Jesus in the Jungle

Jesus in the Jungle – 11

Part of our assignment in Bougainville as given by God, was to find the remaining revivalist from 30 years ago and have them pray over Royree and impart to her before they die. Thursday was our first day to go looking for some of them. Finding people in villages is not an easy task. They can’t be reached by phone and they travel around a lot. They don’t live by schedules or clocks here. Ishmael, the man who led the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in the 80s and 90s against Papua New Guinea and his pastor Jonathan escorted us. This was highly unusual for them to stop what they were doing to help us but they felt God speak to them and they obeyed. The trip had its challenges. We drove 5 hours on roads that are extremely rough. Roads like these are not often found in the U.S. After making he long trip we discovered the man we were looking for has gone to his wife’s village so back we went several hours. By this time rain had come and we had to drive back across rivers that were now rising. At times The crossing was perilous. In the states roads would be closed with water this high but our guides are very seasoned and knew what to do. When we got to the village where the man was we were looking for, the river between us and his village was very high. Ishmael stopped the vehicles and sent men in on foot to find the man. When the men didn’t return Ishmael ordered every one out of the truck and drove himself across the river. By now the water was nearly halfway up across his Toyota 4wheel drive truck. Within a few minutes he returned with Joshua, the man we were looking for. Royree was beside herself. She has been looking for him fo 16 years. In 1960, Joshua was alone when the Lord overtook him and filled him with His spirit. He is the man God used to usher in a spectacular revival across the Solomon Islands full of signs and wonders. During a sermon Joshua walked off he platform and was suspended in mid-air. He raised people from the dead. The list goes on. Whenever he preached signs and wonders followed accompanied by wind, lightning and thunder and that’s how he became known as the Son of Thunder. He raised up many young men that followed and served with him and they were known as the Sons of Thunder. One of his spiritual sons joined us on the journey to locate him. I think it’s fair to say he is a legend in the Solomon Islands. It took no coaxing to get him to come with us. He had read Royree’s book Sons of Thunder and God told him she was coming. He had a bag full of journals that he has kept over the last 55 years of his walk with God and he wants to give hem to Royree to write the story. FYI- Royree wrote the book Sons of Thunder in 2008. She gave it that title because God showed her that title in a dream. She only found out 18 months ago that Sons of Thunder was the name of Joshua and his followers years ago. She was overjoyed to meet him to say the least. He agreed to come back to Arawa- the town where we are staying- so we could videotape an interview with him on Friday.imageOn the way back one of the rivers we had previously crossed had risen too high and was running too fast so we were forced To wait for it to go down for about 3 hours.  While we waited darkness came. Fireflies came out and flew down by the water. The locals were worried because they say every time the fireflies (lightning bugs) go down by the water something bad happens. Well it did. The brakes on a truck that was waiting for the water to go down released by itself in a freak accident and killed a young girl, probably in her late teens. The locals believed it was caused by the bad spirits that were upset that Joshua had come out of his village. We were parked right in front of a village and many of the villagers began to wail and mourn. Royree gathered us together to worship and pray. We did and about a dozen of the villagers joined us. It seemed to bring a level of peace.

It certainly curtailed the excitement of the day. We finished the trip back to our base. Joshua stayed in Joshua my son’s room that night. Yes that put a smile on my face! The next day we videotaped the interview with Joshua and during the interview he said great American revivalists like TL Osborne and Oral Roberts and W Brenham and William Seymour had poured into him thru teachings and books and if it hadn’t been for them, especially Osborne who prayed over him, he wouldn’t have been able to do what he has done. When he said that, I felt something like thick oil pour over my head down to my shoulders, through my torso and legs and finally my feet. Tears ran down my face. It was completely involuntary. I heard the Lord say, “now you know one reason you are here. America poured into the great move Bougainville experienced thru these men, and now I’m giving it back to you to take to America.” An interesting note is that Oral Roberts and TL Osborne were both from Oklahoma and I was born and raised in Oklahoma. Before we finished Joshua prayed over all of us. What a thrill!!

We went to Jonathan’s church this morning (Sunday) and Royree and Joshua both spoke. Ishmael led worship. What an experience. We are off to a village in the morning to take food to the villagers and pray with them. We have no game plan just following where He leads. Ishmael promised to play the shofar for me that we brought him before we leave.

We love the people. We love the adventure. It is a trip we will always remember and treasure.

