We're the Crabtrees.
We believe God desires for people from every tribe, tongue and nation to hear the good news of Jesus and be able to read God’s Word in their own language. In order to play our part in this, God has called us to be global workers with New Tribes Mission- an organization which focuses on unreached tribal groups who lack written languages. In 2014 our family moved to Papua New Guinea to begin the long process of planting a mature church and translating the Bible in PNG's central mountain range among a remote tribal group called the Wantakia.
Lael and I moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin in the fall of 2009 to begin the first half of our four-year training process with NTM at their Bible Institute. These first two years of training consisted of in-depth Bible classes to give us a foundation for teaching the Word of God and ultimately translating it. I can’t imagine planting a church with my knowledge of the Bible before those two years. There would have been a lot of heresy! We graduated from the Bible Institute in May of 2011. That fall we moved to Missouri to begin classes at NTM's Missionary Training Center. After finishing three semesters of missionary training, Lael enrolled in NTM's Advanced linguistics course. We completed our pre field training in the fall of 2013.
In April of 2015, our team moved into a village in the Wantakia language and began learning their indigenous language and culture. We're still learning!
Why Papua New Guinea?
I remember riding next to my mom in our maroon Dodge Caravan, as she drove us to church. My 5-year-old brain thought, “I need to accept Jesus as my savior, but how?” Sitting in the parking lot, I asked my mom, and she led me to Christ.
In high school, I became bitter, because I couldn’t reconcile the legalism I had witnessed in the church. Rather than seek wisdom, I gave up. I still believed everything, but I had no love. I carried a heart full of bitterness with me to college at the University of Arkansas. Lael and I began dating during our sophomore year, and she asked how I was growing in my faith. “Honestly, I haven’t grown in three or four years,” I said. We took a break, and I asked God for a desire to grow, because I didn’t have it. Lael and I met up again and for the first time, I was able to get my bitterness out. A light bulb went on, and suddenly, I couldn’t get enough of God’s word. Thanks for asking the tough questions, Lael!
Several months later…
It’s Sunday morning. The pastor is preaching a generic message on obedience, when this voice in my head says, “You’re going to be a missionary.” It’s so distinct that I literally take the hand-out and write, “I’m going to be a missionary?” After the service, I call my mom and she says, “I remember when you were six, you stood in the church pew and said, ‘Mommy, God just told me that I’m going to be a missionary, when I grow up.’”
While that was great confirmation, I still had no clue what “being a missionary” looked like. A good friend urged Lael and me to take a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. This semester-long course infected us with God’s heart for the nations! We went through the biblical basis for missions, the history of missions in the church, the major cultural blocs that are still without the gospel, and strategic ways to reach them.
We had our first exposure to tribal people. If every tribal person on the planet held hands, they would stretch around the globe more than nine times! Clearer vision: we want to plant churches among an unreached people group. We still had some fears about reaching tribal people, though. How could we live out in the jungle for 15 years? Are they just going to kick us out of a plane? How could we ever be Bible translators?
Ultimately, I was challenged by Brad Buser with, “Why wouldn’t you go tribal?” Good question. I didn’t have an answer, so I prayed, “God, I don’t really have a desire to do tribal missions, but if it’s what you have for us, give us that desire.” During the next few months, God placed people in our path who answered tons of our questions. Then we toured the Missionary Training Center in Missouri, and we were sold! New Tribes had the most extensive pre-field training we had ever seen! Plus they had an amazing longterm strategy for seeing indigenous churches planted and Scriptures translated. We are so excited to be going tribal!