THE DECHERD DIAPER DERBY When the Franklin County Health Department put out a plea for diapers and wipes, the Decherd Church sprang into action. Some in our church family had not been in the diaper aisle for many years and found themselves asking store clerks for directions. It was humorous to see budget-conscious shoppers checking out all the local stores and comparing notes about where the best deals were in town. As the collection of diapers and wipes began to grow at the front of the church, they were displayed around the communion table whose inscription reads, "This do in remembrance of Me." When the diapers were delivered to the County, the church was surprised to learn that it had collected the most diapers and wipes of any single person or organization. The project wasn't about claiming that honor, though, It was about helping as many needy moms as possible.
THANKSGIVING WITH THE NEIGHBORS There are many ways to share food resources with the community. The Decherd Church uses the Thanksgiving holiday to provide food and an invitation to services. Gift baskets filled with fruit, nuts, pasta, and other staples are hand packed by the members. The colorful packaging also includes a simple paperback book that tells the basic story of God's love, as well as a post card showing the church and an invitation to services printed on the back. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, the church family walks the neighborhood and leaves a gift basket for each family. Though the event has become a tradition, the smiles of greatful recipients is fresh every year.
THE AMA CHURCH
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the largest tropical island in the world -- about the size of California. It is just north of Australia next to the equator. The remote jungle village of Ama lies 300 miles inland from the town of Wewak on the north coast. The terrain is thick with huge trees, jungle vines, and lots of mud from the 240 inches of rainfall a year. The tropical rainforest surrounding Ama is filled with exotic birds, plants, animals, reptiles, and insect species.
The five villages of the Ama people are isolated by wild formidable mountains on the west, malaria filled swamps to the east and south, and the mighty Sepik River to the north. It is the 700 mile long Sepik that forms a "road" for motor canoes to reach the Ama.
Socially the people of Ama are bonded closely to one another. They work together for the common good of the village. Many ofthe men have multiple wives and many children. However, more than half of the children die before reaching adulthood from disease and malnutrition. The people are animists who live in fear and bondage to demons, masquerading as departed ancestors and nature spirits. Theirs is a life without lasting peace.
Adventist missions in the area date to the 1960s when a missionary presence was established. But that light went out, and it would be decades before another missionary would come. In the 1990s another family went, but soon they too were gone. John and Pam Lello arived in 2012, but their service was cut short by the death of John Lello (above, red shirt) in a tragic accident.
Meet David and Edie Hicks, employees of Adventist Frontier Missions (Michigan), who have accepted God's invitation to move to Papua New Guinea and resume the work started by their predecessors. David, who studied pastoral ministries at Weimar College (California), is no stranger to PNG. From 1994-96 he served at the May River Mission Station, just down the river from Ama. Edileuza ("Edie") immigrated to the USA from Brazil. She is a registered nurse and will be operating a small medical clinic in the area.
The Decherd Church, along with many other individuals and churches, have covenanted to financially suppoort this missionary couple as they bring the news of a loving God to people who live in spiritual fear. And with this missionary link, "Decherd Street" with intersect with "Ama Street." Though formal introduction of these two people groups will be reserved for heaven, Decherd has a "sister church" to pray for, a missionary couple to support, and a group of people who are as special to God as the people of a small church in rural Tennessee, USA.
But the relationship is more than just monthly support. As the Hicks family packed a container with all their supplies for Ama, they also packed multiple copies of a songbook produced by the Decherd Church and printed in the common language of Papua New Guinea. Thanks to high-tech waterproof paper, the new songbook should be able to withstand the heat and humidity that destroys the paper of traditional publishing methods. In 2015 funding was provided for Bibles in the Tok Pisin language for the people of Papua New Guinea.