Truly Privileged

In the 1980s I was truly privileged to live 8 years among the noble people of the Koroba-Kopiago district in Hela Province, Papua New Guinea. These noble people took in a foreign white-boy who knew so little, who made so many mistakes, who had so much to learn, and they were kind, generous, and treated me far better than I deserved. How deeply grateful I am.

These 8 years among the Huli, Yuna, Bogaya and Sinali people I was never threatened or in danger by any human being. I never had anything stolen. I was never even asked for money. Instead, I could go anywhere I wanted. If I was hungry or thirsty people rushed to offer me food and drink. If I was caught somewhere with nowhere to stay, any number of people offered me all I needed. I learned Christian hospitality and godly generosity through them. I am a slow learner and am still learning. How deeply grateful I am.

I am on my way back to visit them.  For three weeks I will be shaking hands saying a thousand thank-yous.  I will be doing a lot of walking and am trusting that my troubled foot holds together.  But regardless, let the pain and limping and shortness of breath be a visible testimony of how deeply I love and appreciate these blessed men, women, young people and children. You are the best!

N.B. This trip was back in November 2017. We had an absolutely wonderful time together. My foot caused a whole lot of pain, but the joys of everything else drowned it out. I so much want to go back this year.

My Hero Indeed

This man is my hero.

His name is Peter Haiya. He is a Huli, from Tiba, in Hela Province, Papua New Guinea. 35 years ago he single-handedly helped me avert disaster, spiritual disaster, and keep on the path of my destiny.

I was young and green and thought I could conquer the world. I was the lone foreigner among a group of local men, heading over a range of mountains, as requested by some super-remote people, the Sinali, Bogaya and Agala tribes [population perhaps 700]. Our goal was to make contact and lay a foundation for presenting the Gospel to them.

Early on the second day [of 4 or 5 days of rigorous – 10-hours – climbing up and down over huge, steep mountains] the following happened.

The witnesses there claim I was hit with a sudden, demonic attack. I was shaking, my eyes turned red, my memory sees things as an observer from outside rather than a participant.

The men surrounded me, prayed, and were deciding that we needed to turn back. “How can we take our missionary all the way there, what if he dies. We will never be able to bring him back [meaning, it would be difficult to carry my dead body all they way back, which they would have to do according to custom].”

In the middle of this stress and commotion, Peter raised his voice and spoke his mind. With firm conviction, and sure and steady voice, leaving little wiggle room for debate, he said: “We started this journey believing God is with us. Now that we have a slight problem, we are really giving up? Are we telling God that he is no longer with us?”

The rebuke took hold. The men took hold of me. They prayed bold and fervent prayers, all together, outloud. After some time, change clearly took place. My eyes cleared; the shaking stopped. I was no longer an observer. I joined in with their prayers. And without even discussing things there was a unanimity of spirit, heart and mind among us, that indeed we should proceed with the mission.

Without you, my brother Peter, my life would be a shell of itself. I would have failed my calling and probably never made it back. We made many trips back and forth over those mountains, you even went back last year. You are my hero.

The people not only heard the Gospel, they found transformation. They forgave their enemies. The fighting stopped. They learned of Jesus Christ and trusted Him. They learned to read and write. They got medical help. Life expectancy has doubled. Population has greatly increased. And people in nearly every hamlet worship the Living God.

Peter, I can’t wait to get to heaven and see what rewards our Lord will honor you with! You deserve much. You remain my hero.

For Vanuatu

For our Melanesia cousins to the east, here is a book in your own Bislama language. It was originally written in Papua New Guinea’s own language, Tok Pisin, then translated to yours. The English title is Why Did Jesus Die?

You can download it for free by clicking on this link:

Enjoy, cousins, and let us know what you think. (For you who know Tok Pisin, this can be loads of fun learning to read Bislama).

Enjoy your free digital book

Death of family is the hardest thing we face. Pastor Darius lost his beloved wife after a long battle with cancer. But worse than this, he and his only daughter were in a road accident. He survived, but his daughter died in his arms. The pictures on the cover are of the actual event.

Huge questions raised their voices. “What are you doing, Lord?” “Where were you when I needed you?” “Why didn’t you take me and let Martina live out her future?” “Could I ever trust you again, Lord?”

Groping for God is Pastor Darius’ heart-searching, honest account of the deep waters of doubt that he went through, and the things that helped bring him through the despair and out the other side. You will not forget this story, and Pastor’s advice is powerful.

This book is being offered to you free of charge. Click on the link below, and it will take you to an online store. In the box that says Code, enter the word “Free”. Use the code and you will receive a free digital copy of the book that is yours to keep. You can check out as a Guest with just a name and email address. Download your new book on any phone, tablet or computer.

Happy Reading! And pass it on!

Why did this take so long to come?

This next event took place ten years later in another part of the country, among very different people. Brethren missionaries first started their work in the Lumi area of what is now Sandaun Province, this was in the early 50s. There was a good reception of the Gospel and 40 years later there was now over 50 Assemblies in the district. My wife, our year-old daughter, and myself were there to serve these Assemblies. An obvious need was to improve the reading ability and study skills of the elders and other church leaders. PNG people are used to demanding physical work. They will labor outside all day and enjoy it, but sit them down with a book and their eyes get heavy.

