BY BJ SANDERS
"I can't imagine a more welcoming place!" I said to Jill when we got home yesterday. It was our official "house opening" celebration and welcome into the Wantakian village of Pinji and marked the completion of our three houses. They decorated our homes, prepared "sing sings," dressed in traditional "tumbuna" dress, and even decorated us too!
Many people from the surrounding Wantakian villages came to witness this big event too. Then we, the missionary team, provided tons of pig meat to thank THEM for all their hard work in helping build our houses.
It's kind of hard to say how awesome this was...guess you had to be there, haha. But we couldn't imagine a better welcome to our new home: Wantakia! Hopefully we can post a video one day when we have good internet :)
We began official language learning TODAY! Please pray for us to have good ears to hear, for the people to be excited to help us as we say, "Can you say that again?" over and over, and pray for us to keep modeling the life of Jesus to the Wantakians!
BY JEREMY HAMBRICE
In about a week, our entire family will finally move into the Wantakian Village of Pinji. Just stop and let that sink in. This has been years in the making. About seven years ago, Mandy and I sensed the Lord leading us to join Him in making Himself known to all tongues, tribes, and nations. We had no idea at the time it would lead to this – living in a remote village in the jungles of Papua New Guinea with two little girls, learning a new way of life, and loving people that could not be more different than us.
The crazy thing is that we are so excited!! Scared? Yes. Nervous? Yes. Overwhelmed? Yes. Despite all the mixed emotions, we are confident that God has lead us every step of the way, and we would not want to be doing anything else on the planet!
We want to share with you what the next few months will look like for us so that you can know how to pray for us. On Saturday, April 11th, our entire team will fly out to Pinji. We men have spent lots of time out there during the last few months building our houses and have developed a number of great relationships with the people. It is a little different for our wives and children. Our wives have been there twice for a visit, but our children have yet to set their eyes on the place where they will spend their childhood. We are hoping the girls will not be too overwhelmed with all of the attention they will get, but will instead sense that these people are so glad they have come to live with them.
After our arrival, we will spend a few weeks “warming up” to life there in the village. We hope to put the finishing touches on our house, but our main focus will be to begin building relationships with the men, women, and children of Pinji. During this time we hope our ears can “tune up” to the sounds of this difficult language, and we also hope to get a feel for what village life is like.
Once this initial warm-up time is over, we will have a language consultant flown in to give us our language “kick-off.” He will be giving us direction on the beginning steps of the language learning process. Once he leaves, we will start learning the Wantakian Language full time and will not finish until we reach a level high enough to communicate God’s Word to them!
This letter is a rally call as we step behind enemy lines. The enemy does not want the Wantakians to know God. He will do all he can to stop it. Would you please keep praying us through, every step of the way?
There is no way we could be here without you. Thank you so much for standing behind us.
For God’s glory among the Wantakians,
Jeremy, Mandy, Paisley, & Myli
BY JILL SANDERS
In October, our team decided to start surveying Wantakia and ask the Lord if this was the place for us. So October started the “trips”. Our men would fly into one village and hike all over the 10 villages of Wantakia. This meant for us, wives, our men were gone a lot.
The Lord showed us that Wantakia was definitely the place for our 3 families. So now it’s time to start milling wood to build our houses. This means…more trips for the men. Long, hard, trips. We chose to mill because the Wantakians told us, “We don’t have tin roofs or nails, so you’ll have to bring that stuff; but we have trees, so you must use them to build your houses.” It was important to the people, so it has to be important to us…long trips!
Starting in February, the wood was all milled and now it was actually time to start planting posts and building a frame. This meant…many more trips! But it’s exciting. Our houses are going up! Common talk for our kids has been, “Our daddy is in Wantakia.” or “when is daddy coming home?”
THIS…this week, is the LAST trip! Can I get a HORRAY?!?!?! Our guys and work teams from our churches have come to finish our houses. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
These past 6 months have been very stretching and challenging. Our husbands are physically exhausted. Us wives are emotionally exhausted. Our kids are very emotional. But the Lord has been with us through it all. He has given us strength to get us through the day, and tomorrow, and the next day. And more importantly, He’s shown us that this “suffering” is all for His kingdom. One day, the Wantakians will be represented in Heaven and it will all be…WORTH IT!
