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