A Fresh Perspective

Sometimes you have looked at something so many times or heard the same story over and over and it seems all too familiar.  Oh, for eyes to see something new and a heart that is open to what God has to show you.

North Palei participants and staff

Recently Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshops began for a new cluster of languages in the North Palei district, near Nuku, north of the Sepik highway.  Six language groups arrived in Wewak ready to learn what OBS was all about.  Trainers had carefully picked the stories for this first course.  Their desire was to give participants stories that wouldn’t be too challenging to learn and yet would also give them a good foundation to some of God’s talk.  They also wanted to do a couple Christmas stories as this would be the first time these groups would have some of God’s Word in their language at Christmas.

Michael leads singing during devotions

One of the Christmas stories picked was the Shepherds and the Angels.  A story familiar to most, but many of the participants saw it in a whole new way.  After the story was told during devotions, the group grappled with application questions so they could interact with the story on a heart level.  This is often the time where new insights are shared and eyes are opened.

When referring to Jesus coming to the earth and being placed in a manger (something dirty and lowly), one man said: “That is just like in my life.  My life is like the manger (a place that was dirty and no good), and now Jesus has come into my life and changed me.”

Aruop participants listen intently

Another man, as he grappled with who Jesus really is, said: “I can no longer worship anyone else.  I can only worship Jesus.”

As you come into the Christmas season, where things might have become too familiar, take some time to look at things in a new way.  Read them and hear them like it is your first time and see if God won’t speak new truth into your heart as well.

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Is It Worth It?

Sometimes when discouragement and weariness rear their ugly heads, it is easy to ask the question, “Is this really worth it?”  This question may come regarding one’s work, ministry, raising a family, or a myriad of other topics.  In the Sepik region, taking time to hear the testimonies of lives changed and see how God’s Word is having an impact is usually enough to say, “Yes, this is all worth it.”

Graduates with their certificates

The final Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop for ten Nuku area language groups finished with graduation on July 16.  Over the last five workshops, it has been encouraging to see some rather dramatic changes in these men’s lives.  Men who before were prone to heated discussions and always having to be right, have become more submissive and are willing to seek out answers in a reasonable way.  People are searching for truth in God’s Word to the many questions they are facing.

There has been more of a spirit of working together to make a difference in their communities.  An OBS Awareness day is being planned for August 10.  Representatives from several of the language groups will be telling about the work of OBS, sharing one of the stories learned, asking discussion questions, and trying to help people better understand how OBS can make a difference in each of the communities.  This meeting was initiated by the participants and the SPES team is excited to see how God uses this in the communities.

Lazarus receives his certificate

Lazarus, from the Pahi language group, shared a testimony during graduation.  When Gary, the SPES team leader, came to his language group to do awareness about the upcoming OBS courses, he was very cynical and thought Gary was not telling the truth about what they were going to do.  When it came time for the course, the community had not marked anyone else to come, so he decided he would come and see what all the talk was about.  Up until that time, he was doing drugs and up to no good.  He came to the course and as he sat there and began to listen to the Bible stories, God began to get a hold of his thinking and he became a Christian.  At this last workshop, he said, “Now God has completely changed my thinking.”  Thinking back to the first course, he never really said anything during the discussion times; but at the final course, it was amazing to see how involved he was during the devotions and other interaction times.  His smile is huge and he appears like a completely different person now.

Yes, it is worth it.  Thank you, God, that your talk does not return empty.

Photos by Faith Halverson

God’s Word – Living and Active

Groups work together to learn the day's story

Groups work together to learn the day’s story

Eleven Nuku area language groups continue to learn four Bible stories during this two week Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) course in Wewak.  Yesterday they began learning the story of The Fall from Genesis 3.  As they listened during the devotion time, they grappled with various parts of the story.  Some of their personal beliefs that have been held for many years did not line up with the truth they were hearing from God’s Word.  How do they move forward and reconcile those differences in their own lives?

Michael tells a story

Michael tells a story

Wednesday the same story was told to give them a chance to hear it again and process what was being shared.  After the story is given, questions are asked so that the participants can interact with the story on a personal level.  Wednesday’s questions focused on what the participants learned in the story and which character were they like in the story.  As many honest responses were shared, it was evident that God’s Word was alive and giving people reason to think about their own lives.

“I am like Eve because I listen to others when they tell things that aren’t true and then I follow after those same things.”

“I am like the snake because I tell others things that aren’t true and cause them to do things that aren’t right.”

“I am like Adam.  I go along and do the wrong things even though I know they are wrong.  I don’t stand up for what is right.”

“I am like Eve because I covet so many things.”

Listening to the day's story

Listening to the day’s story

“Now that I have come to this course and know what is true, I need to stand on that truth.  When other people come and tell me things that aren’t true and try to pull me in the wrong direction, I don’t want to follow them.”

“I need to not deceive other people.  I need to leave those ways behind, and do what is right.”

“I need to stand up and take responsibility in my family.  If my wife is saying things that aren’t true, I need to confront her and try to help her see a different way.  If not, it will cause problems for our whole family.”

It is encouraging to hear these responses.  Keep praying that God’s Word will bring conviction and lasting change.

Nuku OBS workshops are launched

Some of the Nuku area language groups in the Sandaun province of Papua New Guinea have been waiting for years for someone to help get God’s Word into their heart language (tok ples).  So it was with great excitement that we welcomed the arrival of participants from Beli, Pahi, Heyo, Mehek, Yahang, Wanap, Laeko Libuat, Siliput, Yangum Mun, Yangum Dey, and Minidien language groups on Monday.

Crossing a flooded river

Crossing a flooded river

Due to significant rains in the area, swollen rivers and muddy roads made the trip to Wewak a challenge for many of the participants.  The PMV (public motor vehicle) carrying many of the participants got stuck Sunday night, but they were able to dig out of the mud Monday morning and make it to Wewak.  Others waited for rivers to recede enough that they could cross (as seen in the picture) or walk to the other side.  We are very thankful to report that by Monday evening forty-one participants were safely in Wewak ready to begin class Tuesday morning.

OBS trainers serving at this course

OBS trainers serving at this course

Fifteen trainers are leading this course, many of whom are learning new roles and responsibilities this time.   A couple trainers are being prepared to launch a new OBS cluster later this year in Sandaun province.  We also have six brand new trainers who just graduated from the Lumi OBS workshop in January and are working to learn the ropes of teaching and mentoring new language groups.  We are so grateful for the capable and enthusiastic team God has brought together to lead this work in the Sepik.

Learning how to use a voice recorder

Learning how to use a voice recorder

As the participants work at learning the Bible stories, one of the tools used is a voice recorder.  After they have internalized the story and can tell it both in the trade language as well as their heart language, they record it on a voice recorder.  The story can then be played back for the group to check the story’s accuracy.  Tuesday they learned how to use the recorders.

Participants have another two weeks to learn a total of four Bible stories from Genesis.  These stories are foundational to understanding many other aspects of the Bible.  They have been learning the story of Cain and Abel over the last two days and God’s Word is already convicting men of their sins.  Pray that they can learn the stories well and that the truth of God’s Word will change the lives of those present even before they head home.  We wait expectantly to see how God will work in the days ahead.