Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar December 16 – January 17. Thanks for praying with us!
Often we pray and expect that God will answer in a specific way. Sometimes he does and other times he chooses to challenge us with a more stretching journey. As we prepare for any course, we know the importance of being flexible. The third Lumi Oral Bible Storytelling course in Wewak has shown that need again. As the trainers arrived, we learned that two of the trainers we expected to be at the course would not be attending. This increases the workload for those who are present. What should we do? Could we find a substitute at the last minute or go with what we have? After one failed attempt, we were able to find one substitute which worked out well. Because not all the groups showed up, we didn’t need as many trainers as we expected.
The phone had been ringing for days as participants called to tell us they had begun their journey to meet the truck in Lumi. Some called multiple times to tell of their progress. We were excited because it sounded like there would be a full house of participants when they arrived in Wewak. The truck showed up and we realized that there were actually ten participants who hadn’t come. This was a disappointment as we desperately want people to have access to God’s Word in a language they understand. If the participants don’t come, they are unable to learn the stories to share in their villages. We rest in the fact that God has a bigger plan that we do not see and he has the exact people that He wants here at this workshop.
In spite of prayers for good flying weather, the day the airplane went to pick up the rest of the participants, the weather was not great in Wewak. In the Lumi area where the participants were, the weather was beautiful. Because of some other failed plans, the airplane had to bring extra participants to Wewak. By the time the pilot landed, the weather was bad, but God safety brought everyone home that night. However, one load of passengers was still waiting at Guriaso who were supposed to be picked up that day. Now what? We had no way to communicate the change – there is no cell coverage in that area and the HF radio was not working and was being brought to Wewak to be fixed. We began to pray that God would keep them there long enough for the plane to arrive the next morning. He answered and the men were still there and thrilled that the airplane had come to pick them up.
So, with thirty-nine participants, twelve trainers, two consultants, and two families to help with all the necessary logistics, we embarked on the workshop Wednesday, June 8. Participants are working diligently to learn four difficult and lengthy stories this time. One of those stories is the Passover. With each group that has learned this story, we have enjoyed being able to share a Seder meal together. What an eye-opening time for them as they come to understand more of what took place with the Israelites in the Old Testament and the picture it paints for Christ’s work in the New Testament. Another story for this course is the Golden Calf. The participants used drama to help cement the story in their minds, so they could learn it well. Pray that the stories learned will come alive for each of these men and that they will be able to share God’s talk with their communities and that lives would be changed.
The story of God testing Abraham, as found in Genesis 22, is one of the Bible stories learned at the most recent Lumi Oral Bible Storytelling course. This powerful story always brings about thought provoking discussions. Some of those discussions come as people begin to realize the picture of the ram being offered in place of Isaac is symbolic of Christ being offered instead of us, as payment for our sins. Another aspect of those talks is when people are challenged to see what type of impact the story will have for them personally. Following a time of singing and sharing the actual story, the presenter usually asks two or three questions to help the audience think more deeply about the story. Sometimes the questions are fairly straight forward like, “What parts of this story made you happy or sad and why?” Other questions go much deeper. “How did this story help or challenge you? What change is God asking you to make in your life based on this story?”
These were some of the thoughts shared during the morning devotions:
- “I can’t give God excuses when He asks me to do something.”
- “I must submit to God as Abraham did.”
- “I can’t be greedy with the things God gives me. I need to share them with others. When I am greedy, God will not continue to give things to me.”
- “I did not know that God was calling me to come here. Before, in my village, I would get drunk and go around and make trouble, but then God called me to come to this course and I came.”
- “When God called Abraham, he followed what God asked him to do. I, too, must go back to my village and do the good work that I have learned about here.”
A part of learning each story includes a memory activity. For the story of God testing Abraham, the trainers chose to have the participants act out a drama so they could remember the sequence of events. Drama is a big part of Papua New Guinea culture so the participants try to put themselves fully into the characters. The bleating of the ram caught in the thicket and Abraham poised to offer Isaac are both pretty convincing. We wondered if the rams might get hurt as they chose to be caught in a low hanging rope. They will remember those parts for sure!
The participants come from thirty different villages. Pray that the stories learned will have an impact in each of these places.
As we embark on new ventures, there can be a certain amount of apprehension involved. Working with eleven (or possibly more in the future) language communities can feel a bit daunting. But our God is good! As we look back on the Lumi Oral Bible Storytelling workshop that just finished last week, we are thrilled.
Did everything go exactly as expected? No, but sometimes the alternative was even better.
- We heard early on that the truck would not be able to take the participants home on the day we anticipated. So, we extended the workshop a couple days and the participants were able to learn an additional story to take back and use.
- One airstrip we hadn’t originally used, ended up being the only one of three where participants could be dropped off at the end of the course, due to weather and other logistics.
- One trainer wasn’t able to come, but another showed up that we didn’t know was coming.
- The last two clusters have struggled to learn stories to one degree or another. One of the SPES members had been praying that God would show us a new way that would help participants learn stories better. He decided on a plan and shared it with one of the experienced trainers who had just tried the same approach in his community. We felt this was confirmation from the Lord and taught with this new approach. The result…better and more natural stories.
- One thing we have come to understand is that participants either really like or really dislike using storyboards to learn their stories. We have tried multiple approaches, but the vast majority of this group thought they were indispensable. We think they are pretty good too, but it was great to see them come to that same conclusion!
The thought of going to town every day or every second day to get enough market food (taro, kaukau, pumpkin, bananas, and greens) to feed nearly fifty people sounded time consuming. After hearing from a number of communities where we have established relationships that there was no extra food because of the drought, we figured the town market was the best option. But no, God had a better plan. One language community ended up bringing the majority of the market vegetables for most of the course.
We are so thankful to see the way God has gone before us in this new endeavor. We see His blessings in so many ways and we are excited to hear how the stories learned will impact lives and communities. Please pray for many open doors for participants to share what they have learned.