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Nem and his wife Wa’e became followers of Jesus Christ in 2010. He was already a respected older man in the community and, after becoming a Christian, he was eager to learn all he could from the Bible. He was very faithful to attend each time we taught, and he joined in on the second literacy class that was taught back in 2011. After learning to read and write, he showed interest in learning to become a Bible teacher. As he matured in his faith, he remained a faithful brother in the Lord and soon was teaching alongside of us. We taught him how to teach from the Bible lessons that we developed, and he began to take and teach small portions. Soon he was very confident teaching side by side with us from the Bible. The people respected him as a teacher and would silently listen as he taught from God’s Word. In 2014, a team of missionaries came to work with a neighboring tribe. Nem was bi-lingual with the language of the neighboring tribe, and he helped to communicate that the people should accept the new missionaries and help them as they learned their language. And he told them that one day the missionaries would tell them a very big talk about God and that they should listen well when that day came!
Nem was also burdened to reach out to other areas in his own tribe. We had already reached the areas nearby, but there were still outlying hamlets that had yet to hear the good news! It was as we were making plans and praying about how we could reach out to hamlets of people living days and weeks away that he became sick. He had a very bad bough of malaria and possibly pneumonia at the same time. The final morning of his life on earth, I went down to check on him in his house. His breathing was very labored as his lungs were filling with fluid. I prayed for him and he thanked me. Those were the last words that he said to me. A few hours later, he died. I was up in my office working when my friend Liku yelled up to me, “Mike, don’t you hear the women down below at Nem’s house?” It took me a minute to understand what he meant, and then down the valley I heard the loud crying. As I rushed down the muddy trail, trying not to stub my toe, I hoped that he was still alive and by some chance I could help him. I ducked through the narrow doorway and his wife Wa’e and his daughter were there with him holding his hand and weeping. He was with the Lord.
I have seen death many times in the tribe from young babies to old men. But this time was different. Nem was my good friend and a fellow teacher. He was one of my disciples, a man with whom I had spent many hours together talking about life and God’s Word.
As I was wresting with this, what amazed me was the next day when Wa’e said, “This was the Lord’s plan for my husband. There is no need for us to mourn for a long time. And there should be no talk of the evil spirits. No, this was from the Lord, and Nem is now with Him!” I was amazed at her faith. Just a few years before, she had been an amimist, trusting in the spirits, and now she trusted in the Lord with her whole heart. As Nem was buried the next day, and the believers gathered and prayed, I saw a people that had truly turned from darkness to light. In our community of believers, no longer was death something to be feared, but there was hope for new life with God for eternity.
I still miss Nem, but I look forward to seeing him again.
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