Friday, January 29, 2010

The thoughts God has provoked......

We just spent a week in a village called Simbari, visiting with the missionaries and believers there, and seeing what it means to give your life to reaching a people that are lost.  The testimonies and stories were powerful and stirred our hearts. God is moving everywhere and it is amazing to see.

Simbari...., to get there we boarded a small plane and we flew about an hour out of town through the mountains and then saw this little grass airstrip in the middle of the jungle. It seems like the middle of nowhere but I guess it's somewhere because there are people that live, work and play there. Some of them don't know anything different. There are even brothers and sisters in Christ there! Also, two missionary families have been there for 10+ years. They told us that Jesus is building His church among them as they watch it grow in number and in depth.

But wait...aren't the missionaries the ones sharing the gospel and doing the translation work? Sure, they're there. And, sure, they are working very hard. But, they would tell you over and over that it is despite them that the church was born and is growing. The Lord is using them as imperfect human beings to bring the good news to people who had never heard it before. They, as missionaries, just keep showing up and keep doing the work the Lord has put before them. This makes me ask, "where does the Lord want me, right now, to keep showing up, to persevere in life?"

Sitting through the Simbari church service was probably the highlight of the whole 7 week trip. Several men and women gave testimonies. One young man spoke from Mark 7:15, "Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean'". I've never heard these Scriptures referenced in a testimony before, but they spoke right to the heart of what he had wrestled with his whole life. You see, PNG is very "missionized". There are lots of "churches"; and I put that in quotation marks because these churches do not teach salvation by grace through faith. These churches claim to be Baptist, Bible, Missionary, Assembly of God, Four Square, Methodist, Jehovas Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.

Some of these I expected to share salvation through works but not all. It was hard to see a "baptist" church preaching that God sent Christ to allow you to appease him and conform to his demands. Across the board, over and over we heard of "churches" that taught salvation by works. At one "church", it's "don't drink alcohol, don't smoke, don't chew buai, go to church on Saturday, don't drink Coca-cola (yes, this absurd!). At the one down the road it's "don't drink coffee, don't eat pig". So, this is the religious environment this young man giving his testimony grew up in. This Scripture was the road to freedom in Christ for this man. He heard the gospel because someone went to him. He had seen the stars and the mountains and knew that a mighty God existed. But, before someone spoke to him the words that Jesus has shared with us, he did not know eternal life in Christ.

I think what was so amazing was that some websites and organizations list PNG as 95% reached. When you get on the ground and start talking with the missionaries and believers there they just laugh at that. I think we've come to realize even more that just because there is a church in a place does not mean the gospel is being preached nor does it mean there are believers.

It is so much like home in the USA... knowing the name of God does not mean you are saved, doing things to appease him doesn't mean that either. You have to know you cannot appease God, and that the very best thing in you is wicked. Not even knowing Jesus' name and that He is God's Son means you are saved. You have to know Christ died for you because there is no way to God except through him.  Not only do you have to know God loves you, died for you and paid for the wickedness, but you have to accept it as well... You have to humble yourself before God, admit your status before Him as a sinner, and accept Christ's death on your behalf as a covering for your sin.

Please pray for the peoples of New Guinea, that they would understand that they cannot come to God with their own sacrifice like Cain did. They have to come to Him with His sacrifice. Christ. Pray that they would see through the false gospel being proclaimed and know the truth. Pray that God would give wisdom to those working there to share this truth, that they would know how to tell these peoples in their own language what God has done for them. That they would be able to do so in a way that is understood fully. None of this is possible without God making it so. He needs to open hearts and minds and enable those telling the story to do so well.

 More than anything pray for laborers for the fields are white and the laborers are few.

Luke 10:2-3 The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into his harvest field, go I am sending as Lambs among wolves.

Please pray for us we are ready and willing to go. Please pray for divine appointments over the next month as we visit other places and talk with missionaries. Ask that God would show us what we need to make wise decisions about the timing of returning and where we would serve.

Thank you,
Ryan and Amy

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hello again! Live from PNG, update #2.

Hi all....or "apinun" as they say here in melanesian pigin,

We are still alive and sickness, no accidents, no more earthquakes (first day we were here, there was one that registered a 5.6). We did have a slight problem with a couple vehicles and the road that we have to travel to get to the highway. Can you say rainy season, dirt roads and ruts up to your thigh? You can read about it at The situation is now resolved after the Lord brought 2 days of uncommonly strong wind and sun.

From Amy: Language learning is going well. After several sessions with Lina and lots of afternoons sitting with ladies in the village I can mostly understand Ryan's random mutterings in pigin. We've finished our classes in phonetics and chronological Bible teaching. God is a big God who has been working to draw people to Himself and point people to Christ since Genesis, despite their consistent wandering from Him. I am thankful the Lord has shown Himself to me even when I think I've got it all figured out on my own.

We wrote a paper and had a class about the eternal destiny of the person that has not heard the good news of the gospel. AKA the people that live all over this country. They are heavily "missionized". There have been lots of denominations over the years that have set up churches here. However, the vast majority of them teach that you can earn an eternal life with God by doing the "right" things. They mix their tribal animistic beliefs with a list of do's and don'ts and call it salvation. They teach in Pigin or English. These are 2nd or even 3rd languages for people here.

Pigin only has 600 words with many of the words having 6 or more meanings. Even if these churches were teaching truth, these factors make it very difficult to communicate in a way that would lead to deep understanding. There are over 400 language groups in this country alone that have no access to the Truth. Yikes, there's some food for thought.

