SOVEREIGN GRACE BAPTIST

MISSION OF MALAWI

PO BOX 60150 BT. 6 BLANTYRE MALAWI AFRICA

TEL. 265-9-741-007/ or 265-8-751140 (mobile)

Missionary / Evangelist:  Peter A. Halliman

Email: phalliman@africa-online.net

 

 

 

Date:              04 January 2010

 

S.G.B.M. report continued…

 

The next morning I was summoned to the men’s house there in the Levini Valley with Pastor Harry and other men who had come to see me regarding the church which was just forty minutes walk from where we were camped.  They brought a message and questions – As their pastor was away, they wanted to know if they could invite me to come and preach.  I instructed them as I have always taught on the mission field that the pastor is the (Spiritual leader) and the church should if possible wait for their pastor to return before receiving a visiting preacher (that is of course one of like order and faith).  I have always respected that position, I teach it, I believe it and if I were pastor of a church I would expect that church to honour that position.

 

I now want to qualify some information that I am faced with as a missionary as I believe most missionaries are, if indeed they do a Biblical work and are actively involved among those churches.  Like I have stated in the past, I believe once a church is organized that they are as much a church as any church in America, or else where in the world.  They are autonomous, independent, and self-governing.  I have taught here in Arica, and did so, and do so now that these churches, which were organized, do not need me to come preach or do otherwise unless they so choose and invite me or have a Biblical issue that they know not how to handle.  I believe Paul demonstrates this in his mission work where he went to visit the churches (brethren) that he had organized into N.T. churches – to see how they fared.  At times he came upon problems within the church and he advised them (sometimes strongly) on how to deal with the problems.  He was not a member of these churches; he was not the pastor there (I do believe that these churches had pastors); however I also believe that due to the fact that these churches were new in the faith they submitted themselves to Paul’s teaching under the leadership of the H.S. 

I don’t see much difference now that we are some two thousand years later.

What I do see as a problem is – seeing a local church on the field which is struggling with some doctrine, them asking you for help and ignoring that.

 

I said all that to say this, the Nanabi Baptist Church was organized in my dad’s day, the first pastor was taught by him, he passed away, the second pastor I taught in the preachers seminar in PNG back in the eighties.  Later he resigned and they elected the current pastor whom I also had the honour to teach.  For several years as I have been going and coming he has been faithful to his LORD, the church whom he pastors, and to me.  However this time there was a change, he had fallen prey to the lies and empty promises of these three men and now he had taken a turn for the worse.  The church no longer wanted him as pastor and asked him to quietly resign and do whatever he wanted to do.  The problem, which developed in recent years, is that he (the pastor) turned into A (church chief) as though it were.  He decided to take the “authority” which the LORD gave to the church upon himself, and led many to believe that he had the power (authority) to receive members, and to exclude (twisting Mt. 18: 18) laying claim that God would honour (his decision and exclude someone from heaven) since he was the sole authority in the church.  Such is the teaching of Catholics and others who do not believe in the “local N.T. church”.

 

With multiple witnesses from aged men whom I had known for so long it was hard for me to believe that someone could in such short time almost destroy one of the LORD’S churches.  The folks did not know what to do and simply wanted me to come preach and advise them.  I prayed about the matter and told them that I would come.

 

The first service we held again with Gwali Baptist Church with Bro. Harry and this time the house was packed out and many folks sitting outside around the building to hear the Word of God preached.  I estimated that we had nearly two hundred people in attendance that morning.  The singing was such that if you didn’t believe in God you would have wanted to.  I preached and then we closed that service preparing to hike to the other church.  I made my way quickly to the other church, meeting several of the men first and they were still in agreement for me to preach so we had a service.  They afterward told me that they had not had a church service for five weeks as the pastor had locked the doors and taken the key with him.  They wanted to know if I would or could advise them what to do.  First of all, I pointed out to them, that no one, not any one member holds the power or authority in our kind of Baptist churches.  Should there become a “Diotrephes” then the church should follow scripture and deal with such.  If he was not willing to teach and practice what we believe as to the “Authority of the church” then he needed to resign and get out.  If he was not willing to resign, then I advised the church they should take church action and exclude by vote.  Exclusion should always be the last resort, and should only be followed when all else fails to rectify the problem. 