Thank you for praying for us. We seriously could feel your prayers. Thank you for writing emails to encourage us! Sometimes, that was the highlight of the day. Thank you for walking along side of us. We couldn’t do it without you!
Now let’s all celebrate!
P.S-We will post pictures of our bush houses soon!!
BY JILL SANDERS
Exactly one year ago, we made one of the hardest decision…to leave America, our family, and everything we know and move to Papua New Guinea to be church planters. This year has been full of tears, joy, hard work to learn a language, lots of prayer, homesick, new friends, lots of moving, more tears, and more joy!
Here are some things to recap the year:
The hard things:
*Saying goodbye to our family
*Flying with 3 small children 20 hours (2 of which threw up on the plane)
*Getting acclimated to a new home where we don’t understand anyone
*Putting on sunscreen every…single…day…
*Having “stomach issues” quite frequently
*Saying goodbye to new friends in Madang
*Moving to a tribal home (360 square feet!)
*Learning the hard way how to order enough food (and diapers) for a month
*Saying goodbye to more new friends
*Struggling that my mom has colon cancer and must start chemo L
*BJ’s gone for a long period of time surveying and building our house
*Being a single parent while BJ’s away to Wantakia
*More home sick…
*Finally being able to understand and communicate the language
*Seeing our family can thrive in a tribe
*God growing us and showing us that He’s enough
*Getting to 100% of our monthly budget!
*Learning about Wantakia
*Spending time with support workers in Goroka
*Creating our house plan
*Seeing my mom find joy even though she’s going through treatment
*Hearing my sister and brother in law are new believers!!
*After 5 years of praying, we are finally know our people group-Wantakia
*Our whole team is finally together in Papua New Guinea!
*Getting care packages!
*Putting posts in the ground for our future home
*Graham turned 1 and started walking/talking, Sophie turned 3 and is just a lovable girl, and Olivia turned 4 and just wows us everyday! BJ turned 28 and I turned 29.
*Planning our workteams and family coming! Counting down the days to see them!
*Seeing the Lord provide, yet again, to build our house
*Riding a helicopter to Wantakia
So this year has been up and down and up and down again. We’ve had many, many hard times…but we’ve also experienced a lot of joy too! It always seems like when we are experiencing hard times, God puts just the right people in our lives to encourage us. Looking at the list, the hard times and joys are about even…but it is all worth it. When the Wantakians hear the Gospel for the first time and become a mature church, we will look back at all the hard times and count them as small sacrifices.
“Things change, plans fail.
You look for love on a grander scale.
Storms rise, hopes fade
and you place your bets on another day.
When the going gets tough, when the ride's too rough,
when you're just not sure enough.
Jesus will still be there.
His love will never change,
Sure as a steady rain,
Jesus will still be there.”
I know I’m going to get made fun of for quoting a Point of Grace song, but oh well! I’ve been thinking about how I need to grow in the area of flexibility, not physically (we all know I was a gymnast!) But here in the “land of the unexpected”, you have to be flexible. Also, in ministry, you have to be.
I do so much better when my plans go accordingly. But it’s so hard when my plans change. The Lord has been working on me, especially during this house building phase, that I will always have him. He’s the one that should fulfill my every need.
This week, the men made a trip to mill more wood, shuttle our materials into Wantakia, and put our posts in the ground. Between all of the excitement of the helicopter landing down 21 times and starting house building, the tribal guys didn’t want to go to the bush to mill! Understandable! How many times have they seen a helicopter…Let alone 21 times in 3 days!
BJ is the only one trained to run the saw mill, so we had to make a hard decision for him to stay there longer to try and mill. It’s hard when the kids are expecting him home for pizza night Friday. It’s hard when now he will get home Tuesday and then leave again Thursday for another 12 days. And it’s hard when our plans change. BUT, Jesus will still be here! His love never change. It’s sure as the steady rain! And this is only for a time. Soon we will all be together, living in the middle of nowhere, complaining about other things…like ants!
