“Next week I want to go with Suty and Yoh to Kayat Village. I have been studying with them about how to do missionary work, and I want them to put it into practice,” Makara told us.
“Which day?” Greg replied. “Will Thursday work? I can pick you up in the afternoon.”
Makara fidgeted. “Actually, I want us to go on our motorcycles, just the locals and I,” he said apologetically. “I want them to know they can do missionary work on their own without having foreigners there. I want them to feel confident to do the work by themselves.”
These words were not hurtful to us at all. They were beautiful and thrilling! These words are at the apex of the reason why we went as missionaries in the first place. Our goal has always been to light a match and coax it into a self-sustaining flame, which, we pray, will one day turn into a Holy Spirit wildfire that can’t be quenched. I think we are beginning to see this happen.
On a Sabbath afternoon as Greg and I color in pictures of Noah’s ark, we watch Makara teach the village children. They all sit in rapt attention. They repeat the memory verse together and then take turns saying it one at a time. No one fidgets or interrupts. They are truly absorbing every word. These children are mostly students from Makara’s literacy and English classes.
“How many days did it take for God to create the world?” Makara asks as he reviews stories they have learned in the past.
“Six!” they all shout back in unison.
“And what did God do on the seventh day?” Makara asks.
“He rested!” comes the chorus of voices.
Some mothers with babies propped on their hips stand by and listen.
Sabbath mornings are busy, too. We now have two groups meeting each Sabbath morning. While Greg is leading the Punih group, Makara leads our Dumchi group. He schedules our baptized members to help lead out with everything from song service, prayer and offering to preaching the sermon.
During the week, Makara not only teaches literacy and English classes, he also gives many Bible studies. Some studies are for the newly baptized, and some are for those preparing for baptism. Some of our believers have family in other villages, and now people in those villages want to hear about Jesus, too. It’s all a bit much for Makara. What an awesome problem to have! So we have hired another young man to join Makara and help with the quickly growing work. Rath has now been with us for about a week. He came to us from an Adventist school in another province. He is eager to learn all he can about how to be a good missionary.
Greg has been mentoring and training our local-hire church planters. He is also preparing Noy and Jonathan to continue our work when we leave. Jonathan will continue the mentoring and training as well as the baptismal Bible studies that are in progress.
Oh, did I mention that we are leaving? After all, that is what this article is supposed to be about. But the real story isn’t about us at all. It’s a story about what is unfolding in the lives of the Pnong, and we have been privileged to play a small part. God has been writing their story for millennia and will continue it long after we leave. He already has the next chapters prepared! He knew just when our kids would be at the age where they need to transition to higher studies than we can do here. He knew that we would want to be together as a family during this time of their lives. But He wasn’t unprepared! He has been preparing our missionary replacements, Christian and Solange, for this very thing throughout their lives. He planted in their hearts an earnest desire to become missionaries. He gave them the gifts they would need, and then He spoke to their hearts. Christian told us that when he saw one of the video clips from our project, he felt a deep desire in his heart to come here. The story of their journey to this point is amazing, and I’m sure they will tell it to you in a future article. They are now in the process of obtaining a visa and will be here very soon. Christian is a pastor, and Solange is a nurse. They both love friendship ministry and meeting people in their homes. They love giving Bible studies and discipling new believers. They are overjoyed at the doors God has opened for them to come here.
As our chapter with the Pnong ends and Christian’s and Solange’s chapter begins, will you continue to play your part in the story of the Pnong people? As the saga continues, Christian and Solange will need your financial and prayer support just as much as we did. And the end of the story will be the best of all. Someday we will all rejoice together on the sea of glass as we piece together all of our stories and see how they have been interwoven in God’s great plan of salvation. That’s a story that will NEVER have an end!