A couple of summers ago, my husband and I spent time traveling inside five of the provinces of the country of Papua New Guinea, the land of the unreached. We have lived and worked here since 2003 and can attest that Papua New Guinea (PNG) is very unique. It has been called the Modern Day Tower of Babel, and with good reason.
With over 850 distinct languages, most having not yet been written, PNG is home to 10% of all the world’s languages. PNG is also unique in that it is open and ripe for gospel work, as there have already been decades of gospel work done in many of these languages. The specific organization that we serve with began working in PNG in 1951. Since that time, several mission organizations have been working at learning these unwritten languages, developing alphabets, teaching literacy, translating Bible portions, and writing Bible curriculum. And still, there are more than 400 languages to be learned so that these peoples can be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Different Kinds of Soil
So what about the work that has already been done in PNG over the last 60-plus years? How is it progressing now? Is it still alive, and are the lives of the next generation still being changed? Since there is nothing new under the sun, the answer can be found in the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1–23). When we returned to see the churches that were planted, each one contained members who had grown and matured and were reaching out to others. Each church also contained members who had fallen away when things became difficult. Some of these individuals who gave in to the world and its call for comfort in order to find fulfillment in this life. Sound familiar?
We met with the elders of some of the more mature churches who had stood solid through decades of trial and tribulation, and we were truly blessed. And humbled. Such men of God. Such trust in Him alone. They spoke of the changes that the gospel had already brought to their formerly animistic cultures, and those change were always spoken of with tenderness. They remembered well the whip of their old taskmaster and the redemption and freedom that came through their simple belief in the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. They spoke of the Scripture passages they were studying that the Lord had been using to grow them. They told us of church discipline issues, new outreaches, church plants, the pain of seeing people turn away from truth for the passing delights of this world, and, of course, the joys of a new generation professing Christ for the first time. Each church had its own joys and heartaches to share. But, when we asked the elders of these churches what their greatest need was, the answer was one and the same—training for the next generation.
The Greatest Need
When the young men and women from these churches migrate to town for education, they are met with false teachings, catechisms that stem from a works-based system of thought, and even beatings if they don’t make the proper signs or pray to the appropriate statues. The concerns we heard echoed deep in our hearts, for the tribal church elders among the people group we are working with have been voicing these very concerns for many years. We prayed and asked the Lord to help us find a way to train the young men and women of these faithful tribal churches.
The next few years were spent writing proposals, gaining proper permissions, and thinking through the strategy of a Christian school that would be developed for the education and training of future PNG national missionaries. The overarching goal would be to receive a small number of students from the local tribal churches each year and then teach and disciple them for a period of six years before placing them back into local churches, schools, and medical clinics for the purpose of spreading the gospel. Some of these individuals who are gifted linguistically would be placed in teams to reach some of the unwritten languages and unreached peoples in PNG. That was the dream, and that is where God planted the seed for the Ramu Valley Academy.
The Work Has Begun
Fast forward two years and here we are in 2018. The Lord has provided a Christian school “umbrella” for us to work under, a beautiful piece of property on the Pacific Ocean, initial construction of the facility, and a teaching staff to begin this educational initiative. With all those blessings in place, we are now raising awareness for this school and asking the Lord to grant us favor in the eyes of some who would give prayerfully and financially to make this dream a reality for the purpose of training young men and women from PNG. We are amazed at what the Lord has already accomplished during the last decade, transforming unreached peoples in PNG into His own beloved children. We now look to the future with great hope and expectation, praying that He will turn those who were formerly unreached into a missionary army that will bring the gospel to those who are still trapped in unknown languages.
So what comes next when the unreached become reached? The same thing that comes next for you and I when we become children of the King: a recalibration of our lives, our goals, our earthly goods, our education, and our gifts. We leverage it all with a willingness that says, “Here am I. Send me.”
Please pray with us for the unreached in Papua New Guinea and for the unreached around the world. Pray for laborers from churches in the West and from within the local national churches. Pray for the local churches already established as they labor in their own language groups—that they would teach the next generation and spread the gospel to those around them. Pray for us and for the Ramu Valley Academy as we wait for the Lord to provide the needed funds to begin this crucial work.
To learn more about the Ramu Valley Academy, please visit ramuvalleyacademy.com.