Honoring Our MK's

(MK = Missionary Kid) 

We spoke about the Tigak ministry at a church 3 weeks ago, and we moved on and spoke at a different one the following week, but in between the two Sundays, we had thought,"What are we going to do during the week? Just sit around??" Seems like such a waste of time... 

But as that trip and this season of sharing about the Tigak ministry developed, here's what we have seen:

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-we've seen our children joyfully reunite with precious friends they knew from a few years ago

-we've seen them make new friends

-we've seen them laugh and play and try new things and journal about the special friends and memories

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-we've seen them learn and grow in their development of social skills and talents

So we were nothing but WRONG to think that having very little planned in between speaking engagements was a waste of time. On the contrary, it was the most precious of times. 

Home Assignment/Furlough is NOT all about us as parents, and it is not even all about us sharing about the Tigak ministry. We know that God's ultimate desire for each of us is that we allow Him to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ, His beloved Son. He does that through the Holy Spirit, through His Word, AND...(drumroll...) through the fellowship of believers! And this sweet fellowship is what the girls have been experiencing on this Home Assignment. Our girls are just as important a ministry to us as the Tigak ministry is. We will never set them aside for the sake of the Tigak. We believe that would be against His will. As another missionary said:

"We don't sacrifice our family;

we sacrifice AS a family. "

So all of our work in Tigak goes alongside the raising of our daughters in God's ways (and in fact, this has the power to speak volumes into the lives of the Tigak as they see how we raise our girls).  And so we honor our daughters and how they are sacrificing along with mom and dad so that more Tigak will be reached with the Gospel of grace that they have both accepted.

They are both elementary school age, so at this time in their lives, we honor them by savoring along with them any and all moments that they can enjoy their friends on this side of the world! We honor them by learning to appreciate the things that they value. We honor them by reading with them, both from God's Word to grow and nurture them, and from fun story books to simply enjoy together. We honor them by creating opportunities for them to learn new skills and practice old ones. We honor them by carving out precious times to take them one-on-one on dates, whether it's to walk at the park or to get a hot chocolate! We honor them by letting them linger and talk with their friends so their relationships can deepen. We honor them by our willingness to make time for play dates and driving them to birthday parties. We honor them by assuring them it is ok and right to cry and grieve when they say goodbye to friends and loved ones. And we also honor them by teaching them to also look forward to what lies ahead.

These MK's are amazing humans. Simply amazing. They are to be cherished and honored, and we ask God for His wisdom in raising them and honoring them as He would.

Finally, it wouldn't be right to only honor the MK's.

Behind every MK stands...  

so many of her friends, cousins, and loved ones.

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These children also need to be honored, as they are making a sacrifice as well. They choose to love on our girls and build a relationship with them. And then they too must say goodbye and part ways. This is no small thing. And so all of these little ones have an incredible opportunity to recognize the sacrifice they are making-- and for what cause?? For the most important cause, the only one worth living and dying for: the Gospel of grace through Jesus Christ! Thank you to all of you, friends of our MK's. You may be young, but even at your young age you are making sacrifices for the Kingdom of God.

*Please note: the photos in this post are only a small representation of the many who are in our girls' lives. 

"We Won't Forget You!"

Has anyone ever told you that in their parting words?

"We won't forget you!"

When we depart from loved ones, it's such a strong desire to stay close and as humans we genuinely want to remember them, think of them, and pray for them. But as we all know, it is harder than it sounds.

In our day and age, it's entirely possible to stay connected with loved ones over a distance. But as it has always been, it remains a conscious choice to do so. The phrase "Out of sight, out of mind" is a choice that too often becomes a reality. Why is that? It seems to usually be because we simply lead busy lives and are actively engaged with those in proximity to us. Thus, it takes real effort and genuine desire to stay connected with those who live far from us.

We have now been gone from the Tigak tribe for 3 months. And like we mentioned above, it takes a conscious effort and genuine desire to think of and pray for our Tigak brothers and sisters. They need the Body of Christ to lift them up daily, just as you and I do. They need prayer for their marriages, their parenting, their relationships with believers, relationships with unbelievers, etc! 

Thankfully, we are not left with only our "best intentions" to keep them on our minds. We can come up with tangible reminders of them so that they come to our minds more frequently. We are inviting you in to this thought process for 2 reasons:

1) You have sent us out, which means that you are committed to seeing the Tigak people reached and the Tigak believers discipled.

And 2) because we look forward to sharing with you soon about what the Lord is doing among the Tigak tribe, and giving you some of those tangible reminders to be praying for your brothers and sisters, whom you will meet in person one day when we are all with the Lord!

Coasters we made in 2013 to remind you to pray for us and for the church planting effort in PNG. Who still has theirs? :D

Coasters we made in 2013 to remind you to pray for us and for the church planting effort in PNG. Who still has theirs? :D

 

Upcoming travels and sharing about the Tigak ministry:

If you are in the areas listed below, we'd love to see you!

  • Roach, Camdenton Missouri: Sept. 29 - Oct. 6. We will be sharing in a small group on Sat., Sept. 30th, and then at Graceland Church on Oct. 1st.
  • Ottawa, Kansas: Oct. 6 - 8.  We will be sharing at North Baptist Church on Oct. 8th.
  • Oak Harbor, WA, Oct. 20-22: We will be sharing in a small group on Sat., Oct. 21st, and then at Family Bible Church on Oct. 22nd.
  • Manzanita, OR, Oct. 27-29 : We will be sharing during the Sunday School hour at Calvary Bible Church on Sunday the 29th.
  • SPECIAL EVENT: mid-November- details coming soon! 
  • 2018 dates & locations to be announced later!

Connecting with Culture

Some of you may wonder why we invest so much time in learning the culture, and not just the language. 

Culture is essentially the outward expression of inner belief. Interestingly, language is intimately intertwined with culture. When words are spoken, there are expected behaviors/actions that accompany them. And not only that, but there are deeply-rooted belief systems attached to those spoken words and actions.

For example, in our earlier CLA days, we learned many different terms related to sight/vision. And trust me, there are many. There is looking, spying, staring/looking intently, daydreaming, seeing (vision), watching (people do something), watching (a movie), and looking like ('looking like' someone, or 'looking like' it will rain, etc...)... 

As in every culture, there are different behaviors/actions associated with those terms for sight/vision. 

To take it even deeper, there are beliefs that correspond to the behavior and the word used. 

Here in Tigak, there is a term for staring/looking intently at someone. When we learned this term, we had to act it out for our language helper. So we stared at each other for a minute, and then asked her what we were doing. She told us the term in Tigak for staring/looking intently, and we wrote it down. As we continued learning language and culture, we quickly became aware that staring at someone is a way of shaming them, particularly if they have done something wrong or embarrassing, or built something poorly. For example, a few months ago, we attended a funeral. The 'casket' was brought to the island by boat, and as people started gathering, some men were attempting to put the casket up on a stand they had made for the funeral service. However, the posts were not sturdy enough to hold it. So they had to take the casket down and do some impromptu fixing of the poles. It was clear that the man who had made the stand was embarrassed, so we and others looked away and ultimately walked to another part of the island for awhile. (In our Western culture, the expected and actual reaction would have been different. Shame wouldn't have been in play, and likely several men would have jumped in to help make the stand suitable, as a team effort, as fast as possible.)

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Staring can also be provocative, so persons of the opposite sex are not to stare at each other or even maintain eye contact. Even when shaking hands and greeting one another, it's not culturally appropriate for a woman and a man to make prolonged eye contact, if any. Yes, try that during a conversation! It was a bit awkward getting used to that... hopefully we won't offend any of you when we are home on furlough! Imagine if we were prancing along in our language learning but hadn't taken time to understand the culture! We would be looking at the opposite gender the way that is normal to us in our home country, not even realizing that we were causing shame or embarrassment the whole time. 

