*Editor’s Note: Walt Barrett is the Director of the Missionary Sending Agency for To Every Tribe. This article is from an update on his recent visit to our field based missionary staff in Papua New Guinea.
Perhaps you remember that when I wrote last I was in Australia on my way to visit To Every Tribe’s earliest field of ministry: Papua New Guinea (PNG). What follows is the text of an email that I sent to a friend just before returning to the US. Hopefully it will give you a sense of what this trip was like and how it impacted me.
“Hi John – so good to hear from you! Yes, I’m in Goroka, Papua New Guinea (PNG) with Alex Sisson, our field leader here. I leave the day after tomorrow, having had two full weeks on the ground with Alex, Kelley and the kids as well as 2-3 days travel time each way – so all in all a fairly long trip. But an amazingly excellent one! It would take too long to tell you everything, but I truly cannot imagine how the whole experience could have been better. It is helping me much more clearly understand the situation on this needy mission field – and I have immense respect for those who serve here.
“For me the highlight was a five day trip, portion of which was spent in a very remote mountainous PNG bush village that hadn’t seen a white man there in 50+ years until Alex and I walked in. We were very warmly received: they prepared a traditional community feast for us, a family shared their simple dirt-floor, thatched roof hut with a central fire pit , treated us with honor, etc..“This is a simple, incredibly hardy and hard working people living in difficult physical circumstances. Harrowing travel (multiple landslides with dangerous – in my mind at least – passages), very difficult to get there – to go approximately 40 miles as the crow flies it took us 14 hours of difficult, jolting travel through muddy mountain ‘roads’ in a rugged 4-wheel drive vehicle designed for the punishment of bush and mountain driving (and even then we succeeded to break one of the rear springs). The day of travel was capped off with a serious 2 1/2 hour night-time hike since a recent landslide had totally blocked the way – so we had to go the last stretch on foot up a steep trail.
“And then two days later we traced the same arduous route in reverse as we left the village – only this time we came close to having to spend an extra night on the trail because of another serious landslide (it is rainy season here). We faced several dangerous travel situations, narrow mountain ‘roads’ with multiple landslides and intimidating (to me at least) obstacles of various sorts. At one point the truck was stuck in 50 foot patch of literally 3+ feet of mud. Another time we were stuck so deep in mud that Alex and I had to climb out of the truck through the windows.
“The village we stayed in is ‘somewhat unreached.’ There is a small church, made up of several families, pastored by a national whom Alex teaches and mentors here in Goroka. It is hard to know just exactly what the real spiritual situation in a village like this is. We went to this particular village in part because it gives access to other people groups another mountain range or two beyond – people who reportedly are ‘totally unreached.’ No one really knows where all the tribes and villages are and what their situation is. Hard data is very difficult to come by. Alex has plans to go back a couple more times this year to better understand the situation in the village where we stayed and then, hopefully, to hike at least another couple of days further to make contact with the yet more remote and unreached peoples in the mountains beyond. Realistically this could not be accomplished without the aid of the nationals with whom TET is working in partnership.
“This trip gave concrete meaning to the phrase Jesus is worth it! in terms of the determination needed to get the gospel to people groups who have never heard. I am deeply impressed with and thankful for the Sisson family – we need more like them! We could easily use 6 more families here as soon as possible and many more in years to come. We are barely scratching the surface of what needs to be done. We will need to think seriously about how to support the missionaries that we would send (i.e. to provide access – by helicopter probably – for medical care, to get them in and out, to provide supplies for daily life, etc.). That is if we want them to thrive in the long run and be able to do the long-term job of not just seed-sowing (good in and of itself) but of actually living among unreached people in order to plant healthy churches – churches which themselves will plant other churches among the unreached that we ourselves are unlikely/unable to get to…
“There is much more I’d like to say, but this will have to do for now. It has been a huge joy and privilege for me to be here and I’m confident that it will prove to be extremely helpful for me in terms of helping think through church planting strategy here in PNG and understanding what it means to send young, enthusiastic, but sometimes naive, missionary families into the bush without them really having any clear idea of what they will to face. Life and ministry here is definitely not for the faint of heart or the faint of Spirit. Personally I tend to relish challenges and adventure but we had several truly close calls in the mountains when I wasn’t sure we’d make it. As a result, my need for adventure has now been (overly) satisfied for a good while… But what a privilege! Walt”
Doug’s major emphasis in class can be stated from his book,Exalted, Putting Jesus in His Place, “There is only one way to glorify God in missions, by proclaiming Jesus.” Without notes or a powerpoint, Doug combed through books of the bible (literally) for the Missionary Trainees as both an example and teaching method for fixing our eyes on Christ from all of Scripture. We thank Doug for his love for Christ, the Scriptures, and following the Lord’s call to “feed the sheep.”
