this Bible College in a few short years and we are so thankful for this place where the Word is taught boldly and clearly and in truth.
One student shared this testimony: before attending the College, the Bible was just like any other book to him. But through his studies, the Lord showed him that it is the Book of Life!
This morning, we gathered for Bible Study as we usually do, except instead of meeting at the church, we gathered at the home of Jackson's parents, Yuanna and Willy. Jackson, as you may remember from a couple posts ago, was a young man from Biwat Settlement who was murdered just over 3 weeks ago. Since that time, the women from our church, many of whom are related to Jackson's family, have gone every Tuesday morning to be with Jackson's mother Yuanna---to support her and encourage her, sing with her and pray with her.
The young men who they suspect of killing him were taken into custody by the police, however about a week later were let out on bail. Now they are back to getting drunk and causing trouble in the settlement, including attempting to fight with Jackson's family several times. Their quick release is thanks to the 'wantok system', I was told. A 'wantok' is someone who speaks the same language as you, meaning they are from the same area or village. Here in PNG if one of your wantoks needs help, you are obligated to help out. If you don't, there will be no one to help you when you need it. So these young men are out and free to do as they please again. Jackson's family does not want to fight with them, but they would like some compensation money for his death, also to help transport his body back to their village to be buried.
So in addition to grieving the loss of their son, Yuanna and Willy are dealing with an unjust justice system and these young troublemakers who are seemingly showing no remorse for what they did. Yuanna and Willy are bearing a great burden right now, and greatly need our prayers. Only the Lord can get them through this.
It was beautiful to witness Mary, a woman from our Bible Study who had never met Yuanna before, cry with her and hold her in an embrace for a long time. Mary comes across as quite a tough woman; stern-faced and rough, but obviously there is a tender heart on the inside.
Please continue to pray with us for Yuanna and Willy and our justice system, which has failed them miserably. Thankfully, The Judge is acutely aware of all this injustice, and is full of grace and mercy to those who humbly come to Him in faith in their time of need.
After a steady stream of visitors, our last guest of the year, Keith Bruning returned home to WA a few days ago. He was the ninth person who stayed in Andrew and Natalie's unit since they went on furlough!
Keith was one of the Australian delegates who attended the Conference in Port Moresby with us. He then spent about 10 days here. He has a special connection to the Reformed mission work in PNG, as his parents, Rev. and Mrs. Bruning did some short-term work here many years ago. It was a moving experience for Keith to visit some of the churches in the Port Moresby area that his parents were involved with over 25 years ago. A reminder of God's faithfulness. And then he could see how the work has branched out into the Lae area, also thanks to the Lord.
Saying a few words of thanks and encouragement at church.
We enjoyed Keith's company and having him experience the work with us, and especially appreciated that he was game to drive all over town doing errands for us! Not to mention the delicious croquettes he cooked for us twice! We're sure his family is glad to have him home again though, also just in time to celebrate his and Brenda's 25th anniversary! May the Lord give them many more years together.
We've been back from our conference in Port Moresby for over a week now, but still here's a bit of an update. In attendance were the 5 missionary couples on the field right now as well as 3 delegates from Australia, 3 from New Zealand and 2 from Canada. We had good discussions on the 10-Year Strategic Plan, reports on the 8 church groups, reports on the Bible College and also developed policies, Etc, Etc. The result was an 86-page document containing the minutes as well as many appendices with the various reports and policies! We pray that the Lord will help us to follow through on all that was discussed and planned, and we completely depend on Him for His blessing.
This is the classroom where the meetings were held.
Our kids had a blast with Sjaan, Bryce, Cameron and Joseph Vanderheide. In fact, there was much talk of them staying in Moresby and becoming Vanderheide's themselves:).
On the weekend, we took the kids to this Wildlife Sanctuary
that was recently built close to the Bible College .
Their babysitters (students from the Bible College) kept them busy with all sorts of activities.
Caleb and Dorothy
Best Mates Caleb and Joseph
While we were at the conference, we also got the news that our co-workers, Andrew and Natalie Vanderheide, will not be returning to work with us as was originally planned. This did not come as a complete surprise because we knew that they were struggling with what to do, especially since Natalie has dealt with recurring miscarriages--an even more difficult experience when living in PNG. We deeply respect their decision and understand that it was not an easy one for them to make. Still, they will be greatly missed here--by us, but also by the church community. We look forward to spending some time with them when they come in December to pack up and say goodbye.
