Issue 30 | October 26, 2012 | Featuring Jephunneh Van Der Decker

Trying to solve a snag with Jephunneh Van Der Decker's senior portfolio sent from Papua New Guinea, I became acquainted with this fine young man to a small degree.  His life's story might remind you a bit of Ron Snell's in the book It's a Jungle Out There!  Remember when missionary couples would leave their children at boarding schools while the parents served on the mission field?  Through home schooling, families can stay together, children can become a part of the valuable work happening, and many of their experiences can be translated into self-designed courses.  

INSIDE NARHS: Update Your Contact Info!

We want to be sure that we have updated contact information for all of the families we work with, but particularly the most-used email address.  In January, we have an important announcement that will be sent out via our newsletter.  Between now and then, we are going to make every effort to update our email list.  If you have changes you need to make, or know someone who needs to be included, please email me at

FEATURED STUDENT: Jephunneh Van Der Decker

Jephunneh's story

 Jephunneh Van Der Decker  In January, 1997, when I was three years old, my family and I moved here to Papua New Guinea.  We have lived here since, with the exception of three 1-year home-assignments back in the US.

Although Papua New Guinea's beautiful scenery, exotic wildlife, dense rainforests, and tribal people are of great interest here, everything that PNG has to offer was not the driving factor of my family's coming and living here nor of my parent's raising my siblings and me here.  The driving factor that caused my family to move here was that God's desire, seen all throughout Scriptures, is for the WHOLE world to know, worship and serve Him. 

What have been your responsibilities with the missionary efforts of your family?

Ever since we first moved into the tribe, my parents were involving my siblings

 and me in the ministry in whatever way we could help out.  During the first few years, while my parents were learning Kaulong, the language of the people group with whom we work, my siblings and I would do such things as washing dishes, washing laundry, helping to clean the house, etc.  All throughout the years, as we were able, we would help people who would come to our house with whatever things for which they came.  They would come for such things as to borrow a shovel or bucket, to borrow thread and needle (we would lend out sewing needles and give out thread), and to talk.  Also, when there was a supply run into town or if we needed to meet our mission airplane for something, my siblings and I would be a part of packing and unloading the plane or pickup truck we were using.  For some time, my younger brother and I were responsible for pumping the fuel that we would use in our team's ATVs and generators.  We would keep track of how many 55-gallon drums of fuel we had at the time and when we needed to order more.

When we were finally able to present the Gospel for the first time, we kids attended the chronological Bible lessons through which our team was teaching.  Our sitting in on the lessons, even though at the time we did not understand the language, showed everyone else that the Gospel is not for adults only, but is for all people of all ages.  During this initial teaching, we would record the lessons being taught on cassette tapes.  It was my responsibility then to duplicate them and keep track of them, as our people would come and borrow the cassettes to listen to and review over the lessons.  Also, as time went on, and as we were able, we would hike with our parents to neighboring villages, for Gospel presentations, funerals, etc.  All throughout my time in the tribe, no matter what stage of the ministry we were in, my siblings and I were always involved in whatever ways we could.

   How have you managed to home school despite your other responsibilities?

  How did we manage to home school?  That is a good question.  All throughout my schooling years, we would try to fit in home schooling wherever we could.  My parents counted everything to be a learning experience - we simply could not pass up the life that was happening around us.  Because of the many interruptions, distractions, and situations that arose in the ministry, we usually did school all year round, with our 'summer break' being spread out over the whole school year.  For the past several years, we generally would do school six days a week, from morning until after dark, at times.  However, two times out of the year, my family and I would take a 2-week break, during which time we would not do school.  We would also have a break from school for Christmas.  Although this kind of schedule may seem a bit rough and causes school to be a little bit difficult to get done, I would not trade it on any account.  My being home schooled allowed my parents to have a great impact on me.  It allowed me to be a part of their ministry in the Kaulong tribe.  God greatly used my being homeschooled, and thereby being in the tribe, to allow me to catch His heart for all the ethnic groups.  Therefore, I would not trade being homeschooled for any other educational setting.

 What experiences have you been able to turn into a credit?

