Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sepik Report

Living and serving in Wewak these past three months, we have had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with many missionaries and tribal believers. Whether they are in town to check translation or for a well-earned break from life in the jungle, it’s a treat for us to steal away some time and listen to their accounts of all that God is doing in and through their lives.
In the Yembiyembi people group, believers for the first time are being taught truths in their own language from books like Romans and Ephesians. As they have begun to put feet to their faith, a number of them are facing enormous pressure and persecution from within the community.  But they are not losing heart.  Robert describes the written Word coming to Yembiyembi like this, “Now that this talk (the Bible) is starting to be turned (translated) into our language it is like drinking clean water instead of dirty.  I can taste the sweet in it because it is in my language.  I can see the root of it (true meaning) so clearly.”
In one Abau village of about 300 people, there is a Bible study happening almost every day. After Sunday church, 14 Bible study leaders remain to gather with the missionaries to discuss the lesson for the week. During the course of the week, in teams of two, these leaders facilitate study groups of up to 20 people, including separate groups for ladies, married men, single men, and even a special group for widows.
It’s been amazing to watch the transformation in the lives of Bagwido believers as they gain a clearer understanding of who they are as Christ’s body here on earth.  One new believer recently talked about his faith like this, “Do we hang up (depend) on the white man or do we hang up on our Great Creator alone?  My brothers and sisters, let us go to the Bible alone.  That is where the truth is.  When I believed in my Getting-Back-Man (Jesus), I didn’t follow Mark and Brian (their missionaries).  No!  They didn’t come to bring America to Mariama.  They just came and gave the truth of the Bible.  It is not from their words that I am saved. No, it is the truth of the Bible alone.”
After almost eight months with no contact, missionaries flew by helicopter into a very remote village in the Hewa language group to check in and encourage the newly planted church. They were pleased to find the church has been meeting consistently, and absolutely amazed to see how far along they had come in their literacy abilities. Currently the entire village is being taught lessons from Romans two times a day.
God is not only working through his sent ones, but in them as well. Recently some of our dear coworkers headed back to the States for ongoing health issues. Another was recently rushed to Australia for emergency surgery. Others labor on with kids away at boarding school. One family is in the bush right now without a drop of water in their tank. And still another awaits results on a suspicious tumor. What a pleasure it is to serve alongside coworkers who, despite hardship, are living out lives that exemplify faith, obedience and trust in the One who gives meaning and purpose to it all.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nakui Church Report

This is the Greenlaws most recent newsletter out of Nakui. Despite the cultural roadblocks, it's encouraging to see lives being transformed by the Gospel ...

Last month we wrote about our plans to review the evangelistic Bible lessons with several villagers in Nakui who have been sitting on the fringes but are now interested in being baptized. We were very impressed with the consistency, great questions, and, believe it or not, enthusiasm that they showed through the 14 lessons. There were 10 men and women that participated faithfully, ranging in age from 13 to early 40s. 8 of them demonstrate a clear understanding of the gospel's message. Praise God for this encouraging development. It's a mystery to me why their interest is surfacing now and not 8 years ago, but that's not for us to control. I'm just happy. Here are a some of their responses:

Imo: 20 yr old newly married -
I have one heart about Jesus. It’s good for me to be stuck to him. We know that on the forked tree his blood was shed. Okay, since with one heart I believe about him that he came to the ground and died for us, therefore then with Jesus I am now stuck together. The two of us are now together. The reason is that Jesus wants to hold me as his worker so he joins us together. God decided, ”He will be my child. When he dies I will go and get him”. That makes me very happy. He’ll take me to Heaven. I don’t want to be destroyed along with this ground. I want my spirit to go sit on a throne in Heaven. Jesus’ blood has washed me clean. His blood that shed is powerful. God had only one child but he didn’t think, “Forget it, my child can’t go and die on the ground”. Nope, we are the work of his own hand and so his only son he sent to help us. He said, “Alright, I’ll help the ground people”. He helped us and therefore he is our good Father who sits up high in heaven. Oh, he is our true Father. Satan is not our father, God is. He helped us with his son. We are now ‘alive’ people. Not ‘death’ people, ‘alive’ people because of his shed blood. Before we were ‘death’ people who died all the time, terrible. Even the actions we did with our hands, Satan controlled them. We lived like that as did our ancestors, but God sent his son to shed his blood and now we are ‘alive’ people. Since we are ‘alive’ people, it is to heaven we will go, as God’s children.

