Prepared for Kingdom service and suffering
My first year in seminary at LCU, I accepted an invitation to weekly group lunches in the Restoration Hall Seminar Room with Dr. Robert Lowery. And in my first year, I resolved to listen quietly to more advanced students converse with Dr. Lowery and other faculty. I don’t remember every discussion, but a few have stuck with me. One of these lunches was dominated by discussion of suffering in the midst of ministry—suffering because of hard things that God allows for us, and suffering because we help to carry the burdens of those we serve. I remember listening to fellow student and preacher, Tony Billingsley, recount month after month of hardship in his ministry. Dr. Lowery recounted teaching through cancer, and the beauty of fellowship with Dr. Gary Hall who was also teaching with cancer. We spoke of Dr. Robert Kurka teaching through multiple health issues. This was a day of preparation—I don’t remember what I learned in the classroom that day, but I can never forget the lesson I learned over lunch: ministering east of Eden will involve suffering. But no Bob Lowery lesson in suffering could go without an exhortation from the book of Revelation, “[Keep] my word about patient endurance…I am coming soon.”
We have been in Papua New Guinea for almost one year with Pioneer Bible Translators. Sarah and I have both served here in the past, and we knew there would be hardships. But in less than a year, we’ve had two evacuations from villages—the first time because our son, Jonah, fell ten feet from our house on stilts. When I carried him onto the helicopter to evacuate, he was in such pain that we couldn’t touch his spine. When we arrived at the clinic, he ran and jumped and laughed as the doctor examined him. Glory to God!
This past June, we left the same village a second time as an evacuation from a massive village fight. Bows and arrows were drawn, machetes brandished, and spears hastily crafted. I was already showing signs of sickness as we left, but none of us knew what was to come. Just three days later, I lay in the Ukarumpa clinic in critical condition with bacterial meningitis and sepsis. I have little recollection of what happened next, but my recovery has taken nearly six months. Early on, people asked us if we were going to go home. We remembered the words of Revelation: “hold on to what you have, endure patiently.” We’re happy we have stayed!
Now, months later, I’ve regained most of my strength, and I still remember transitive clauses, exegetical methods, discourse markers, Greek and Tok Pisin. We’re opening a new chapter in our ministry as I begin writing a grammar sketch for a Rai Coast language of Madang Province. We’re helping to accelerate an ongoing translation process in hopes of completing it in the years to come! We’ll be in the village again in a few weeks, and doing all we can to see to it that this Rai Coast language has the Word of God available to all who speak it.
The day after I graduated from Lincoln Christian Seminary, I went looking for Bob Lowery. I was days away from my first trip to Papua New Guinea, and I wanted him to autograph my copy of his book on Revelation. When I returned home, I saw his inscription: “Remain an overcomer.” Words taken from Revelation, and a charge to endure patiently. In spite of the hardships we’ve faced so far, Sarah and I are thrilled to be in Papua New Guinea, and we will keep asking the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into his fields. Our first stop as workers in the Lord’s vineyard was LCU, and we’re grateful for preparation in the classroom that fuels our work, and preparation outside the classroom for patient endurance in suffering and joy in the harvest.