FIA in Papua New Guinea
“This we send to you… Listen well to our talk. Our talk is this: You must send a missionary quick and teach us about God’s talk. Do you want us to go to the place of fire or what? Many, many times we have asked. Please, you are a leader. Open your ear well and this very year you must send us someone to tell us God’s talk of the good place of heaven.” – James, a Papuan national from the jungles of Papua New Guinea
In a culture steeped in superstition, the truth about Jesus is often entangled with traditional tribal beliefs. Villagers understand and fear the spirit world, and when they hear that there is hope for salvation from the place of fire, they are desperate for it. Although villagers like James have heard bits about Christianity, they have not had the chance to have the full Gospel explained to them. Villagers request more missionaries through letters, clearing their own airstrips in hopes of attracting a missionary, and some tribes have pooled money in an attempt to “buy” someone to teach them God’s Talk!
PNG remains a country hungry for Jesus, yet there are not enough missionaries to meet the need. The hundreds of unique language groups and the physical challenges of serving in harsh and remote locations make learning the language and sharing the Gospel a marathon task. A task that cannot be accomplished on one’s own.
For more than two decades, FIA has practically supported mission partners throughout the remote northern and eastern regions of PNG. Brandon Buser of Ethnos360 recently shared the significance of FIA’s work supporting their ministry to the BIEM people living on the islands off the northern coast:
“I’ve had the privilege of serving here in PNG for 15 years now and it’s a rough place to minister. The array of skills and capabilities one needs is too much for any single person. Friends in Action has been an incredible asset to our specific church plant, and countless others throughout PNG. To have an organization able to lead in the practical areas of motor mechanics, airstrip building, lumber milling, construction, and so much more…is indispensable to the overall church planting effort. When we were stranded 80 miles from the mainland with a sunken boat, FIA worked to get our boat righted and running…We thank God for the critical role they
play in expanding His kingdom here.”
The skills of our PNG team revolve around mechanical support, wood-crafting, airstrip construction and maintenance, materials purchasing, and supply logistics. FIA’s ministry is about keeping missionaries connected, operational, and effective in a practical way so they can go further and stay longer to reach the least, the last, and the lost of PNG.
This past year’s COVID-19 pandemic has proved challenging but has not stopped FIA ministry work in PNG. Though field leaders Mike and Ruth Butler are in Canada, FIA’s national team (Danny, Dominic, Rob, and Esther) have continued faithfully meeting the needs of the missionary community.
A well-equipped mechanical shop means tools are available to diagnose and repair bush vehicles and equipment, boats and boat motors, and airstrip maintenance equipment. Many missionaries are gifted teachers and linguists, but struggle when it comes to the technical requirements of maintaining equipment. Mike (thanks to the wonders of email and virtual technology), Danny, and the team provide these services to keep the lights on, evangelical radio stations broadcasting, and translation equipment running.
Sawmill and woodshop projects keep Danny and the team occupied with smaller projects such as providing lumber for various missions and furnishings for missionary housing (such as kitchen cabinets, cupboards, and beds). These small essentials are great blessings for missionaries setting up their homes in remote locations and something that makes life a little bit easier and manageable.
Helping Remote Missionaries Stay Connected
A strong mission partner, Jesse Pryor and his family, (serving with Outreach International PNG-OIPNG), operate a school and medical clinic in a very remote location off of the Sepik River. This work among the ApMa people started almost 30 years ago by his parents, who translated the New Testament into the tribal language. Recent construction of a church/literacy center and subsequent classrooms have contributed to church growth through their mission work.
For Jesse to purchase construction supplies or family essentials, or even to have a reliable signal to contact family back in the States, requires a 12-hour trip by hike, boat, and vehicle over isolated bush roads. Often power outages and inadequate materials in town mean he will not have the materials he needs and can delay his return to his family.
FIA has helped make a difference for the Pryors and the OIPNG ministry. At the FIA mission compound, Jesse has access to a strong internet connection to complete his banking, order parts, connect
with distant family, and has an opportunity to take a breath at the “oasis” provided by the mission guest house. The FIA team secures hard-to-find materials such as gravel for construction, services broken equipment, and even “rescued” Jessie when stranded on the side of the road. As Jesse and his family head to the States on furlough, Danny will step up to run supplies for the OIPNG ministry (a 6-hour round-trip) to meet needs in their absence.
As FIA works alongside missionaries like the Busers and the Pryors, we are reminded of the unmet needs of other missionaries and other ways FIA could serve to advance Gospel work, if we had sufficient resources and personnel in place to do so. We are thankful for those of you who are praying and supporting our FIA team in PNG, as there is yet more work to be done.