Back N Bias

Posted: March 1, 2015 in Mission Updates, Uncategorized

It had been 8 months since we had prepared for a trip to the village. Thankfully this was a short trip and had a fairly focused set of goals.

First, we just wanted to reconnect with people in Bias.

Second, we needed to check on the house.

Third, we wanted to craft a series of 6 stories from the life of Joseph.

Kelli quickly got back into the groove of cooking and getting household supplies ready. She canned chicken and beef and vegetables, made up pancake and bread mixes, and boxed up fruits and other foods. A twelve-day menu all planned out, prepared and packed up.

I got all the materials (recordings, pictures, etc.) and equipment we needed for story crafting ready. Kelli even drew all the storyboard pictures in her ‘spare time’!

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Finally, we stuck the boys and stuff in a plane and left the city and concrete behind!

After all the hugs and greetings on the airstrip, we got to the house. Eight months of sitting unoccupied in the jungle had taken its toll, but thankfully the house was in relatively good condition.

Kelli got busy cleaning and unpacking, and I got busy repairing the necessities.

Day 1 included putting up some fallen guttering for our water tank, crawling under the house to reconnect the pipe for the toilet (apparently a hog had gotten under the house and knocked it down), cleaning out all the water tank screens, reconnecting the solar panels, and getting the beds set up again. (I can’t even begin to detail all of Kelli’s tasks that first day. She looked like the Tasmanian Devil – dashing here and there cleaning and setting up house!)

The first couple of days were primarily consumed with getting the house in order, Unfortunately, there were some damages that couldn’t be immediately repaired. For instance one of our solar panels was fried. (Major loss!!!) Also, I had put a type of plastic screen in all the windows. To my great disappointment, the sun had completely dried the screen up till it became brittle, and the hard rains caused a large portion of the screens to simply crumble. (Another major loss!)


The fried solar panel circuitry.


Sunday, I preached using a story from Revelation 7 that the people had not yet heard. It was fantastic worshiping the Lord and sharing His word with our friends in Bias again.

Monday, however, began the real excitement!

Monday, we began meeting with a group of about 10 people to craft stories from the life of Joseph. Up until this time, we have always crafted the Bible stories as a small team – just me, Sion, Jeri and Alex. This was a very different approach in using a larger group of people to help in the learning and translation process.

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Everyday we spent about 4 hours learning a part of Joseph’s story in Indonesian by listening to a recorded passage repeatedly, discussing the terminology and concepts that were unfamiliar to them (e.g. sheep, kings, grapes, etc.), considering how to simplify the story without deviating from its essence, then working phrase-by-phrase in translating it into Yetfa.


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After we had the basic story worked out, the group spent about 2 more hours going over and over and over the story, polishing up the language and getting it fixed in their heads. Then we started recording them telling the story. Everybody wanted a chance to be recorded telling the story – usually 2 or 3 times!

Finally, when everybody was satisfied with the recording part, we would sit down and have a devotional time of discussing the story. What did we learn about God in this story? What did we learn about the people in the story? What impact should this have on our lives?

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Then when we finally dismissed, Sion would type the story up and store it in the computer. Then we’d get the materials ready for the next day’s story.

We went through this process everyday for 6 days straight.

For me, the week was such a mixture of mental exhaustion (working in Indonesian & Yetfa all day long) and spiritual exhilaration. It was priceless to sit back and watch portions of the living word of God being born in this language for the very first time ever. Every day the group was growing in excitement about the stories and the process.

When Saturday rolled around, I was inclined to take a break and finish the last story at another time. However, the group wouldn’t even entertain the thought! “No! We have to finish this!”

When Sunday morning came, the church was packed! Jeri told me how the group had been talking about the stories and the process to everybody in the village. One man named Matias, who was formerly a shaman, stood up and gave a long testimony about his experience in the group and the importance of having God’s word in their language.

In just 6 days, we saw a renewed interest and impact on the community in general. The group participants were clearly captivated by their involvement, and Jeri and Sion also seemed completely reenergized through the group crafting.

