I first saw Jacob Maliu in the AFM video “May River Story” filmed in 2008. There is a scene in which former AFM missionary John Kent visits the village of Drupas, which happens to be where I served as a student missionary in 1995 and 1996. In the video, Jacob comes running into the arms of John Kent, weeping with joy at seeing his old friend again.
John sent Jacob to a boarding school near Wewak, so I didn’t get to meet him when I was a student missionary. Jacob was able to complete the tenth grade before his financial support ended in 1997.
After Jacob returned home to May River, he remained faithful to God and eventually married and started a family. In 2003, God impressed him to minister outside his tribe and go to strengthen the church at Drupas.
When AFM missionaries left the May River Project in 1996, there was a thriving church at Drupas with 50 baptized members and 100 regularly in attendance. But when Jacob went there in 2003, he found the church had dwindled. Jacob devoted 10 faithful years to Drupas and raised up a large, mature congregation and built a beautiful bush church.
When I finally met Jacob in 2015, I was excited to connect with the man who had spiritually watered and harvested where I had planted. How thankful I am for Jacob’s willingness to face hunger, sickness and loneliness for the gospel’s sake. He is still working as an unpaid missionary with his wife and three children, laboring to raise up yet another struggling congregation.
Over the last two and a half years Jacob and I have often met and worshiped together. We have shared in joy and sorrow. We have gone on missionary journeys through the bush together to preach in remote villages. This is how I learned of Jacob’s dream to go back to school to become an even better worker for Jesus. In 2014, he was accepted into a program but was unable to go because his sponsor didn’t pay his school fee. He had tears in his eyes when he told me how discouraged he felt after this disappointment.
Last week, I had the pleasure of surprising Jacob with the news that in six weeks he needs to be ready with his family to depart for the Omaura School of Ministry in the highlands where he will study with my full support for the next two years. He hugged me for a long time, but this time his eyes glistened with tears of joy.