Auwolami: 35 yr old mother of 6. Her husband was also in the class -
Jesus is our trail, our good road. He cut a trail from heaven to here. He is the one who saves us. He saved all us ground people. God wanted to remove our sins, “Why ever did Adam and Eve do it? I will now throw away their sin. My only son I will send to them”. He is our good road, Jesus. If you believe in him alone, you will go to heaven. If you don’t believe in him, you just go to the fire place. It’s like he stands on the road and asks, “Where are you going? If you don’t believe in me, then you must go that way, the road to fire ground. If you have believed about me, then you can come with me. Without faith, no.” Jesus alone is our road. His own blood paid for all of us ground people. He was given huge pain. He died and the sky went dark. He helped us ground people so much. Now all of us women and men should believe in him.

Taukiya: 17 yr old single. He stutters and repeats himself a lot so his words are heavily edited -
God’s help is big, not little. The spirits of this world can’t help us, God alone is powerful. I have many, many sins, from the time I was young. I have sinned and sinned but Jesus has helped me. His help is so good. I have decided (about) that with one heart, only his road is the road of help (salvation). I now know I’m going to heaven because Jesus has helped us. He was not an ordinary man, not a sinner, he was God’s true son. God sent him to us ground people. They nailed him, oh, his blood.....oh. They took him into the cave. Then he arose and went back to his Father.

Imo is the only one of this group of 8 that reads. Several are interested in learning so pray with us that our church will rise to meet that need.

Another happy side note is that Suse did a great job of heading up the class. I think his enthusiasm for the work has something to do with the class' attitude.

One more perk, Sobai taught 3 of the lessons and with each one improved in his delivery. He’s gaining confidence (hopefully the right kind) which is very good.

Our next project – Nakui’s first marriage seminar. Well, a couples only evening Bible Study to discuss what the Bible says about their ridiculously dysfunctional marriages.

Whooping cough is going through the village and nearly every Nakui family has a small child suffering from it. A baby in Yabu died from it a few weeks ago and we nearly lost one last week. Please pray for the Lord’s protection for these little ones.

Thanks for the part you play in this ministry and in our lives.

– Greg, for the family

Friday, August 28, 2009

In Wewak, PNG

Greetings! It's been a while since we last posted a blog, and a lot has changed. We have now been in Wewak, PNG for about a month and are getting ourselves settled in. Bekah and Bri are off at boarding school, which by far has been the biggest hurdle for us to get over. It's every bit as hard as we thought it would be, yet we're convinced this is where they belong for now. One of our first purchases were three cell phones (yes, hard to believe!), which has turned out to be about our most reliable way to keep up with the girls. Home school is up and rolling for TJ, who has his very own home school room in the back of our house. It's even air conditioned, so there's no exuses for not wanting to get all his work done!

I (Tim) soon will be taking on most of the administrative tasks of the region: paying bills, handling regional email, overseeing the finances, overseeing the center maintenance workers, and of course, putting out whatever fires happen to come up. On Sept 15, we make the first of our scheduled itinerant trips into Nakui. During that time we will be visited by two church planting consultants and will spend a number of days discussing strategy and future of the work. We also hope to check some translation during that time.

In short, that's what is up with the Askews. If you want to see some pictures such as our house and the beautiful view I have from my office window, take a look at the photo album and slideshow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Returning to PNG

Racing around ... packed schedule ... eating out every meal ... endless shopping ... and a sense that "we must be forgetting something" ... it must be that we are soon returning overseas! Tickets are in hand and we will be flying out of LAX at 11:20 pm on July 15th. After a 5-day stopover in Cairns, Australia we will arrive in Goroka, PNG on the 22nd. Thanks for your prayers in these crazy but exciting days as we plan, pack and say goodbye. Look for updated news and current information on the Nakui church once we arrive.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Major Disappointment

Want to know why pioneer church planting in many tribal contexts takes so long? Despite our most well planned and valiant efforts, it seems like something ALWAYS comes up which hamper the expected results. This disappointing report doesn’t deal directly with Nakui church, but the ripple affect touches everyone in the Nakui tribe.

