Recently I had the opportunity to visit the small Adventist church in Tipas, a village about three hours up the Sepik River by motor canoe. While I was at Tipas, some of the local church members told me stories about the lay Bible worker, Elijah, who is ministering there. Over the years, Elijah has started many churches up and down the May River. For the last few years he has been working with a local church elder to strengthen the little church at Tipas. The stories that people shared with me helped me to see the dedication and hardships faced by many local church leaders as they do their best to help fulfill the Gospel Commission.
“When Elijah goes to visit the church members in Ama, he goes to where the logging road meets the Sepik, and he starts walking. If a logging truck stops to pick him up, he is happy to ride. But if not, he just keeps walking the whole way to Ama village!” The expression on the face of the church member telling me the story made it clear to me that this wasn’t a short hike or something that they wanted to do themselves.
One day, Elijah looked longingly at the watch that one of the young men in the church was wearing. “How much did your watch cost?” he asked.
“Twenty Kina,” (about US $7) replied the church member.
Elijah told him that he wanted to buy the watch so he would know when it was time to ring the church bell (an old truck rim).
Elijah began carving axe handles. He is known for his ability to make strong, smooth axe handles, and they quickly sold in the local market. Then, 20 Kina in hand, he approached the church member. “Please, may I buy your watch? I want to be able to ring the church bell at the correct time for services.”
The young man unbuckled the watch. “I can’t take your money. Thank you for your leadership in this church,” he said as he handed the watch to Elijah.
We have the privilege of working alongside people like Elijah who sacrifice far more than we do for the blessing of seeing God’s work go forward. They get little or no pay, no retirement benefits, and no money to send their children to school. Yet they press onward, entering new territory to spread the news of our soon-coming Savior.
We praise God that we can work alongside these laymen and find ways to help carry their burdens and encourage them. Please join us in praying God’s blessing on His faithful, humble workers here and around the world. Only in heaven will the full results of their labors be known.