Near Death Experiences and Other Encouraging Tales from the Field

One of the most exciting aspects of being at GIAL has been the fact that I am (literally) surrounded by experienced missionaries. All of the professors, administrative assistants, grounds keepers, doctors, cooks, and IT guys have been on the field and they all come with some great stories. Not just great because they are exciting, but great because they encourage me to trust Christ and teach me what it really means to be a missionary. Because they have been so encouraging for me, I thought I would share a couple with you.

  1. What was happening at 3am? One of my professors (Lynn Landweer) was a surveyor for SIL for a number of years. This means that she would trek all over Papua New Guinea and meet people from tribes that do not yet have the Bible and try to learn as much as she could about their language to see if it would be a good candidate for a Bible Translation. On one such trek she and two other “green” (brand new) surveyors were having a fairly cordial conversation with a man from a particular tribe. Suddenly a man from that tribe jumped up holding a spear aimed right at Lynn. She said she was confident that this man was possessed by a demon. She said a million things went through her head at that moment including: what are these “green” surveyors going to do when I am dead? Just as it appeared he was going to throw the spear at her another man stood up and grabbed it and told Lynn and the others to leave. A cool enough story of God’s protection. But it gets even better. A month later (since that was how long it took to get correspondence back then) Lynn received an letter from her sister that said “What was happening at 3am on such-and-such a day? I woke up with an unquenchable desire to pray for you!” Of course that was the exact day and time that Lynn had a spear pointed at her head. Moral of the story? Lynn said, make sure you have people who are committed to praying for you. As you are reading this, would you say a prayer for our family?
  2. How long Oh Lord? We had a guest speaker in one of our classes named Tom Headland. He had been a missionary for a number of years in the Philippines among the Agta tribe. He and his wife labored among this people group, learning their language, helping them develop an alphabet, and finally translating the New Testament for them. Someone in my class asked how many of the people were using the Scripture when they left…and his response? None. None of them. A couple of people had become literate in their time there and a few more had expressed interest in Christ. But at the time, none of them were using the Word that they had labored so hard to translate. He added quickly, “but we never were discouraged.” I thought, “What?! Never!?” Tom said he did not go there to do great things, he went there to obey the Lord and play whatever role in His kingdom that He wanted. And if this was his role? Praise the Lord. What an amazing attitude. That was a great lesson for me to learn. Tom said, “Be patient. God is working in His own timing.” The Headlands have gone back many times since they moved out of the Philippines and at some point in the 1990s Tom said that there suddenly was a desire among the people to be able to read. And so the parents started to teach their children how to read. On one trip back a man came and asked if they had a copy of the New Testament that he could have. He said he would be happy to sell him one. So the man went away and brought back some money. Tom turned to his wife and said, “21 years after we completed the New Testament, we just sold our first one!” Today he estimates that about 25% of the people have come to know Christ! And much of it just from people reading God’s Word on their own and with their fellow Agtas. Tom said he was glad to have played the role God gave him and he was glad he was patient.

Well, there are other stories I could tell you. And I probably will. But for now if you are dying to read more about our family, check out the newsletter we just sent out 🙂

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“Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1

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Author: David M. Hare

Dave is currently still engaged in language learning and analysis of the Kwakúm language. His focus is grammar and discourse analysis. The Kwakúm language committee is planning to begin translating the Bible in the summer of 2019. At that point Dave will focus on translation.

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