The Dinangat missionary team always planned to work themselves out of a job.
And by God’s grace, “That finish line is drawing closer,” says Gary Smith. “Years ago, when we set off on this adventure with God, to trust Him and be His instruments to develop a tribal church, the goal ever before us was to essentially work ourselves out of a job.”
Jeremiah Markley adds, “We look back at all that the Lord has done in the years since we moved into Dinangat in 2003, and we are amazed at His mighty hand, humbled in what we’ve been allowed to be a part of, thankful for the many obstacles and impossibilities He has overcome in our lives and those around us, and blessed by the family of God born in this tribe.”
As a step in seeing the Dinangat church move one step closer to independence, the Smiths and Markleys will soon be moving out of the tribe for six months. They will continue to work on translation of the Dinangat Scriptures from their new home at the mission centre.
The Schlegels, the third missionary family, are currently on home assignment in Germany. Ralf shares their perspectives. “It’s kind of hard being so far away with big changes happening. But at the same time, we have total peace in the fact that it is God Who is building His church there,” he writes.
The Dinangat church has several Bible teachers who have been leading the church for some time. “They are ready to be appointed as elders,” Gary explains. And increasingly, the Dinangat missionaries feel it is time for the church to “spread its wings.”
The goal all along was to bring the Dinangat church to a place where it can “function on its own under the direction of the Holy Spirit,” Gary says.
The Dinangat missionaries are not pulling out of this work. Far from it, April Markley explains. “We are still very much Dinangat missionaries.” She says that the welfare of the Dinangat people, the translating of their Scriptures and their spiritual growth are still top priorities, regardless of where the missionaries are located.
This is not a transition that will be made without sadness, both for the Dinangat church and for the missionaries. When they shared with the Dinangat Bible teachers what the next step in church development would be, Gary says, “It ripped my heart out as I saw their downtrodden facial expressions.”
“It will never be quite like it has been for the last ten years. … It’s totally with mixed emotions that we are taking this next step,” April agrees. “Sharing our plans with the Dinangat believers was harder than we had anticipated. But we are all confident in the Lord’s timing for this, in spite of how hard it is.”
As the Bible teachers listened to the missionaries remind them that they have always been working toward this goal, they began to understand the next step in the maturing Dinangat church, in spite of their deep sadness.
“They saw it as a good opportunity to trust our Father, but it hit them (and me!) harder than I expected,” Gary shares. “We talked about how the disciples felt when Jesus told them He had to go away.”
The Smiths and Markleys will be moving to the mission centre for a while to share with and assist new missionary teams who are just beginning their ministries. They will also continue their work in translation and making visits to the Dinangat tribe. Currently, the Schlegels plan to return to the Dinangat village to live following their home assignment and the Smiths plan to move back in June of 2015.
The time until the missionaries return will give the Dinangat church an opportunity to stretch and grow. “We feel it is healthy to leave them alone for a period of time,” Ralf explains. “We pray that this time will strengthen their walk and relationship with their Lord and that the Word of God continues to become more and more the source of guidance and wisdom in their daily life.”
“If the church needs it,” April Markley writes, “we will move back as well. … We will be working with the Dinangat people for many years.”
Please pray for the Smiths, the Markleys and the Schlegels in this season of transition and adjustment. And join this missionary team in praying faithfully for the Dinangat church. Pray that God will strengthen His church mightily in His Word to continue to grow strong, live in full dependence upon His Spirit and stand firm for Him.