NEW TAIPEI CITY — In 2009, Wayne Chen, who is Taiwanese by birth, left a comfortable life in Silicon Valley and moved his family to Biem Island in Papua New Guinea to be missionaries. This volcanic island is only 3 km across, with only about 2,000 indigenous inhabitants and has no fresh water or modern conveniences like electricity and internet. It is only accessible by small boats, and for nearly 10 years, they faced the constant threat of malaria and recurrence of his wife’s cancer. Many might wonder, is it really worth it to spend 10 of the best years of your life this way?
Wayne Chen: Missionary to Papua New Guinea:
Just surviving there day-by-day, facing dengue fever, malaria and things like that, you wouldn’t say these things are “worth it.” But as Christians, I don’t think the question should be how we feel about these things. The question is: as children of God how should we interpret all these things that we experience in our lives?
Wayne and his wife Gail spent three years learning the language and culture, and creating a Biem alphabet so they could clearly communicate the Gospel They taught the people how to read and write their own language, and began to tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, leading people to Christ. A local church was established in 2012, and the next year, 11 people were baptized. In 2016, the first local elders were ordained and traveled to another island 25km away to share the Gospel.
A Biem brother:
Before I believed in Christ, I did lots of bad things: I took drugs, I lied, I hated… Whatever people of the world did, I did it too, but when I trusted the Lord and became a child of God, it was like becoming a new person. When I became a child of God I was so happy. God’s word came into my life and made a huge transformation.
A Biem sister:
Before, I didn’t know what grace was. After taking the literacy class and beginning to read the Bible, now I understand what grace is.
Growing their own food, building their own house and doing everything for themselves was enough of a challenge, but nothing compared to insufficient medical resources for his wife and being unable to guarantee the health and safety of his family. For Wayne, as a husband and a father, this was his greatest trial and challenge.
Someone directly told me: You don’t have the right to make this decision for your children and take them to a place like that.
Gail Chen: Missionary to Papua New Guinea:
In the process I would ask God: Why? Are we doing something wrong? But when we asked ourselves if God had changed, if His love had changed, if His salvation had changed, when we thought about it, none of that had changed.
(Suffering from stage 3 breast cancer, heaven became a regular topic of conversation with their children)
In the end I had to search my own heart. What was I trusting for protection? Was it what I could provide as a father, or was I simply trusting that God would take responsibility for our lives?
Leaving his comfort zone to minister in another culture, Wayne understood there would be a price to pay, but when his own faith faltered, he just kept asking himself: What is it that I want to pour out my life for?
When our lives are used by God, it might not be comfortable, it might not go according to our plans, but I don’t want to invest in just the next 20-30 years of my life. I want to invest in the next 2 thousand or 20 thousand years.
Actually, we don’t always look at things from an eternal perspective either. We understand completely. We’re just like everyone else. We live in the same world, but we know that God is with us. And even if we have to face death, we know that God is our dwelling place, and this explains so much to us because we know He loves us.
Even facing the advanced stages of cancer, there is a steady peace in Gail’s voice as she speaks. At the end of our interview, Wayne said he hopes people forget their story because the stories of more Chinese missionaries are about to begin.
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Source: Global News Alliance, Miracle on a Desert Island: Wayne Chen Works to Create Alphabet and Plant Church