‘Isabel Pamatmat’

Anna and James[1] have been church planting in the Asia Pacific for fifteen years. Through fighting dengue fever, ten years of terrible headaches, chronic fatigue, anaemia, home-schooling five children in the jungle as well as being faced with trials and roadblocks, Anna and James’ story is one that shows the patient and persevering character of God.

Working amongst the unreached tribe of the Yengha[2] people group, it took a total of six years for James to finally become fluent enough to speak in the heart language of the Yengha people, a language that was not written down to begin with.

Living very much isolated, the Yengha are semi-nomadic and live in small hamlets. Anna and James recall how the Yengha didn’t enjoy gathering together very much, that there was a lot of distrust amongst themselves and other family clans and frequent arguments.

In the past there was an entire missionary team that had lived amongst them previous to Anna and James. However, the Yengha did not like them or engage with them. They found it incredibly hard to trust them, believing that these missionaries had ulterior motives that were not in the best interest of the Yengha people.

Because of this long history, it became incredibly difficult for the Yengha people to trust Anna and James at the beginning. It took six years of being patient with a people who were highly suspicious before their hearts were finally softened. It took a series of hardships, clashes with government, and internal family clan divisions to then God finally working in them to see that Anna and James were good people and that they were there for a good purpose. After six years of planting seeds, they finally opened up to them with their entire hearts and lives. From darkness to light. Blindness to sight. Death to life. These people even ended up cooperating with Anna and James to humbly teach them their language.

James shared a story of one man who knew the message that they preached was absolutely true because of the way they treated each other.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

– John 13:35

“One of the men who had a couple of wives and a whole bunch of kids came to me in the middle of the night, like Nicodemus who came to Jesus the same way. I think he was wanting to come when others weren’t watching. He said ‘When you first came here, I didn’t trust you. I thought you were strange. I thought you were stupid. But now we know you have the truth because of how you treat your wife.”

We asked them, “What advice would you give to those who want to church plant amongst an unreached people group? Anna and James replied with “Know that you’ll never be completely ready but that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise. He enables and strengthens us. His grace is always available to us. No amount of training or personality or Bible knowledge will accomplish this. It’s all God’s doing.’

“He is the reason we have a mission.” 

[1] Names changed for security

[2] Not real name of people group


About A&S