As church planters, translators, and disciplers, it is incredibly important to take time to understand the culture. If we do not, we could very well be ignorantly offending the very people we are trying to reach. Likewise, that could be a huge barrier to them hearing and accepting the validity of the Person and the Gospel message we are endeavoring to introduce them to.

In these past few months, the Tigak church has been reading through the book of John for the first time. As we have gone through it, it was very interesting to see how some of the Biblical culture had similarities to the Tigak culture.

In Chapter 8, when the Pharisees brought the adulterous woman to Jesus to condemn her (and to trap Him), they asked Him what should be done. And Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground. In our Western culture, we've spent many hours wondering 'why' He bent down to write on the ground... and we've even taken it a step further and wondered "What" He was writing on the ground. We've heard ideas such as, "He was writing the 10 commandments" or "He was listing out some of the Pharisees' own sins"... but to refer back to the Tigak cultural example above, it hit us anew that perhaps He was simply NOT staring/looking intently at the woman so as to overwhelm her with shame and embarrassment. I imagine the Pharisees were hoping that He would stare her down with an angry glare, convincing her of her sin and shaming her. But I think she was already well aware of her sin. And I think she was already deeply ashamed. Had He chosen to stare at her, perhaps that would've have sent a deserving but unloving and unmerciful message to her heart. Instead He looked down at the ground so as not to shame her further. He did not condone her sin (He told her to 'go and sin no more'), but He was not 'out to get her'. For we know that He is a God of justice, and also a God of love, mercy, and grace. 

In Chapter 9, Jesus is asked if it was the blind man's sin or his parents' that had caused him to become blind. I don't know where you grew up, but in my world growing up, it was NOT a common thought that physical disabilities were a result of sin. (I'm not talking about physical consequences of some sins... staying in context here, talking about those born with physical disabilities or deformities.) However, here in the Tigak culture, it IS a common belief that such physical ailments are directly related to sin. So the question in John 9, while perhaps unusual to us, would seem a normal question here in Tigak, just as it was for those asking Jesus in person. 

There are other small things that we've noticed as we've gone through John along with our Tigak brothers and sisters. But we were eager to share these examples with you. We hope that it encourages you, and we hope it also gives you more of an understanding of why it is SO important for missionaries in foreign contexts to learn and understand not just the language, but the culture of the people they are reaching. And that means the culture of the specific people group, not just the overarching culture of the country they are in. To use PNG as an example, there are well over 800 different language groups (NOT counting dialects), and each have very different cultural beliefs. There are some beliefs and customs that overlap, yes, but there are many that are distinct to each people group/language group. Without a clear understanding, it will be difficult to translate His Word effectively, preach the clear and untainted Gospel of grace in a way that is both linguistically and culturally understood, and to disciple people effectively.

Some of the believers doing a short drama of Jesus washing the disciples' feet in John 13

Some of the believers doing a short drama of Jesus washing the disciples' feet in John 13

November~December 2016

The end of 2016 flew by, but not without much progress and growth, both for the Tigak believers and for our family.

In early November, over a dozen Tigak believers and ourselves traveled to another tribal location for the (5th) annual tribal church conference. This involved a 30-minute boat ride, followed by a 5-hour truck ride, an overnight in a village, and then a 3-hour boat ride to the tribe where the conference was held.

(Lisa and the girls stayed in the first village with another missionary family, as there wasn't room for the wives and children of the missionaries to attend the conference this year.)

The three-day conference was a good time of encouragement for the believers of the six tribal churches. One of these six churches is a brand new church- meaning, the first believers were 'born' in the spring of 2016. Do you recall when several Tigak believers went on a trip to encourage the people in another tribe to continue going to the Bible teaching so they could hear a clear Gospel message? A few months after that trip, they heard of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and they learned that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and not by works (as the "lotu's" throughout PNG teach). And several men and women believed and were saved! And this group of new believers is that "sixth" church that went to the conference this year. Praise the Lord! The Tigak believers traveled with them to and from conference, and they were able to be a huge encouragement to one another.

The teachers and/or elders of these churches taught on Romans chapters 12-15. One of the main points of all of the teaching was that the reason we ought to do all the things mentioned in those chapters is because of God's mercy ("Therefore...in view of God's mercy..."). As mentioned above, the "Lotu's" in PNG tend to teach that we must do all of the 'good works' so that God will accept us, so that we can be saved, so that bad things will not happen to us, etc... But we as believers know that as those who are already saved by Christ's work on the cross, our motivation for doing good works is not the things mentioned above, but: because of His mercy toward us.

 

 

A couple weeks after the conference, the skies turned dark and stormy, and thunder rumbled ominously in the distance, as our CLA consultant journeyed to our island for our third CLA evaluation. (!!!) 

Noe and I both actually did well on our evaluation, and after completing two days of grammar tests, speaking tasks with language helpers, and culture questions, our consultant told us we are both at "Capable Low". To be considered 'finished' with CLA, we need to reach "Capable High", so we are VERY CLOSE to finishing! Naya and Jocie also had their third mini-CLA eval with Aimee, and they did a good job!

We can not emphasize enough how thankful we are for the consultants who invest time and energy to come in and help us, evaluate us, evaluate the progress and growth of the church, and offer so much 'outside' wisdom and input. This is such an important element of any church planting ministry, to have 'outsiders' with a Biblical perspective ask us questions and help keep us focused on the big picture, and encourage us to keep pressing on and running the race whole-heartedly. Sometimes it feels extra humbling to 'let someone else in', but several passages in Proverbs remind us that having "many advisers" is wise.

Following our CLA evaluation, our family took a short trip to Cairns, both for a break, and to get a medical need addressed. We returned to the tribe in mid-December, and enjoyed celebrating Christmas and the New Year with our co-workers and with the Tigak church.

And now, we press on for what is hopefully our final few months of CLA, as well as relationship-building and discipleship! More news coming soon about our upcoming plans for 2017.

Thank you for partnering with us!

~Noe, Lisa, Naya and Jocie

The Sickness is Not What You Think

Last month a woman brought her sick child to me to ask my opinion. I know some of you are doctors/nurses, so here's your "PNGWebMD" symptom list for you to try and guess:

  • the whites of his eyes were yellow
  • nausea, vomiting
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • she said his urine was a strange color

It sounded familiar, so I checked our trusty copy of "Where There is No Doctor", told her what the book and I 'thought' it might possibly be, and she took him the next morning to the haus sik. The haus sik told her they weren't sure what was wrong with him, and they sent him home. If you've been to a developing country, this story probably doesn't surprise you.

Our coworkers have told other stories about sick people being taken to the haus sik, but because their illness was too complex or too far along/terminal, the doctor would just tell them, "We don't know what it is, so go back home." In the culture here, sometimes what happens at this point is that the family takes the doctor's words to mean something like, "Someone gave them (cursed them with) this sickness, and it is too powerful for us." Sometimes the next step then is to find 'someone to work on them' (like a witchdoctor). Or in the case of a false religious group, there have been late-night charismatic meetings to beg for (but essentially demand) the power of Jesus to heal the sick person. Some folks will actually do all of the above (haus sik, witchdoctor, and religious 'prayer' meeting), with the hope that something will eventually work.