It was an amazing return to the village. I imagine all of the remaining 16 stories will be crafted in a group setting. The potential for wider discipleship and community involvement (not to mention the benefit of additional input concerning language issues) is simply invaluable.

I’m just overwhelmed at the fact that we have only been back on the field for less than 2 months, and yet so much has happened and so much progress has been made. Tomorrow we start the final recording of our initial set of 25 stories. Once that is finished we will move towards a widespread distribution of the solar powered MP3 players, as well as training for Story Fellowship Group leaders from various villages.

What an unbelievable opportunity to watch as God reveals himself to the Yetfa people through his word in their own language!

Presenting a soccer ball given by Seth Penny from Mt Zion BC in Malvern, AR.

Presenting a soccer ball given by Seth Penny from Mt Zion BC in Malvern, AR.

These 2 guitars were paid for by offerings from __

These 2 guitars were paid for by offerings from 4th/5th/6th grade SS class at Mercer BC in Pennsylvania!

Marten (Sion's brother) was one of a handful of guys who vowed not to shave till we returned from furlough.

Marten (Sion’s brother) was one of a handful of guys who vowed not to shave till we returned from furlough.

He asked if I would shave him, so we started with a trim.

He asked if I would shave him, so we started with a trim.

Finally, the furlough growth was gone and his wife was thankful! :)

Finally, the furlough growth was gone and his wife was thankful! :)

Class time for the boys!

Class time for the boys!

Every evening some of the kids come to the house and play soccer or color.

Every evening some of the kids come to the house and play soccer or color.

Bags packed and ready to head back to town.

Bags packed and ready to head back to town.

Waiting on the plane to pick us up...

Waiting on the plane to pick us up…


Hit The Ground Dragging

Posted: February 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

After 49 hrs in airports and airplanes, we landed in Sentani on Sat, Jan 10. Monday the 12thwe started another 3-week OneStory workshop.

Although I was dragging (and even a bit sick) for the first week-or-so, it was sweet to be back together with Sion and Jeri working on stories from God’s Word!


Our primary task for the workshop was to complete the final review of the 25 Yetfa Bible stories. It was a long tedious process of us (and then 2 consultants) going over the entire set and all the documentation with a fine-tooth comb.

We also had 3 other Yetfa speakers come in and listen to all 25 stories multiple times, answer questions, and give feedback on anything that was unclear.


We made a handful of minor revisions and, in the end, came out with a set of Bible stories that tell the panorama of God’s salvation from Genesis to Revelation targeted for the Yetfa people and culture.

It was a major milestone!


However, even as the consultants were giving the final check over those stories, the translation team selected and began working on an additional set of 25 stories!

Jeri and Sion, although excited to have a solid set of Bible stories for the Yetfa people, felt like we really needed to continue working on oral stories – something I completely agree with.

As a whole, the Yetfa people are still primarily preliterate. There is still no literature of any type in their language, and only a very small percentage is literate in Indonesian.

So, while the team is eager to begin a written translation of the Bible, we understand that the best strategy for reaching the Yetfa people is an oral approach.

By the end of the workshop, we finished the final review, got preliminary approval on the first of the additional 25 Bible stories, tested a second story, and crafted a brand new one!


In a few days, we are heading to Bias. While there, we plan to craft a series of 6 new Bible stories from the life of Joseph.

Pressing on…



It’s been 30 weeks since we waved goodbye to our friends and home in Papua. Since that time we’ve…

Driven 21,174 miles

Given 44 ministry presentations

Preached 56 sermons

Attended 4 missions conferences/revivals

Participated in 3 church camps & retreats

Been in 13 states

Visited 37 churches

Finished translating 7 new Bible stories

We’ve seen people applaud and weep in response to God’s work among the Yetfa. Parts of furlough have been busy and demanding, but overshadowing the demands of furlough have been times of refreshment. We’ve spent time with family, reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones.

