The first stage of house building and everything that went with it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
It was physically difficult, logistically difficult, mentally difficult, dietarily difficult — it was just difficult.
But it was also truly amazing to see how God worked everything out through so much answered prayer.
When the lumber was being loaded onto the boat the second time around, I prayed hard that it would all fit because it really, really didn’t look like it would fit…and it did.
I prayed we would have enough gasoline for the generator, and enough drill bits, and enough hammer bits to put everything together…and we did.
And the fact that there were enough stones and rocks to mix all the concrete in the end, that it didn’t rain much the entire time, and that we finished a few days earlier, that I got a pair of shoes that actually held up, that the phone network came back up, and all the time we got to spend with the people in the tribe…all answered prayers.
God was also gracious to encourage me through His Word during this time. Here are three things that encouraged me from God’s Word during house building:
Jesus Commands the Storms
I got to Biliau (for the second time) on Tuesday, August 21st. The night before, I’d slept on the hull of a ship in the midst of a storm in the harbor of Biliau…and now I found myself on a bed in a Lutheran Guest house. I opened my Bible to where I had left off and found myself in Mark 4:35-41 (though technically I went to the wrong spot, which I realized the next night…but it all worked out).
Mark 4:35–41 (ESV)
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
I read about Jesus sleeping on the boat and thought…”I just slept on a boat in the midst of a storm (a much less severe storm)!” After a hard day’s work, a boat is actually a nice place to sleep, since the rocking motion really makes you sleepy.
The disciples were in the midst of a truly frightening situation — a great wind storm, waves crashing into the boat, the boat being filled up with water — and yet Jesus asks them in verse 40, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
What was it about this situation that should have brought them to the conclusion not to be afraid?
The answer is because of He who was in their boat.
Yes, they were in a boat in the midst of a horrible storm — yet, they didn’t realize who it was that was in the boat with them. Though the wind was great, and the waves were high, and the boat was filling up — they had the One who controlled those very waves in the boat with them.
Jesus commanded the wind and the sea to be still — and they were. What was a “great windstorm” (4:37) turned into a “great calm” (4:39) at a simple command.
Jesus is sovereign over the waves, and He is sovereign over the wind.
As I read this that night, I felt like I was in the midst of a storm! Not an actual storm, but — moving tons of building supplies to a remote jungle location by truck, boat, dinghy, foot, and helicopter, and then attempting to build two houses which I’d never done before. All these things blowing around me and I wasn’t sure where everything was going to land…
The whole thing was…scary.
And yet, I was reminded then that my God is sovereign over storms, and wind and rain — AND He’s also sovereign over boats, dinghies, helicopters, drills, drill bits, generators, saws, and tribal people.
The disciples after the calm, asked, “who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Who do the wind and sea obey? There is only One answer to that question. I think for the disciples, that night, at that moment — that answer was hard to understand.
But I know who my Savior is. I know He is the Sovereign God, through whom all things were created, who sustains creation with His Word of power (Heb. 1:3).
Discipleship and Being with Jesus
Mark 3:13–15 (ESV)
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.
Jesus had a special task for these men. And yet, even though they were apostles sent out to preach and have authority over demons, they still didn’t stop being disciples.
So Mark mentions first that these men were chosen to “be with him”.
And so they were as we read the Gospel accounts. These men were “with Jesus”.
They were there when he healed people, they were there when he raised the dead, they were there when he taught and there when he calmed storms, they were with him when he forgave sinners, and again when he rebuked the pharisees, talked to a rich young ruler, and there at the very end at the last supper and in the garden.
These men were “with Jesus”.
That’s much of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus — to be “with Him”, and that’s why we are going to Mawaroro — to make disciples of Jesus.
We want to bring Him to them, so they too can see Jesus calm the storms, raise the dead, cast out demons, heal the sick, forgive sins, have compassion on sinners, rebuke, teach — and, ultimately, die on a cross to save all those who would trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.
We want the people in the village of Mawaroro and indeed the whole language group Ndo, to know Jesus and to be “with Him.”
The One who Sows Sows the Word
Mark 4:13–20 (ESV)
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
All of the soils hear the Word — but they each respond differently to it. What does the Sower do?
He “sows the Word”.
We are here in Papua New Guinea, and we have done so many complicated things.
We have hiked through the jungle for multiple days, we have learned Tok Pisin, we have navigated living in the city of Madang, ridden in helicopters, dinghies, PMVs, moved tons of supplies by boat and chopper into a village, and built two houses up to the floor.
There are still complicated things to come, like moving many more things into the tribe by boats and chopper to finish those houses, and then spend years learning the tribal language.
Complicated. And yet, what we have come to do is actually not that complicated.
Sow the Word.
We aren’t coming to bring medical help, or build an air strip, or better everyone’s lives, or to entertain, or to work something amazing so people will like us.
We have come to sow the Word.
Building houses is a step to position us to do that, and to do that in the language of these people.
Some may have the Word snatched away by Satan, others may endure for a while but then fall away, and in others it may prove entirely unfruitful — but for some — we pray for many — they will hear it in their own language and accept it and bear fruit! That their sins would be forgiven, that they would be with Jesus.
In the midst of the storm of moving houses, and building houses, and the complexity of it all — what an encouragement to remember that what we’re doing is not too complex — we’ve come to sow the Word, to preach the Gospel that people’s sins can be forgiven, that they can know and be with Jesus for all eternity — and over all of this — God is Sovereign!