In June 2014, a series of Oral Bible Storytelling workshops began at the Abau Training Centre in Sandaun Province. As the groups gathered, we quickly discovered that the groups were vastly different. One group consisted of all pastors, another included some church and community leaders, others had a variety of people involved. Though a few had gone to high school or beyond, many did not have more than a grade 6 education. One group stood out as they were mostly unchurched men. As the first workshop progressed, one of the staff had a chance to lead several of them to Christ. One of these was a young man named Demas. He asked for prayer throughout the course as he shared a variety of struggles that had a stronghold on his life. Even in his demeanor, he seemed pretty rough around the edges.
Fast forward four months…he arrived at the recent Oral Bible Storytelling workshop late Monday afternoon. I almost didn’t recognize him. His appearance had changed and his face seemed to radiate. The next day he shared some of his story. When he returned home after the first workshop, he immediately shared one of the Bible stories he learned at the course with his family. They were excited to hear the story and eagerly awaited more. The next day he heard that his older brother had an evil spirit bothering him and was not well. He waited and the following day he gathered the family and told them that he would pray for his brother to be healed. However, he told them that if they were also going to go see the witch doctor that he would not pray for him because he did not feel it was right to mix the good and the evil to find healing. The family agreed that he could pray for his brother. Before he prayed, he told the family they needed to confess the wrong things they had done so that they were clean before God. After they confessed their sins, he prayed for his brother and he was delivered from the evil spirit.
The community of Miarfai where Demas lives seemed very dark when the SPES team visited earlier this year. There is no church in the area. There used to be, but it died. As Demas went back and shared the Bible stories he had learned, there was a renewed interest in spiritual things. He was asked to begin sharing devotions on Sunday morning, so he has been trying his best to share each week. They have also sent five young men to Bible school. They are currently building a church so they have a place to meet and have asked Demas to pastor the church. How do you pastor a church when you yourself are a new believer with no training? He came back to this course excited, but also filled with questions of how to move forward. Can I pray with someone to help them receive Christ? Can I baptize people? I probably need to do more than tell Bible stories each week, but how do I preach? Many other questions were asked with deep roots in a variety of teaching that people have heard for many years. What a joy for the SPES team to be able to walk with Demas through Scripture and find answers to some of his questions. What an encouragement to get a glimpse of what happens when God moves in and begins to work in a person’s life and community.
Pray for Demas, his family, and the community of Miarfai. The way will not be easy, but we know that He who began a good work will see it through to completion (Philippians 1:6).