Thank you to all for your prayers and support. We feel them every moment. I will send another update as I can.

Love to all,

Sondra 

Jesus in the Jungle – 12

What a place Bougainville is. The people, the place, the experience — like none I’ve ever known. I have a lot to process and not sure how long that is going to take. There is a very special story to tell. Did I see Jesus? Every single day in the faces of a people that know my God in a deeper way than I have experienced. I have a lot to share with you in the coming weeks – so many supernatural stories of God’s involvement with His people.

God’s glory lives there in the people. The photo of the mountain looks like snow on the top but it’s clouds. I thought it was appropriate as it reminded me of His presence that is so evident there. It is a beautiful island….raw and uncluttered by commerce and the like.

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We have made it to Brisbane. We are leaving in 14 hours to head home. We arrive in California Thursday morning where we will part with Pam and Josh and I will head on to Texas and arrive Thursday afternoon. We have missed everyone. I think we’ve been gone so long my husband has even started missing me!!!

We don’t have words to tell you how much your prayers have meant to us. We have felt them every single day. We have felt so loved, so supported and so encouraged.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. It’s not over — it’s just begun in so many fantastic ways.

Love to all,

Sondra

Jesus in the Jungle – 13

I left Bougainville 16 days ago and a piece of my heart remains there. I can’t stop thinking about her inimitable people and the raw unspoiled beauty of the land.   Truthfully, I’m ready to go back now. I feel like there’s something unfinished between us.

What is there about this island that is 75 miles long and 50 miles wide with a population of 175,000 that is pulling on me so strongly?  Before we arrived, I wondered if I would have culture shock. What would the islanders think of us?

We landed at Buka airport (Northern end) and there was plenty to process immediately. I actually found it exciting and exhilarating  to be somewhere so different from home. I took it all in – as much as I could. We piled everyone and all the luggage into taxis and went a short distance down to the waterfront where we loaded into a banana boat (water taxi) to cross a short waterway from Buka Island to the main island of Bougainville.

bougainvillemap

Once across we loaded all the luggage into the back of Dave and Royree’s truck and  headed to their adopted village to spend the night. Piling in the back of trucks is the way the people travel the island. It was the ultimate “convertible” experience! We garnered plenty of attention from the locals.

DaveCU2 copy

As soon as we arrived in the village, we were given a very warm and inviting welcome. The girls made us leis with tree leaves and presented them to us. Dave had been in the village for nearly two months working with them. He’s doing his best to help them get tin roofs on their huts so they can collect clean rain water for drinking.  They love the Jensen family so much they adopted them into their family and gave them the land to live on. It will stay in their family forever. They even made Dave one of the chiefs. They were very excited to see Royree and Sharene (Dave and Royree’s daughter) and their grandkids Eric and Amy. That night they had a special gathering for us. Poppa Joe, one of the village chiefs, welcomed us and the people sang after Royree gave a short greeting and message about Jesus. Many of the Bougainvilleans speak English but their native tongue is Tok Piskin – or Pidgin.

The next morning Royree showed me around the village and we shared gifts with the children we had brought. Family, community, and land are everything to Bougainvilleans. That and their freedom that they have been fighting so hard to win for many years.  I’ll tell you more about that in the coming days. I had an instant affection for the people. They know no pretense, they honor others, they share everything. What belongs to one belongs to all.   These islanders survived an ugly war for over a decade in the recent past and they lost 10% of their population. They know what is important. Family members are never disowned.  They don’t have the luxuries we have in the West but they have something on the inside that we don’t.  I found myself envious of their strength, loyalty, and courage. I wanted to get to know them better. I know I must go back.

Pictures truly are worth a thousand words (and I’m a filmmaker!) so instead of describing what I saw here’s another video so you can see for yourself.https://player.vimeo.com/video/173414408

The next day we drove down the island to Arawa. It was there I met the most intriguing man I have ever met.  I teared up every time I was in his presence. I’ll introduce you to him next time.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear from you!

Sondra Martin Hicks

sondra@heartstonepictures.com

Jesus in the Jungle – 14

3 Reasons I felt transported to the Old Testament when in Bougainville

The #1 reason is because of the man I told you we were going to talk about in this post – Ishmael Toroama. I have never met anyone remotely like him in my life. When I stood in front of him I felt like I was standing in front of King David. I found it difficult not to weep. I was drawn to him like a magnet. My 18-year-old son, Joshua, felt the same way.