In an earlier posting I described how the VHV medical program holds out hope for the Nakui and many surrounding Sepik tribes to receive basic medical training as well as the necessary credentials to receive ongoing government subsidized medicine. What a deal, right? Finally gaining access to government services - always far beyond Nakui reach until this point - is about the biggest civic development for this society since, well … the discovery of saksak. Or at least that’s the way I, for one, think about it.

After successfully completing the six-week classroom coursework last fall (we paid to fly in and house the training personnel to put the course on at Iteri), all that remained was the practical training for our two students. Problem: the course can only be offered at a medical post about 30 miles and 3-days hike away in a neighboring tribe. Solution: the students hike together with other neighboring students to this location, arriving a day or two before the course begins. They all agreed this was doable (3-day hikes aren’t uncommon) and committed to being there.

What could possibly get in the way now? Finally … the down-and-out Nakui were poised and on the brink of taking a HUGE leap ahead! Their diplomas awaited them. They only need to show up and complete this short, two-week module. But it never happened. Dominik, the medical trainer, graduated students from a number of surrounding tribes, but there were no Nakui certificates handed out.

What happened? A brother of one of the Nakui students had stolen a shotgun from someone who lives in the area where the course was taking place. Fearful of what payback may come upon them, the day of departure they decided not to join the delegation of students. It was the resulting fear of this one man’s actions that held them back.

This is an ongoing theme in these remote tribes; the actions of one holding back the many. Over and over we’ve seen men, in a fit of rage, destroy community water tanks, medical clinic bug screen, and even a community outboard motor. What we work for years to establish can be reversed faster than a jungle sunset. It’s hard to say where we go from here. First we need to get back to Nakui and hear them out and see if there is a desire to fix this. There might be something we can all do about it, but next time it will probably cost them a whole lot more than just a 3-day hike. How bad will they want it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Five Primary Obstacles in Communicating Christ

I know ... it has been a LONG time since I've posted anything on the blog. A number of you have been asking about this, and I have no excuse except to say that it's been CRAZY since Thanksgiving. Now that a few of my other responsibilites have eased up, I plan to get back to blogging.

I spoke to a group of high schooler this past weekend at Maranatha Chapel, and we spent some time talking about barriers to the Gospel in tribal church planting. Together we identifed the barriers we would anticipate in taking the Gospel to a typical unreached group of people (we used a tribal group in PNG currently asking for missionaries as our example).

Here are the five barriers we determined we would face which would need overcoming in order to fulfill our goal:
1) Geographic -- It takes a team to do this task. We will most likely need to link up with other who we share a common vision or partner with an organization which specializes in mobilizing people to remote locations.
2) Relationship -- You don't get anywhere in missions without genuine relationships. Through relationships we gain credibility to minister and speak into lives. Our model is Jesus, who lived openly and genuinely among those he served.
3) Linguistic -- These groups are unreached because they cannot speak the major languages of the world or the national languages of the country. If we determine the heart language of these people is the vernacular, we must commit to learning this language and doing Bible teaching and translation. This is the only way to give them full access and understanding to God's Word.
4) Culture -- We must understand who they are as a people before we can hope to meet their spiritual need in a profound way. In order for them to engage God's Word, it must be interesting and relavant to their lives. In the case of the Nakui and most animists, they learn better by hearing narratives than by systematized approaches.
5) Worldview -- Everything we teach must speak into or challenge their current worldview. The key themes of the Christian worldview (God is creator, is loving, is omnipotent, is our authority, punishes sin, is gracious, etc...) must be woven into narrative stories and then taught through and explained clearly.

While this is not an exhaustive list, I thought the group did a pretty good job of highlighting most of the challenges we must anticpate in a pioneer missions context. These are certainly among the primary barriers we faced (and continue to do so) in the Nakui context. If you would like to read my lecture notes click on