Fight over!!!?

Just wanted to pass along an update that yesterday on his way home Jeff passed the magistrates at their meeting place on the road between the two hauslains, and they asked him to stop and witness their peacemaking ceremony (because they didn’t trust each other!). He said it was very interesting to watch. Two magistrates from each hauslain faced each other and held hands like they were shaking hands, and two men from each hauslain stood next to them, across from each other, and passed the settlement money underneath the magistrates’ clasped hands. Then they split a pack of cigarettes and each side lit theirs, smoked them a little, and traded with the other line to smoke theirs! Apparently that fixes everything… unless, of course, someone stirs it up again (which, here, is almost as likely to happen 10 years from now as tomorrow!).

So, it was wonderful to hear that last night. Jeff had to leave again soon after getting home to climb the ridge next to our house for an evangelistic fellowship in another hauslain. Nobody was there, so he came home and I was so happy to have him to myself! We enjoyed watching a video made by another missions organization about their work in a certain area. There was something about it that kind of bothered me, and when it finished I was talking to Jeff about it and trying to put my finger on what it was. I think the gist of it is that organization’s practice of giving out food, money, etc. to “open doors for the gospel”. Our experience has shown that such methods, except perhaps in time of a disaster or emergency, are very counterproductive. Just yesterday I was SO grieved by the greediness of a church leader’s wife who had come to work in our garden. She just kept asking for more and more things! That really gets under my skin. It is so obvious that she is controlled by covetousness. Lately she regularly misses church (as does her husband) to “take care of sick children” and rarely makes it to Ladies’ Bible Study at our house, which is, to be honest, a 20-min. walk from hers (church is only a 5-min. walk), but as soon as it’s something she can do to make money (or in this case, get paid in oil/salt/etc.) there is absolutely no problem and she’s very free and anxious to come! And that’s only one example– this is a huge problem amongst the believers here. Or should I say “believers”? Some I’m sure just come to church/try to please us or get close to us just for what we might give them or help them with! It is a huge mistake to let ANYTHING, however kind it may be, get ahead of the gospel or in its way. (And yes, we’re constantly having to reevaluate our own practices in this light– even how we pay people for work they do for us.)

I was thinking about Jesus in this respect. Surely He was in contact with many very needy people. Did He ever give anybody anything? Yes, He had compassion on and healed the sick– but that was just to prove that He is God (and He didn’t need any expensive medicines either). He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000… but they needed food only because they had stayed a long time, probably longer than planned since they finished all of their own food and were hungry– so hungry that they might not make it back to town to get food. And, at least the first time, they appear to have done so for the sole reason of HEARING HIS TEACHING! (And later– maybe it was the 2nd time– He rebuked people who were following Him after that just to get more free food!) Anyway, I may be forgetting something– I haven’t studied this out at all– so if you disagree I am interested in your scripturally-informed thoughts on this subject. But it seems to me that Jesus’ focus was very pointedly on people’s spiritual rather than physical needs, and ours should probably be too!

I guess my uneasiness about the film we watched and my ensuing thoughts about the question of giving in missions boils down to this: Do we really believe that God is good? Good not only to those of us who have cleanliness and health and plenty to eat and pretty much everything else imaginable, but even good to the poorest beggar who is really and truly starving and lives in rags and filth? (The things in the video described as filthy and poor were pretty nice to some things I’ve seen in Kiari!) Is He good even to those people– even BEFORE the nice white missionary “fixes” all of those problems? We have to say yes. We HAVE to. It is true; the Bible says that He is good to ALL. And that’s what I was commenting to Jeff last night. After the video talked about all of the poor girls deceived into going to another country for a good-paying job only to find out that it was a job that sold their bodies nightly, it was easy to lie in my loving husband’s embrace and think, “God is so good to me”. And He is. But HE IS– CURRENTLY!– JUST AS GOOD TO THOSE POOR PROSTITUTES! And all the other people suffering in the many ways people can suffer in this world.

So I fell asleep thinking about that and woke up thinking about it this morning. And while we were sitting at the table having our devotions I heard pounding and crying coming from our next-door neighbor’s house. He was beating his wife. Now I’ve known that this goes on regularly in Kiari, but this was the first time I heard such a thing with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes. And it was horrible. When the man finally stopped I cried and cried for the longest time– a lot longer than the beaten wife!– and got Jeff’s sweatshirt really gross. And I had to tell myself that God is very good even to this poor lady. Then I went down to our neighbor’s house. He was very smiling and friendly, as always (except for earlier this morning). I shook his hand and hugged his wife and cried with her and gave her pain medicine and cleaned her cuts and put triple antibiotic ointment and band-aids on them. And I told her that we pray so much that they will get saved, because the Bible teaches Christian wives to submit to their husbands and Christian husbands to love their wives like they love their own bodies, but they just can’t do that without getting saved first. Their old nature will prevent them and bring about horrible things like today. And I tried to explain the gospel as simply and clearly as I could and prayed with her– thanking God for His goodness to her, asking Him to use this “heavy” to show her and her husband their need for Him and save them, and asking Him to heal her body and open her eyes to His goodness and power in that healing so that she would praise His name for it. Then I came home. So please pray for the Lord to use this whole thing in both of these folks’ hearts and save them. Please pray that they will not continue to run away from His goodness, falling deeper into destructive sin.

I think God was very good to allow all the things I’ve told you about in this post to come up not in my own life as well, to help me understand so much more clearly His goodness. He knows that our hearts and their condition are so much more important than our circumstances, and so He arranges our circumstances absolutely perfectly to help motivate us to get our hearts right. Unfortunately for some of us, who have very hard heads, He has to use harsher methods than He needs for others! But the end result will be well worth the pain.

Rejoicing in that amazing goodness,
Elizabeth Owens

PS– Oh yes, this morning the bow-and-arrows man wanted to go hunting so came to get them. Jeff took them up and told him thanks for letting him use them and that he had killed 5 wild pigs and 2 kabuls (something like the PNG version of a possum with soft, thick fur) (teasing, of course)! The man just laughed and said, “Yu winim mi nau” (That’s better than me/ You’ve got me beat now!) I am SO GLAD that little drama seems to be over and actually didn’t end up to be too dramatic! Yesterday the man’s wife storied with me at our gate for the longest time, and she and a neighbor girl are going to come Friday morning and teach me THEIR way to make tapiok (manioc/cassava) bread. So I think all is well. Whew! 🙂