Upon arriving in Arawa, the town where he lives, I presented him with a shofar from Israel. From what I had heard and read about him it seemed a fitting gift.  (Check out his t-shirt)

His shirt says, “Jesus is the only way to heaven”

To understand where I’m coming from I need to give you some history of this man and the island.

In the late 1960s, it was discovered that Bougainville is rich in copper and gold. The 2nd richest copper deposit in the world to be exact. Lots and lots of gold comes with it. Around 1970, Rio Tinto Zinc, a British company operating out of Australia, moved into Bougainville and set up operations under the name Bougainville Copper Limited – BCL. They ran people off of their land to get to the copper and gold.

The location selected was one of the tallest mountains on the island.  This is what that former mountain looks like today after 20 years of mining. It’s hard to imagine that at one time it was unspoiled with a very tall mountain in its place.

panguna from air

BCL promised to build new houses and schools for the people they displaced. But, they didn’t. Here’s a few pictures I took of one of the villages displaced and the housing they live in. As I look at it now, I’m filled with anger at the greed it represents. Which one of the BCL executives would like one of these homes as a summer getaway do you suppose?

guana village1
guana village21
guana village30

BCL said the minerals did not belong to the island. Not sure how they came to that faulty conclusion.  Maybe it was justification to keep 80% of what they took out of the mine.It was reported that they were mining $35 million a day. Papua New Guinea kept almost 20% and Bougainville received pennies. Bougainville was under PNG territory and PNG greatly prospered on the back of the islanders.

Bougainvilleans live by the land and for the land so when BCL destroyed the waters and the land with the cyanide they used in the mine, killing the fish and killing coconut trees, the islanders had to put a stop to it. In November of 1988, a man named Frances Ona took the lead. He demanded restitution from BCL. BCL executives laughed in his face. Over a 5 month period, Frances and a group of men blew up the power that ran the plant. Long story short, a revolutionary army gathered on the island and the Papua New Guinea Defense Force was called in. PNG wanted the mine to continue for obvious reasons. This began a 10-year war that resulted in over 10% of the Bougainvilleans losing their life. This includes warriors, women, children, and men. There is still fallout today from the chemical poisoning done by BCL.

I’ll share more about the war as we go along, but for now, I want to continue with why I felt like I had stepped into an Old Testament story.  Reason #2: The church in Bougainville began to pray and go to war in the heavenlies long before Francis Ona and the other men started their campaign.  Just like the Israelites, God heard their prayer and stepped in.

Enter Ishmael Toroama.  Ishmael was only 21 years of age when the conflict started. He loved Jesus and wanted to fight for his homeland so he went to the Lord with his request.

Reason #3Ishmael told me story after story of divinely given direction and miraculous protection that he and the BRA experienced. There’s no doubt that the hand of God was on Ishmael and the BRA. God was with him throughout the war, just like He was with David in Israel. God gave them battle plans, strategies, weapons etc.  Ishmael told me they won the war when God gave them instructions on where to attack and how.

On one particular day, Ishmael and a few of his men were crossing the water in a banana boat. Ishmael was standing at the front of the boat when a PNG helicopter flew over them and opened up machine gun fire. He instructed the men to keep pressing on. The PNG soldiers sprayed them with bullets. Not one of the men were hit and the boat did not sink. When Ishmael heard the voice of the Lord say, “Now Ishmael” he picked up his gun and shot ONE bullet at the helicopter and it crashed onto the beach.

In the West, I think we often see Jesus as a tender lamb that speaks softly. In reality, He is a lamb, but He is also a warrior, a lion, a fierce defender of His people. I have never heard stories like Ishmael shared with me other than in the Old Testament. I want to share many of these stories with you because you want to hear them.

Another way Ishmael reminds me of David is that he is a worshipper. He leads the worship at his church. I watched him weep before the Lord during worship. He is a lover, a worshipper, and a king among men.

There’s so much I want you to know about these incredible people. They have experienced 6 revivals since 1960 and it’s obvious another one is on its way. These revivals were full of supernatural occurrences and outpourings of the glory of God. There’s also so many stories about the war. One thing is clear when you hear the stories —- they have paid the price to see the glory of God. That’s why they know Him in a way most of us have not experienced.

For now, here’s one last story from Ishmael about the miraculous hand of Jesus.https://player.