Some sickness of course is not physical. But mirroring a physical sickness, the symptoms can be confused for the underlying illness. There is a married couple that we have come alongside of in the last couple months. Their marriage is full of heartache, misunderstanding, and mistreatment. We would typically look at that and say, "Their marriage needs help." That is true, BUT... like a sickness that is hard to diagnose, the marital problems are not the main problem. The problem lies deeper, in their individual understanding of who God is, and consequently who they are in Him. If they do not understand these foundational principles well, they will have a very difficult time (and they are) reflecting Him in their marriage relationship. For example, if they do not grasp that God is the center and source of love, then how will they understand how much He loves them? And if they do not understand that, how can they be expected to truly love one another? For indeed, we are called to "be imitators of God, as dearly loved children". How can we imitate someone we do not know? How can we reflect His character if we do not understand His character? THIS is the real problem, the real sickness. If we as missionaries, as disciplers, only talk with them about changing their behavior toward one another, there's a good chance it will be just as effective as putting a band-aid on the forehead of someone with malaria. (Face-palm)

Continue to pray for us, as we plug away at learning the Tigak language and culture. At this point in our learning, it feels 'easier than ever' to misunderstand things. Some would say "We know just enough now to be 'dangerous'." Ha! 

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 says, "Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 

Noe shares that reading this has been a reality check for him, a chance to view his level of productivity. It is a reminder to be diligent in this race that we are running.

Finally, pray for us too that we will grow daily in our understanding- not just the knowledge of the culture, but understanding in relationships with the believers that we are here to disciple. The goal, as well stated in 1 Corinthians, is not to puff up with knowledge, but to be characterized by His love.

2 Year Anniversary!

2 years ago today, July 24th, we first landed in Papua New Guinea!

Take this short QUIZ about our first 2 years in PNG! Let's see how you do:

 

As you know, it's been a very full two years ~ full of learning, full of change, and full of travel. Here is a whirlcap**** of our first 2 years in Papua New Guinea.

We spent our first 4 months in PNG learning the national/trade language, Tok Pisin, and familiarizing ourselves with some of the general culture of PNG*. Following this, we moved to another region of PNG to familiarize ourselves with the many areas of support that NTM missionaries provide to tribal (bush) missionaries.

We then flew to a far out** region to visit a tribe, Tigak, that already had a small church, for our Bush Orientation, to 'finish' learning Tok Pisin and experience tribal living firsthand. This tribal work had recently lost a missionary family, and so after many hours of discussions about philosophy of ministry, values, and other important areas, the missionaries asked if we would consider joining the team. We agreed to pray about and consider this opportunity. In February 2015, after seeking the Lord and asking for much wisdom and counsel from many other believers, we joined the Tigak team!

We took about a month to make preparations for moving in to the tribe, then flew out to the Islands region for the missionary conference, and following the conference we moved in to the Tigak tribe. We have been living among them for just over a year now (1.5 years if we count our 2 months there for Bush Orientation). 

In this last year, we've been learning the Tigak language and culture. Our consultant told us, at our most recent CLA evaluation, that he believes we can be finished learning the language in about 1 year's time. So that is our rough goal!

In addition to CLA, because there are believers, we have also been involved in discipleship (using much Tok Pisin, which is not ideal but which is understood relatively well by the people), especially Noe. Lisa gets out when she can to visit with the ladies. Noe gets out often to visit with the men, and he is also meeting weekly with the one man who is currently able*** to do the Bible teaching on Sunday mornings.

Our desire is to 'finish' learning the Tigak language quickly and thoroughly, so that we can most effectively minister to the believers (and unbelievers). While it is true that most of them on our island are able to speak and understand Tok Pisin, the tribal language is still very strong and it resonates more deeply for them than Tok Pisin does (just as YOUR heart language does with you, even if you have learned a second language). We also desire to continue learning more and more culture, so we can best understand 'why they do what they do'. We've noticed several occasions where "old, animistic" beliefs or values still capture the thoughts of both believers and unbelievers. We hope that the believers will continue to grow in their faith and in their knowledge, understanding, and love for God and His Word. It is only through this that these "old, animistic" ways of thinking will truly be cast aside.

Thank you for standing with us these past 2 years (and longer!) in prayer, financial, and moral support! We press on with you at our side, to see Christ Jesus continue to build His Church among the Tigak people of Papua New Guinea.

~Noe, Lisa, Naya and Jocie

- - - - - - - -

*There are over 800 distinct languages in PNG, and each one of these language groups maintains their own cultural beliefs, values, and behaviors.

**Far out, not in the way the hippies used it... just far out as in, a long loooooooooong way away.

***Able, according to the qualifications laid out in Scripture, such is in 1 Timothy.

****A whirlcap is an attempt to recap for you what our past 2 years has been like in the speed and efficiency of a whirlwind... (Example: "The missionaries on furlough were given 3-5 minutes to whirlcap the past few years of ministry.")  Chuckle, chuckle. :) 

2nd CLA Evaluation Results!

It's been 6 months since our last CLA Evaluation. We just had our second one this week!

(Hopefully by the time we're finished with CLA, we will have reminded you so many times what "CLA" stands for that you will be saying "Culture and Language Acquisition" in your sleep!)

So what is a CLA Evaluation like?

A consultant comes in to the tribal location and spends several days with us, discussing elements of the Culture we have been learning, evaluating our Grammar proficiency with one of our faithful language helpers, and giving us many Language/Speaking Tasks to perform out in the village. After this is all finished, he gives us an idea of how far along we are in learning the language to a Capable (Capable High) level. He also gives us LOTS of guidance and direction for how to proceed until our next evaluation. We're very thankful for the time and energy that he puts in to helping us do the best we can, for the purpose of reaching the Tigak people as effectively as possible.

We've put together a video that will give you a glimpse into this week's Evaluation, including Naya and Jocie's mini-Eval!

Check it out here: https://vimeo.com/167384249

And what you've all been waiting for: Our results! The chart to the right is merely a gauge, to give an idea of how far we've come, and how much we have left to accomplish. Our consultant put Noe at Progressing Mid, and Lisa at Progressing High. The "Progressing" level is basically sentence-level speaking. "Capable" level is essentially paragraph-level (story level) speaking. The closer we are to Capable level, the more we are connecting sentences appropriately. We are both VERY encouraged with the progress we have made. Our consultant believes we can finish CLA in one year's time. Pray with us that we can accomplish this goal.

In Christ and for His glory!

Guest Blog: Aiming High in PNG

In late January, Lisa's parents were able to come out to Tigak for a one-week visit. 

We asked them to share with you about their experience.

So without further ado, enjoy this guest blog from Steve & Ellyn!

~the Martinez family


AIMING HIGH IN PNG

Guest Blog by Steve and Ellyn Roe—Lisa’s Parents


One evening during our first visit to Noe and Lisa a few weeks ago, we spotted this very gecko clinging to the wall near the sloped ceiling of their house.

Ever the expert hunter and marksman, Noe grabbed a hollow aluminum tube, loaded it with a red plastic electrical wire nut, placed his blowgun to his lips, aimed, gave a mighty ‘pfffff’, and BAM! The “bullet” hit its mark and the gecko plopped down to the ledge below where it sat, blinking at Noe with the same astonishment I did. Noe quickly re-loaded, took aim, and pfffff/BAM!, hit the critter again, rendering it unable to move. I was beside myself with amazement at his precision shots. Noe lifted the little guy into his hands, proclaimed it “fit” to at least make a run for it outside, and then let him go into the darkness to either escape or be devoured.  

Escape or be devoured. The target and rules of engagement for the spiritual ground on this tiny island (or anywhere) are a bit more complex than geckos and blowguns.  You can decide if it is forcing the allegory to write, “Escape spiritual darkness or be consumed by it.” Our week in the Tigak tribe does not qualify us as experts, but as “forward observers,” Steve and I did come away with some “intelligence” which informs our prayers for our family, their team, and the people they serve.