Please be praying for our team! All three of our families need it! (separation, unity, kids)
Please be praying for the Wantakian people. Pray their hearts are prepared to hear the Good News!
And remember, “JESUS WILL STILL BE THERE!” I hope this song is in your head the rest of the day!
Check out our most recent trip into Wantakia, where Jeremy and BJ began using our sawmill. We are milling all our own lumber for our 3 houses. We are strategically using the mill as an opportunity to model discipleship with the Wantakians--we keep saying, "Guys, before you were asking what a saw mill is. You have now seen us use it and you are learning to use it. Now you are holding it in your hands. This is just like God's Word when we bring it to your language! Now you are wondering what it is, but one day you will hear it and hold it in your hands."
I'm part of a church-planting team to the Wantakia people of Papua New Guinea. These guys number around five thousand and live high up in the central mountain range of the country. On my first trip into Wantakialand, our team decided that in one day we'd hike from Simogu, the southern most village, to Pinji, the northernmost. Did I mention these people live in the mountains?
Before landing in Simogu, I had spent the last three months learning the trade language...at sea level. Now I was landing at 4800 feet with a plan to hike for seven hours to a village at 6500 feet. Ouch. After overnighting in Simogu, we were up with sun and hiking. The first ten minutes were actually downhill, and I thought, "Hmmm, this downhill stuff might be harder on my legs than the uphill."
In the next 45 minutes we ascended more than 1,000 feet. Altitude sickness hit me like a prizefighter, and I thought I was going to pass out, puke, and soil my Exofficios simultaneously. I sat down on the trail, feeling completely overwhelmed, helpless, and humbled.
A dreadful refrain rebounded in my brain, "We have six more hours of this? There's no way." Finally, I prayed, "Lord, however you're going to get me through this...do it. Please. I'm not enough for this."
Then one of my teammates yelled down, "Jack, you want a Zofran?" Thank God for teammates! I popped one of those, and within minutes my nausea went away and my Exofficios remained safe. My legs and lungs, however, were still burning as our climb continued.
As the hours went by, all the backpacking gimmicks I’d ever seen flashed before my eyes…actually I didn't make it past the shoes…spiked lumberjack shoes, barefoot shoes, five-finger shoes, and ultralight everything…I was wishing for any hiking gimmick out there. Anything was worth a try, if it would help me make it through this hike. “Give me that energy goo; I’ll try anything.”
People have been climbing mountains for a long long time, without modern gimmicks, and what I was actually most in need of was something very foundational: proper physical training and conditioning. Then I thought about the Wantakians and other unreached people groups. They live their lives in fear of the spirits; in fear of someone working magic on them and sending sickness or death their way. Fear dominates their lives, and they’re looking for any kind of answer.
There’s a lot of gimmicky stuff in western Christianity that we could throw at them, but what they really need are the foundations: God’s Word in their language and teaching that comes straight from it. Our goal is to see a mature church planted among the Wantakian people, and we have a huge responsibility as church planters. Are we handing out western gimmicks and spiritual fads, or are we offering them something substantial that will prepare them for the climb ahead?
"Waiter? Yes, umm...I would like worms, with a side of amoeba. Giardia on the side and just a pinch of polio, please. Thanks!"
We are taking class right now on medical safety. Prevention is a huge thing that we can do to keep ourselves and our family safe. Washing hands is HUGE. We need to let our kids go out into the village and get dirty, but wash-wash-wash when they come inside. And teach them not to put their hands in their mouths!
Living in Papua New Guinea is not like living in America. Things are a little…dirty! Just to paint you a picture: people in the bush don’t have toilets like you and me. Many times the kids go anywhere, and then they play in these same spots. Next, they scratch sores and put their hands in their mouths. They're basically asking the waiter for everything I mentioned above!
Also, vaccinations ars a must. Dr. Bud is helping us realize all of the things we need to be doing now to prevent us from getting serious illnesses or annoying diarrhea. Our purpose in being here is to learn an unwritten language and bring them God’s talk. If we are laid up on the toilet or our bed or in a hospital, it’s hard to do what we came here to do! Serious medical issues could even send us home or take us out of the work for a while.
