The first thing I would like to say is “Thank You” to all the other missionaries that have contributed their ‘A Day In The Life’. I have enjoyed reading them all and in turn praying for you. But now it is our turn. Janet and I have three specific ministries: medical care, adult literacy and Bible teaching. These three are what keep us busy, and most of our days revolve around these. To set the scene, our location is in the middle of a small remote island of PNG. It is very much a bush location and we all speak the local dialect as few here can communicate with the trade language fluently.The first thing I would like to say is “Thank You” to all the other missionaries that have contributed their ‘A Day In The Life’. I have enjoyed reading them all and in turn praying for you. But now it is our turn. Janet and I have three specific ministries: medical care, adult literacy and Bible teaching. These three are what keep us busy, and most of our days revolve around these. To set the scene, our location is in the middle of a small remote island of PNG. It is very much a bush location and we all speak the local dialect as few here can communicate with the trade language fluently.
Let’s start with a Tuesday morning. No need for alarms here: before 6:00 the sun is peaking over the hill into our valley; birds are already noisily getting about their business and the tropical heat is creeping upwards. Pre-breakfast, I exercise the body and then spend some time with the Lord praying and reading His Word. It is then my responsibility to prepare breakfast for Janet and our two girls. The call to breakfast is at 6:45.
At 7:30 I open up my office and ring the bell to call our literacy students. This gives them time to make their way from the little hamlets to our bush hut classroom, and also gives me time to prepare the morning lesson. At this stage Janet and girls are settling into their own schoolroom. Janet has the responsibility of taking care of the never-ending administration tasks, whilst giving guidance to the girls as they complete their Distance Education Classes.
There are five adults who regularly attend the literacy classes. Their dedication to learning has to be admired. It takes great commitment on their part to learn to read and write. In fact, all of these students have never written before, let alone recognised their own name or learnt how to hold a book or turn consecutive pages. I must confess their great commitment to learn often surpasses my patience to teach. Anyway, I remind myself that we teach our village friends to read so that one day they can read God’s Word for themselves. In fact, it was only after seeing God’s Word taught from His book and believing in Him, that the reason for reading became clearly apparent. Now all our current students are believers, so I am determined to teach them all the more.
About 10:30 the class ends and they slowly meander back along the dirt track to their thatched-roof houses for a well earned rest. I now have time to turn my attention to finalising the preparation for the Bible lesson for the believers’ meeting this afternoon. All too soon it is lunch time. The four of us get together for a quick easy lunch before we again get back into the afternoon tasks.
After lunch, if the sun has been bright enough and the solar panels have replenished our batteries, the girls will be able to turn on the remote internet modem and spend time Skype-ing their teachers or searching the internet for information for their school assignments. Janet uses the time to download the emails and send out any replies, put in a loaf of bread, and do a load of washing. Again I spend time in Bible lesson preparation.
14:00 and it is again time to ring the bell — this is the call for the believers to finish what they’re doing in their gardens or out in the bush and start to walk towards the school house. Janet also makes her way over to join in with the believers. The assembly here is very new, and all the folk believed through a series of evangelistic lessons we had just previously taught them. So now we have the wonderful task of maturing and discipling these folk. The believers come from a very dark, compelling animistic background, with folk religion to fill in the ‘gaps’ of the unexplained. So we have been very careful and thorough in our Bible teaching so that no trace of the erroneous past belief system remains in their thinking.
Recently the believers’ meetings are not only led by myself. Slowly, through teaching and mentoring, other men have been opening the service and leading prayer time. I have been mentoring one man on how to prepare my pre-written lessons and teach. One little thing I want to share with you is that, because there are no song books in the dialect here, we are encouraging the believers to write their own songs. And they have done just that — the songs they have composed are great and shows their joyful heart to worship their new and true God. These are very exciting times for the little church here in the middle of the bush. The believers’ meeting goes for two hours, so it is now about 16:00 and we slowly leave the School House. Most don’t go too far as Janet will ring the bell to signal that the Medical Clinic is open.songs. And they have done just that — the songs they have composed are great and shows their joyful heart to worship their new and true God. These are very exciting times for the little church here in the middle of the bush. The believers’ meeting goes for two hours, so it is now about 16:00 and we slowly leave the School House. Most don’t go too far as Janet will ring the bell to signal that the Medical Clinic is open.
The Medical Clinic bell has been rung and more folk weave their way through the long grass to join the others to wait for their names to be called out. The waiting time is not wasted, as tobacco leaves are freely passed around along with betel nut, mustard and lime. Small fires are often lit and the time is spent puffing smoke, chewing and spitting red nut juice whilst chatting and catching-up. Janet runs the Medical Clinic six afternoons a week, and our two girls take turns in assisting their mum. The clinic is free to all. We only ask that they take care of their wounds and return the next day to receive further free treatment. The idea of having to be re-treated is just one thing that is against their animistic thinking. The clinic is well-stocked and Janet takes care of just about anything (if you see Janet whilst we are on furlough, ask her to show you some clinic case photos).
We view the clinic as one way of helping the village folk and building a trusting relationship with them as we show them we care for them when they are feeling at their physical worst. We hope that one day, because of the relationship we have developed, we can teach these folk through the same series of evangelistic lessons we have previously taught. So the ministry Janet does in the Medical Clinic is fundamental to our goal of church planting here. During clinic times we offer a soccer ball and a volley ball to encourage the folk to participate in fun things that strengthen the village community. This opposes the many things that we see as weakening the family community in this area. The tropical sun is quickly dropping and the bell has again rung to signal the closure of the clinic and time for the sports equipment to come back. No sooner has Janet closed the Medical Clinic than she opens the kitchen and starts to cook the family evening meal. The length of time since our last helicopter supply shuttle determines the style of meal we have. The longer the time, the less fresh food there is. But we have never gone short of a meal — and it is amazing what she can do with a tin of spam and a tin of red kidney beans!
Being a Tuesday (or Wednesday) I have evening Home Group believers’ meetings that I run. So I am again leaving the dirty dishes to the family as I grab my little back-pack, which I have prepared with rechargeable lamps and my discussion notes. I don my head lamp and head off into the dark to meet with the believers in their home group setting. These meetings have proven to be of excellent value for the church planting goal, as the folk feel more at ease in their bush huts, sitting around the fire on the earthen floor or bark benches. They more readily share what is going on in their minds about life and the Bible lessons. They tend to ask more probing questions or more personal-faith questions. For a church planter this is serious seed planting and nurturing time! For me the meetings are also a source of giving insight as to the strength of the pulse of the fledgling church. That is, as I sit and listen while they explain the Bible lessons in their own terms and what they mean to them, I can gain an understanding of what they have truly learnt and how they are being affected by Scripture and being led by the Holy Spirit. This in turn allows me to encourage them or provide further correctional teaching as required.
The night meetings end around 22:00 and we all say our good-byes and go our separate ways. I must explain to you all that although these meetings are for me to give guidance to the believers here, I often walk back to our little house feeling so blessed and encouraged because of the believers’ fellowship. I spend the time walking back praising God for choosing us to be His co-workers here in the middle of the bush of a remote island.
Thank you all for sharing a day in the life of our family.
Jon & Janet Mitchell