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'Jesus' blood covered my sin'

Noel’s head dropped to his chest and his body hung limp.

What was the Uriay man thinking as he portrayed Christ’s death on the cross?

“I almost cried,” Noel said. “Before you all started this teaching, I was in Satan’s canoe. I said bad things about other people … and as I hung there I kept thinking about how Christ bore all this pain and punishment for my sins. He died and His blood was poured out to cover my sins.”

“Before you all started this teaching ….”

Missionaries Elias and José Struik remember those days well, days of building relationships with the people and learning their culture and language.

They remember the day when they told the people they would be using an airstrip in another nearby village instead of building a new one in the village where they had built their homes. The people were angered by the announcement. Having an airport is a status symbol in Papua New Guinea. The news prompted more than half the people to move out of the village.

The Struiks remember the night Kobi’s screams awakened them. Kobi, a witchdoctor, said “spirits” told him that someone was planning to poison his wife. Terrified, he grabbed his bow and arrow and ran through the village. It was one of many incidents when the missionary team would see the desperate need the Uriays had for the message they would teach.

By studying the culture of the people, the missionaries knew “that nothing happens without a reason” in the Uriay culture. “Whether you get ill, step on an ax, or a bird flies over your head, there is a very specific spiritual reason for it. Visible and invisible forces play a huge role in everyday life.”

Those visible and invisible forces play daily on the people’s fears – fear of spirits, witchdoctors, tribal enemies, sickness and death. Fear rules village life and is the motivation behind most of the Uriays’ actions.

Having gained a workable knowledge of the culture and language, the day finally came when the missionary team could begin addressing those fears through evangelistic Bible teaching.

“What was it like for God if there was no ground and no sun?” asked Wobere, a village leader, on one of the first days of teaching, in response to Elias’ teaching about Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

“We gave him the only answer we could think of,” Elias said, that “we really don’t know. We are not like God. We need air to breath and sunlight to see and ground to walk on. We can’t really imagine a life without these things.”

As they listened to the day by day account of Creation, the Uriays were most interested in the various species available for food. The missionaries told them not to think about how good the fish would taste or how God created bananas, but to think about what they were learning of the Creator God.

Sitting on the front row, quietly listening to the teaching were three women – Dakruma, Imi, and Keyna. Each woman contributed her thoughts about what they were learning.

“Yahweh God, He made it all by His own strength. He didn’t go to school. His thinking wasn’t short. He didn’t sweat. He didn’t need all those things Himself. He prepared it for us. He is good. He always has been there.”

The missionaries were delighted with what the Uriays were beginning to understand and another important Bible lesson would begin to open the people’s eyes to their need of a Savior.

The Uriay people stared as blood spattered everywhere when Elias stabbed a lamb. Not a real lamb and not real blood. As an illustration he stabbed a plastic bag filled with red-stained juice attached to a cutout of a sheep.

“The picture was clear,” wrote the Struiks co-worker, Lisa Kappeler. “Adam and Eve had rebelled against God and a couple of leaves just weren’t sufficient. God was providing a covering, and that included the shedding of blood.”

The Uriays were learning that God desired a close relationship with Adam and Eve, but sin had separated that first couple from their Creator.

A few lessons later, the Uriays would again see the connection between the blood of a lamb and salvation.

Elias and his son portrayed an Egyptian father mourning the death of his first-born son and told how the Israelites were saved because they followed God’s instruction of applying the blood of a lamb to the doorposts of their homes.

As the missionaries taught about the Israelites journey to the Promised Land and God giving the Law to Moses, the Uriays began to see their own sinfulness and God’s holiness.

The people watched as Lisa handed her co-worker Matt Clayton a mirror so he could see the charcoal smeared on his face. Matt took the mirror and tried to use it to wipe the stain from his face.

“I gave you the mirror so you could see the charcoal on your face,” Lisa said.

The illustration emphasized that God gave the Law so the Israelites could see their sinfulness. The Uriays began to see themselves in the Ten Commandments. “That’s us!” they agreed. “We all do that stuff.”

As Elias taught about the sacrificial lamb that would cover the Israelites sins as they wandered through the desert, he asked, “What was the person thinking when he saw the blood flowing down when the lamb was killed?”

Imi replied, “That person knew he was guilty and deserved death but understood that the lamb was taking that punishment.”

The Uriays listened intently to the Old Testament lessons and were beginning to form a foundation for understanding God’s plan of salvation.

Elias taught them about the Israelites being bitten by snakes when they spoke against God and Moses, and how God instructed Moses to “make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”

Elias asked, “Would it help for someone that was bitten by the snake to take medicine perhaps? Or pray to God for healing? Would praying help, because that’s a good thing isn’t it?”

“No!” several people responded. “People only would be restored if they trusted God in obedience to His Word and looked at the bronze snake on the pole.”

The bronze serpent was a situation that Jesus referred to when speaking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus. The Uriays would hear that lesson and others as the missionaries introduced teaching from the New Testament.

“It blows me away,” said José, “to see how major concepts like the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, and Jesus being without sin are accepted so readily.”

“This is the most important talk,” said Imi. “I want everybody in this village to hear and believe. I am so concerned about those not attending.”

As they heard lessons about Jesus’ life on earth, they began to recognize Him as the Almighty One, the Creator. During a lesson about Jesus healing the man with the paralyzed hand, Elias asked the people how Jesus did it.

“He did it just like in the beginning,” Dakruma said, “by His mouth. He just spoke.”

Elias asked the people, “Do we need to clean ourselves up before we can listen to God’s Talk?”

After a period of silence several spoke and agreed that they would need to get rid of their sin to understand God’s Word. But Tyob’s deep voice interjected some enlightenment to the group.

“No,” he said. “We can’t change ourselves. That is something only God can do.”

And change was on its way.

On Sept. 8, 2010, the Uriays heard the climax of evangelistic Bible teaching.

Aendru had heard about Jesus dying on the cross before, but never understood that it was for his sins. When he saw Noel’s reenactment of Christ on the cross he put his head down and couldn’t hold back the tears.

In the following days, several gave testimony that they now trust in Christ for their salvation.

“I am a child of God,” Dakruma said. “Jesus is my punishment-bearing man! His blood poured out so that I don’t have to get the punishment for my sin.”

“It’s because of His love for us and His mercy that He was willing to die on the cross,” said Imi. “He died so I don’t have to go to Hell.”

Several weeks later, Imi’s prayer showed her thankfulness to God and a deliverance from the fear that has captivated the Uriays for so long.

“Thank You God for being far above all things. Thank You that everything is beneath You. You created the sky, ground and all other things. I believe You and so I am in Your hands. Whatever trouble comes up, I put it into Your hands.  I’m not afraid because You have all the power and You are above everything.”

POSTED ON May 01, 2011 by David Bell