While reporting and ministering to churches, we’ve also had healthy doses of recreation. We’ve…

Ridden rollercoasters

Watched knights jousting

Swam at 2 beaches

Been to 4 state parks

Explored 2 Cave systems

Enjoyed Tubing, Horseback Riding, Hunting, Fishing, Hiking, Skeet Shooting, Shopping, Bounce Houses, Mining for gems/fossils, Crabbing

Visited the Space Center, Lego Land, 2 Zoos

And much more!

Now it’s approaching time to return.  Lord willing, 4 days from today we will be on a plane drinking from little plastic cups and trying to cope with mixed emotions – excited to get back to the most incredible task we can imagine but sad to leave people we love. It’s inevitable. As missionaries, there’s no way around heart wrenching thrill of ‘going’.

The most frequent question we hear these days is “Are you ready to go?”

My answer is always, “I’m ready to go, just not ready to leave.”

Glordinary Days

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have a dilemma…

We just wrapped up another OneStory workshop, and I am so excited about where we are in this project, how far Sion and Jeri have come, and how the overall work here is progressing!

My dilemma?

When I sit down to blog about the workshop, it sounds… uninteresting. Ordinary.

Now, not to me! I know that getting another ‘key term’ tested and entered into OneStory Editor… getting the answers to our testings of Paul’s Conversion Story back-translated… correcting the recording of the story of Paul’s trip to Thessalonica may not sound exciting, but each little step… each movement forward is ushering in the Kingdom of God among the Yetfa people.

Nonetheless, when I was getting ready to write it up, I thought, “Well… this blog won’t get as many ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ or ‘comments’.” (I don’t even have any pictures!)

Then it struck me how ironic it is.

These are glordinary days – when glory is mixed with the ordinary! So much so that the two cannot be separated. They are uninterestingly phenomenal! They are as wonderfully boring as watching a plant grow… “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4: 28)

So what’s been going on lately?

Nothing special – just some typing, testing and the breath of the Almighty being expressed in the Yetfa language.

Time to Cut the Cord!

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


We flew into Bias on Tuesday, planning to begin training Story Fellowship Group leaders on Thursday.

While we were setting up the house, Kris – a fantastic, young man who has helped us many times with testing the Bible stories – came and told us that his wife had given birth to their first child the night before! The birth went well, however, she had not yet delivered the placenta. Could we come help?

Now… in all my Bible and lingustic classes, never once did we have a unit on childbirth. I know something about being born AGAIN, but I’m considerably less experienced helping with that first birth.

Nonetheless, we (i.e. Kelli and I) said we would come. NO WAY was I going by myself on this one!

We quickly grabbed our well-worn copy of ‘The Village Medical Manual’ and started reading like we were cramming for an exam. Armed with a page-and-a-half of new expertise, we headed to Kris’s house.


When we arrived, there was momma Rashel and 18 hr old Linda Naksa Anni! She was so tiny…


We quickly learned that, although other wet nurses had nursed baby Linda, Rashel had not yet nursed her – which, thanks to my new-found knowledge, I knew was important to the delivery of the placenta. (Kelli acted as though that was common knowledge!)

After thoroughly demonstrating that we really didn’t know much about what needed to be done (all 3 of our boys were C-section), Kris simply asked if I would just cut the cord.

At first, I declined on the basis of my complete lack of experience, but then I remembered a past conversation with a couple of our Yetfa friends.

“Who cut your cord?” is an important part of a Yetfa person’s personal history. It’s dinner-time conversation. Then it dawned on me… Kris was not asking me to perform a medical procedure but to become a significant person in his daughter’s life.

“Kris, I would be honored to cut the cord, but you’re gonna have to go get a momma who can show me what to do.”

A few minutes later Kris’s mom and sister came in. They bit off a couple pieces of yarn. Tied off two places on the cord. Momma smiled and pointed in the middle. Then ‘snip’!