Noe and Lisa are joy-filled on a very steep upward trajectory toward the most magnificent target: the glorifying of God’s Name in and by a biblical, robust, self-replicating Tigak tribal church.  They believe in what they are doing, for “God is worthy of worship,” as Noe has said so many times. We saw evidence that they were trained well in America, are uniquely gifted and equipped for serving in a tribal church, and are blessed to serve with fellow missionaries Aimee, Ned and Linn who bring them joy and encouragement while coaching them in every aspect of tribal life, including fostering their competency in Tok Pisin, the trade language common across PNG.

We watched Naya, without any help from parents and speaking only Tok Pisin, carry out a business transaction with a local trader. (That’s our granddaughter! What a great little MK!)

Noe and Lisa and the girls mingle daily with the tribe, or schedule intentional language lessons with helpful villagers as they aim to learn Tok Ples, the heart language of the Tigak tribe.

We recall that it was a very high aim of Noe and Lisa as they trained to make decisions that would result in their girls’ ability to thrive. 

In a culture which shares space with many an insect and dog, God has delivered the girls from their former fears of bugs and canines, given them happy hearts, a love for their new life,  success with their fantastic homeschool teacher (Lisa!), AND a great friend in 10 year old Garrett Beall, son of Ned and Linn. These three children seem to bring a LOT of joy to the five adult church planters, as well as  to several Tigak families.   

We were amazed at how GOOD it felt to get in front of an electric fan in the Martinez house. Even a small stirring of air brings a measure of relief from the heavy, humid heat. While solar power provides electricity for such creature comforts as fans, there are no first world amenities to ameliorate apathy or religious syncretism, which challenge the health of the church of fifteen believers.   

Without judgment of their society or ours, we witnessed a tribal culture not as invested in first world standards of efficiency, productivity, and goals as most Americans seem to be. If we were wearing the missionary shoes (ok, in the Tigak that would be flip flops), we think we would be crying out to God for cultural understanding, heavy doses of patience and perseverance, and steady infusions of hope.  PRAYER is the method of choice here: prayer for the missionaries to be strong in their own walks with God and undeterred in their aims,  prayer for the few tribal believers to not be discouraged or ceasing in their labors, prayer for tribal hearts to be awakened and hungry for God and a deeper relationship with Him, prayer for the teaching to be clear and the believers to discern truth from past false teaching, and prayer for God’s Holy Spirit to instill spiritual aims in a society which practices a certain degree of complacency.

The Enemy is real. We witnessed Satan’s hold on the minds of many in the tribe as they grieved the recent death from cancer of an eight year old tribal boy. While some of the mourners are steeped in animism, others listened as confusing works-based salvation messages filled the air, punctuated by wailing and crying which was devoid of the truth and hope which is only available in Christ.  It was beyond sad. How can the missionaries help them? How can the biblical believers help their own people? There is much un-learning to be done. Hard work, indeed.

In a November 2014 Martinez blog written during orientation in Madang, PNG, long before they knew they would allocate to the Tigak work, Noe and Lisa asked, “ …please pray that we will keep our sights set on the higher ground, the higher goals… what His ambition is. What the big picture is.”

We came away impressed that Noe, Lisa and their team have taken aim at spiritual darkness on their isle and beyond, working toward the day when hundreds or even thousands of other Tigak on nearby islands will join them in  proclaiming:

“The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; Let the many islands be glad.
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.”  Psalm 97:1, 9

The Martinez Tribe - our beloved family - is well centered and aiming high in PNG.  All glory and thanks to God!




Cyclone Season!

It has been such a whirlwind the last couple months!

We’ve been full-time in culture and language learning, and we were beyond blessed to have a young woman from our church in Missouri come out for 2 months to homeschool our girls.

During that time, the small church here in Tigak was getting ready to host several neighboring tribal churches for the annual church conference. This included expanding the church’s meeting house, constructing sleeping houses, weaving sleeping mats and mats for sleeping house walls, LOTS of fishing to raise money to feed the conference attendees, many trips to the bush to find materials for the work projects mentioned above, etc…

The church did a great job prepping, and just 4 days after our homeschool teacher left, the conference began! The conference was a wonderful week of the believers encouraging each other with teaching from the Word, singing together in Tok Pisin, and fellowshiping in the afternoons and evenings. On the final day, each church shared a couple songs in their own Tok Ples (tribal language)… and we missionaries even shared a couple songs in English with a guitar, banjo, and tambourine!


We prayed beforehand, and continue to pray, that the conference was an encouraging and eye-opening time for the Tigak church. They got to see believers who are eagerly growing in their walk with the Lord, excited to be in the Word, men who are able to study and teach the Word, and families who desire to raise their children in His ways.

 The Tigak church, in contrast, has just one man who is able to regularly teach, but he desperately wants and needs guidance in how to study the Word and share/teach it to the rest of the Body. The believers here also need to grow in their excitement to walk with the Lord, have an increasing hunger and thirst for the Word, and grow in wisdom for how to raise up their children in the ways of the Lord.

Please ask the Lord to work greatly in their lives, and to give each of us missionaries wisdom in how to disciple these men and women to maturity in Christ. Pray also for our co-worker who is faithfully translating God's Word into the Tigak language! This is essential for their spiritual growth and maturity in the years to come.

On the last evening of conference, Noe and a believer from another tribe headed out into town to catch their flight the next morning to Madang for a Curriculum Development workshop. Noe was greatly encouraged by this workshop, which not only gave him tools for developing Bible lessons, but long-term direction for how to train tribal elders and Bible teachers how to do the same.

Noe flew back to the islands with our CLA consultant. We shared a meal with him and his family that night here in the tribe, and the next morning our first Tigak CLA check began! It was a busy, stressful two full days of ‘performing’ various speaking tasks, as well as discussing elements of the culture. We were both stretched, but our consultant said we both did well!

We didn’t have any major faux pas’ during the evaluation. … the dolphin ‘got me’ again though! I couldn’t figure out how to say that “He was cutting the grass”, so I used the Tok Pisin word for ‘cutting’ (there are several different verbs for cutting in Tigak, depending on what and how you are cutting), and tried to say “hair”, but said “dolphin” instead. (“He is ‘cutting’ the dolphin.”) Ugh!! That dolphin just might be the end of me…

In the end, our consultant placed us on the chart as you can see below. The "Progressing" level is essentially sentence-level speaking. We are both very encouraged by the progress we have made. Pray for us as we continue to press on! Our next CLA check will be in about 6 months.

Naya and Jocie also had their first mini Tigak CLA check, and they both passed. We’re VERY proud of them, especially since they haven’t been sitting down regularly with anyone to learn Tigak. At this point, we are happy to have them learning basic words and phrases.

So the month of November was ‘somewhere’ in that huge cyclone of events, and suddenly we found ourselves sitting at our table surrounded by family in Christ, celebrating His goodness together! Indeed, we are very thankful. Thankful for His sustaining us through such a busy season. Speaking of cyclone season, it is transitioning into that season now, which is bringing us more rain. It’s unclear at this point if the drought in PNG is over, so of course we are thankful every time it rains! Continue to pray for locations that lost their entire food crops and any that are still waiting for rain.

We put up a few Christmas decorations and are enjoying this season of thanks, remembering all that He has done. Pray that we can be an encouragement to our Tigak brothers and sisters: helping them to ever turn their eyes to Him, both in thankfulness and in dependency.

