How has God called you into ministry?

We believe that God has called all Christians into ministry, however, we understand that some follow that call vocationally. With that understanding, we look to Matthew 28:19-20 as our definitive "call." Yes, we have had experiences, where we believe only God could have been the answer, but we don't look to our experiences exclusively as our guide for whether or not we should be heading to the mission field.

Which tribe are you going to?

As we deliberated over the many countries that Ethnos360 (New Tribes Mission) has a presence in, we landed on Papua New Guinea for the following reasons: (1) Tribes in this country have asked for missionaries. There have been times where open countries suddenly closed off access to missionaries, and PNG is not exempt from that possibility. So, we see wisdom in going where the door is open, while it is still open. (2) There is still a large concentration of unreached people groups there. PNG is the most language-dense country in the world. Even with close to 75% of its languages translated, it still has about 200 unknown languages left! (3) PNG is known for their excellent coffee. You never know - maybe God will use my (Nate) experience with coffee in some way during our ministry.

We don't know which tribe we're going to yet. We've been advised to wait until we get more exposure to the country and the needs before we try to figure that out. So, during our first year or so of being in Papua New Guinea, we will form a team, and then our team along with field leadership will agree on which people group we want to work with. We'll take a survey trip to make contact with that people group, request permission to settle among them, and we'll travel to its various tribes to determine a strategic location to settle. By strategic, we mean central, and this is in order for God's Word to have the highest impact, from when we start teaching to the days when the indigenous church is sending their own believers to the surrounding tribes of their people group.

Tell us about your long-term plan.

Laura and I took time to work through each step of our plan from where we started to when we work ourselves out of an established tribal church. Our long-term plan can be read in our Mission Strategy or our Mission Strategy Summary.

Tribes are asking for missionaries?

Yes, they are, and some have been asking for decades! So, then, the questions that follow are:

  1. How is this possible if no one knows their language?
  2. How are they asking if they're cut off from civilization?
  3. How would they know about missionaries, and what would motivate them to ask?

(1) Even though no one has learned the language of an unreached people group, it is common in Papua New Guinea for the unreached people groups to have a few people who understand the trade language. Those few are the ones who will write letters asking for missionaries. However, the trade language, Pidgin, was originally formed out of a need for Westerners to communicate with the nationals. Therefore, Pidgin is very good for trading, but it is not sufficient for communicating God's Word to those few from the unreached people groups who have a very basic knowledge of it.

(2) Although Papua New Guinea's people groups are generally cut off from civilization, those who know the trade language have a unique opportunity, if they will trek into civilization to try to barter and trade for things that might benefit their people. While those individuals are in towns, they will send letters on behalf of their people group to mission organizations, namely New Tribes Mission.

(3) Papua New Guinea's people groups live in isolation due to the challenges of traveling through the country's very intense terrain. Still, though, neighboring people groups will make treks for celebrations and big events. It's in those treks, that neighboring people groups find out about missionaries and the improvements in the quality of their lives. For example: When missionaries first settle, they often bring power tools to build their homes, which the people then get to learn how to use; Missionaries also bring basic medical supplies and teach literacy; When a church is planted, God's Word transforms lives, so then husbands start to love their wives, parents start to love their kids, and kids are trained to be obedient to their parents. All of these changes are very attractive to people groups who don't have them. So, they ask for missionaries, but not because they love God. Rather, they want their day-to-day lives to be improved.

How much support will you need?

Our organization has requested that we not post that information publicly. Feel free to reach out to us personally, and we can give you access to our Churches page.

What will Laura's ministry be?

We have both prepared to do the same thing. In other words, we both took the same 2.5 years of training, and we will be working alongside each other when we get to the field. When we get to a tribe, the only difference is that Laura will not teach God's Word to men. She will, however, teach women and, hopefully, teach literacy to both men and women. We will both be learning language and potentially be the ones to translate the bible into their language. Laura's training surpassed mine, in that she has earned a certificate in linguistics.

How long will you be going for?

The full answer to this question is necessarily long-winded. Simply, this is at least a 15-year endeavor, but about 20+ years is more likely.

Inherent to any ministry is time, in the long sense of the word, and relationships. There are no shortcuts for building deep, sincere friendships, which are a prerequisite to ministry here or across the globe. When language and cultural differences become a barrier, this ministry takes even longer as those two must be learned fluently, if the friendships are to be meaningful.

With that said, it must be understood that indigenous church-planting, inherently, takes many years longer than a typical church plant. Laura and I just finished our training (2 years). Once we develop partnerships with churches to the point of financial stability (1-5 years), we then will head overseas to the country of the people group we will end up with. However, we won't know, necessarily, the people group we will end up with before we arrive to the country, so the first year is spent learning the national language and culture, to the point of fluency (1 year). Meanwhile, we'll be learning of the need among the existing unreached people groups, and we'll be visiting some of them to find where we think God wants us. Of course, trying to find the "right" tribe is sort of a nebulous concept: "The worst thing that could happen, is that the wrong people get saved." Once we're in the tribe, indigenous culture and language acquisition begins (3-5 years). Once we're fluent in the language and culture of the people group, we'll begin teaching them literacy (1~ year). After literacy begins teaching, starting with the Creation story, to the flood, to the patriarchs, the kings, the prophets, and ultimately to the life of Christ (1~ year). Once the gospel is presented and a new church is born, discipleship will start and continue on until the people are teaching and discipling themselves (5-10 years). All the while, we'll have been working on translation of the bible into their language, which will continue even after we pull out from the people.

If this long-road approach seems ridiculous to you, and showing the Jesus Film seems like a better approach, please consider the countless instances of syncretism that have occurred as a result of drive-by missions: where, without fluency, missionaries presented the gospel to a people who already believed in many gods, and the people rationally (by their terms) added a name, "Jesus," to their mythology. Years later, we're seeing supposed churches, where the name Jesus is praised on Sunday morning, and on Sunday afternoon, and the rest of the week, the people return to their shamans and witch-doctors for their spiritual help and guidance.

The long road is the only road. It is a part of Western culture to believe that if something is slow, there must be a way to speed it up, since, of course, speed always equals efficiency (sarcasm). "When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months" (A.H. Strong). We're convicted that it is God's plan for this ministry to take a considerable chunk of our lives. We hope you will be convicted of the same.