Archive for June, 2012

Peace and Praise

23 June 2012

Dear praying friends,

I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that. There have been so many things that have happened, and we really could have used your prayers, but I have to admit that I was so disheartened I just didn’t feel like writing about it all. Thank you so much to those of you who were faithfully praying, even though I wasn’t faithfully “updating”.

That seems like a funny way to start a post entitled “Peace and Praise”, but maybe it will make more sense when I explain. “Peace” is definitely not what I felt like when there were clashes with two of the four
preachers-in-training as a result of problems in their lives that lead Jeff, not only of his own accord but also in accordance with the counsel of our team leader and his furlough replacement, to remove them from preaching and other leadership responsibilities. Those of you who know Jeff know that he is not a confrontational person, and this has all been very difficult for him. Two Sundays in a row there was a confrontation with one or the other of those men after services (one of them even “taking his case” before the others and asking them to judge between him and the missionaries), and Jeff and I both came home each time just feeling like someone was wringing our insides out like wet rags. BUT then comes the inexpressibly wonderful– in each of those situations, the Lord gave us His indescribable peace. Not necessarily without a struggle, and of course we still had to think about the situations and figure out what to do which easily drug us down into anxiety again, but overall we can really honestly say that God has given us His peace.

Some of you who receive our prayer letter have also heard that our airstrip, after its grand opening on May 8, was closed again less than a week later after a plane nearly crashed trying to land during fitful winds. The explanation did not come until weeks later… the pilots had reevaluated our airstrip and decided that it is too short. We are unsure whether or not anything can be done on the current site, but at least for the time being we’re back to the chopper.

A similar disappointment came when a promising teacher for Joy Christian School was unable to come. It breaks our hearts to see our former students being sent off to government schools far away, living with unsaved families and basically “on their own” spiritually. Thankfully some are near good churches and allowed to attend, but sadly some are not. Please continue to pray that the Lord would send teachers.

It is so disappointing to deal with all of this; further so when we are crazily busy– especially Jeff, juggling the confrontations, increased preaching (since 2 preachers are “out” and one is too busy with a new baby, sick wife, and lots of company to preach much, leaving Jeff and the one remaining preacher to cover the 7 sermons a week), and also working on cutting trees and milling timber that needs to dry for a coworker’s house to be built this fall. I am not necessarily as busy as Jeff but feel I’m barely keeping my head above water trying to do all of the correspondence, business, etc. that I can and keep up with housework and a ladies’ Bible study. My health has been much better, though we and the doctor have no idea what the root of the problem was, but a couple of days ago I caught the flu and have had some return of the same problems, though thankfully not as severe.

Then add to all of that our huge burden to learn the heart language of these people– which we simply don’t have time to do at present– and the way it hurts me, especially, when, for instance, yesterday 9 ladies come for Bible study (4 arriving 1/2 hour late, 5 arriving after we finished– because they don’t have clocks and didn’t know what time it was) and they all sit around “storying” animatedly in a language I completely don’t understand aside from a word every once in a long while… then they sit stoically during the Bible study time, very unresponsive and slow to answer even direct questions… then after it’s all over and we’re drinking tea they story again so excitedly and I am sitting there in my own house, completely left out and feeling like the plywood floor between us is miles wide. And Jeff comes home and I tell him, “We really, REALLY need to learn tok ples.” And he reminds me, “Right now we just can’t.” And it’s true.

So, to be quite honest, things would be so overwhelming now (and sometimes are), except for the gift of God’s sweet, sweet peace underneath it all. I wonder how many of you have prayed that for us, and this blessing is a gift not only from our loving Heavenly Father but also from you, our faithful prayer warriors.

And now for the “Praise” part. While resting the past few days, trying to convince the flu to move on, I have been reading “Shadow of the Almighty”, the biography of Jim Elliot. The day before yesterday one part really spoke to me. Jim wrote in a letter to his parents, “The Lord is a hard taskmaster, telling me to rejoice and sing a praise-psalm when things oppress. Naturally, I rebel and quote Proverbs 25:20, ‘As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather…so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.’ ‘Sympathize,’ I cry, and He peels off my overcoat of self-pity by saying, ‘Praise, child, and be warmed within!’ Ever notice that? Whenever I want comfort He tells me to ‘count it all joy,’ and then, queerly, I heed, and it all becomes sweet.”

So, in the midst of our pressures, we too need to praise. I want to praise the Lord for the inexpressibly sweet blessing of being married to a wonderful man for 11 months today. I’ve thought before how good it is of the Lord to mix the hard and the sweet… the hardest year of my life because of ministry challenges, but the very sweetest at the same time, because of our marriage, which is so remarkably blessed and happy. I want to praise the Lord for the blessing of one preacher-in-training who has been an unspeakable blessing as he faithfully proclaims God’s truth with all his heart. I want to praise the Lord for His simple faithfulness and patience as I wade through “Trusting God 101”, and for the way He’s brought into my life at just the very right moments the encouragements and challenges I need– good books, godly friends and family, even bringing to mind scripture I memorized long ago, such as, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken,” and, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; Wait for the Lord!” And also the blessing of sacred music that ministers to my heart and uplifts my spirits. Nor can I fail to mention even a little thing, like all of our flowers finally growing and blooming so profusely, which is cheering to me as well.

So, please continue to pray fervently for us, but do also thank the Lord for His peace and for all of these good things that He has done for us, and praise Him for all that He is– which is what we’re banking on (all of our eggs in one basket!) as we serve Him. He is truly above all, in control of everything– all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. How glad we will be on the day when He finally appears that we are His servants and not on the other side.

Elizabeth Owens

P.S. Jeff just returned from prayer meeting. The two preacher boys he’s removed from preaching both made public prayer requests that were really just gripes against the missionaries– we aren’t being faithful (referencing previous missionaries who “did more”), we are removing them from the ministry for no reason, etc. To this point we’ve not talked publicly about these two men’s problems, but we may have to if things continue as they are. Please pray for much godly wisdom, patience, and love. And for the believers to discern the truth and embrace it, even though it means siding with the missionaries against some of their own people. And don’t forget peace and praise.