About 30 elders came in to Lumi for two weeks to improve their reading and Bible study skills. I lead them through the very basic steps of inductive Bible study; observation, interpretation, and application. We started with observation, and as we studied a passage of scripture I had them find and write down every person and group of people, including human, divine and angelic beings, that are mentioned in the passage. This was a tough assignment for most of them and we spent days practicing. We added more and more as the two weeks progressed.

One morning a man came early and asked if he could address the whole group, as he had something he needed to say. He was perhaps the oldest in the group and had worked with the early missionaries; a well-respected man, so I agreed.  When everyone arrived, he came up front and told us he needed to apologize to each and everyone, including me. I had no idea where he was coming from.  He continued, “Yesterday you could probably see I was very upset and I need to confess to all of you.” (Still no clue where he was going with this). “I wasn’t angry with any of you, I was angry with God and I need to tell you about it. You see, I have been with you every day last week and now, and what we are learning is so very, very important. But I am angry and complaining to God as to why it took 40 years for this training to come.  You are all young enough to learn, but I am an old man now and it seems it is too late for me.”

I prayed silently, “Lord, help me. What am I going to say now?”

I then said to the whole group, “Thank you, papa Afu, for being honest with us.  I am not sure what to say, but let me try a couple things we can consider together.  1. Things were different when the early missionaries were here. No one knew how to read and write, so the missionaries focused on these things. Look how many people read now! 2. You say the missionaries didn’t teach Bible study methods like we are doing now, but perhaps they tried and people just weren’t ready for it back then.” There were many nods of agreement. “It looks like this is God’s time for these things to be learned.” 3. “But I want to encourage you, papa Afu, to not give up with this study. We still have a few more days together. Let’s pray together that the Lord will help you, and I know that everyone in this group will be glad to sit with you – at any time – and help you along. Let’s see what the Lord does.” Everyone seemed pleased with this answer and we prayed together as a group.

The point I am raising with this story is that in Western countries we take so much for granted. Reading, writing, analytical skills, objective reasoning etc. are skills we learn early and use throughout our lives. This isn’t true everywhere. It is of utmost importance to communicate the gospel in the forms and expressions that help receivers understand it properly. When helping believers grow and develop into ministry leaders we may need to assist them in very basic skills like these people in Lumi district.

Did Jesus come to our Earth or some other Planet?

A couple years later, I was involved in early evangelism of three very small tribes who lived three days walk over a rugged mountain range to the south. This was done with the help of Yuna believers.

Each day the people gathered in a house and I would tell Bible stories through an interpreter. The first few days the people listened politely but without much response. On this particular day, I related the story of the woman at the well.  I explained arid climates (something they knew nothing of) and what a well is (their climate is such that never in their lives have they felt a shortage of water). When I finished the story of John 4, lively debate erupted in the languages and I waited in wonder until there was a pause, and I asked the interpreter what was going on. He said something along these lines:

“We are of two different opinions and we don’t know what to think.  Our question is, did Jesus come to our planet or did he go to the moon or somewhere else?”

Confused, I asked for further clarification. He said, “Where Jesus lived, you tell us they had to dig in the ground to get water, that doesn’t sound like our earth, so it must be somewhere else, maybe one of the lights we see in the sky.”

So, the next hour was spent with me trying to convince them that indeed Jesus came to our world to save all of us.  I explained that Israel was in a different part of our world, that people can travel there by airplane. This was interpreted into their languages and they were not impressed.  I then said I have seen pictures of Israel and I know people who travelled there and saw it with their own eyes.  More discussion.  Still not convinced.  I prayed silently asking the Lord for help, then He answered.

I remembered an Israeli student from Bible School, Naphtali, who was actually from Bethlehem.  When this was relayed to the people I could see dramatic change in the room.  When the discussion slowed the interpreter said, “Now we know that Jesus really did come to our earth in order to save us.” Why? “Because we know you, and you personally know someone from Jesus’ clan. So, he could not have gone to another planet, he had to have come here.”

This was a major-breakthrough that so easily could have been missed.

Cain & Abel Through Highlanders’ Eyes

Barely two months into my missionary service, I was the one foreigner among thousands of Yuna people. My assignment was to learn their language in order to help with translating the Old Testament for them.. The only English spoken was at the nearby school. I was asked to give a Bible lesson to the children there on Cain and Abel. I related the story and concluded with some questions.

“Why was Cain angry with his brother?” I asked.

They discussed it among themselves and came back with what to them was the obvious answer. “Cain was the older brother but he was poor. His younger brother had all the wealth, so Cain was jealous and killed him.” The educated pastor who brought me there agreed and defended their answer. I was confused.

Papua New Guinean people are bright, but in the early days their knowledge was limited by how far their feet could take them. They only knew their own world, so Biblical events were interpreted through their own world view. To the Yuna people, Cain was obviously poor because he had to grow food and did not have livestock, which for the Yuna people means pigs. Abel had lots of ‘pigs’, so he was clearly wealthy! This disparity of wealth and status stands out for every Yuna person who hears the story.

People of PNG

Papua New Guinea is a nation of stunning natural beauty.  Forested mountains reaching above 15,000 feet, fast flowing rivers, stunning water falls, pristine beaches, living reefs, countless Islands, etc. But the greatest riches of this nation are not its natural beauty.

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The 800+ tribes (nations) of people are PNG’s greatest, most beautiful resource: Loved by the Father, died-for by the Son, and being convicted and enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  This article seeks to lead you to a better understanding of these people and encourage you to pray with clarity. This will be done by relating three true events.     T.B.C…