Wishing you much joy as you celebrate with thanksgiving His coming to earth as our Savior and the certain hope of His coming back… soon!

~the Martinez family

SO Close...

Sometimes it is the things that are the most similar that can cause the most trouble and frustration.

As we continue attacking this language (thank you again, prideful people at Babel…), we’re finding many words that are SO close in spelling or pronunciation that they can cause confusion, or give our Tigak friends a good laugh…

One that we shared before is:

·      Ngugui (hair)

·      Ngugia (dolphin)

WHOOPS: “The dolphin on my head is curly.” (??)

 

·      Tuan (fish bones)

·      TuAn (firstborn child)

·      Tauan (all the men)

WHOOPS: “(My) fish bones (is) three years old.”

 

The following 3 words have different pronounciations of the “K” and/or the “a”

·      Kina (PNG currency)

·      Kina (his leg)

·      Kina (laplap/skirt)

WHOOPS: “The laplap has an infection.”

 

And these words differ by the context:

·      Kiki (go down from it)

·      Kiki (serve it)

·      Kiki (wear it)

 

As you can see, it can be very easy to miscommunicate something. The subtle differences in the language, be it the word itself, or not paying attention to the context, can make all the difference in our understanding or theirs.

If we don’t learn the language well, how can we explain the Truth of the Word of God in a way that they will understand?

In the same way, if we don’t learn the culture well, how can we explain the Truth about God and His Gospel of Grace, in contrast to the “tumbuna” (ancestral) ways of thinking, or the “almost-truths” presented by the works-based religious groups in this area?

These teachings can seem SO close to the truth and yet they miss the mark. It is these “almost-true”(false) concepts of God and of Christ that have been introduced to the Tigak language group. And these falsities are what leave thousands and thousands of them today:

a.     Not knowing what they believe about life and/or death.

b.     Believing that if they do good works, then Jesus’ death will save them.

c.      Combining pleasing the religious leaders, doing good works to win favor with God, and faithfully following ancestral customs as their means of salvation.

 

As missionaries, servants of the Lord, we desire to:

a.     know His Word well

b.     understand the beliefs AND the language of the Tigak people proficiently

c.      be found faithful in life and ministry

d.     teach the Truth fully

e.     equip the believers here to know, understand, and share this Gospel of Grace

Remember, the goal is to make disciples, and a large part of that is building up the Church (the Body of Christ) to maturity, so that they themselves are able to expand the reach of the Gospel to the neighboring islands in the Tigak language, and ultimately to the neighboring language groups!

So we are keeping busy with language and culture learning, as well as building relationships in the village and discipleship of the few believers here.

Naya and Jocie have been having a blast having our homeschool teacher, Mackenzie, here for a couple months. It’s hard to believe her time here is already coming to an end! Join us in praying for her, that the Lord will continue to lead and guide her as she has so much ahead of her!

The church here is getting ready to be a part of a conference for the other believers in the region. Pray that this will be an encouraging and strengthening time for them spiritually!

Lastly, we are having our first CLA check (an evaluation to check our individual progress in the Tigak language and culture) in November! We’re excited and nervous. Excited to receive further direction, but naturally nervous to be evaluated! Pray that it will go well.  

Thanks for all your support and encouragement!

~the Martinez family

T-Shirt Campaign ~ Act Now!

BIG NEWS!

For 8 days only, starting TODAY (Monday the 24th), we are running a T-shirt Campaign for our homeschool helper who is coming in just 2.5 weeks! ALL proceeds will go toward Mackenzie's remaining expenses.

This awesome Tigak T-shirt has additional benefits:

  • It will look great on YOU (and your family members), 
  • It will remind you to pray for YOUR Tigak brothers and sisters (and the thousands of Tigak who do not yet know Christ),
  • It will give YOU a tangible way to raise awareness for the thousands of language groups in the world today who still have not heard a clear presentation of the Gospel of grace.

Simply click on the link below to read more details and order your T-shirt!
**Remember, the campaign begins TODAY and ends next Monday.

http://localinkprinting.com/martinez

*Please SHARE the link above, and tell your family, friends, and church family about this limited opportunity!

Thank you for partnering with us!

Note: We are beyond thankful to have Mackenzie coming. Her gift of time and energy to teach our girls will give Lisa many, many more hours to devote to language and culture study during this season of our ministry. This means Lisa will be able to more quickly become fluent in the language and grow greatly in her understanding of the Tigak culture. Mackenzie's willingness to come here for 2 months is a HUGE blessing. Please add her name to your prayer list for this fall!

Outward Transformation

This last month has been a different focus for us. 

We were blessed to have two men from two of our sending churches come out for three weeks and help fix up our house! As the house has been standing for 15 years in a tropical climate, it was happy to receive some TLC.

Some of the projects they completed include:

  • replacing some moldy and rotted wood in the bathroom and putting down fresh plywood, fresh shower surround and toilet tank (I thought they just came in yellow...boy was I wrong!), and a countertop.
  • expanding a small exterior office on the side of the house into a useable space for language learning, and for housing our homeschool teacher.
  • screening in the porch, both for a little privacy and for usability for language sessions while homeschooling is happening in the house
  • fixing the solar electrical system. what a job!
  • moving a wall to make our bedroom smaller, creating a larger space for the homeschool area
  • turning the girls' bunk bed into two loft beds so we can better utilize the space in the room

The guys accomplished so much while they were here, and it was a blessing and joy to host them! THANK YOU to them, and to their sweet families for sacrificing so much time, energy, and resources to invest in us and ultimately in the Tigak people.

These kinds of outward transformations can seem so silly in the midst of ministry. But at the end of the day, we aim to make decisions that will lend us efficiency and wisdom in our time, energy, and resources. We don't strive for a posh, comfortable home. We strive for a home that is practical enough that we can essentially 'forget' about it as we go about ministry- the ministry to each other, to our children, and to the Tigak people. If we are too stingy and neglectful in this manner, we will end up spending more time fixing things later, when we could instead be spending that time ministering to the people here.

With this in mind, we have worked hard this month, pouring some time, energy, and resources into these precious walls and roof that the Lord has seen fit to bless us with. As the month comes to a close and our two wonderful servants head back to the States, we will now have more freedom to 'forget' the house, knowing it is in good condition, and focus full-time on learning the Tigak language and culture. We want to learn it as quickly as possible, but also as well as we can. No shortcuts. Shortcuts only lead to setbacks, after all. The guys encountered a few setbacks as they worked this month, due to shortcuts from before. Shortcuts taken, even when well-meant, can offer tremendous headaches later on. We ought not take shortcuts in housebuilding, in language and culture learning, in relationships, in church planting, in translation, in discipleship, in all things. Amen?

Those awkward moments...

We are chugging along at learning the Tigak language and culture!

We're sure some of you have seen yourself or someone you know in some of the pictures we've used to help us learn words and phrases in the language. It's sure fun to involve you!

Our language helpers seem to be getting a kick out of us too, as we struggle through simple words and short sentences. But then suddenly they find themselves actually 'kicked out'... let me explain. In the Tigak language, it is all to easy for us to mix up these two phrases:

  • We (the two of us) go --- "Mek inang"
  • You (the two of you) stay --- "Muk minang"

So then that awkward moment happens when we accidentally kick our language helpers out of their own house... "Muk inang" (you go), "e mek minang" (and we stay).

Oops!

Here's another one for you...  The other day, I was sitting outside with a lady, and she started going over the names of basic body parts with me. We had just been learning those, so I chimed in with one I was pretty sure I knew... "My hair!", I said, pulling at some hair on top of my head. After a confused stare, she corrected me. It turns out I had just pointed to my hair and said "My dolphin!"