We prayed for Baby Linda and their family and headed home. I couldn’t help think how I almost missed a great opportunity by “thinking like a Westerner”.

For me, it doesn’t matter WHO cuts my child’s umbilical cord. What is important is that they know what they are doing.

For them, what is important is WHO cuts their child’s umbilical cord. You don’t have to be a genius to sever a cord. Take a sharp object. Apply pressure. Done!


Well, that got the week off to a great start.

Our main goal for the week was to train a few people on how to lead oral Bible studies using the Yetfa OneStory Bible stories. Because this was our first time to do this training and because we were limited on time, we started with 3 men.

The first two days, the team and I demonstrated what a story fellowship group (SFG) is and how to lead it. The first half of each session was conducting an actual SFG. Then we taught the principles and procedures during the second half.

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During the final 2 days, the participants led the SFG – memorizing their story, telling it, teaching it, and leading a discussion about it.

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After hearing the story several times and after all the participants have had a chance to retell it, we always ask 3 questions:

In this story, what is God like?

In this story, what are the people like?

After hearing this story, what should we do?

After 4 days of sitting with these men and hearing their responses, I just sat there in stunned-joy thinking, “I love this!”.

A while back, I wrote a short post about Pekiam. He was one of the participants in this training. On the last day Pekiam said, “If we would do this, our faith would be strong! Right now our faith is not strong.” He talked about how understanding God’s Word and having a chance to discuss it, in just a few days, had strengthened him.


Up until very recently, the Yetfa people had gotten all their spiritual nourishment via the umbilical cord of a foreign language and from outsiders, but now they are beginning to feed on the pure milk of the Word in their own language, and they are learning to discover truth on their own.

What an honor to serve and help them in this transition!

(Even I had my ‘cord cut’ as I preached my first full sermon in Yetfa!)


Here are a few other random pics from this trip in:


We treated several cases of malaria during the week!


    Our boys literally climb, swing and hang from the rafters!



Okay… mom & dad do, too! (Kel’s photo wouldn’t upload…)






A heated game of Lightning McQueen checkers!


For most of you, this moon was on its way to being a ‘blood moon’!


Watching Corin play with his view finder!


Okay… my turn!


God Was Talking About Us!

Posted: April 1, 2014 in Mission Updates

On November 18, 2012, I got an email from Dr. Mark Albey. This is how it started:

Chase,  Mark Albey here.  Just wanted to touch base and see what your thoughts were on a small scale medical mission trip possibly next year.  I have a few people in mind that are interested…

Many, MANY emails later… on March 15, 2014, Jonathon Smith and I met up with Dr. Albey, Lawson Albey, Gary Weidenbach, and Bill and Missy McAdoo in the Hong Kong airport. I was on the way back from 2 weeks in the States speaking at Pulse & the World Missions Seminar.

The ‘small scale mission trip’ was to involve visiting 3 Yetfa villages – 2 by plane and 1 by canoe. We planned to put on a clinic during the day and have services in the evenings using the set of Yetfa Bible stories that we recently finished.

We landed in Papua on Tuesday and hit the ground running. We had to repack all the medicines and get them weighed in at Yajasi. Kelli, Jill Smith and Holly Couch had gotten all the other supplies ready. Kel had them divided by village and already at the hangar.

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The next day we flew into the village of Terfones. I had not been to Terfones in 4 years and was unsure what to expect. (Kel and the boys had never been there.) This is what I wrote after my first visit to Terfones 4 years ago:

“…besides these challenges, there was clearly a sense of spiritual darkness in Terfones. It’s hard to describe the weight I felt from the time we arrived till the time we left.”

This time in, however, was completely different.

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We quickly set up camp at an empty clinic building. We set up tents to sleep in. Kel got her kitchen area set up. The team arranged two treatment stations – a wound care and a general sickness station.

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After a quick bath in a small stream, we were ready for services. It got dark quickly, but it seemed like everyone in the village squeezed onto the porch around the clinic. We played recordings of the first 5 Yetfa Bible stories – from Creation through the Fall. Then I told and taught the story of God’s covenant with Abraham.