Having grown up in the tribe I had unique opportunities to do things that most high-school students might not be able to do.  Many of these opportunities I was able to turn in for credit.  The following are some such experiences:  World Cultures-Australia -visiting several tourist places, attending a local church, etc.; Building a chicken coop and run - designing the blueprint, digging a level building site into a mountainside, pouring a cement floor and three cement walls (one of which was five feet high), putting on the siding and roof, constructing a wired run (the sides of which were each approximately 30 feet long, and the height was approximately 6 feet high); Various aspects of Outdoorsmanship - doing a 5-day trip across our island of New Britain (hiking and catching rides with timber company vehicles), hiking into another tribal location to help some missionaries with some projects, touring a large crocodile farm and a dairy farm, swimming, tubing down a nearby river and snorkeling, etc.; Home Ec - helping some fellow missionaries at a certain tribal location with projects such as painting, laying a water over-flow pipe system, etc.; Ferro-cementing our leaking water tank - draining the water and slop that was left in our old tank, cleaning the rust out, and Ferro-cementing the tank from the inside (after we took the lid off); Ministry Assistance -during the January of 2010, I helped out at the Interface campus (a program which gives one an introduction to what tribal missions truly is); Directing Recreational Activities - during a missionary conference my brothers and I planned and supervised activities for the children of the missionaries attending the conference; and Kaulong - throughout almost my whole life in PNG, I was continually learning, and speaking as able, the Kaulong language, which is the language of the people group among whom we live.  

What obstacles have you had to overcome in order to be more effective in your role there?

How did you overcome them?

Because my family and I moved in among the Kaulong people when I was still very young, I don't remember many of the obstacles, since Kaulong is basically all I have known.  However, I do remember some of the challenges in learning the Kaulong language.  In order to help my brothers and me speak it more fluently, my family would sometimes make a rule for certain chosen meals that no one could speak anything but Kaulong.  Although it was at times difficult during the meal to remember how to ask for something, or to say something, etc, I am very thankful for those times because they were very beneficial in helping us to learn the language.

How has your time in that country made you a better person?


It was during my time in Papua New Guinea that God blessed me by allowing me to be a part of reaching tribal people for Himself.  It was during that time that the Lord gave me the desire to reach the lost for Him.  And it was during that time that God showed me that He wants ME to be a part of talking to people who might never be able to hear otherwise this good news of what Jesus has done for us.  

 What are your plans for the future?

In Proverbs 16:9, the Bible says "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."  Therefore, if God continues to lead in the direction He has led me so far, my plans are as follows:  I am planning to be working in maintenance at the Interface campus until the middle part of next summer.  I am then planning to return to the States for Bible school at New Tribes Bible Institute.  After the two years of the intense Bible study, I am planning to eventually go through New Tribes Mission Training (Missionary Training Center, MTC) before returning back to the mission field somewhere. 

There are many great Bible schools and colleges out there, but we as a family highly recommend New Tribes Bible Institute (  NTM has two of these Bible schools in the US, and one in England.  Many of the instructors are missionaries who have spent years in overseas church-planting ministries.  And because the entire staff are full-time missionaries who are financially supported by individuals and churches who are behind what they do, none of the tuition fee that the student pays goes to them.  It all goes to providing of such things as room, board, meals, etc.  Because of this, the tuition fee is much lower than it would be at some other schools. 

 The next step, after having received Bible training, would be to receive some type of training for the field.  New Tribes Mission has an excellent 1 ½ to 2-year missionary training program, located in Missouri. (  Here, the student is instructed on various essentials, such as some technical skills, how to learn an unwritten language, how to develop an alphabet for that language, how to teach through the Bible chronologically, how to provide basic medical care for the people among whom you might work, etc.  Although there are other good mission organizations that God uses greatly, as far as training programs are concerned, over the past 15 ½ years that we have been in Papua New Guinea, we have not heard of another mission's training program that is as good and thorough as that of New Tribes.

 Even if you may feel like you would not be able to learn an unwritten language, or even if you don't feel adequate in some way or another, that is okay.  God still desires to use you a part of spreading His Gospel to the ends of the earth.  It may be that He wants you to be a support missionary, using your everyday skills or jobs as a tool to further the Gospel.  All over the world, both state-side and overseas, we need people to be filling support roles, thereby enabling the missionaries out in the tribe to continue on in the ministry in which they are serving.  Whether you are a doctor, nurse, dentist, mechanic, aircraft mechanic, aircraft pilot, school teacher, carpenter, welder, truck-driver (filling the role as a supply-buyer), gardener, etc.  Anything!  You name it, we need it.  Just about anything that needs to be done in the home countries is needed in some way or another in missions.

Also, whether or not you currently feel God leading you to be personally involved in reaching the unreached, please be in prayer that God would raise up laborers to reach the unreached people around the world.  Although they may be unreached, they are not unreachable.  There are over 6,800 language groups in the world.  Out of that total number, approximately 2,500 of them are considered to be unreached.  Jesus gave the command to the church to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel and making disciples, about 2,000 years ago.  And yet, about 2,500 language groups are still unreached.  "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." (John 4:35)  Luke 10:2 - "Therefore said he unto them, 'The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.'"

If anyone is sensing God's leading them towards missions, please feel free to contact me.  I would enjoy trying to keep in contact with you and to try to be of any encouragement, if I can.  You can e-mail me at   I look forward to hearing from you.