From Ryan: It has been so good to get to know some of the village guys here and to brush up on pigin. God has definitely been stirring my heart even more with the need here so many people with no chance of knowing our God and no chance of an eternity with Him. The fosters told us of a man that recently recieved Christ as His savior here, I got to meet him the next day. He was a pastor at the local baptist church for the past 15 years and he never understood the truth that you can't appease God by doing things. He thought that Christ died to allow us to make God happy with us. He showed us how to get rid of our bad blood (more on that later) and washed away his bad insides in the river by baptism.

So they believe it is by Christ dying on the cross showing us how to be saved, and us getting baptised that we get rid of the badness in us. We can then do a few other things and God is happy with us. So close to the truth but even farther than they were before because now they think they have the answer. God has been good for sure , please pray that he would soften hearts and prepare the way and for more laborers for the fields are white. These stories only press on me more the truth of Gods command to Go into all the world! His promise that He will build his church makes it worth all the sacrifice and effort on our part. He is faithful and keeps all of his promises.

Update on the Foster's, the missionaries in the local tribe the Bene Bena with 60k people in it and now there are around 35 believers!  They just finished the 6 month long "creation to Christ" teaching: 25 people showed up on the last day. Only about 10 had been coming consistently. There are now 9 new believers that we will get to worship with in Heaven!!! One of them is another one of our language helpers. She had been attending church at a local place that had services in pigin and taught salvation by works. Keep in mind these are a fairly stoic individuals...Her reaction to the completed teaching was, "it is just so clear now..."Praise the Lord for her.

So what's next? Tomorrow we climb into a 6-seater plane and will go further up into the highlands. We're going to stay with a tribe for the weekend. There is a newer church there and 2 missionary families that are currently working on translating the New Testament. Wahoo! We are looking forward to the testimonies of the believers there and to encouraging the missionaries as well. Please pray we would be a blessing to them over this next week.

Please pray for God to reveal himself this next week to us and for safety
Fell fee to forward this to anyone you think would want to read it too!

Much love. Thanks for writing us and praying for us.
Ryan and Amy Carpenter
Ephesians 3:14-21

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hello from Papua New Guinea

Hello friends and family!

After about 30 hours of travel we have safely arrived here in beautiful Papua New Guinea. We were greeted by temperatures in the 80s, the curious eyes of the nationals and the team of 12 missionaries that serve here at Interface. Our team of 15 includes folks from all over the USA, Germany, and the UK ranging in age from 19 to 32. Two nights ago, we shared with each other about how the Lord provided a way for each of us to come here. You were part of our story and for that we are so grateful. Many others here praised God because of your prayers, your financial gifts, and your encouragement to us along the way. Thank you!

Amy: We're over our jet lag and are settling into some routine here. It feels a little like camp in some senses. We live in a cabin, have community bathrooms, and eat all of our meals together in the dining hall. We are in class part of the day--it's a classroom with open windows that look out over the mountains. We're living at about 5,000 feet. Oh yeah, back to what's going on in class...we've begun some lessons in phonetics and chronological Bible teaching. Phonetics? you may ask. It's because we're getting a small taste of what it takes to learn a tribal language. As for the chronological Bible teaching...that is how missionaries in the tribes begin to teach nationals the gospel.

Today we visited the local village for the first time. Thatch roofs, women hand-washing clothes, and pigs running around included a few of the sites. There is a small handful of believers in this village. Many others have confused "Christian" (aka Mormon, Jehova Witness) beliefs with their own animistic beliefs and have come up with a whole new religion. To get past this confusion the current missionaries are re-teaching the basics of the gospel in the heart language of the people every morning right now. Pray for new believers by the end of next week. As for my own heart, the Lord is telling me not to fear and to truly to ask Him for a deepened passion for only Him. He is to be number one and there are not to be any number two's, three's, or four's. "I am the LORD your shall have no other gods before me." Pray that I would readily receive His answer.

From Ryan: I am still finding it hard to believe that this is real, and that we are here, thank you all for being a part of this over the past three years. Without each one of you this wouldn't be a reality. As we were in the plane flying from Port Moresby to Goroka I was overwhelmed with it all. The past three years have been very bittersweet. It was so hard to prepare to go only to have health issues derail what I was certain God had called me to. On the other hand I am sitting here in New Guinea looking to God for direction with an amazing wife by my side. I can only say thank you Lord.

Even though I haven't been here in over 15 years the sights and smells are so familiar and bring back many childhood memories, it is good to see and feel it all around. Even as all this is happening my heart is heavy with the number of people here who have still to hear the gospel. We went to the village today to meet people and look around. The air heavy with smell of wood fires mixed with the faint sweet smell of coffee beans drying and tobacco smoke greeted as as we climed the slippery and muddy clay trail to the village. Bamboo and grass huts of various age and construction  along with things like pig jawbones from hunts long past hanging from trees surrounded us.

I was quickly reminded how far from Texas and the US I was as three small childeren ran by playing in the mud, while men walked around carrying bows and machetes as if on guard. One woman walked by with a twelve foot tree trunk on her head and a bag of sweet potatoes over her shoulders. This place is so unlike home in every way except for one. These are people without Christ and they need Him just as much as we do. God is stirring my heart it is so good to be here learning how to make a difference and how to touch lives with my own. What is our place in this need? What does God have for Amy and I? We are both looking to God to bring us a clear picture of that while e are here. Please pray with us that we would see clearly what He has and not mix his message with our own faulty beliefs as is seen so often here.

Once again I am thankful for all of you helping us get here God is moving in both of us and it is because of your help that that is possible. God is so GOOD and I am glad He is in control of this all. All in His time I keep reminding myself. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. I am in awe of it all, and extremely grateful. Thank you.

Please write to us at this email address while we are here! We'd love to hear from you :) We will write again as soon as we can.

The Carpenters
Ephesians 3:14-21