Whether it was the novelty of hearing an outsider speaking their language or marveling at hearing God’s Word in their own language, the whole crowd was thoroughly engaged. I retold the story several times and we conducted an impromptu drama, allowing one of the guys from the crowd to retell the story.

Then we had a time of discussion. After telling the stories, we always ask 3 questions: (1) What do we learn about God from this story? (2) What do we learn about the people in the story? (3) After hearing this story, what do I need to do?

This was the part I was most unsure about because interaction is not a part of typical services, and in fact, it took a little bit to get the discussion going. Once it got going, however, I was amazed. People were making great observations and applications from the story! They stayed on topic and continually referred back to some part of the story. Even the women had some input!

It was a God moment.

The next day we got the clinic rolling fairly early. It was a busy day! I was so impressed by the team’s ministry. Space won’t allow me to tell everything, so I’ll let the pictures tell this part…

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When there was no one else to treat, we began to pack up and get ready to move to Bias the next day.

That evening we had services again. This time we played the stories through to the Day of Pentecost. Sion told and taught the story of Jesus healing a blind man from John 9, and the crowd was totally engaged!

It was such a thrill to see Sion thriving in ministry. He did a great job!

As everyone was going home, one man came and asked me, “Where are you going after this?” I explained that we planned to go to Bias and then Kumiolen.

He said, “What about Dules?!” I explained that we had originally planned to go to Dules, but their airstrip was closed.

Then he said, “But I have family in Dules and they need to hear this! When can you go there? I will go with you.”

The next day was a long hurry-up-and-wait day, but eventually we made it to Bias.

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Our time in Bias went much the same, so again I’ll let the pictures tell the story…

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One of the best things about this team is that 2 of them – Bill and Jonathon – had been part of the building team in 2012. At that time, when they left, our house looked like this…


This time they got to stay in the house they helped build!


Also, Jonathon got to preach again on Sunday. In fact, he picked up in the same book and chapter where he left off last time, preaching that our identity was “in the Lord”. (I think, however, that he was preaching a bit to the team, since 9 of the 11 were avid and vocal Razorback fans.)


After services, the team loaded up in a canoe with supplies in another and we began an experience of a lifetime!


We were on our way to Kumiolen!

In the last 4 years, we have met lots of people from Kumiolen because they often come to Bias, but we had never been there. In fact, no white people had ever been there.

The canoe ride was simply indescribable! The beauty of the rainforest, untouched (or even seen) by the outside world, was stunning. At one point, Lawson leaned up and asked, “At what point does the I-feel-like-I’m-in-a-movie feeling go away?” And I responded, “I’ll let you know.”

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It was one of the great privileges of my life to take that trip down the Bias River. At one point I said to myself, “Our boys may not get to eat Chick-fil-a very often, but they get to do some pretty cool stuff.”

After about 4 hours, we pulled over and waited on the other canoe, which had been having motor problems.

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Finally, after a little over 5 hours, we came around the bend and saw people lining the southern bank of the river.


The people of Kumiolen welcomed us with song and dance, then paraded us down a path and into the village. After some greetings and hugs, we got settled in. It was too late and we were too exhausted to have services, though.

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The next morning we got the clinic rolling. This time we were in the church building.

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Again, it was a joy to watch the team minister God’s care to the people!

When all the people had been treated, we went back to the place we were staying – part of us in the pastor’s house and the rest in the school house.

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A little later we went to check on someone we had heard had a bad cut on the leg and couldn’t make it to the clinic. Turned out to be a little boy. We had his dad carry him down for stitches. He held the boy in his lap while Doc started the sutures.

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Everything was going pretty well, until I heard Missy say, “Is the dad ok?” I looked up just in time to see dad go limp. Then suddenly he went as stiff as a board! A couple snatched the boy out of his arms and I grabbed the dad and pulled him out of the way. He was out!

