By the time you receive this newsletter my twenty-one- year old daughter, Rebekah and eighteen-year-old son, Gabriel will be on the other side of the world, hiking the mountain trails of Papua New Guinea. They will visit each village in a pre-selected area and attempt to learn the words for one-hundred predetermined objects or actions (nouns and verbs). These will be compared and analyzed to enable her to make a determination as the “epicenter” -- the original tongue, the one from which the others have emanated.
Also to be considered is the interest of the people in having a missionary. In some cases the missionaries have arrived at a primitive tribe to find that the people have already received prophecy through their own Shaman of the coming messenger from God -- in which case, they are all eagerly awaiting the missionary. Sometime the Holy Spirit will just speak to the missionary and reveal the place to minister. And, there are those tribes that will threaten the missionary or flee from his or her presence. All these factors and more are a part of the process of preparing to do the work of Bible translation and church planting.
The language of most of these tribes is unknown by anyone outside that tribe. There is no one to teach the missionary. The people do not even have a concept of writing or reading. They often view the unintelligent babbling of the strange outsider as ignorance. The children laugh at the missionary’s inability to do what the smallest children can do -- ask a question. It sometimes takes several days just to communicate the idea of wanting to learn their language.
Upon her final return to P.N.G., Rebekah will be learning an unknown language and reducing it to writing by creating an alphabet and a dictionary. She will have to discover and define the innate rules of their grammar. All definitions of words must be linked to an understanding of the culture. In order to make the translation and her communication understandable, she will be recording their history, folk tales, religious beliefs and social customs. She will have to teach them to read the literature she produces and cause them to understand the Scripture in its foreign cultural context. [Anyone looking for a challenging career change?]
As the American church has become more comfortable in its Laodicean role and settled down to count its assets and assert its influence in politics, a vision for reaching those who have never heard has quietly slipped out the back door to make room for the “power” program. Most Christians are not aware that there are still several thousand language groups that are still without their first verse of Scripture or yet to hear the name of Christ.
In the rain forests and swamps of Papua New Guinea there are over eight-hundred language groups yet to be reached. Many of these tribes are still living in total ignorance of the outside world. Their naked bodies reek with the stench of decaying flesh and putrid sores. Their faces are hardened by fear of the evil spirits ruling every facet of their lives. Their daily life is one of foraging the rotten logs for grub worms, which are eaten alive as they are found, or of digging in the ground with stone implements or sticks for the roots which comprise the main part of their scarce diet. Their existence is not as National Geographic or Public Television would portray. They are unhappy people with sins and evil habits ranging from the deliberate killing of young children to Sodomy and child molestation. There is often savage warfare between competing tribes. There is no “paradise” in the shadows of a primitive tribe. While the nude bathers on the beaches of Santa Barbara are flaunting their flesh in ideal weather, the naked savages of the higher rain forest are huddle together shivering in a fifty degree drizzle. A tribal family will see more of their children die of pneumonia or malaria before age six than will survive to become adults.
It is a simple matter to obey our Lord’s last words and take the message that is medicine to the soul and health to the spirit. As all men, every tribal adult is individually, willfully rebellious. They do not deserve to hear, but it is at this very point that grace begins. You or your child can be God’s channel for the revealing of this “so great salvation.” Just think of standing before the throne of God at the head of a tribe of people whom you brought as a sacrifice of praise to your God. Yes, the Holy Spirit alone brings men to repentance and faith, but “how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Be a part:
Rebekah and Gabriel will return to the States to prepare for her extended return. If you would like to be a part of this ministry, there are several things you can do.
1. Pray. It is not religious rhetoric or a formality when we say that prayer is the most important part that we can play here at home. God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. He has given us a weapon against The Evil One who has blinded the minds of those who believe not. We must wield the offensive weapon of prayer if we would invoke the heavenly armies in an encounter with the forces of our enemy. Far more is done by prayer than by planning. Set aside a certain time every day for you and your children to pray for Rebekah.
2. We can go and reach that tribe that will not hear unless we obey the great commission. God will use anyone. You need not be a preacher. The tribal people do not care whether or not you are a dynamic power house or a Greek scholar. Can you just stick around long enough to learn their language and tell them the story in the simplest of terms? Rebekah still needs a partner. Do you know of a retired couple or a widow with medical skills who would be willing to spend two years on the field?
3. You can give of your money so that others can stay on the field long enough to get the job done. No amount of money is compensation to a missionary shivering in a hut, racked with malaria fever, weak with dysentery, while a witch doctor chants outside evoking the devils to take his or her life. A man in America may ascend to the pulpit inflated with the hot air of his own self promotion, but no one travels several days walk from civilization to descend into the devil’s stronghold out of egotism. Our money should all be diverted to those who have never heard until the job is done. Let the “sanctuary” lights go out for want of paying the light bill, but feed the missionaries until those in heathen darkness have seen the light at least once.
If you would like to support one of our missionaries, your gift will be tax deductible. Every cent goes straight to the missionary. Nothing is withheld stateside. Our books are open to anyone upon request. It need not be one of our own missionaries. If you know of one who is doing the job, get behind him or her with your prayer and giving. Train your children to become missionaries. Give back to God what He has given to you.
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Wow! How inspiring! I hope that my own children grow to have such a passion for spreading the Gospel. Very well written article.