A few days after we got back from Moresby, we also received the shocking news that a young man who had attended our church for many months this year had been killed. His name was Jackson Willy and he was a young man that we were worried about--for he had stopped coming to church suddenly and after that we saw him drunk a few times. He was also drunk the night he was killed.
It seems a fight broke out between two groups of drunken young men and Jackson's cousin ended up being cut in the stomach with a knife. For some reason, Jackson stayed behind when his friends went to avenge the cousin's injury, but then later decided to go on his own and was met on the path by about 5 young men armed with bush knives and iron pipes. They attacked him and then left him there on the path where he bled to death. His family members in Biwat community are in shock and deeply grieved. When Ian went there a few hours after his death, his mom was of course beside herself with grief. She was wailing and throwing herself on the ground and could not help but return to the site of his death where his blood still stained the ground.
His death deeply saddens us and also frustrates and angers us. What a senseless and most violent death. And yet, the last few months we have also been saddened and frustrated by the making and drinking of 'homebrew' among the young people, and the parent's seeming apathy to this. Our prayer right now is that the Lord will use Jackson's death to open people's eyes and turn them to Him. Ian had the opportunity to preach the other night at the home of Jackson's family, and there were many young people there, as well as parents and children. We sang songs of worship for a long time and then Ian preached a powerful message of comfort and challenge. Not that he had planned to preach because we thought we were just going to see Jackson's parents, but when we got there they had set things up for him to preach, and more and more people just kept coming! The Spirit was at work that night and I saw on the faces of a few of the young men that they were really listening and being impacted. Please pray that they will completely commit their lives to Christ.
Please also pray that Jackson's family will not avenge his death, but leave it in the hands of the police. We pray for no more bloodshed.
We've been blessed to have Jack and Ina deVos here with us for the past couple weeks. Jack's been the chairman of our Mission Board for many years, but it's been about 12 years since he last visited. They both quickly settled into life here! They've been a great help to us too, especially since I've been sick and not able to do much besides lie on the couch the past 5 days. We've appreciated their help around the house and with the kids.
Here they are at a gathering at church on the weekend.
Chatting with Br. Damien, who is fluent in English.
Everyone was supposed to bring a 'little bit' of food,
but the table was full of delicious choices!
Playmates Louisa and Caleb....(who apparently needed help from his
big sis to make sure he was looking somewhere close to the camera!).
With Auntie Viviana.
And already the deVos' time here in Lae is over; although their time in PNG hasn't come to an end yet. Tomorrow we all travel together to Port Moresby for a week-long conference with our colleagues and other delegates from the Mission Boards. We pray for fruitful discussions and good fellowship.
Thirty-five years ago yesterday, PNG gained its independence from Australia. There was a celebration at Jonathan's school, with traditional costumes and dances from the different provinces. With over 800 different tribes with their own language and traditions, PNG is very culturally diverse and this was evident in the variety of dances and costumes.
Karlyn's preschool also had their own Independence celebration. Here she is singing and dancing! ...and enjoying it! Jonathan and a few of his friends after the presentations. Since both kids have been learning PNG's national anthem at school, we've been singing it quite a bit at home too. It's really a beautiful anthem. We also sang it in church last week and Jonathan's loud singing made him sound like the most patriotic of all.
The last two verses go like this:
"O give thanks to the good Lord above,
For His kindness, His wisdom and love,
For this land of our fathers so free,
Papua New Guinea.
Shout again for the whole world to hear
Papua New Guinea
We're independent and we're free
Papua New Guinea"
It is sung with such pride and yet when we hear of ongoing violence and murders; when stores are looted and all order is lost; when we see the inadequate medical care; when we drive on the unmaintained roads; when we hear of the corruption in the government; and see evidence of the poor education system...we have a hard time believing that PNG is better off being independent. And this is why many people still speak of the "good ol' days" when Australia was running the country.