Doc finished up the stitches while I tended to the dad and the crowd who were very concerned. Dad was out a solid 10 minutes. Finally, he woke up about the time Doc was finishing with the boy. Honestly, I was concerned what his reaction was going to be when he came around. Almost comically he said, “Man, I always do that when I see blood.” Thank you, Lord!

Now it was time for services.

We had originally planned to have services in Kumiolen first, then go down river a bit to another village. Thankfully, however, the people from that village had already come up.

That was going to be our last night in Kumiolen, so we played all the stories from beginning to end. We stopped, however, when we got to the Abraham story, which I told and taught. We went through the same questions with even better discussion. The people in Kumiolen were so excited about the Abraham story. One man said, “God was talking about us when he made that promise to Abraham!”


The whole time the stories were playing, there were quiet shouts of ‘yai’. At almost every sentence, someone would make a hushed response.

It was dark, so no one could see the joy tears rolling down my cheeks.

We know what God’s Word does when people hear it in their own language, but it’s so rewarding to see something you have worked so hard on received with such joy. And that goes for Jeri and Sion as well. They were so joyful seeing their hard work paying off!

Needless to say, our time in Kumiolen was spectacular.

The next morning, we loaded in the canoes again and started back towards Bias. On the way, all eyes were scanning, looking for something I had glimpsed on the way down. Back up in one of the tributaries, just around a bend, I had glimpsed what looked like a huge waterfall, but no one else had time to turn and see it.

Well, on the way back, everyone got a chance to see it!

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These are the first photos ever taken of “Anniversary Falls”! (We named it that because Bill and Missy McAdoo celebrated their 41st anniversary IN KUMIOLEN!!!)


It was a beautiful exclamation point to an amazing adventure.

Had I known what God had in store for this trip when I received that first email back in November of 2012, I would have lost a lot of sleep in excited anticipation.

We leave for furlough in less than 2 months, and we had been looking at this as a kind of culmination to this term. And what a culmination it was!

As is usual though, what you’ve just read is only the tip of the iceberg. It gives just a passing glimpse of all that God did, and I haven’t said anything about the months of preparation, hundreds of prayer warriors, thousands of dollars given for travel, medicines, and other supplies. Nor have I said much about the person who, every person on the team would agree, worked the hardest and was the key to making the ministry a great success…


She is unmatched among missionaries!

WARNING: Some of the pictures below show people in traditional Yetfa dress and may not be appropriate for all ages.

As soon as the plane’s engine stopped, it was surrounded with war shouts and chants, bows and arrows, head dresses and painted bodies. When we opened the doors, two guys were standing there in full traditional Yetfa dress with their arms interlocked and others were shouting for me to sit down in their arms. Then they began to dance and shout and carry me towards the house. Kelli and the boys were behind being paraded and showered in flowers. The procession went along a narrow path lined with a long draping fringe of palm leaves that were decorated with flowers. When we got to the house the whole village was singing and dancing. They finally set me down on the front porch (having not let my feet touch the ground).

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That’s how the celebration began and it only got better!

Not too far behind us Pak Abi – the Indonesian missionary primarily responsible for bringing the gospel to the Yetfa people – and crew arrived. They had the same reception, but with many more tears. Grown men, old men… men who prior to the gospel coming (and even after) shot and killed others for any opposition… were crying uncontrollably and embracing Pak Abi.

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Not to be left out, Kel and the boys joined in the dancing – war paint and all!

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We were then left alone to get things in order around the house, but that evening a group of men came over to discuss the plans for the weekend. Before we left last time, I had sat down with a few of the leaders and discussed what we might do throughout the celebration. Then, after we came back to Sentani, they formed a committee and really went to town on the planning.

Friday was a focus on traditional Yetfa culture prior to the gospel coming.

Saturday was about when the gospel first came.

Sunday was about the present, particularly focusing on the emergence of God’s Word in their own language.

Friday began with a frenzy of activity.

