As the crowd squeezed inside the two large tents each night, they watched with eyes glued to the screen as Jesus was brought to life in the Jesus Film, or as they watched the transformation of the people at The End of the Spear movie, or as MAF planes were bringing help, hope and healing to their people living in the mountains and swamps of PNG.
Excitement and joy filled the tents on the first day
The tents were humming with excitement as the MAF Worship Band took the stage to start the first evening with worship. Followed by Master of Ceremonies Godfrey Sim, who came from NZ to help with the event. His comical mime acts were filling the space in between the different items, which included short interviews with different MAF staff and families and a dance from the PNG Christian Fellowship drama group.
A video about how MAF helps the Kompiam Hospital patrols as well as an episode of The Chosen series were viewed on the two large screens, much to the delight of all present. Pastor Leslie Daniels from KBBN Radio gave a moving message and wrapped up the evening.
All the prayers and hard work leading and preparing for this 4-day outreach event came alive in front of our eyes. The afternoon activities for the kids were seeing over 500 kids already on the first afternoon. It was great to see so many of the local children enjoying face painting, a colouring competition, and lots of fun games.
Squeezed together and touched by a missionary boy’s story
As the crowd squeezed inside the two large tents Thursday night to avoid the drenching rain, they watched with eyes glued to the screen as Jesus was brought to life in the Jesus Film. From the singing to the wrap-up by Pastor Les, all was a bit difficult to hear over the pounding of the rain on the tents above, and yet, in a way, it caused them to lean in more than they might have otherwise.
What happy hearts we had as we walked to the field Friday evening in the sun and watched an episode of The Chosen, along with a guest band from the Baptist church here in town, which had everyone dancing with praise.
Godfrey, the MC, held their attention with a story of a missionary boy growing up in the Sepik, learning the ways of the bush children he played with every day. Oh, their delight when he revealed that he, Godfrey, was that boy. When he announced his wife had just arrived from New Zealand, hundreds of children stood to their feet and waved their greetings to her as she sat by the sound booth.
At the beginning of the evening vent, a young man grabbed the cell phone of one of our missionaries and ran out of the tent. Several people saw it happen and ran after him to get it back. They caught him and returned the phone, but in the “highlands way,” they then began beating him up. The husband got up on stage and thanked them for returning the phone and begged them not to harm him anymore, explaining that Jesus taught us a better way - to forgive. It was very moving, and we pray they took it to heart!
More fun for the kids
Pastor Les had a powerful message bringing the children along with him as he spoke, grabbing their attention with stories and application to the scripture!
During the kids’ program, we had gotten some large orange cones and caution tape and made long rows for the kids to stand in line to get the balloons and also for face painting – this kept so many from crowding around and kept some order – allowing more kids to get balloons and their faces painted.
We used templates with the MAF logo and also a couple of airplanes and just painted them with white paint to show up well on their dark skin. The favorite “tattoo” most of the kids had chosen was the MAF logo on their face, arm, or hand by the end of the afternoon!
The final night
Our final night was Saturday, and we saved the movie End of the Spear for that night. All eyes were glued to the screen, often as tears ran down their cheeks, gripped by the story, simultaneously translated into Tok Pisin by Godfrey. The people seemed to connect with the tribal fighting and killing and were deeply moved as the story unfolded and this tribe changed their ways as they recognised that their former ways of fighting also brought death and fear to them and their families. And, as they learned about Jesus and forgiveness and helped each other, the whole group could enjoy life more fully! This resonated with those watching who often have long-running fights between tribes, especially here in the city where they are all living in close proximity.
Their understanding of who MAF is and why so many from around the world would come to their country was furthered, as they recognized the people in the video were from the same organisation - with the same mission and vision.
Personal encounter on the way home
As I walked home carrying some stools we had used for various things, I asked some young men for help to cross the ditch that separated the field where the tents were from the road. They not only took the stools and helped me across, but said they would carry them to my house for me. They excitedly said that next year, when we have the event again, they are going to invite more people and it would be bigger and better! They were so thankful for MAF for coming to PNG and for the Outreach Event. My heart and face were smiling as I listened to them and got their names and interacted with them on the short walk home.
See(k)ing the Lord's works – beyond the event
Fast forward a couple of weeks and as Todd and I walked across the road from having Sunday lunch with one of our families, we noticed an agitated crowd gathering at the corner across from our compounds. This is typically not a good sign, and we asked the guards if they knew what was going on. Ramson, a relief guard at our compound, said that some young men from one settlement across from us had been in a fight the night before at the bar down the street and were planning to fight the men from the other settlement. But that the elders from their settlement had come and were trying to convince the young men that fighting was not the way to settle this.
We prayed that the elders would have the words to say and that the hearts of the young men would be open to listen and follow their instructions. As we crawled into bed later that night - we realized that there hadn't been a fight! We were overjoyed and praised God for this small victory. And couldn't help but think that perhaps the movie had impacted hearts more profoundly than we had expected.
We are in the midst of elections. Some of our team members have already left the country for early home assignments. More are preparing to leave in the next few days. We have encouraged this for those due to return to their passport countries for home assignment, just because of the unrest that typically comes to this area around elections. However, the streets have been eerily quiet the last few nights. We are very thankful for this, and for the extra military patrols on the streets, making sure that things remain peaceful.
Your prayers are appreciated over the next couple of months as elections are prepared for, held, counted, contested, etc... May we be a light shining the love of Jesus in the midst of it all. May we have the ability to continue to serve the isolated peoples? Just today Todd was able to negotiate with a group of peaceful protesters that have shut down the airport to the commercial operators but allowed MAF and one other small aircraft/helicopter operator to continue operations today. Please pray for wisdom for our leaders and for peace for those families who have opted to stay here through it all to continue to serve and show the love of Christ.