I suppose on first glance that the title of this entry seems a bit unusual, but these two things represent some of the biggest struggles facing our national believers.
First is coffee. This is coffee harvest time in Papua New Guinea. Nearly everyone owns a grove of coffee trees. When the coffee is ripe, they spend days picking the coffee and hauling it back to their homes in flour sacks, usually around 50lb loads at a time. Then the coffee is run through a sort of hand cranck machine that strips the shell from the coffee. The coffee is washed and spread out in tarps to dry, then repacked in the flour sacks. When a sufficient quantity is accumulated, it must be taken to town to be sold. The closer to the coffee factory it is taken, the higher the price it can be sold for. So many people take a 50 pound bag on their backs and walk 6 hours to a spot where they can get a ride to town. After all their work, they can usually sell the coffee for 5 kina a kilogram, which translates roughly to around $50 for that 50 pound bag. That may seem not like very much money to us, but it is a huge amount of money to them.
With the money, unfortunately, comes many spiritual struggles. First, many of our believers are gone from home for days or weeks at a time, picking, processing, and hauling their coffee. That means that they are away from the ministry and accountability of the church. While they are in town, they are often surrounded by the unsaved, who are very ungodly in their actions and conversations. In addition, since most people have more money at this time of year than any other, there are many pitfalls even for those still here in the village. There are noisy parties with alcohol flowing freely. The peer pressure is especially hard on the young people.
Then, on the other hand, there is rugby. Rugby, as you may know is sort of similar to football, but with a few rule changes and no pads or helmets. Each neighborhood has their own team and often receive challenges from other villages. When a game is scheduled, nearly everyone from that neighborhood will pack up their entire family and walk the several hours to play or cheer on their team. They are usually gone for several days, as it is not just a matter of the game, but also a huge feast following the game with presents for everyone attending. The most recent game was about a week and a half ago on a Friday. Probably half of our church attended and probably half of those didn't make it back in time for church on Sunday.
Some churches here have banned participation/attendance as part of their church covenants (much as we might bars or nightclubs), but our church has not yet taken that position. Yesterday morning, Brother Randy preached on cleaning out areas of sin and specifically mentioned those who may have allowed coffee season or rugby to pull them away from the Lord and into sin. The altar was crowded at the invitation with 12 men and women making things right with God. Then, in our afternoon service, Brother Randy preached on "prove all things and hold fast that which is good" from Philippians 1. He then got two pieces of paper and labeled one "Ol Samting Nogut" (Bad Things) and "Ol Gutpela Samting" (Good Things). He then asked the people to list the things pertaining to ruby that fit each of the categories. There were lots of ideas for the Bad Things paper but hardly anything at all for the Good Things paper. Brother Randy didn't draw any conclusions at the end. He just taped the two pieces of paper on the wall at the front of the church and left it at that. We are praying that the people themselves will recognize the damage that this is doing to their spiritual walk.
So, all that to say, please pray for our believers to stand strong and stay faithful. Perhaps they are not bombarded with the many evil influences present in American culture and entertainment, but they do face their own struggles, perhaps even more difficult in certain areas.