And as for being free, it is ironic that we see so many who are not free at all. Instead they are enslaved to sin--lives full of violence, sexual immorality, alcoholism, animism, and gambling. Take, for example, what happened during the Independence "celebration" in the settlement by our church. Drunken raskols (young criminals) were holding up cars along the road in front of our church, and one of them made the mistake of throwing a rock at a vehicle full of high-ranking army officers (who were also drunk because they had just attended a dinner party hosted by our governor). So these officers decided to turn back and enter the road by our church and began beating up three young men who had nothing to do with the crime and destroying their house. They then threatened to return today and burn everything down--our church included. This is not happening, but it shows just how ridiculous these situations can get, when even those who are supposed to be upholding the law are breaking it and causing more destruction.
When Ian preached in the settlement the other night, he talked about these things and urged them to embrace the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and truly be free! They could then have Christ's JOY, Christ's PEACE, Christ's HOPE and be eternally "independent" from the slavery of sin. That's something to celebrate!
We were short one musician in church today. One of our guitarists was out of commission due to injuries on both of his arms. Last week he was attacked by some young men with bush knives. They cut both his arms and his head; on one of his arms they cut so deep and with such force that they broke the bone. We're not sure if there was a reason for the attack--at least no one's telling us yet. But we do know that the attackers were under the influence of 'homebrew'--a homemade alcoholic drink also known as 'steam'. From what we gather they boil sugar, yeast and some other ingredients in some sort of enclosed canister with a pipe attached to another container. They say it is about 60% alcohol and those who drink it, and many young people do, lose complete control of themselves and often become violent.
A couple weeks ago when we were in the settlement, we saw 3 young guys walk by and judging by the 'supplies' they were carrying, we were told they were going to make steam. Ian went to talk to them, because it seemed no other adult there was going to say anything, but they quickly hid the equipment as he approached. Ian still challenged them to stay clear of it.
It aggravates us and grieves us all at the same time to see young people caught up in this. Though it is probably most infuriating that the parents seem to be standing by and watching their children make it and drink it. Of course, they are not always sober themselves.
We continue to pray for the community of Biwat and when we can we challenge and teach and try to model another way.
As you can see, Karlyn's very happy with the blanket that Kirilee VanderHeide knit for her. We're sure many of her 'babies' will be kept warm in it(!). Thank you to everyone who remembered her special day with emails, cards and even little packages! Much appreciated!
At the Junior Assembly in the morning, he was one of the three students from his class who received a "Student of the Fortnight" Award. His was for "Being enthusiastic when learning new maths concepts and strategies"!
Here he is with his lovely teacher, Mrs. Brickland. Then in the afternoon, at the whole school assembly, he also received a Bronze Award. This Award is given to all the students who have earned 1o Merit Points for good behaviour over the past couple months. His class hosted that assembly and shared what they've been learning about different family traditions. Here is Jonathan introducing Ian who talked about Thanksgiving in Canada! So that was last Friday. Today (Monday), school was cancelled because a nearby store had caught on fire early this morning and many, many people took advantage of the situation and looted it along with two other stores. The police needed to be called in to restore order.
We may miss out on 'snow days', but instead we have our very own "looting days".
The Lord has led Tim and Francine Sikkema to ACCEPT the call from our supporting churches to work in Lae with us. If all goes according to plan, they will be joining us here sometime later next year! We thank and praise God for this!
We pray now that He will prepare the road ahead of them. It's a long journey which includes further mission studies, applying for visas, classis exam and ordination in Australia, packing up and saying goodbye and not forgetting, of course, the anticipated arrival of their little one in the middle of all that!
Francine and Tim on a rainy morning in Lae... Their 10 days here with us went by quickly. And already now they are in Sydney and will soon be flying back over the Pacific. We enjoyed showing them around, introducing them to church members and friends, taking them along to church, outreach evenings and Bible Study, and talking with them about the joys and struggles of life and mission work here. They tried their hand at manoeuvering the potholes and driving on the left, frequented the market for tropical produce and got a taste of PNG food. A highlight of the trip was when Tim had the opportunity to share a message at the home of one of our church member's in the heart of one of the settlements. Ian was there to translate and to a crowd of about 50, Tim preached an encouraging message on Genesis 28 (Jacob's ladder) and God's faithfulness to His promises--that He is with us always and fulfilling His plan even when we don't realize it.
Karlyn and Jonathan will miss having Mrs. Francine and Mr. Tim around! They had some fun afternoon swims together!
Tim and Francine, we will continue to pray for you as you decide on God's will for your lives!
Of course we hope and pray you'll be joining us back here one day....!