So I was thinking about this word “prevention”. 2 Timothy 4:5 says, “But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.” Most days, I have anything but a clear mind. I worry; I stress; and trust me…it’s not a clear mind! Philippians 4:8 talks about fixing your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Prevention—If I am thinking about what is lovely and pure and thanking God for everything, I don’t have space to worry and stress. We are here to learn an unwritten language and minister to people in Wantakia. If I am so bogged down with worry and stress, I am not doing what the Lord has called me here to do.
So pray for us – our whole team. Pray we keep a clear mind. Pray we fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, and lovely!
I just spent seven days in Wantakia with my coworkers knocking down some massive trees for our three houses. This was an incredible opportunity to begin building relationships! Although we don't speak the language yet, we were still able to model the life of Jesus and begin discipling these guys with something as simple as a chainsaw.
First we modeled how to use a chainsaw. Then we taught them everything about it. Lastly, we completely entrusted them with it. We told them this was a picture of God's Word: they will see our lives as a model, then they will hear God's Word in their language. Finally they'll hold it in their hands and begin using it!
We go back in December to continue this process of getting everything ready for house building. This is such an exciting yet exhausting time! Thank you SO MUCH for all of you who are staying involved by praying and giving!
Friday, I finally got to go to the people group I’ve been praying for for the past six years! I didn’t exactly know it was them, but I prayed for the people to which God would one day send me. I finally got to meet them.
As we got out of the helicopter, these people were everywhere just waiting to see us and shake our hands. I think the whole village came. But who wouldn’t come see a helicopter and white men?
It all seemed very natural to me. I kept thinking, "This is where I'm supposed to be!"
Our guys – BJ, Jack, and Jeremy, have done a lot of the work before us. They’ve walked the whole people group; they’ve stayed in every village, and they've led us to this village where we will live. Today, we had a big meeting where we signed our land agreement and told them again why we were coming!
1) Learn their language and culture
2) Teach them to read in their own language
3) Translate the Bible into their own language
4) Teach them the Bible from Genesis to Revelation
5) Teach them to take the Gospel to the rest of the language and the to ends of the earth!
Next, tribal believers from two different surrounding languages came and supported our talk. They told the Wantakians that missionaries came into their villages and gave them God’s Talk in their heart language, and they shared about the impact it’s had on their lives. They told the people that they needed to help us learn their language, so we can do the same.
Hearing these believers talk was my favorite part of the whole trip! We heard talk after of the Wantakians saying, “If they would hike all the way over here to tell us this, this talk must be true!”
After this, we read our land agreement to the people and the village marked two of the “big men” to sign it. Our men signed it too. We thanked the Wantakians for giving our families land for our houses. It could not have gone better!
As I look back at these short 24 hours that I spent in Wantakia, I am totally amazed at how the Lord desires these people to come to Him!
Most of you have been on this journey with us for the past five or so years. You have been right there with us through the training, support raising, leaving family, and arriving in a new country. We have all been on this journey, because we believe God will make Himself known to all tongues, tribes, and nations.
We came to Papua New Guinea because there are several hundred of those tribes who do not yet know Him. We have been asking you to pray with us for the past several months that God would make it clear to us exactly which tribe He would have us go to. Well, God has answered all of our prayers!!
During the past two months, our church planting team (Jeremy and Mandy Hambrice, BJ and Jill Sanders, and Jack and Lael Crabtree) has been seriously looking at a group of people called the Wantakians. These people are isolated in the mountains of PNG and don't have the gospel or the Bible in their own language. By God's grace we hope to change that.
We have taken two survey trips into Wantakia land hoping to find out all that we could about them and decide, with God's help, if this is where He wants us. For footage of those two trips, check out the two videos below this post.
After two trips into Wantakia, we are glad to announce that we feel confident that this is where the Lord wants us! Thank you so much for faithfully praying that God would make it clear to us!
At the end of November we will go back out to Wantakia for the third time to make it official and sign an land agreement with the tribe. This will be the first time that our wives will get to see the land and the people with their own eyes. Please pray that God will continue to go before us as we move forward.
