I watched Ee-taow (a video documenting how the Mouk Tribe of Papua New Guinea responded to the gospel and were transformed by Jesus Christ) as a teen, and it spurred me to think about tribal missions. Before that, I was burdened for missions, but didn’t know where.2. What did you do to help prepare for the mission field?
This is one of my favorite stories. I took a five-year double-major at a well-known Christian college. One of those majors was missions. But I felt like we studied a lot of jargon in missions classes. The most practical thing we covered at college was how to write a prayer letter. But, about a month before leaving for the mission field, I had the privilege of sitting through a graduate-level module with Pastor Austin Gardner. He said things like “World Evangelism is possible in our lifetime,” and then he went on to teach us how. He challenged and changed the way I ended up doing missions. When I got to the field, the first thing I did was “find five guys” (And I don’t mean the restaurant).3. What are some things that still surprised you when you got to the field?
The heat. The humidity. The illnesses. The amount of time it took to just be alive.4. What are some of your most memorable “learning the language” moments?
I was trying to learn the tribal Kamea language, and I thought I had pieced together enough vocabulary words to make one of my first sentences: “I am a strong man.” When I said it, the men all started laughing (not a good sign for the language learner!), and they informed me that I had said “I am a pregnant woman.”
5. What are some cultural differences that you really enjoy in your country? What are some that have taken you longer to adjust to?
I love the way the people in my tribe value personal relationships. It makes it very easy to get to know someone. The thing I struggle with is also in regards to relationships. When I have an employee working for me, I expect him to do his job. But if I reprimand him for poor performance, they lose face and only do worse. The Melanesian culture tends to value saving face, skirting the issue, and letting the person know you care about them. The Western way is to bluntly say, “I’m sick of you coming to work late. One more occurrence, and I’m docking your pay.”
6. What is your favorite local food?
Someone once said, “Reject a food, you reject the culture. Reject the culture, and you reject the people.” That guy didn’t live in Papua New Guinea. Haha. Seriously, we get a lot of really nice vegetables in town. Here locally, we get bananas that are pretty good. And I like Marita. I don’t know how to describe it–it’s a sauce. To watch it made is disgusting with the men laboring for hours, sweating into it, and repeatedly licking their hands during preparation. You will have to Google it.7. What are some of the things you do to meet new people?
I fly an airplane. It draws people out of the woods. Seriously, though, because of my skin color, the village folks just come to our house to meet us and to tell stories. It’s not hard to meet new people around here!8. What would you like for us at home to know about the people you are working with?
I have such a good time laughing with my people. They are very open with each other about things that are deep in their hearts. Just this last week, I sat down with a man who had told me he was moving to the next valley. I put my arm around him and told him I didn’t want him to move away. I told him that it would be harder for me to get to him and since he isn’t saved, it’ll be harder to witness to him. He nodded his head in understanding and agreed not to move away. Try that in Alpharetta!9. How did those around you respond to your surrendering to be a missionary?
My parents were so supportive that they followed me four years later. My in-laws were not too enthusiastic, though.10. How did your kids deal with adjusting to the culture/new environment?
My girls were 3 and 1 when we arrived. My 1 year old kept stripping down naked to go run in the mud with the other little kids. This is their life. They are becoming more fluid between the US and PNG, and this is the reason we have scheduled six-month furloughs every two years.11. How did you meet your wife?
I was doing my flight training in Cincinnati and was staying at her uncle’s house. She would babysit her cousins during the day and when I came to the house in the afternoon, her aunt and uncle asked her to stay for dinner…many times. A month later, we were a hot item!12. What is the scariest moment you have had while on the mission field and how did God work in it?
Best, worst, -est questions are the hardest for me…When we first started the work up here among the Kamea, the Catholic bishop tried to stop us. He met me at an airstrip and demanded that I leave. When I didn’t, and instead (kindly, I might add) started to walk away from the airstrip, he incited a riot. There were about 200 Catholics and about five of us. I thought we were going to die. Several of our guys got beat up pretty badly. I felt terrible because they never hit me. Over time, though, we have worked to build a relationship with people that were in that rioting crowd, and some of them have gotten saved. The bishop went insane, and he later gave up his position.13. What are some of the most rewarding moments you have had so far?
Last week, Pastor James used me as a modern illustration of Abraham in his sermon. He talked about the number of people that have gotten saved and trained in the ministry because we obeyed and left our home country.14. What would you tell someone who wants to be a missionary and is considering your field?
Do a survey trip. Talk to your pastor about it. Get physically fit.15. How many churches have you helped start? How many men have you been able to train?
I’ve personally been involved in starting four churches. The men have done the rest. We have formally trained twelve men and six more will finish their training this time next year.16. Do you work with a team?
Yes. Very highly recommend it too.17. What are your future plans/projects for the ministry?
Currently, we are praying about this very question. I feel that my job here among the Kamea might be nearing completion. We talk about “working ourselves out of a job.” I think we are pretty close to that now. Kotidanga Baptist Church has stepped up to take over the Bible FM radio station project so I plan to train some men to run the radio station. And I want to see these current students graduate before I leave them. There are several other unreached tribes here in PNG. Maybe it’s time for me to start over.