More stories to come about the war, the vote for freedom, and the revivals.

Please let me know what you think about these stories and what you want to know more about.

Marching together,

Sondra

Jesus in the Jungle – 15

Pam, Betty (Ishmael’s wife) and me

There’s many, many stories of supernatural protection and provision during the difficult war years in Bougainville. Royree has heard so many more than I have because she has been involved with the people of Bougainville for 16 years. In 2000, she heard about the glory of God that was present on the island and went looking for it. Since that time she and Dave have become great friends with so many Bougainvilleans.

Royree has contributed to a book titled “South Pacific Revivals.” Here’s an excerpt.

A boy’s story: “During the crisis, Papua New Guinea Defense Force men entered the little house I lived in with my mother. They demanded kerosene and food at gunpoint. My mother was a Christian and so she began to pray. They held a gun to her head but she said, ‘No.’ Kerosene was more valuable than gold for us. Without it, we couldn’t run our home. The soldier pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t go off. All this time, I watched my mother. They pulled the trigger a second time. The gun didn’t go off. The soldier went outside our hut, pulled the trigger and it went off. The gun was loaded and it exploded. These soldiers realized that God was with my mother. They quickly ran away. We kept out kerosene.”

By the time that 12-year-old boy told me this story, he was a young man, yet the awe of God was till on him. He had witnessed his mother’s faith in God and he is still walking in the fear of God.   

Taxi service in Bougainville. This is the most common form of transportation.

Ruth, a vivacious school teacher recalls her experiences of being a woman during the crisis and the revival: “In the time of the crisis, God helped my family in a big way. We had no money to buy clothes, food and soap. God showed us how to use coconut and lemon to wash our clothes to make them white as snow. He showed us how to use coconut oil from our own coconut trees for lamps. Before the crisis, we used to buy kerosene for our lamps. Now there was no money and no kerosene. Salt was also not available so He showed us how to cook our food in salt water from the ocean, adding grated coconut for our flavors. Sometimes we would boil the ocean water until all we had left was the powdery salt. In these ways, God showed me that He loved women in their domestic situation; that even in a crisis He could provide all we needed by looking after our clothes and our bodies.

“When it was time for us to have babies, He made sure there was someone around to act as a midwife. As soon as we knew we were carrying a baby, we would pray that God would be with us at the time for the birth and that our babies would come out easily. We want to give God glory and thanks. Women who didn’t have Him with them often died along with their babies at their time of birthing.

“God also blessed the ground during the crisis. Food that we hadn’t planted appeared – sweet potato, yam, taro, cassava, Chinese taro, banana and other fruit. This didn’t just happen in one place. It happened all over the island. In fact, there is now a category of sweet potato called crisis kaukau!”

Jane: “When the crisis came, people ran away to the mountains leaving their chickens behind. It seemed that those chickens found their way to our village so we had plenty of meat for a long time during the crisis.”

With no help from the neighboring giant, Australia, and with the confusion and betrayal of brother fighting brother, they turned to God, sometimes praying from 6 in the morning to 11 at night. As the saying goes, “When God is all you have you find that He is enough.”

Another young man shared this story with Royree:

“There was one instance in 1993 when I was leading a group of chiefs from up in the mountains to sign a peace agreement. I prayed to my God, ‘The fighting is all around us and I am a Christian. If You are going to go with me, talk with me tonight, Papa God. I don’t want to lead them through the bullets.’

“At 2 a.m., my elder son who was three spoke in English. He did not know English. He said, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, you can go.’ He was fast asleep. Fifteen years later, the memory still brings tears to my eyes and a reverent awe of God. This was not the time of meetings, conferences, mobile phone or encouragement. This was a hard time and we only had God.

“I woke up in the morning with peace. That day, 15 of the chiefs started to run back to the moutains. I told them that God was with us and that not one single man must run away even if there is gunfire. I told them that, if one runs, then the guns will get us but that if no one runs, we will all be safe.

“There was a place called Ambush Corner always maintained by BRA. They knew where I was taking these chiefs and why. They didn’t want anyone to sign peace papers. I was in the front of the line. They Holy Spirit stopped me and I heard a voice tell me to take the chiefs to one side. I stopped them and said, ‘We are about to enter Ambush Corner and I am afraid that there are people ready to kill us. However, last night, I felt the peace of God. Don’t run but stand strong beside me.’ We walked ahead and the BRA descended upon us. I said to them, ‘In Jesus name, I am a servent of God.’