Then there was the awkward moment when Naya was asked to remember the word for butterfly, which is "Pepe". She thought for a moment, then said proudly, "Pekpek". (Ouch! Unfortunately that means poop, not butterfly... awkward!)

During our first week learning language, I had written down how to say, "Can you sit and story (talk) with me?" I was thankful that I chose to clarify the question with my language helper before I took this one out to the village, because I was about to go around asking ladies "Can you sit and go out in a canoe with me?" This would've made for some interesting language learning, and a very confused me.

Perhaps the most interesting is a cultural idiom that Noe learned somewhat awkwardly. One afternoon, one of the guys told him "Ok, I'm going out to the mangroves." Noe responded, "Ok. ... Can I go with you?" The guy fidgeted for a moment, then said, "Uhh-well...ok..." So they walked together toward the mangroves. But the guy kept looking at Noe rather uncomfortably, wondering how long Noe was going to keep walking with him. Suddenly it hit Noe that this guy did not in fact mean he was going for a walk to the mangroves. He was actually trying to get away for a 'bathroom break'. 

I had a similar experience not too long after this... an elderly woman was chatting with me, and when she was ready to leave, I asked her where she was going. She said she was going to the mangroves. I clarified, "the mangroves?" "Yes," she said, "To rest." I decided (thank goodness!) not to pursue it further, and let her go. As she walked away, I wondered why she would be going to the mangroves to rest, and not to her house... it was not two days later that our teammates were talking about how a lot of the people will use that expression "go to the mangroves to rest" when they have 'business' to take care of. Ahhh!! Now I understood! And I was SO glad I hadn't asked her why she was going to the mangroves to rest! (In this culture, they do not discuss bathroom habits.)

Oh and then there was the time very early on when we invited someone, "You come thing." instead of "You come eat."

Truly, we are enjoying these fun moments where we are able to laugh at ourselves. Pray that we'll continue being diligent to learn and study, and that the Lord will continue to bless us with laughter and smiles along the way.

 

Welcome to the Beginning!

Just over 3 weeks ago, we moved into our new home in Tigak!

The big move involved a Kodiak flight, followed by a truck, and finally a boat! When we arrived, those that were standing (or sitting down.. or sleeping) on the beach helped us carry our gear to our house. Over the next couple days, we were filled with joy to see the believers again.

So, at long last, we are HERE, in our permanent place of ministry. Praise the Lord! It’s exciting and settling to our hearts to no longer have to say (as we have for over a decade) “we don’t know yet where we will serve”. And so now, here we are at the beginning of the ministry God has chosen for us. Can I hear a “hallelujah!”?

When a baby is born (I know, startling transition! Sorry.), he does not yet know how to understand or speak the language around him. First he listens, for days and weeks on end. After several weeks, he begins uttering what seem like unintelligible sounds, attempting to imitate some of the common expressions he hears each day. As he grows, he begins to speak, first simple words, then phrases, until his understanding grows and he is finally free to speak well!

This is exactly how it is for us now. We’ve become like infants, essentially. We do not speak much of the tribal language yet. We are doing a LOT of listening, and when we do practice speaking some of the common basic expressions such as “How are you?” or “What are you doing?” or “I’m going home now”, the tribal people giggle. Sometimes they giggle because they’re so excited to hear us speak their language! Other times they giggle because we sound much like that little baby, trying miserably to piece together sounds and words that they are used to rattling off their tongues without a thought. Fortunately they aren’t yet giggling because we are saying the wrong thing… but don’t think for a moment that those days aren’t near! We’re braced for them, and gearing up to be able to laugh at ourselves.

By the way, this same principle rings true as we learn the culture alongside the language. Just a couple days ago, as we walked around the village, we came across some ladies preparing dozens of a certain leaf for making roof ‘panels’ for their “haus kuk” (cook house). I’d hazard a guess that none of you have made this kind of roof… Anyway, this ‘event’ that fascinates us is an ordinary way of life for the people here.

We are also anticipating the spiritual birth of some new believers into the church here… NEXT WEEK! As you will recall, in late January, the two teachers in the church began teaching through the Bible chronologically. This is the 3rd or 4th time that this teaching has taken place in this village. At the beginning, there were 20+ people (unbelievers) coming. As the weeks went by, the numbers have dwindled a bit, but we are all very excited that several young men have faithfully continued coming and seem very intrigued. This teaching from God’s Word is so very different than the teaching that many of them have heard in their “lotu’s” (LOW-TOOs - places of worship/religious groups). This teaching starts at the beginning with God’s creation, establishing Him as the Creator and Owner of every man and everything. It continues through God’s Word (His story! Remember, the Bible is one big, connected story!), clearly showing man’s sin and inability to bring Himself back to God, and his need for a Deliverer. And of course- God’s promise, from Genesis all the way through the prophets, that He Himself would send the Deliverer. The teaching continues into the birth of Jesus, His life, His teaching, and His ministry.

Next week, the teaching will culminate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus… and what that means for us! Almost every other “lotu” here teaches that in order to be saved, one must do many good works to please God since He sacrificed His Son for us. If you think about it, that matches the culture here in PNG, where nothing is given for free. There is a perpetual system in place here, where something given must be paid back. Always. But as you and I know, God's gift is not like that. (!)

Please join us in praying that those who are still coming to the teaching will choose to place their faith wholly and completely in Christ Jesus, in His finished work on our behalf, and so be saved. Pray that they will understand clearly that His salvation comes by faith in Him alone, and not by works. Pray that they will find joy in this freeing truth!

Please also pray for the current believers in the church, that they will be emboldened by the Holy Spirit to come alongside the new believers in intentional and loving discipleship.  Pray for us and our co-workers as we disciple the believers as well. Our family is in a unique situation- normally when a family or team enters a tribal location, they are full-time invested in CLA. However, stepping in to an existing work which has a handful of believers that need discipleship now means that we are doing discipleship as well as CLA. Pray that we will find balance in all these things as a family, and be effective in ministry, even in these early days. 

Speaking of growth… our own girls are growing as well. Naya is now 7, and Jocie is 5. Naya is close to finishing 1st grade, and Jocie will be starting Kindergarten this year! We’re having a good experience with homeschooling, and are excited for this coming year. With this year being exceptionally busy with language learning, we are THRILLED to announce that our first homeschool teacher is planning to come out here in August! She will be doing most of the homeschooling during her 2-month stay so that I (Lisa) can focus more time on learning the Tigak language. So without further ado, meet Mackenzie! PLEASE take a moment to look at her GoFundMe page. We’d all be delighted if you would pray for her and consider helping her financially to get to PNG in August.

Mackenzie's GoFundMe page :

click herehttp://www.gofundme.com/tg86er7w?fb_action_ids=794569467317471&fb_action_types=og.shares

Thank you for all of your love and support for us.

Pressing on,

~the Martinez family

Preparing to Dive In

It has been just over 1 month since we joined the Tigak team, and now we are just a few short weeks away from allocating (moving in) to the tribe! We have been keeping VERY busy with the many details of preparing for this big transition. Just a few things on our list have been:

Doctor appointments and ordering medical supplies to prepare for being in the bush

Doctor appointments and ordering medical supplies to prepare for being in the bush

Getting medical supplies packed. We won't have access to a decent medical facility or doctor, so having preventatives and treatments on hand is crucial.

Shipping our belongings to the islands!

Shipping our belongings to the islands!