 

We were ready to dismiss when several of the men spoke out saying that they wanted to conduct their business meeting and asked if I would guide them.  I advised them they should wait for their pastor but they insisted to go ahead, I then advised them that they needed to vote for me to act in this capacity.  Each man began to publically confess different things which their pastor was engaged in and that they had been patient long enough, they had also stated that they had counseled with him, that they had asked him to stop such activities and he had refused.  They now felt that this was their opportunity to act as a church.  There was church vote to have him removed as pastor but retain his membership until they were satisfied they could trust him again.  The business was closed and after some time to fellowship after church services we walked back to our camp area.  Several of the men from the Nanabi Baptist Church came back over in the late afternoon to talk and discuss the next day’s plan to hike across the valley floor to the third church.

 

The afternoon wore on, and talks went up into the night as usual with the NG men.  I was tired after a long day and finally called it a night sometime around twenty-three hundred hrs.  The next morning came early, Bro. Bob Cowan and I shared the same tent, I didn’t get much sleep as he went to bed before I and by the time I got into the tent that night, he was flat out into snoring.

 

We packed up our packs and broke camp by seven hundred hrs and started the long hike across the valley floor for Araape Baptist Church where Bro. Arawi is pastor.  The hike is slow going as most of the way its through marsh/ swampy ground, which is circuited with streams.  To transverse through this valley requires good eyesight and proper footing, a note to any person (s) who are not familiar with this kind of terrain is simply to follow one of the Natives and where they walk you walk, where they put their foot steps that is exactly where you place yours.  It’s a good lesson in Biblical teachings regarding when Christ told his disciples to follow Him.

 

Everyone fell into line; I usually organize a mature man to lead the patrol, and a mature man in the middle and then usually another man with myself in the rear to bring up the patrol.  There are good reasons for the placement of the men.  Anyone who has spent time in the military operations knows that there is an order even in the procession of men hiking.  I usually put a strong carrier with a weaker man in order to balance out the loads and pace of how we hike.

 

It was not long until the fog and low-lying clouds gave way to the hot tropical sun even at seven thousand feet elevation.  The valley floor seemed to open up and swallow up our procession, and if it were not for the constant communications of the men one would think that they were lost in time and space.  Time has a way of standing still, but due to our way of thinking and teaching some of us were conscience of the timetable and kept an eye on the clock.  In the early afternoon the rains come quickly and without warning in this valley.  I also had to remind myself that there were others who had not grown up in this environment and I needed to be sensitive to this element.

 

As the hours ticked by, and as we navigated through the valley marsh, the seriousness of the heat and distance became all too real.  In time, we finally reached the other side of the valley where mountains rose to heights of ten thousand feet elevation and stood as testimonies to God’s wonderful creation.

 

No one survived with dry feet, al those who wore boots had not only wet feet but soaked boots as well, in many places the challenge was to try and (walk on the water) but our faith did not allow us to stay atop, even with the swamp grass as some type of plane.  Bro. Bob Cowan being the biggest and heaviest man gave a challenge to some of the Native men trying to pull him out of the mud.

 

We were greeted with a warm welcome and directed to the men’s house where they had a warm fire burning and sweet potato ready to eat.  We set up camp before the rains set in, had some water prepared for bathing, then we took our turns taking a (bucket / bush) bath.  Our boots were cleaned and put near the fire to start drying out.  I have learned over the years one item that you don’t cheat or go light on when packing for the bush is socks and boots.  Two pair of boots and dry feet is worth the sacrifice of some favorite food items when it comes to a weight factor.  Those who don’t know learn the hard way.  We had enough daylight to have a church service with those who had been waiting most of the day for our arrival.

 

We settled in for the evening and the men slowly congregated, in a house that you would think would only accommodate half a dozen men was soon filled with twenty men including us three.  As I became involved in the discussions with the men, the timetable we had available and the schedule before us the afternoon hours merged into the night and the talks continued.  Different ones seemed to take advantage of an opportunity to ask biblical questions.  One thing for sure and that is if you spend any time among the PNG Baptist people you will learn that they have a genuine interest in “Spiritual things”.  Not only do they ask questions for themselves but also many times they will ask a biblical question to find out what it is that you believe relative to the subject.

 

It was late again by the time I called it a day, and somewhere around midnight I called it a day and got a few hours of sleep before daybreak.  The next morning was busy, men all around were working, cutting firewood, splitting, some bringing in food, some who had been walking since night hours carrying their pigs for the (mum) which they were having to honour us as visitors.

 

Unlike other parts of the world where the local people have been spoiled by the “white-man” in feeling “sorry” for their conditions, these folks do not wait for something to “happen”.  The mumu’s are all prepared and organized by the men, they do all the work from preparing the food, to placement, to the cooking, removing of the food from the ground and the dividing of the portions.  As I have stated before, PNG is a “man’s world”.

