During October we’re focusing on learning to disciple. Please see the Monthly Prayer Focus page to read our strategic prayer request for this month.
By Erin Duplechin
My husband, Kevin, was away for a short trip out to a village. Traveling to this village involved a long car ride, an overnight in another village, and then an upward hike to the final destination. He would be traveling with two of our closest national friends here in Papua New Guinea, a fact that automatically made me feel more peaceful about his bush journey away from myself and our two daughters.
These friends, *John and *Anna, along with their two sons, had become our family away from family. I have a photo framed on a shelf in our home of my oldest daughter walking through the jungle hand in hand with their son. My husband’s background picture on his computer is of our children with theirs. My father-in-law used a photo of our four children, black hands grasped with white hands, for an inspirational poster for his work.
Only a month or two before, we had walked with them intimately through the still birth of their third son, grieving alongside them and helping throughout their stay at the hospital, and even providing a wooden box which served as their son’s coffin.
When Kevin called me a few days into his trip, I was excited to get to talk to him. Fortunately, the village he was in has fairly good cell phone reception, so I was able to hear him clearly.
“I need to tell you something,” he said.
“Okay…” I said.
He preceded to tell me that on their overnight while traveling, John confessed some significant sin to Kevin. Anna was there too, already knowing of her husband’s transgression. Apart from being our friend, John was one of the nationals assisting in Bible translation for his language group. The repercussions of his actions would affect many.
I processed this information, shocked and devastated. I was mad at John and sad for Anna. I was mad at the Devil and at sin. I was hurting because I deeply love this family that we had poured into through discipleship and friendship. But even then in that too-shocked-to-speak moment, I knew that we would stay with them through this, that we wouldn’t abandon John in his sin and that Anna would not walk this unwanted journey alone.
Because if Jesus can say “Get behind me, Satan,” and “On this rock I’ll build my church” to the same man, surely we can stick it out with our flawed disciples. Surely, we can forgive just as Christ did.
Of course, it would turn out to be many who would walk with them through this. Their village community would play a part; John’s mentor, the long term missionary in charge of the translation, and his wife, had a role; and other PBT workers also played a part. And he did have to suffer consequences for his actions, including a year long probation from translation work. He also dealt with guilt on another level, wondering if it was his sin that caused their baby to die. For Papua New Guineans, the physical and spiritual worlds are intimately connected, with a significant cause and effect relationship.
Through God’s kindness, John was extremely regretful and didn’t have to be coaxed into repentance. He was a man fully aware of his sinfulness and he was willing to accept the consequences.
Our family wound up in the village with them a month after John’s confession. I sat on our front porch with Anna making bilums, my fingers stumbling over loops, her refined ones correcting my mistakes. We talked about forgiveness and the character of Jesus. Likewise, Kevin spent time with John.
Because this is discipleship in action: sticking with it even when it gets hard. Staying aboard when it would be easier to jump ship. Keeping on in the midst of disappointment and moral failure, continuing to point to Jesus, the Great Discipler.
A year later John sat at our kitchen table after a feast of his favorite food, pancakes. With eyes heavy still with the weight of what his sin had cost, he said to me, “I’m ready to work.” He and Kevin had had an intensive few days of Bible study and discipleship. He had traveled to the valley of the shadow and back again, receiving forgiveness from Jesus, his wife, his community, and PBT.
I can say joyfully that John is back at work, translating the Bible God’s word into his heart language again, thankful for a God who doesn’t give up on us.
Erin is wife to Kevin, a member of the Scripture Impact team, and mother to Josey and Corabelle.