It began early with putting tarps on as the roof of the large, make-shift tent structure they had built. Then I met with the 17 Yetfa speakers who had each been memorizing one of the translated Scripture stories. This was what I was most anxious about! I had turned the task of getting that group ready completely over to Sion and Jeri. Everybody arrived fairly quickly and lined up in chronological order. And then it began… One-by-one they cited from memory their portion of the overarching story of salvation – from Genesis to Pentecost.


I was in tears.

Although, along the way, I had heard and scrutinized every word in those 17 stories, I had never heard them as a single story. It was powerful! I was moved, even more so because we had worked so hard so that the stories were faithful to Scripture but also short enough and simple enough to be memorized and retold. They have a clear progression and message of salvation.

I was so proud of how well they had memorized each story. I went home and told Kel that I could completely relax and enjoy the weekend now that I knew that that part of the celebration was covered.

After that we scrambled around the house getting ready for our guests to arrive.

Two plane loads of people who had been involved in (or represented organizations that had been involved in) the gospel entering the Yetfa area arrived around noon. The war dance and parade was repeated for each one. After the second plane arrived and dance ended, Bob Cochran, who has been our primary consultant for the story set, was equipped with a traditional Yetfa bow and arrow and whisked away. He was given the honor of shooting (or being the first of about 10 people to shoot) the second of two hogs that they were cooking for a celebration meal.

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That was the beginning of several demonstrations of traditional Yetfa culture.

Next they demonstrated how they cut up and cook the hog with hot rocks. Then how they traditionally prepared ‘ple’ (the gooy, starchy food made from the sago tree) without any modern tools, boiling water with hot rocks inside a basket made from a single leaf. Finally, there was a demonstration of how they used to start a fire.

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We had two videographers on hand to document the whole weekend, and a lot of this was done to help preserve the memory of their quickly changing culture.

After that the guests were given a chance to rest a bit and get settled.

While we were waiting for the food, a young lady came to the house with a gnarly cut on her leg. So I stitched her up.

Finally the feast began. There were two 55 gallon drums full of rice, wash tubs of noodles, piles of ‘ple’ and hog meat, and a host of people!  Unfortunately, as ‘special guests’, we were seated separately from most of the people, so that was a bit awkward, but at the end, we finally got to mingle a bit.

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After the meal, we went back to the house for one of the highlights of the weekend!

One of the ‘additions’ to the celebration that the committee had planned was a wedding – a wedding for any and everybody who wanted to get ‘officially’ married! We were asked (on the spot!) to provide some premarital counseling. So that evening, about 8 couples came to our house. Most were going to be newly weds but a few had been living as husband and wife without a ‘proper wedding’ and two couples had been married since before the gospel came and had just never had a ‘church wedding’ – including Sion’s mom and dad!

I led out, with our guests adding insight and counsel along the way. It was a great time and a true thrill for me. We’ve had a lot of involvement with most of the young couples. One of the young grooms, Jonathon, was our first tutor in the Yetfa language, so it was similar to counseling kids who had graduated from our youth group.

The day ended with me showing a short film of photos that I had borrowed and scanned – photos from the very early days, even before the airstrip had been finished.

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It was a long, but rich day!

Saturday centered around a single service. It began with singing. Then a crew from Bias put on a war drama and a demonstration of how the first Christians who came would break up the battles. Then a group from a neighboring village across the border in Papua New Guinea presented several skits. Then began a series of testimonies telling how first contact had been made, the names and order of various people who had come in to the Yetfa area, and how the gospel was first received. It was a time of looking back.

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That afternoon was fairly relaxed, although one of the videographers and I spent the rest of the day filming testimonies from others who didn’t speak in the service. They shared about the changes the gospel had brought about in their people. It was all done in Yetfa and was directed towards future generations who would not remember what it was like before God’s Word came. It was a preservation of the living memory, and the common themes were “We were in darkness. We killed people. We stole from each other. We killed people for stealing from us. We worshiped evil spirits. We didn’t know God. We were always afraid – afraid of trees, rocks, holes in the ground, bodies of water, spirits, people, nighttime. But when the gospel came, we stopped being afraid.”

