Monday, May 27, 2013

A few days in the Markham

Last week, I and seven other men and boys from our church went out to the Markham River Valley for a few days. The Markham is a long beautiful valley lined by tall grass-covered mountains. It runs from Lae westward for over 100 km.

Driving through the Markham.

Our first stop was to see Silas, whom you may have read about on this blog last June. He is still living with relatives in the village where we dropped him off last year. As the bridge to his village was washed away, we had to tube across the river to get there. A year ago, Silas was not at all happy to leave Lae, but now he is quite content to be living in the village. His relatives are taking good care of him, and he is a bit stronger than the last time we saw him.

Standing with Silas.

Transportation to and from Silas' village.

After saying goodbye to Silas, we came back about 20 km closer to Lae, parked the car at a safe place, met up with some friends, and walked to their village, crossing the waist-deep Markham River on foot. The village is Awan, and a group from their village had invited us to come to teach and preach.

I taught and preached Tuesday night and all day Wednesday, dealing mostly with the Holy Spirit, but also with God's covenant, and an introduction to Reformed Churches. Especially the material on the Holy Spirit brought a lot of discussion, as there is a lot of Pentecostal influence here (as well as throughout PNG).

In addition to teaching and preaching, we were able to enjoy a lot of food and fellowship together – although usually I finished only a fraction of the food that was set in front of me. It was very nice to enjoy the slower pace of life in the village: on Tuesday night we were told that the next day's program would start at 6 a.m., it didn't get started until 11. On Thursday morning, we were also able to go for a nice 3-hour hike to get a sense of the area.

Food and fellowship.

Early morning hike.

The Wantun River coming out of the mountains.

What really struck me during these few days was that where there is a lack of Scripture knowledge, there is a lot of confusion. It's quite similar to the situation in the Medieval church before the Reformation brought the Bible to everyone. If we always go back to what Scripture says, things become much more clear. Every question that came up last week, I was able to direct to the Word of God – the Word as we have it in the Bible, and not the "word" as proclaimed by man.

To cite but one of many examples, Galatians 5:22-23 makes very clear that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It makes no mention of miraculous healing, speaking in gibberish, striking people down by laying hands on them, and the like, even though in practice many people here consider that the true fruit of the Spirit. It is very encouraging to the average church member that they also have the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) – and probably have more evidence of the Spirit than some charlatan preacher who puts on a great magic show but is a horrible husband and father, and a spiritual abuser.

Taking it back to the Word.

There is a serious lack of training for church leaders in PNG. A six-month course (if that) is often considered sufficient training for pastors, and the rest is left to "the Spirit's leading." Sometimes, though, in a place all too aware of the reality of evil spirits, we are left wondering what kind of spirit leads some church leaders.

We hope to do more teaching in Awan. And we continue to support the very important work done by our colleagues at the Reformed Churches Bible College in Port Moresby – training up Papua New Guinean pastors, elders, Sunday School teachers, and other leaders firmly rooted in the Word of God.

Heading home, about to cross the Markham River.