It was meant to be straight forward. I had never been to PNG before nor had I led a team on a mission trip, but everything was well thought out and had been planned months in advance.
What I didn’t know however was that God had other plans in mind that would take my team and me way out of our comfort zone and put us in the midst of what would become an incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit such as we had never experienced before.
It all started the day we flew into Mt Hagen airport in the midst of torrential rain. Once inside the small terminal we were greeted by a local missionary, a Papua New Guinean brother by the name of Simon who I was told would escort us to our accommodation.
“We must hurry,” Simon told me as he guided us to the truck waiting for us outside, “We have to get to the village before the river floods”.
The village? I was puzzled by what he meant. We were already in the town where we would be staying and ministering for the week. As we packed our bags into the truck, Simon informed me that there had been “a change of plans” and that we wouldn’t be staying in town anymore.
Now he had my attention. Instead we would be travelling out to a “remote village” where we would stay and minister for the week. The prospect of being whisked away to a remote village by people I had only just met and in a remote part of a country that I had never been to before made me feel a little uncomfortable.
I was trying to weigh up in my spirit what the will of the Lord was in all of this. Would I insist we stuck to the agreed plan or go off the beaten track and trust that God had a greater plan in motion?
Following the peace of God in my heart, I agreed to Simon’s plan and without any further protest we began the long, wet and very bumpy ride hours out of town. When we ran out of road, we disembarked and walked the rest of the way. We trekked through bushland and down local trails until we finally reached the river.
But we were too late; the river had already begun to flood. The village we were travelling to was somewhere on the opposite side of the river and there was no bridge or safe passage across, only rushing water that increased in depth and speed with every passing minute as the rain continued to fall.
Suddenly, on the opposite side of the river villagers emerged from the trees and began to make a human chain and scramble across the river toward us. Working together we slowly crossed the flooded river clinging on to one another so we wouldn’t be swept away. The rapids pulled and tugged at us and sent rocks of all sizes crashing against our bodies.
Finally we made it to the other side as daylight faded. Waterlogged and exhausted we trudged on to the village and were guided to the hut where we would lodge. Where on earth were we and what were we doing here? No beds, toilets or warm showers to greet us as we had anticipated. Nothing that I had told my team to expect had gone according to plan and we hadn’t even been here a day.
The power of God
The next morning we woke to find that most of the village had gathered outside in an open courtyard to greet us. We were told that we were the first white people to ever stay in their village and as we stepped outside we were greeted with warm smiles and some frightened children, some of whom burst into tears when they laid eyes on us, having never seen a white person before.
The chief of the tribe introduced himself and while we talked, a young boy in the crowd caught my attention because he propped himself up with makeshift crutches. His name was John and he was around eleven years old. Years prior, John’s leg had been crushed in a rockslide. All his family could do was to try and set his bones and wrap him up the best they could.
Although the boy was nervous he agreed to let me pray for him right there in the courtyard. Everyone began to crowd around to see what was happening. Once we had him sit down it was clear that his left leg had set an inch or two shorter than his right.
I commanded his damaged leg to be healed just as Jesus taught his disciples to do. Everyone watched in amazement as his leg began to shake and in their local dialect John began to cry out “it’s moving, it’s moving!”.
His leg twisted back to into place and grew out to match the length of his other leg. John was healed. People gasped at the miracle and the chief stood and with a loud voice he declared, “God is here! God is here! Go and tell everyone from all the surrounding villages to come here to this place”.
And that was how it began. The word got out and over the course of the next few days hundreds of people came flooding in from far and wide, hungry and desperate to encounter the living God.
During the week we saw hundreds of miracles from bone damage, deafness to tuberculosis all healed. Souls were saved, bodies were healed and lives and families were transformed. We would worship together each night, dancing and celebrating what Jesus was doing in our midst.