Shipping our belongings to the islands. We were able to eliminate a LOT of 'stuff' - (building materials, household items, etc.) since we are going into an existing work with a house already built. So that's a huge blessing! The things we are choosing to ship over are mostly basics to help us be efficient with our time and resources so we can spend more time with the people! That is why we are here, after all. Our goal is not to survive alongside them, but to live efficiently so we can put our time into understanding and loving them well SO THAT we can guide them into the understanding and love of our Lord! 

Naya, ready for testing! She looks a little nervous? But she did great!

Naya, ready for testing! She looks a little nervous? But she did great!

Annual school testing. Each year, our mission provides standardized testing for all homeschool students in Grade 1 and older so that we can evaluate their progress, areas of strengths and weaknesses, and better equip both homeschooling moms/teachers and students. The big picture of this is so they are prepared to attend college in their home country, and/or even the mission school in high school if they so desire. If we as parents neglect their education, we aren't setting them up for future success, and we desire to do our part to equip them!

Taxes. Yes, that's been an added joy in the midst of allocation. ;)

Airfare and travel plans. Our location is very 'far out' (yes it's "cool", but that's not what I mean...), and we don't have the option of our mission's aviation for regular travel or med-evac. *Yes, this is related to the new Kodiak airplanes and was very much affected by Jon Leedahl's accident in October. The intense need for Kodiak pilots remains. Pray for the Lord to raise up more mission pilots! And continue praying for the Leedahlshttp://theleedahls.com/ So we've purchased our commercial tickets, and before we move into the tribe we are excited to attend the regional missionary conference with our new co-workers!

Supply lists for allocation. We will purchase 2-3 months of supplies (groceries, household items) at a time, so that we aren't pulled into town too often. We're also thankful to have the mission center managers in the nearby town who are willing to purchase some basic supplies for us in advance. This way, we can move in right after the regional missionary conference and have some food and household supplies there to get us started until we can do our big supply buy!

Learning the state of the existing church. As soon as we move in, several men, both mission leaders and tribal church elders, will be coming in to meet with the Tigak church and evaluate where the church is in regards to growth and maturity. This will be a huge help to us as we look toward the big picture of coming alongside the Tigak church in discipleship and encouragement.

There is much more that's been on our plate lately, but that's a pretty good glimpse for you. 

We've been savoring this time on the mainland before we dive in to our ministry in Tigak. It's very similar to diving actually- we are essentially 'taking a deep breath' right now, because once we move in, we will be starting CLA (Culture and Language Acquisition) pretty much right away! That's right- now that we've learned enough Tok Pisin to communicate relatively well, we are diving in to learning the tribal language. (Yes, that's right again, the girls and I will be tri-lingual, and Noe will be... quatro-lingual? What is the term for that?! Anyway, I'm super proud of him, and I'm sure you are too!)

Diving is a good analogy of the ministry we are about to begin. Diving can be a bit intimidating. It requires you to be 'all in'. It requires full commitment. It also requires you to learn to pace yourself. And it also requires a great deal of trust, of resting in the One who is in control.

"The Christian life from start to finish is based upon this principle of utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus. There is no limit to the grace God is willing to bestow upon us. He will give us everything, but we can receive none of it except as we rest in Him." ~Watchman Nee

Pray for us:

-That the Lord will bless this 'deep breath' before we dive in to CLA!

-That the Lord will be our strength when we do start CLA and that we will run the race well!

With love,

the Martinez family

PS- We've also enjoyed celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary and my (Lisa's) 30th birthday this month! Woohoo!



We've Joined the Team!

Well friends, the day has finally come!

After 15 years (give/take) of anticipating being involved in church planting and Bible translation, we have joined a church planting work!

Last Sunday, 2-22-15, after MUCH prayer, thought, and seeking counsel, we decided to join the Tigak work. We are incredibly thrilled! (And many other emotions...)

We knew our girls enjoyed our time in Tigak for Bush Orientation. But before we made our final decision on Sunday, we sat down with them and asked them point blank: Would you want to live in Tigak? They both responded with a hearty, "Yes!"

We asked them, "Why?"

Naya's response was, "I want to see my friends again and learn the Tigak language so that I can talk to them and tell them about Jesus." (Wow! If that doesn't thrill our hearts as parents...)

Jocie's 5-year-old answer was a rapid-fire, "Because-there's-a-tire-swing!" (Uh-HUH...)

We then asked her, "What if there was no tire swing? Would you still want to go there?"

She then answered, "Yeah. I want to see my friends..."

All that to say... we are so overjoyed that we have been given the privilege to know Him, love Him, and serve Him together as a family! All four of us are excited to move into Tigak and begin learning the language and grasping more of the culture.

We can't WAIT to share this journey with you, our brothers and sisters in Him!

Be sure to check out our Bush Orientation video ~ these are some of the people that you will get to know along with us.


Bush Orientation

We’re back from our Bush Orientation!

We have just returned to the highlands after spending a busy and fruitful 8.5 weeks in the Tigak tribe. (Check out our video at the end of this blog!)

Here are some of the highlights from this time:

We both worked hard in our Tok Pisin (the national language of PNG) studies. We will have a CLA check soon (Culture and Language Acquisition) to see if we have both reached the ‘Capable High’ level of Tok Pisin. If so, we will be considered “done”/checked out of our national language study.

We enjoyed good fellowship with the missionaries who are currently serving among the Tigak. This included sharing in Christmas celebrations, eating and playing, and meeting as a team to discuss the status of the church plant in Tigak.

the Tigak church

the Tigak church

We met the believers in the Tigak church and mutually encouraged one another. Some of them were our Tok Pisin language helpers as well. We enjoyed worshiping the Lord with them each week, and walking throughout the village almost every day to visit them and observe their way of life. The Tigak church is made up of 12-20 believers. While these believers are firm in their faith, the need for discipleship is desperate. The believers have had very little discipleship, and are currently unable to reach out to the other islands where the Tigak people live. Picture it this way: these 12-20 believers are out of some 12,000 – 20,000 Tigak speakers!

We learned about the Tigak culture, including participating in both daily activities and special events. Noe was able to go spear-fishing or dive-fishing with the other men. Lisa and the girls got to help prepare mumus (cooking food in the ground with hot rocks and banana leaves) and weave mats. Our last week in Tigak, an elderly woman died. The entire week was filled with funeral preparations- building temporary houses and weaving mats for the walls and flooring, pig hunting and fishing, going to the mainland to work saksak for the workers that week and for the big gathering after the burial. One of the most interesting observations for us was the melding of many different worldviews/belief systems. Sometimes we look at these often-forgotten places and think that since they know the name of Jesus (and may even be able to testify of His death and resurrection!), that they must be saved. But during an event like this funeral, the truth of deceived hearts has a way of revealing itself.

During this funeral, for example, a man stood up and played some Christian songs on the guitar which everyone sang in Tok Pisin. The songs seemed very sound doctrinally! But the message that followed admonished the people to be careful how they dress and how they cut their hair so as not to mirror the image of Satan. Surrounding the gravesite were ‘charms’ made out of bush material that a ‘black magic man’ had placed to keep the rain from falling. These also served as a barrier to the gravesite. Word is that if it rains, it’s because someone had walked through the gravesite. So there we have it- the name of Jesus, works-based religion, and animism all wrapped up into one package. It breaks your heart. The people are deceived, and they are completely uncertain of their salvation, or of where they are going when they die, even if they can give you a testimony of ‘faith in Christ’.