That evening we had a special time of prayer for the first-time telling of God’s word through the stories we had worked on in their entirety!

The next day, after a night of heavy rain, I got up early for a last practice with the storytellers. When I got to the big tent, it had been nearly completely knocked down by the rain. I, honestly, thought that it was a loss and started thinking about alternative places where we could gather. About that time a few guys came up, then they began to call for others. Before I knew it, we were cutting things up, tearing the wreck apart, rebuilding it. Others were running out to the jungle to cut new wood to replace broken pieces, and in no time at all, the tent was as good as new.

We gathered for the practice and everybody did great. We had prayer and then ran home to get ready.

The early part of the service was packed with songs and testimonies, but finally it came time for the stories. Then, for the first time, the wider community heard the story of God’s salvation clearly and carefully translated into their own language. When the last story was finished, one of the storytellers shouted out, “We have to tell others this good news!”, and all 17 storytellers ran out of the tent. Then Jeri preached a message based on a primary theme of the story set – ‘do not fear’.

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It was a fantastic start to a new phase of God’s work in the Yetfa area! A phase where the fog and confusion of trying to understand God’s Word through a foreign language is removed.

At one point we were sitting and talking about the weekend and God’s Word, and Bob said, “Imagine if you went your whole life and never heard God’s Word in English, in your own language.” It’s an incredible and difficult thought! And this weekend was intended to be the sunrise of God’s Word in the Yetfa area. The last 20 years have been the predawn, where the light is beginning to push the dark away, but there is not yet direct sunlight.

It was a great weekend!

After the main service, we weren’t finished. We had us a wedding! A wedding I will never forget!!!

All the couples who had participated in the counseling were called up front. As we prepared for the ceremony, a few other couples came forward and wanted to join in so that their current marriage would be ‘official’. In the end, I think we had 12 couples.

We lined the men up on one side and the women up on the other. I said a few opening words, then I read the story of the creation of Eve in Yetfa. When we got to the part where God had created Eve and then brought her to Adam, Pak Abi and Pak Yos represented God and one-by-one brought each woman to her groom. Then each man responded in Yetfa, “This woman is a match for me”. Then people came up and prayed for each couple.

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After that we had a baptismal service! Five people who had already accepted Christ as their savior were baptized. Each person gave an excellent testimony about their repentance and personal trust in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. One of the young men, Marten, was convicted of his need for baptism that morning after hearing the story of Pentecost in his own language.

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It was the perfect ending to an amazing weekend!


This is Awa Wame.
The very first Christian to ever come into the Yetfa area was a Papuan evangelist named Timo from the famous Dani tribe. Timo was welcomed into Wame’s house and stayed the night. With some difficulty, they learned that Timo was on his way to serve among a people group to the north. When Timo got ready to go, Wame asked him, “Do we stink?! Are we just animals that you are going to pass us by?!” Then he forced Timo to stay. However, because of language barriers, Timo did very little evangelism. He did, however, lead out in clearing a patch of jungle before he eventually left. It was on that patch of cleared jungle that the helicopter bringing the first Western missionaries, Andrew Sims and Roger Doriot, landed. Those two guys identified the Yetfa people as a unique and unreached people group in 1992. Fourteen years later in Orlando, FL, Kelli and I were sitting at a dinner table at a missions event when Andrew’s wife, Anne, shared the story about her husband discovering an unreached people group. That evening, God called us to bring his word to the Yetfa people. Four years later in 2010, I landed a few hundred yards away from Timo’s clearing. That evening, Wame’s son, Sion, came up to me and said, “I have been praying for many years that God would send me a friend to help me translate the Bible for my people. And here you are!”
Awa Wame you do not stink and you are not an animal! You were made in God’s image and you are precious in his eyes.