They took Miri on long hikes to show her around and she managed the slippery trails quite well. They also simply enjoyed the encouraging fellowship, long conversations in German and hearing news from home.
Another recent highlight was the third graduation of the Pal literacy school. This time there were two classes with a total of 32 students. In one class there were six students from far-away places. Some of them had moved into garden houses that are close by for the four months of the school term. Others hiked three hours each day to be able to attend!
One of them was a pregnant lady. She only missed one week of class and then came faithfully every day with her new-born. This shows how serious they took school. Right now many students attend the optional post literacy sessions on Mondays. The next school starts in August. There will be two classes again but they will only be for students from the locality. There are not enough teachers to start a new school in a different location. Even the teachers who are teaching right now still need quite a bit of encouragement and guidance. It will take some time before there are enough solid teachers to run a school in a different place.
Recently “teachers-meetings” were started to give teachers and community leaders a way to officially discuss issues and problems that have to do with school. One thing the teachers have been asking the missionary team for some time is that they may be compensated for their time they work in school. They put considerable amounts of time into the school and therefore have less time to work their gardens or to go to the coast. Most Pal men and sometimes families do this frequently in order to earn some money by cutting grass or doing other jobs in town. This money is crucial for buying salt and batteries, clothes, pots and bush knifes or other essentials. Some Pal people suggested that the “white missionaries” should pay the teachers for their work. But the missionary team would rather leave the responsibility in the hands of the community in order to see a system established that supports the school when the missionary team are not available or the school moves to other areas. The Pal people need to grow in their understanding that the literacy school is a huge benefit to the whole community and each individual student.
The Sunday teaching in the Pal church is currently lessons on the book of Acts. This is confronting the Pal people’s beliefs about church, prayer, worship, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc.
The Hostetters, Axel and Sandi’s co-workers, wrote a good summary in their blog: "The young church is working through digging out all the old beliefs, the false thinking, the lies that they’ve held onto for so long. They’re digging them up and chucking them away. It’s been a tiresome journey trudging through the mud but it sure is a good feeling when it gets washed away. I have to remind myself often that these are baby Christians and people who for many years were lost in darkness and believing lies of the devil, and the old beliefs don’t fall easily. But God’s Word is piercing the darkness here and lives are being changed. Baby Christians are learning and growing and hungering for more. Please continue to uphold your Pal brothers and sisters in prayer. Pray that they would cast off the old beliefs and stand firm on God’s Word alone."
While Axel and Sandi see the above changes in some of their friends, many still have the deep-rooted and well-nurtured longing that at the very end of the Big Talk finally there will be the outpouring of material blessing. They think that if they only know the right way and say the right words, God will finally give them those blessings. Many hope to receive God’s blessing just as Abraham received it, whose faith God rewarded with many material goods. Some Pal people expect the wealth to suddenly show up in their gardens or that the missionary will open up their houses and goods without end will pour out of them.
On the other hand it is encouraging for Axel and Sandi when they see true brothers and sisters in the faith enjoying freedom where they were bound by fear, superstition and taboos before.
At the end of May, Axel and Sandi’s co-workers the Claasens went on home assignment and plan to return from the USA in June 2016. Chris and Maggie Hostetter are now carrying the main burden of the work. Lesson preparation, teaching and translation are on their shoulders. In addition to that, they are the ones to answer all the questions that are on the people’s hearts. Axel and Sandi are not yet ready to communicate on a deep level in Pal with their friends.
At the end of this year Hostetters will pass the baton to Axel and Sandi and leave for home assignment. Axel hopes to be finished with his language and cultural studies by then to be able serve the church.
Axel and Sandi appreciate your prayers for their daily task of culture and language acquisition. They will have their next evaluation during this month. After that they will fly to Goroka for a short break.