Animistic beliefs made evident... see the hanging 'charm' in the upper-right

Animistic beliefs made evident... see the hanging 'charm' in the upper-right

It was interesting to us that on our first boat-ride into Tigak, we stopped to pick up a few women from the market. One of the women carried a very young baby. And in our last week in Tigak, one of the oldest women in the village was buried. There are many people and people groups like this one who from birth to death are surrounded by a false hope. Meaning- they are presented with Christ, but not the Christ in Scripture who saves us by grace through faith in His death on the cross. They are told that Christ died for their sins, so they must work to please Him daily and sin no more if they want to be saved from going to hell. Any man in his right mind will choose this option. What results is a life lived in fear, and a works-based salvation (which we know from Scripture is impossible and not what God offers to us in Christ Jesus!).

Please pray for the Tigak church as they are currently teaching chronologically through the Bible, giving a clear presentation of the Gospel! They are a few weeks in now, and we’ve heard that just about everyone is still coming to the teaching. Please pray that more Tigak men and women will be saved.

Thank you for your prayers, love, support and encouragement for us during this exciting time of Bush Orientation! It was a very good experience for us, and we look forward to what the Lord has next for us.

Please enjoy our new update video with pictures and video footage from our time in Tigak! Click here: https://vimeo.com/119905214

Planting Posts

If you were stranded on a remote tropical island, what 3 things would you want to have with you?

No I am not answering the question. :)

But we do have 3 things to update you on, 2 of which we would ask your prayer for!

  1. The small body of believers here on this island has prayed for many months about teaching through God's Word again to anyone who would like to come and hear it. It is foundational teaching, meaning the elders begin with Creation and teach all the way through the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ! This paves the way for clear understanding of who God is, the condition of man, and God's provision for our sin debt through Christ's death. (In essence, foundational teaching is like planting posts for a house. All the houses here are raised on posts. If the posts are flimsy, the house will not stand strong. But if the posts are dug deep and made well, they will provide for an excellent house. By the way, this method was modeled by Jesus Himself, by the prophets, and by the apostles!) Well, the elders of the church here decided to begin the teaching THIS WEEK! So the believers have been inviting folks all over the island, and today was the first day of teaching! Please pray for the generous handful of people who came to the teaching. Pray that they will continue coming, and that the Lord will open their hearts and minds to hear and understand and receive this free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ! And pray also for the elders who are teaching, and the believers here to be strengthened in their faith. Lord-willing, there will soon be more believers in the family of God! 
  2. As for our family, we are doing well here in the islands. We are keeping VERY busy with Tok Pisin - both through language sessions with language helpers, and through simply sitting down and talking with people and experiencing cultural events with them. We have just a few short weeks left here. At this point, we are still uncertain what our next step will be. Pray that the Lord will give us clear direction for our next step, as He ALWAYS has so faithfully. Pray for us we consider this church planting work as one possibility, and several other opportunities. Pray that He will give us wisdom about logistics for the next few months.
  3. .... does it need to be said? ...... GO SEAHAWKS!!!!!

It's Beginning to (Look?) a Lot Like Christmas

Merry Christmas!

The sound of coconut branches breaking as a coconut plunges with a huge “BANG!” to the ground reminds us of branches snapping from the sheer weight of snow. This may not sound to you like “sounds of winter"… but it’s about as close as we can get here*!

*Here = a tiny island off the coast of New Ireland. It takes approximately 10-15 minutes to walk around the island… Not that we’ve ever done that. It usually takes us 2-3 hours for all the mingling we do!

As I look around, I’m surrounded by beautiful palm trees and varieties of hibiscus flowers. The residents of the island pride themselves in keeping the island ‘pristine’, with groomed walking paths and homes free of debris or clutter. The beach is of course beautiful, and the water is warm (ok, in the afternoons sometimes it’s too warm!). Similar to our time in Madang, we will occasionally have a “chilly”, cloudy, rainy day which many homeschooling families deem an automatic “snow day”, and we pull out the hot chocolate mix (thank you for the care packages, friends/family!) and pretend that we’re cold enough to drink it!

You might recall reading our blog a year ago, in which we wondered specifically where we would be for Christmas THIS year! And here we are now, in our Bush Orientation in the beautiful islands of PNG. So what are we doing in this time of Bush Orientation?

  • We are finishing learning Tok Pisin
  • We are experiencing remote tribal life - the challenges of managing solar power, shopping and rationing food for several weeks, and facing ‘isolated’ living conditions
  • We are observing and getting to know the local tribal church and the missionaries, and hopefully being a mutual encouragement to each other
  • We are praying during this time about the many potential opportunities we have for joining a new OR an existing church planting work

EXCITING NEWS: It brings us great joy to share with you that just a couple days ago, our very own Naya chose to believe in Jesus Christ as her Savior! Please remember her in your prayers as she grows in the months and years ahead.

Let us also remember together the thousands upon thousands who have not yet had a chance to hear this wonderful (wonder-filled!) news. 

And just on a more ‘personal’ note, it hits us big this year as we are currently in a tribe of anywhere between 12,000 and 20,000 people —— with about 15 believers. 15. (And less than 300 of them have even had the chance to hear a clear presentation of the Gospel.) Sobering? Incredibly. Please pray for this young tribal church. They have a huge burden for their own people who have yet to hear, yet much discipleship is still needed to help bring them to a place where they can reach out effectively.

Praying with thankfulness for you as we thank Him for His marvelous gift of salvation,

~the Martinez family

Our Incredible Support Team

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the highlands these last couple weeks!

Our stay here has given us the opportunity to meet many of the wonderful missionaries who are here in crucial Support roles, allowing the “bush missionaries” to be fully invested in their ministries. (It has also given us the opportunity to wear sweaters and long pants, drink hot beverages without sweating, and snuggle under blankets on foggy mornings!)

Our first Cessna flight as a family! So thankful for NTMA! **Know anyone who loves to fly? We are in need of more pilots!

Our first Cessna flight as a family! So thankful for NTMA! **Know anyone who loves to fly? We are in need of more pilots!

During our time here, we were blessed to sit under the instruction of the NTM doctor, discussing things such as: first aid, antibiotics, allergic reactions, common illnesses, broken bones, vital signs, and even practicing administering epinephrine to each other!

Learning how to use a SAM Splint for a fractured limb.

Learning how to use a SAM Splint for a fractured limb.

Naya was thrilled to be a student in the 1st grade class at the NTM school for these two weeks. It was a fantastic experience for her… I’m afraid she will think differently about having ‘mom’ as her teacher now. Haha! Also regarding education, we were introduced to the homeschool resource center here, as well as the vision and principles of the NTM school (*and the principal, who is related to a friend of ours!).

Naya at her 1st grade classroom.

Naya at her 1st grade classroom.

Walking home from school with one of her new friends/classmates (Small world - we know this little girl's grandparents in the midwest!)

Walking home from school with one of her new friends/classmates (Small world - we know this little girl's grandparents in the midwest!)

We met many folks from other departments as well, and we are SO encouraged by the heart, the focus, the purpose, and the faithfulness of each of these who have obeyed the Lord’s mandate to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sometimes we think of support missionaries as “just support” (and indeed, sometimes they even drift into that mindset themselves). But if they were not here being faithful to what the Lord has asked them to do--- it would be extremely difficult for ‘bush missionaries’ to be out in bush locations and be effective!

THANK YOU to each and every “support missionary”. Know that YOU are supported by US! We’re thankful to those serving overseas, such as here in PNG. And those serving at the Missionary Training Centers. And those serving at the Bible Institutes. And those who are in Mobilization! Every part of the body is absolutely crucial. Challenge: contact a missionary serving in a crucial* support role this week and let them know how thankful you are for their incredibly important ministry!

*Free tip of the day: EVERY support role is crucial!

Playing some football after a nice Thanksgiving meal with new friends!

Playing some football after a nice Thanksgiving meal with new friends!