Ever since I moved to Papua New Guinea, people have loved my tattoos. I get people stopping me in the street and on dusty bush roads just to get a better look. My tats reflect what God has done in my life and have been an excellent tool to share what God has done for them to!. Mixed in with that, we live in a story-telling culture. People always love a good story. They can sit around all day and tell stories and then again sit around the fires at night retelling and telling new stories. Not only do they love them but they memorize them and then tell them again and again to all of their friends (great for the gospel right?!?).
Well, right now we are now in the midst of learning Kuman culture and language. We literally go out every day and try to soak up whatever we can from these people. But honestly, it is super hard work! Like any other work, this work gets tedious and monotonous at times. During those times, I like to break things up a bit and try to “story” a bit with the guys. I probably sound like a three year old explain his painting he drew for his dad (much like my three year old son), but hey I’m learning and they give me grace (sometimes).
Well I told a few guys about the story of a tattoo I have on my leg. I talked about how it represented a time of my life when I wasn’t walking with the Lord. The tattoo is a dead tree with John 15 written under it. I told them about how my life looked like this dead tree, fruitless and lifeless, when I was trying to do things “my way”. No matter how good I looked on the outside as a star student or a champion wrestler, this did not satisfy my soul. I then talked about how I turned back to Christ and started studying His word and how John 15 was the first passage I studied as a young man. I told them of the Good fruit that God has produced within me and how I want them to someday have that as well once I learn their culture and language better.
As I walked away from telling that story, I thought to myself, “I probably didn’t communicate anything… oh man, I hope I didn’t miscommunicate anything.”
Well a few weeks went by, and as I was sitting at the bus stop to go to town, something awesome happened. I was sitting next to one of the “big men” from our village when a young guy remarked on my tattoo. Before I could respond, this man, in his language, explained my story of my tattoo to this onlooker. The cool part was, I never told this “big man” the story of my tattoo! He heard it from the guys I storied with, memorized it and retold it to this young man (in a MUCH more natural way then I EVER could I might add). I was amazed and all I could was say was “kuno dinga” (you said it right!).
This is one of the many amazing tools we get to use here as we share the gospel in THEIR context. We get to figure out forms of communication that best speak to them so they can then retell this amazing story. This is why we spend 50+ hours a week with these people, learning about them, making a fool of ourselves: so they can one day TRULY understand the gospel in their heart language and then take that message to others who haven’t heard! Please pray for us as we continue this endeavor. Pray the Lord will continue to show us the best way to communicate to the Kuman people and pray that hearts of the hearers would be open to this message in the future when we get to tell them!