“They pointed their weapons to the sky and fired them off, then they pointed their guns at us but the guns wouldn’t fire. The chiefs kept following me saying that the peace must come from God. The peace we enjoy today in Bougainville is because of that document.”

If you are interested in reading more about God’s revivals in the South Pacific the book is available as an e-book on Amazon for $5. The title is South Pacific Revivals by Geoff Waugh with Robert Evans, Royree Jensen, Walo Ani and Vuniani Nakauyaka.

Have I mentioned that I’m ready to go back to the island! I miss the people and I want to hear more stories. I think we should make a movie of this, what do you think?

A view of Bougainville from a nearby private island we visited.
A fun day seeing Bougainville from the water.

Till next time,

Sondra

Jesus in the Jungle – 16

Being vulnerable…….ugh.  My definition of this is exposing our heart and soul to others, much of the time with fear and trembling I might add. And why do we have this fear and trembling?  Because of the beast called – FEAR OF REJECTION! What does this have to do with Jesus in the Jungle? Well, here goes.

Before we left the states for Bougainville, I had a dream where I saw Jesus in the Jungle. Toward the end of our trip, we were treated to an afternoon at a private island. Private meaning that no one lives there.  We had the island to ourselves. I took a walk on the beach by myself and ventured into the jungle. I stopped in my tracks. The scene in front of me was just like the scene in my dream except Jesus wasn’t standing there. I waited. I looked around wondering if I would see something unusual. I didn’t. I turned on my camera and recorded as I walked through the jungle. The atmosphere was rich with animal sounds. I didn’t see Him with my eyes but I felt Him walking with me. It became a very intimate moment between Jesus and me. I felt such love for Him that I began to sing a song from my teenage years, “I Love you Lord” and it was recorded on the video. My singing is so bad that I felt awkward even with no one else around. But I knew that Jesus didn’t hear my voice as terrible because He was hearing my heart that was so full of love for Him.

Now to the vulnerable part. When I woke up yesterday morning I felt the Lord ask me to share this video with you. I said, “This is a joke, right? Please tell me you’re kidding?” Well, He wasn’t. I did pray for humility one time and apparently He hasn’t forgotten!!! As I thought about His directive I began to realize something.  For nearly all of my life, until the last three to five years, I wore fear of rejection like a suit of armor. I classified myself as a Non-Hugger. People often remarked, “You just think you’re so tough but I know you’re not.” I hated hearing that. I wasn’t tough and I hated that I came across like that. So I made a conscious decision to start tearing that wall down. I asked God to melt my heart, to heal my heart. Every one of us has deep wounds and hurts and we all avoid rejection like the plague.  We all put up walls to keep others at a distance to avoid getting hurt. But here was my big “aha” moment.  The walls I put up weren’t keeping me from getting hurt — they were keeping my heart of love and compassion from coming out like I felt on the inside.

Over time, the lover of my soul answered my prayer inch by inch, foot by foot.  Maybe I still have some wall up and that’s why I need to share this video. I don’t really know what His wisdom is but I know He does. But I do know this, we fear vulnerability and it’s vulnerability that draws people to us. It’s what begins a true deep relationship with another. When we expose something on the inside it gives room to another to do the same. It builds trust. It builds a “I understand and trust you and you understand and trust me” relationship.  I’ve learned that being vulnerable is actually the best way to live. Of course, we have to use wisdom to know when it’s ok to open ourselves to another and when it’s not.

The most satisfying way to live is the way Jesus told us to — to give ourselves away and love. Love without needing anything in return. “….but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Phil. 2:3  Tearing the walls down around our heart is essential to doing this. Love has to be able to flow freely back and forth. It brings freedom and nothing beats freedom.

So what about the dream of seeing Jesus in the jungle? Was He there or not?  Maybe in the dream He was telling me it was ok to go to Bougainville and that He would be there waiting for me.  He was, every moment.

Something has happened to me since April 2nd.  I think in all the beautiful encounters I had with Him before I left He was giving me a revival of sorts. He gave me a new revelation of His love. I love others more now because I feel more loved. And feeling the prayers of so many that covered us Has been the best part of the experience. Knowing that I am part of God’s family that loves one another because He loves us is the best feeling in the world. If being vulnerable helps me feel more of that then sign me up. I’m all in.

Loving Him – and You,

Sondra

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