Our team made a second survey trip into Wantakia to choose a village and hopefully mark ground for our bush houses.
Our team got its first look at Wantakia!
I'm a researcher. When I have questions, I ask around. I Google. I read reviews (lots of reviews), and when possible, I experience for myself. Acquiring knowledge gives me a rush, and sharing newfound knowledge with others is just as satisfying. That’s just how I’m wired. Lately however, God’s been stretching me quite a bit in this area, forcing me to take a backseat on my road into the unknown.
I just moved my family across the world to Papua New Guinea to serve with New Tribes Mission. We plan to move into a remote and unreached tribal group, learn their unique language and culture, develop an indigenous alphabet and literacy program, translate the Bible into the tribal language, and teach through God’s story foundationally – all with the express goal of establishing a mature body of indigenous believers.
Our church-planting team is made up of two other families (Sanders & Hambrice) that we love like family. They arrived in Papua New Guinea six months before us, and did all the research for us! They passed pertinent info on to me, while we were back in the States, and there was no way for me to actually experience life in Papua New Guinea! I had to depend on my team for information on things ranging from what people groups were on the table for us to work with to advice like, “Don’t raise your eyebrows at a woman!” The separation wasn’t fun, but my team absolutely killed at communication! (Thank you, FaceTime Audio!).
Our whole team is together now, here in Papua New Guinea, but my family and I are in the middle of learning the country’s trade language. Our team is still making plans to move forward, while we feel a few steps behind, and I constantly have to ask myself, “What course of action is going to have the most long-term benefit for our church-plant?” In asking myself this, I’ve learned (rather, re-learned) that God’s timing is always best, and that His plans will always work out better than mine! Also, my gut reaction is frequently wrong.
Our team has decided to pursue work among the Wantakia people group, who live in the country’s central mountain range. There hasn’t been any missionary presence in this particular group for more than 18 years, and the gospel has never been proclaimed in the heart language of the Wantakia. The next step on the journey to a mature church in Wantakia is to execute a People Group Assessment (PGA) Survey, and decide which village will be most strategic to move into.
We will be hiking to every village, recording population information, assessing linguistic ‘purity’ (are they speaking dialects or are other languages present?), and language vitality (are the children learning and speaking the vernacular? The trade language?). We’ll also assess inter-village social and leadership dynamics to accurately gauge the people-group’s receptiveness to new missionaries coming to do this work. All this information will help us make a more informed decision, before we move in and build bush houses.
I’d love to go with my coworkers on this initial PGA survey of Wantakia… This is first contact for our team! My flesh screams, “Jack, you have to go on this survey, no matter what!” In reality, however, I’m still only learning the trade language, and my coworkers are linguistically competent enough to do this PGA tomorrow. I just wouldn’t be capable enough to communicate. To force my way onto the survey team would mean asking my team to wait a few months while I finish language study.
After some prayer, and conversation with some people wiser than myself, I had to admit that the best option for our team and the future Wantakia Church was to encourage Jeremy and BJ to go on this initial survey trip soon, and without me. So BJ and Jeremy are going to fly into Wantakia this week! Please pray for their trip!
After this initial trip, our team will wade through a ton of data and plan for a second shorter follow-up survey on which we’ll hopefully determine a village for allocation. Hopefully by Survey 2, my grasp of the trade language will make me an asset to the team.
Making the decision not to go on this trip meant giving up my own half-baked, romantic ideas of tribal ‘first-contact,’ and trusting my teammates to do the job without me. But I’m planning to work in the jungle with these men for the next decade or two, so If I can’t trust their judgment now, what does that say about our team?
So, I’m continuing to learn to think with a team perspective. We’re all a part of the Body of Christ, so shouldn’t we be thinking with a team perspective most of the time anyway? I’ve come to appreciate the rare blessing of great teammates who maintain quality communication. In continually keeping those channels open and honest, they too put the team first. I’m so blessed to have awesome teammates, and a God who is faithful to supply wisdom, leadership, and such gentle guidance for his children.