 

Church services were scheduled and by the time the people started assembling, the building was too small to accommodate the people so we congregated outside.  There was a crowd somewhere around two hundred plus people.  The LORD gave me great liberty and we had a wonderful service.  Afterwards people who had come from far needed to start their long hike back to their homes before the rains.  They wanted a service that afternoon but this would not allow folks to reach home before dark.  We agreed to have a service in the morning before we were to depart for the next point.  The mumu (food cooked in the ground) was removed, and the pig with sweet potatoes was divided out.  The afternoon was quite pleasant and we enjoyed a relaxing time with the people.  The night again I spent in biblical discussions with the men and soon it was late and time to call it a day.

 

The next morning we were up early and started packing, we were to hike to another church which was located some twelve miles away through some challenging jungle, down into another valley.   We broke camp that morning around seven hundred hrs.  As we started hiking I knew from the pace that we were going, that we would run into problems with the distance and terrain, which we needed to cover if we were to reach our destination.  After three hours we reached the bush cover and started to ascend up the first mountain.  I was near the front with some of the other men and we discussed the issue of where we would have to overnight if we continued at this pace.  Two hours into the bush, I decided to halt the patrol and bring up the rest of the patrol.  I went back with a couple men to find out how far back Bro. Bob Cowan and the others who I had assigned to assist him were.  We met them some distance back and we continued to the point where I had the patrol halt.  At this point, I discussed with Bro. Cowan and Alex regarding the journey ahead of us and the current situation with our time, we had prayer over the matter and came to a decision where I would leave four men with Bro. Cowan; I would take Alex with me and the rest of the patrol of men, which came to eight.  The plan was, we would continue to the next church have services with them and return the next day to meet up with Bro. Cowan and the other men back across the valley where we first started out with Bro. Harry. 

We divided what food was needed and sorted out what each party needed.  I left Bro. Cowan some medicine, the tarp to make a tent cover for the men, as Bro. Cowan had his tent some food for them.  We had prayer again, and I headed off into the bush with Alex at my side.  It was not fifteen minutes and the rains fell, God opened up the heavens and it poured.  I don’t know how many of you have ever been in a tropical rain forest when it rains, but I can tell you this, there is no place to hide to stay dry, the raindrops seem to double in size when inside the canopy.

 

The rains continued as we hiked up the mountain, we came to a marsh as we crested the top and the rains continued.  After the second mountain the temperature dropped as we had climbed to around eleven thousand feet, the fog moved in and the clouds dropped, blocking even short distance visibility.  At this elevation with the weather conditions it’s not difficult to experience muscle cramps so I have learned over the years to carry salt to eat in order to replace the sodium, which is lost in hiking.  One does not realize but ones body becomes dehydrated quickly and the need for small drinks of water is vital.  As we descended the last mountain, at times the angle was almost straight down, trying to navigate through a maize of roots which grow above ground, and with the rains the mud was knee deep in places.  After hours of hiking and fatigue beginning to take over, it’s no longer important to try and stay out of the mud, it’s just important to stay vertical.

 

We came to a river at the bottom, washed up a bit and continued onward about two miles to the final destination Kewane Baptist Church.  This place has a special place in my life, as I was here five years ago, and they (the people) of this valley had been a mission point for some time with another church.  They had requested to be organized into a N.T. Baptist Church and I had the honour to do so at that time.  These folks though small in number, had, have remained faithful through these years to the Truth as we know it to be.  Though they are separated from the rest of even their people, by mountains and Jungle, they have remembered their covenant to God, and to each other.   They were excited to see us and welcomed us with open arms, we greeted and then started a fire to try and dry out.  All of us were soaked from the head down, even our change of clothes in the back packs were wet, my sleeping bag was wet along with my other pair of boots. 

 

After a few hours of being huddled around the fire, we began to dry out and our change of clothes with our sleeping bags being held out to dry also in time proved to be profitable.  That afternoon we had a church service and though there were few in number the fellowship was sweet.  We had been asked to stay the next day as they (the church) wanted to “officially” welcome us as they so generously do with their limited resources.  I could not find it in myself to say no to a group of God’s people who are tucked away in a small corner of the world, hidden from the rest of mankind in a valley unknown by most.  All the evening it rained, and into the night it rained, and the next day it rained.  We were shut in as though it were by God Himself, I preached in the morning as well as in mid-afternoon, in-between they had killed the fatted calf as though it were to see that we were well taken care of.  The night of the second day we prepared for the departure, the night was short and early morning hours we were up and packed.  As soon as daybreak arrived we said our good-byes and made our departure.  As we arrived at the same river we had crossed two days ago we filled up our water containers with fresh drinking water and started the long hike up a very steep mountain.  For the next three hours we managed to climb ten thousand feet, at some points the mountain gave way to sheer drops to one side, thousands of feet to a rocky bottom where a river ran, (the same river we drank from).  How often God has preached His Word to me without a human preacher, through His creation, the mountains, the rocks, the rivers, His divine protection through the jungles and bush.