During his time here, Doug also posted online an audio podcast with his thoughts on To Every Tribe, take a listen below:
“This is a very very impressive organization…”
“If you are thinking about missions, I cannot help but encourage you to look into To Every Tribe”
Steve Best (R) Training Church Planters in Papua New Guinea
David Sitton has often said, “You can’t train church planting missionaries in the classroom!” This is very true and is the reason that forty-percent of the training in To Every Tribe’s Center for Pioneer Church Planting (CPCP) takes place on foreign soil.
Our training is designed to expose missionary interns to the challenges of ministry among a people of a different language and involve them in the confusion of a distinct culture. These are some of the greatest obstacles in surviving the first (and often the last) term of cross-cultural missionary service that many families intend to be lifelong ministry. The failure rate of first-term western missionaries is alarming.
It is hard. It is confusing. It is like being in a pressure cooker always wondering if you have just done something to offend the people or hinder the advance of the gospel.
Garry Weaver, Director of Field Training at the CPCP, makes an important point very clear to our missionary interns: “You field training in the villages of Mexico is not practice. These are real people who need the gospel. For the next two years this is your missionary field and you are a missionary to them.”
Missionary intern teams go into Mexico each month to conduct strategic church planting strategies of entry, encouragement, evangelism, preaching, oral bible storying, baptisms, discipleship, and fellowship meetings. These trips, done in a context of love and gospel clarity, are producing spiritual fruit in the villages and will one day lead to churches planted and established. At the same time, the missionary interns are learning to serve from a position of weakness and humility, and seeing the dynamics of biblical plurality in action, as they face the ups and downs of cross-cultural ministry. This produces a pattern of dependent prayer and perseverance through discernment which are keys to faithful and fruitful missionary service.
The field experience is important to the understanding and execution of the principles, priorities, and practices that are taught, investigated, discussed, and demonstrated in the classroom setting of the CPCP.
The classroom and field training combination lays a foundation for global ministry and produces church planting missionaries with experience who are eager and ready for lifelong service among the three billion unreached with the one mission of the CPCP which exists and aims to extend the worship of Christ among all peoples by training and mentoring missionaries who become disciple-makers, church planters, pastoral trainers, and apologists.
These pioneer missionaries will be disciple-makers who are able to effectively evangelize in cross-cultural and oral contexts. They will be able to plant, organize, and establish churches while identifying and developing church leadership and mature believers who will carry out the ministry of the established church. They will be capable of effectively transitioning out of an established ministry and begin a new church planting effort in another cross-cultural context. They will be pastoral trainers who are able to train other pastors in a cross-cultural context. And finally, they will be apologists for mission who are able to mobilize other workers to Christ’s harvest.
We are excited to watch God use the graduates of the CPCP to live out this mission and vision as they are sent out into the great harvest of the nations. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 12:3 ESV).
*Editor’s note: This article was originally posted in To Every Tribe’s June 2013 Ekballo magazine
This last weekend was To Every Tribe’s 2014 Open House. It was a gloriously packed day with nearly 60 people visiting from all over the country (and even from different parts of the world!). Steve Leston, from Kishwaukee Bible Church in Sycamore, IL gave a presentation called, “Serving As A Sending Church.” Kishwaukee Bible Church has been exemplary in their efforts to equip and send a family from their church to training with To Every Tribe. Preparing for what’s next, we are looking at a partnership to take an entire people group by the horns and get them for Jesus along side each other (agency and local church)! Continue reading Missionary Biographies for Your Local Church