Friday, August 27, 2010

Outreach to Tanna Part 3 of 3: Jehovah Jireh - The Lord Provides!

As Robert ran back to Lawangi, the rest of us who were not occupied with Kid’s Club or sports evangelism, prayed that God would give him strength and would help him find the missing equipment.  Robert is the father of the little baby that we prayed for during the first few days of our arrival on Tanna.  He had taken us to Karimasanga where his mother lived.  He had become a vital part of our team as he helped us carry the generator, speakers and other equipment to share the JESUS Film.  About an hour later, he returned, bathed in perspiration, with exactly what we were missing so that now we could show the JESUS Film!  We praised God that he had enabled Robert “to run and not grow weary” and had helped him to find just what was needed!

Jesus Film at Imarabu

Over 100 people sat beneath the banyan tree with their eyes fixed on Chief John’s TV screen seeing and hearing for the first time the message of Jesus Christ.  The film went past the 5 PM limit, but only 2 men left.  After the film two members of our team shared how Jesus had changed their lives, and many raised their hands indicating their desire to receive Jesus too. 

 The sun had gone down and it had become very dark, but one of the new believers, Sofie, opened her house for us to lead the new believers in understanding what it meant to have “new life” and how to grow as a Christian.  Her house was filled to capacity as we rejoiced and sang "Tok blong God i Gat Paoa" (God's Word Has Power).  Andrea, one of the YIM team shared that, “Even in the darkness of her house, I could tell they were all hungry and eager to hear God’s Word.  The Lord truly provided and opened doors when others kept trying to close them.  The Lord showed himself to us that day as Jehovah Jireh, the Lord provides!”

Sylvia with Elisabeth as she holds her new Bible and MegaVoice
Elisabeth was one of the women who gathered that night at Sofie’s house.  We had brought with us several copies of the recently published New Testament in the language of north Tanna along with some MegaVoices (a hand-held, solar-powered, audio Bible) supplied by our friends at SIL.  Elisabeth, who was from North Tanna, clutched the new MegaVoice in her hands and practiced touching the buttons to make sure she knew just how to make it work.  Can you imagine the joy of a new believer hearing the Bible spoken in her own native language for the first time?

Andrea, Louise, Lisa, and Sam (Louise's father) at Inapoas
The last village we visited was also a “custom village” and was closed to Christianity.  Pastor Gideon’s mother, Rehab, was from this village called Inapoas, and her daughter, Louise, was living there with her new husband.  Rehab is a dear Christian who lives in Port Vila.  She had been praying for a long time that we would be able to take the Gospel to her people.  Prayer was the key that opened the door to this village. 

David and Jimmy, one of Rehab's cousins

We saw the same eager response at Inapoas to the message of Jesus as we had witnessed at Imarabu and the other villages.  Many prayed to receive forgiveness and new life.  We saw visible changes in their faces; fear and apprehension was replaced by the peace and joy of knowing the Savior. 
Kids showing their salvation bracelets

 Who would care for all these precious new believers after we left Tanna?  Two of the villages had no church or pastor.  We had prayed that many would come to Christ through this outreach, and we also prayed and believed that God would raise up people to shepherd them after we returned to Port Vila.  Our God is faithful!

We praise God for Pastor Gideon’s brother Morrison from Lawangi who had been feeling led to gather the new Christians from his village and lead them in worship.  He is also visiting the new Christians in the other villages on a weekly basis to lead them in Bible study and to encourage them in their walk with Christ!

George, also from Lawangi, was another young man who had traveled with us to every village and had become a special part of our team.  After hearing about the pastoral training classes offered through South Pacific Nazarene Theological College, he asked if he could come to Port Vila for training.  We thank the Lord for his call in George's life; he arrived 2 weeks ago to take part in the next three SPNTC classes.
George on the far left riding in the truck

Please continue to pray for the new believers in Lawangi, Enkateli, Karimasanga, Imarabu, and Inapoas.  Pray that Isaiah's prophesy would be true for them as they learn to hope in the Lord and are strengthened by his Spirit.  Pray that they will be eager to tell others about the new life that they have received.  Pray that God will open the doors for us to return to Tanna as soon as possible to encourage and strengthen these followers.

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not faint.” 
Isaiah 40:30-31

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Outreach to Tanna Part 2: Answered Prayer, TV Screens, and Open Doors

We've not had too many times where we didn't encounter a problem when showing the JESUS Film.  We stopped everything and prayed and asked the Lord to “heal” the projector.  The Lord must have had another plan because the machine would not work!  The chief of Lawangi, John, offered the use of his son’s TV screen.  It was small, but it worked beautifully, allowing over a hundred people in the Lawangi community to witness Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Many asked the Lord to forgive them and come into their lives that night!  Praise God!
Eileen teaching one of the discipleship groups

The new believers and others that were interested came the next morning to learn how to continue to grow and mature as a Christian.  We broke into five small groups, each lead by a member of our team, and each emphasizing an important aspect of growth.  Sylvia shared our excitement about the “new life” many had experienced.  Usoma taught that God’s Word is our vital food.  Eileen shared that prayer was like breathing spiritual air.  Austin made the need for regular Christian friendship clear. Edward related obedience to Christ to our need for exercise. Pastor Gideon helped the new believers think about their need to spend quiet time with the Lord.  These concepts that were organized in a small booklet from Scripture Union became our wonderful means for follow up of new believers at each village.

Hiking to Enkateli - notice Chief John at the back, TV in hand
We left Lawangi on Sunday afternoon and planned to return before dark.  Enkateli was our destination; a village reached by a one hour hike down to the river and back up the steep path on the other side. All the equipment had to be carried up the steep mountainside:  the generator, speakers, the amplifier, and even the 50-pound rice bag!  Chief John encouraged us to use his TV screen to show the JESUS Film again, so he came with us to ensure its arrival. 

