It was the last thing Papua New Guinea missionary Steve Root was expecting to hear when Ray appeared – once again – on their property the morning of November 14.
Ray was a local resident who had been threatening the missionaries’ work in Simbai since 2014, relentlessly harassing them for large sums of money, demanding they buy his family a bus, a house, give them money, charter flights for them. He began making false claims against the Roots and their ministry. And after countless unsuccessful meetings with Ray and his family, it seemed the only resolution would be for Ray to take them to court.
“He was persistent, never letting up. It caused us to always look over our shoulder, to see if he would follow through with his threats to destroy our property, or to harm those we worked with,” Steve said.
When Ray showed up on the property early that Tuesday morning, just hours before the Roots were scheduled to leave Simbai, Steve and his team could only guess it would be to cause more trouble. They told him they would meet him “Beyond Our Gate” (off the grounds). He complied, and Steve along with missionary Bill Tobias went out to him. What Ray said and did next, Steve said caused them to “shed tears of joy, and amazement.”
He told them he had been awake since early morning. He said he felt God was talking to him, prompting him to change his thinking. And he admitted that what he had been doing was wrong. He was dropping all of his claims, he told them. He wanted the Tobias’ to retire in peace.
He exchanged gifts with the missionaries at the airstrip – spears for them, a Bible for him. Exchanging gifts publicly is a cultural symbol to show the community a dispute has been resolved. That morning, after three years of vain attempts to settle the issue, Ray’s heart had been softened, and moved by God to resolve his dispute with the missionaries.
Pray that God would continue to work in the lives of the people of PNG through the Roots' ministry.
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