Papua New Guinea (MNN) — Poor communications and bad weather is affecting efforts to assist villages hit by flooding, landslides, and tsunamis in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
A government administrator in the area says there are still tremors after Saturday night’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake, as damage reports keep coming in. Jim Tanner with New Tribes Mission has served in the country for over four decades, and while the damage is bad, it could be much worse. Generally speaking, it isn’t the quakes that cause the problem, he says. “The mudslides and flashfloods take more lives generally than the earthquakes. When they have these continual rains and then the earth tremors, sometimes whole villages are just covered.”
However, as natural disasters go, this one didn’t faze their team. “We don’t have any missionaries on Bougainville, which is called the North Solomon’s.” In situations like this, sometimes teams can’t move around due to damaged roads or for other similar reasons. Again, Tanner says, “Our people are able to get in and out and not have any problems that way. They feared that a tsunami might come from this one, but it didn’t.”
Although they have responded to natural disaster in the past, they’re not needed now, and until that changes, it’s a normal work day Tanner says, “Most of us are doing tribal church planting. As they become proficient in the language, they do literacy to teach reading and writing, and then they start teaching.”
Not having to deal with delays is encouraging because new ministry is just taking off for New Tribes. They’ve developed a plan to help make sure that new churches are on track to self-sufficiency. Additionally, Tanner explains, “We follow a course that goes from creation to Christ, and it’s becoming very popular. They adapted it for AWANA, and now in mostly Third World countries they’re using the curriculum and it’s having a wonderful effect.”
The first step is making that curriculum understandable in a country that is said to have over 800 languages still in existence. “Just recently we started a new ministry in the trade language which is called Melanesian Pidgin English. It’s the largest language in the country. We’ve translated nine volumes of lessons, and those are available now.” After hours of grueling literacy training, translation work, and then teaching, Tanner says often a church develops. “Then we start discipling these people and grounding them in the Word of God.”
Sometimes Papua New Guinea is a great adventure, especially when you see God moving. Sometimes it’s dangerously bizarre, like having active twin volcanoes nearby or mudslides taking out your house. Mostly, it’s just hard work that requires God’s grace. Prayer is a huge encouragement, especially when spared a disaster. Resourcing this team to teach helps keep the local church on track, too. Click here to meet the New Tribes team working in Papua New Guinea.