Enkateli was home to a Catholic Mission school and the John Frum cult.  In the past, this cult significantly reduced access of people in this village to the gospel message.  Children in the village often did not even know Bible stories.   Some of our team members played soccer and volleyball with the village young people after their arrival, which helped to break the ice.  Then the heavy bag of rice was presented to the chief and the village gave pandanus mats to our team before the showing of the JESUS Film.
Headmaster Oliver giving mat to David

Over a 100 people crammed into the classroom to watch the JESUS Film.  Edward and Eileen, both with personal experience regarding the John Frum cult, gave powerful testimonies of God’s grace in their lives.  And many gave their hearts to the Lord again!  Wonderful!  Praise God!  We were thrilled!
Showing JF at Enkateli - Chief John's TV is on the right

The sun goes down around 6PM and our attempts to return in the daylight had failed.  It was pitch dark outside!  How could we possibly navigate the steep, narrow path while carrying the JF equipment in the dark?  The chief of Enkateli offered the use of his pickup truck to drive the equipment and a good portion of the team around the mountain ridge, back to Lawangi.  We prayed for Austin, Lawrence, and other members of the team who volunteered to that treacherous trip back in the dark.  Soon, we joined back together again at Lawangi.  We had to sleep fast.  Tomorrow there would be a another hike followed by a ride in a pickup truck to the next village of Karimasanga in southwest Tanna.

We were reminded often of the spiritual battle going on in the heavenly realms that became part of our own personal experience as we traveled from village to village.  Our team was tempted with discouragement during our ministry in Karimasanga.  During the drive south we got rained on and were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached the village.  This time of year in Tanna feels cool to us, and after getting soaked to the skin, we were very appreciative of the warm fire that was burning in the house of the local pastor.  We took turns huddling near the fire trying to get ourselves dry and warm.  The afternoon dragged on and there seemed no momentum on the part of the village to gather the children for a Kid’s Club.

Things seemed disorganized, as if they had not been expecting us to come.  There were several churches in this village and we began to wonder why the Lord had brought us to Karimasanga.  We had spent more money for the transportation to get to the village than we had planned.  The number of people was much less than the previous two villages.  So, we began to ask God to help us see what his plan was.

By the way, Chief John came with us to Karimasanga and, yes, he brought his TV screen!  This was the third time that we had shown it and the third time that Chief John watched it from beginning to end!

Discipleship study at Karimasanga
 After we showed the JF, Pastor Jenny Isaac, shared with us that a widow had asked her many questions after the video and they had prayed together.  Another lady who had lived the life of a prostitute was also very interested; so the two, Mary and May, were planning to attend the discipleship class the next morning.  The next day after class, our pickup truck was late in returning to take us back up north.  This gave Pastor Jenny more time to go over the discipleship booklet a second time with these two women and to encourage them in their new faith.  Sometimes we see a plentiful harvest of souls, and sometimes we witness the passionate love that God has for a few very needy souls.  No price tag can ever be placed on the value of one lost sheep that is found. 

Gospel of John in Bislama
As soon as we arrived back in Lawangi, we began the hike to Enkateli.  We had made a plan with Oliver the headmaster of the school that we would come to share the discipleship study.  We gathered in the same classroom that we had watched the JESUS film.  Lots of children and many adults.  Oliver seemed genuinely appreciative of the small discipleship booklets that we gave and indicated that they would use them in the school.  Alongside these small booklets, people were holding the colorful Gospel of John books that we were giving to everyone that came to watch the JESUS film.  These Bislama resources were treasured possessions in all the villages.

Going on the heights!
As we hurried back to Lawangi on the steep paths, I was reminded of the verse that prompted Hannah Hurnard’s well-known book, Hinds Feet on High Places, Habakkuk 3:19, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”   David and I were finding that the paths were getting easier and that we did not feel as winded as before.  In a spiritual sense, it was exciting to see our team members gaining strength and climbing to new heights as well.  Most of our ni-Vanuatu team members who were teaching the discipleship study had never done anything like that before.  Many had never shared their personal testimonies in a public setting.   We are so thankful for this opportunity that we have been challenged to “go on the heights.”  The Sovereign Lord is our strength!

As a team and individually, we spent lots of time in prayer throughout our 2 weeks on Tanna.  We knew that the last two villages were going to be especially difficult as they had been closed to the Christian message and all churches.  In the morning prior to our hike to Imarabu our team gathered for prayer and, as we hiked along the path, we continued to call out to God to go before us and open closed doors.

We arrived at the village gathering place (nakamal) with signs that they were expecting us.  Pots of food were set out on a mat.  The village leaders were seated on the ground around the edge of the nakamal.
Pastor Gideon (L) and David (R) with village leaders seated.
After some informal greetings, Pastor Gideon and David stood to greet the leaders, to thank them for the opportunity to share, and to present a 50-pound rice bag.  An old, white-haired chief stood and spoke in his vernacular language.  It sounded like he was angry.  We found out that he understood we would be arriving in the morning and now we would have only until 3:00PM to do whatever we wanted.  That meant only 2 hours for Kid’s Club, sports evangelism, and showing the JESUS Film!  Pastor Gideon in his kind and gentle voice graciously thanked him and in response, the old chief extended the time to 5PM.

Kid's Club at Imarabu
Thankful for a few more hours, the team immediately began the Kid’s Club while David began to set up the JESUS Film equipment.  As he was getting organized, David realized that a vital piece of the equipment had been left behind at Lawangi!  We wished for wings to fly so that the missing equipment could be retrieved.  How would God intervene this time to enable the story of Jesus to be shown?

More pictures of Tanna Outreach

Outreach to Tanna Part 1