 

We arrived at the top and took thirty min. to rest waiting for some of the others who were with Alex.  Once we all assembled, off we went again, this time down into the grasslands, (semi marsh) this continued for another three hours.  At times we ran in order to catch up on the timetable.  One mountain turned into another and by the end of the day we had hiked twenty-two miles in ten hours.  It was a hike that seemed just another day to these men who have grown up all their lives hiking these mountains, but to some it was an exhausting journey and one to be remembered. 

 

We were met at some point in the bush by two young lads bearing the message that Bro. Bob Cowan had been attacked by Bro. James Kai (the pastor of Nanabi Baptist Church (the same church where they had voted to remove his position as pastor).  Further to this message was that there were other men posted along the way to ambush us as well.  I knew all to well that a relative calm situation could erupt into a volatile moment with these people.  For any Christian not to believe this is possible has not visited PNG.

I counseled with the men who were in my party and advised them that we were not there on a war mission, nor were we there to cause problems or division.  We picked up the pace and by late afternoon we had arrived at Bro. Harry’s place where Bro. Bob was resting inside the “man’s house”.  We took a moment to collect ourselves and then I got a de-briefing from Bro. Bob as to what took place. 

 

The following is a simple assessment of what happened; from the day we parted in the bush where I left Bro. Bob and the four other men, they had made their way back to Bro. Harry’s place across the valley where we had first made our entry into the valley and held our first service.  When they were near the second church (Nanabi Bap. Ch) that is where Bro. James Kai physically assaulted Bro. Bob trying to steal his camera, with the struggle, Bro. Ekere’s son Hepe who was with us and since he had an understanding of English I had assigned him to Bro. Bob to escort him back.  Hepe was trying to protect Bro. Bob and in the struggle Bro. James Kai suffered a bleeding ear.  To cut a long story short, I organized a meeting with the elder men, chiefs and church people; this situation goes way beyond just church action.  The next day we stayed back in order for me to meet with the people and discuss this issue.  I sent Bro. Bob along with Alex and several of the men on ahead, and I stayed back for talks, after a couple hours we came to an agreement that legal charges would be dropped and a request was made by the church members for him (their former pastor, but still a member) to attend the up coming conference which would be held in just a few days time.  If he did not attend then the church would not consider his plea to be re-instated as pastor.  All this may sound foreign and unrealistic to the “Western world of thinking” however Tribal people in most countries have strong culture relations and customs which permeate the very fiber of their Christian life.

 

The meeting ended with him agreeing to attend the Conference, this was more of a way of acknowledging who was still in the fellowship, and who had broken off, the tribal ruling was that he had to pay compensation with a pig for the Tribal laws which he had broken.  I was soon on my way and was not long until I had caught up with Bro. Bob and Alex, due to his illness he (Bob) was not able to walk at a very steady pace.  I exchanged one of the Natives to assist Bob in climbing the mountain.  Bye and bye we managed to reach the top, we took thirty to rest and then started our way down.  Six hours later we were at the mission station.  It had been a long time (seemed like) since we had departed the Mission grounds some ten days ago.

 

It was good to be back in a house that was not full of fleas, and or filled with smoke.  It was also good to take a hot bath and sit in a chair; we enjoyed dinner on a table and praised God for the safety, care, and protection for the past days.  There is a closeness one feels to God when on the field, there is the sense of God’s Sovereignty in every step of the journey we walk in the bush.   Just a look around will remind one just how easy it would be to break a leg, or fall and injure your back or even die from the fall.  Thank God for His providential care for His people.  I can also tell you that Satan is never far away from trying to destroy any true work of the LORD.  Satan is never far from trying to stop, detain, maim, and or kill you (if he could).

 

I will continue this report in the next issue.

In His Name,

Missionary Peter A. Halliman

 

Report 1
Report 2
Report 3  (currently viewing)
Report 4
Report 5
Report 6
Report 7
Report 8



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