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.
Ryan and Amy