As part of the year’s Missions launch, we hosted a Missions Talk with veteran Missionary, Pastor Jim Yost! Pastor Jim, who has been in Papua since 1977, shared with us his journey and experiences on the field
while challenging everyone to get out of their comfort zones to reach the lost.
Beginning with Ephesians 2:10, he reminded us that God has prepared good works for us to accomplish
– and these have been prepared for us before we were born. God ordained the time and place we
were born at, and He has a purpose for our lives that’s bigger than just receiving salvation.
Giving us examples from his own life, Pastor Jim recounted how God miraculously preserved his
life despite a drug overdose. God knew he was going to be a missionary long before he had
become a believer.
From a hardened heart to a missionary to Papua
As a teenager, Pastor Jim went to prison for selling drugs. After he served his sentence, a group of
young people who had been praying for him invited him to a youth camp. While he agreed to go, his
focus was only on the girls that he would be able to meet there.
On the fifth day of the camp, the Holy Spirit touched his heart and Pastor Jim received Jesus on
his knees, crying and confessing his sins. This was during the time of the Jesus People movement,
and it was there that he first listened to stories and testimonies of missionaries.
With a stirred heart, Pastor Jim decided to go on mission trips to Korea and Japan to experience and discern if God was calling him to be a missionary too. One sleepless night in Kyoto, he wrestled with God in prayer all night long and poured out his feelings of inadequacy. God said to him, “That’s right Jim, you can’t be a missionary. But I can make you a missionary.”
That was when Pastor Jim realised that the missions call had nothing to do with a person’s preferences or abilities – it had everything to do with obedience. And that night, he decided to leave his life in America to become a missionary. After he met his wife, they began a new journey of ministering together.
Meeting the tribal natives for the first time
In 1977, Pastor Jim and his wife desired to go to one of the most unreached people groups – a tribe located
in the southernmost part of Iran Jaya now known as Papua. The Yosts flew two hours over the dense
canopy of the Papuan rainforest before they found any signs of life.
When they eventually arrived, they were greeted by Indian-looking natives who began to inspect them
visually and physically, intrigued by the first sight of fair-skinned humans. Surprisingly, the Yosts were
shown warm hospitality and presented with a spread of exotic delicacies – food that they had never thought
to be edible.
Not wanting to be seen as unappreciative guests, they finished the dishes that were served – live rhinoceros
beetle larvae, grub worms, and termite larva.
Suddenly, a man rose and yelled with all his might as the 1000 villagers split themselves into two
groups, taking on armed weapons. The Yosts soon realised that a tribal war had broken out! In fact, the
celebratory feast was a cultural ritual that preceded such a battle. Amid the fighting, God protected the
Yosts from physical harm. He also put courage in their hearts as they attempted to stop people from killing
each other. This became a normative experience for the next 20 years.
First miracle and salvations in the jungle
The first few years in Papua were not easy. The Yosts lived among the people and shared the Gospel with
them. But although the villagers understood the message of hope, they were indifferent towards
it. Many of the villagers were also afraid to receive the Gospel due to threats from the shamans, who
perceived the Gospel as a threat to their authority. In desperation for a breakthrough, Pastor Jim cried
out to God, asking Him to open the hearts of the villagers as he was at his wits’ end. And God answered
him in a way he never expected.
As Pastor Jim travailed in prayer one day, he heard the villagers let out the death wail – a cry for the dead.
Running in the direction of the cries, he saw about 1,000 men and women frantically looking into the
inky-black river, searching for a two-year-old boy.
By the time they finally found him, he was already dead with a bloated stomach.
Supernatural faith arose in Pastor Jim’s spirit as he stood up and prayed for the Lord to revive the boy
as a sign of His love for the people.
Instantly, the boy spewed out water and began to take shallow breaths. He had truly risen from the dead!
After this miracle, waves of villagers began to give their lives to Christ week after week. Groups of families
would come to salvation until about 80% of the tribe became born again!
The village church continued to thrive and became an established and mature group of believers. Twenty
years on, Pastor Jim began to seek God again to direct him to the next unreached people group that needed
Discipling the Youths in the City
While his mind was wandering through the list of 250 tribes in the mountain ranges, God showed him that the youths were most unreached! This was the younger generation that left their tribal land to look for jobs in the cities, but who were mostly unsuccessful. Some of them had turned to other vices and wound up with alcohol addictions and sexually transmitted diseases.
With this newfound purpose, Pastor Jim went on to plant a church for problem young people – aptly naming it
“Problem People Christian Church”.
Beginning with 12 delinquents, Pastor Jim discipled and led these boys to Christ. Before long, they too evangelised and discipled many others – drug dealers, prostitutes and gang members. God is still moving among the young people today, and He can truly do exceedingly more than what we can ask
Pastor Jim who once thought that he would spend his life in the jungle, now leads the largest city church in Papua.
Everyone Has A Role
After sharing his story, Pastor Jim reminded the Singapore Church of her call as the “Antioch of Asia”. He challenged everyone to act now.
Driving back his point in Ephesians 2:10, he said we must start doing the good works now since God has deposited good works into everyone’s life.
“Get out there amongst the people and your God will give you what you need at that time,” he said.
In fact, as Pastor Jim puts it, “Missions is not here to there, missions is everywhere – wherever we are at, we are doing missions with God”.
The harvest is white but the labourers are few. Would we be willing to be a willing vessel that God can use in our