There are certain times in life when we all face major changes, and major decisions. It is in these times, we must follow the Lord where He leads. My family and I did just that when we left Alaska for Papua New Guinea over eleven years ago. Now, the Lord is leading us to return! Mariann, Levi and I will be leaving Papua New Guinea in just a few short months. The Lord has led us back to Alaska, where I will be serving as pastor of my home church, the Independent Baptist Church of Anchorage.
I will leave behind in PNG two churches and one other man, whom I have helped train, who is pastoring in the capitol city of Port Moresby. Both churches in New Ireland will have national pastors and be self-supportive. I do not see this as an end to my ministry here in PNG. Lord willing, I would like to return each year to be a help to the churches and continue to help the pastors I have trained.
Below I have put down the details on how the Lord clearly led me to make such a major decision. A decision which was months in the making:
Back in October of 2013, I began to feel a nudge that the Lord was leading us in a new direction. I was not certain of anything at this point, and highly doubted within myself the Lord could be leading us to return to the States. However, the nudging grew stronger and I began to pray about it every day. I knew this tug on my heart as I had certainly experienced it in the past; a time when the Lord led us to leave Alaska and head to Papua New Guinea. I told no one of what I was praying about, with the exception of my wife. As I prayed, I kept asking the Lord to do just like He did when He called me to PNG, and make it very clear so I would be certain. I prayed and told the Lord with the nudging I had on my heart; it was not enough to get me to make a decision to leave the field. Every day when I prayed, the nudging would happen and I would ask the Lord for more certain direction.
Mariann and I also had several things going on in our life which we felt were circumstantial in leading us to return: We had a daughter that would be graduating college; Mariann had a few health issues, as well as Levi, and two other items as well. I did not see any one of these items as a need/must return, as I could also see the Lord intervening in each in different ways without us having to return. I continued to pray each day, telling the Lord I need to really know You are in this. Without that, I could not make a decision to return.
Then on January 22nd, 2014, I decided to get counsel from my pastor. I called and told him what I had been praying about. I talked about the things going on and the nudge on my heart. I told him I was trying to determine if the Lord was leading us back, or if this was just me. After I finished speaking, the phone was silent for a second or two. Then pastor asked me, “So you are praying about coming back?” I said, “yes”. He then told me that the first week of January he met with the leadership in the church and informed them he was going to retire and go into evangelism in the next 12 to 36 months. He told them he wanted the church to have the next pastor settled before he retired. He believed this would be the best way to go about this type of major transition. He started the church back in 1989, and has been the church’s only pastor. At the meeting my name was brought up to come back and pastor the church. Pastor, however, did not want to call me and ask me to leave the field. The next week the church leadership met again, and it was decided that pastor would call and ask me to pray about returning to pastor the church. After the meeting, Pastor Roach began to pray that he would not have to make that call, but that I would call him and let him know I thought the Lord was leading us to return, which of course is exactly what happened! When he told me that, I knew clearly now the Lord was leading us to return.
In May of 2014, we flew to my son’s graduation from college. After that we headed to Anchorage, for three weeks. On our last Sunday, I was voted in as the next pastor of the church.
We plan to arrive in Alaska in late June or early July. We have my son’s wedding and daughter’s graduation from college to attend first.
It has been a privilege beyond measure to have served in PNG for more than 11 years! This is what missions is about, planting churches and moving on.