Until 1972 the outside world had never known that the Iteri (pronounced “Eteddi”) even existed. The world knew nothing of the Iteri people, culture or language.
Today, there are about 800 Iteri people living in the country of Papa Ne Guinea of the South Pacific. Their village is in the Rocky Peak Mountains of the Sandaun Province. They are known also as the “Rocky Peak” people that live in the swamps near the headwaters of the Sepik River. The Iteri have lived not knowing that a world existed outside their jungle much less knowing that God sent His son Jesus Christ to die for them. The Iteri were a semi-nomadic people that even today spend most of their days fishing, farming, and hunting for food. Historically disease, mostly malaria has taken the lives of over half of their babies before the age of two. Tribal warfare and cannibalism has been the answer to the never ending strife with the people around them. Hope for their culture and people was non-existent.
Brad Buser, a native of southern California, was doing surfing contests in high school in San Diego and like many kids his age hoped to go pro after school. It was as a senior in high school that Brad came to know Christ and desired to ‘surf for God’. Yet, just a few months after Brad made a decision to follow Christ he also made a decision to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Through an incredible Youth Pastor he was challenged to go to the ends of the earth with the message of Jesus Christ. Known by many as Pastor Von, at Clairemont Church during the “Jesus Movement” of the 60’s & 70’s the youth group grew to over 1000 students at times. Pastor Von challenged students to become disciples of Christ and servants of His Kingdom. From 1977-1981, over thirty young people were commissioned as missionaries from his church. Brad was one of those students. There at the age of 18, the summer after graduating from high school in 1973 he left southern California to begin his training with New Tribes Mission.
Beth is a native of St. Johns, Michigan. Her Mom and Dad, who loved the Lord Jesus, raised her with a heart for the world. Beth started her training with New Tribes Mission in the fall of 1974, and it was there at the New Tribes Mission Institute in Jackson, Michigan that Brad and Beth first met. While finishing their training they were married, and their first two children Brooks and Brandon were born. After graduation the Buser family traveled to Papua New Guinea in January of 1979.
It was Brad and Beth with their two little boys who chose to travel up the Sepik River, the May River and finally the Arowi River to bring hope to the Iteri. In April of 1979, the Buser Family moved to the village of the Iteri, a tribal people who had never had outsiders live among them. That first year the Buser’s began by establishing relationships with the Iteri by building a house, an airstrip, administering medical aid, and beginning a Iteri language study. While the Buser’s moved their family from the urban culture of America to the tribal culture of Papua New Guinea they never regretted raising their children among the Iteri. Brad would spend most of his days learning the culture and unwritten language of the Iteri. Beth home-schooled their kids, while they were young. She also conducted medical and literacy work among the Iteri. Then in 1980 their third child, daughter Natalie, was born in Papua New Guinea. It was through many years of learning their distant culture and language that the Buser’s learned how to love them as people created by God. Death in the tribal world was a clear and devastating picture of their broken understanding of the spiritual world. It was through their powerlessness over death that created a need for the Iteri to learn more about the spiritual world from Brad and Beth through “God’s Talk”.
It took the Buser’s four years to learn enough of the culture and become fluent in the Iteri language before they could teach. It was not until 1985 that the Buser’s began to teach the Bible and share “God’s Talk” for the first time. They started at the beginning, the book of Genesis with God’s Story of the Creation of the World. Teaching the Iteri about how God created all peoples of the earth. Over the next seven months, Brad taught an hour a day, five days a week. It was not until after five months of teaching that Brad introduced the person of Jesus. The first Iteri man in the history of the world came to know the love of Christ in March of 1986. Many of the Iteri people broke out in celebration as Iteri men in their own language spoke back to Heaven, back to the Creator of the Universe, thanking God for His mercy and grace in sending His son Jesus for their salvation, so that they could know Him.
After a year of teaching the Iteri Church was born in 1986. Discipling this new church began immediately, with Bible translation soon to follow. This baby church was being discipled and 8 years later leaders were formally ordained. During the discipleship process Brad and Beth started teaching the Iteri how to read and write their own language. It was not long before the Iteri people could read the Bible on their own, in their heart language. Brad worked for 13 years to translate the New Testament into the Iteri language. Brad would spend 8 hours a day studying God’s Word to translate the first written book into the Iteri language.
In 1988, the Buser’s were blessed with their 2nd set of teammates, the first folks, Ed and Aggie Esau having been moved to a field leadership role. Their new teammates, Lon and Leah Knievel, moved into the same Iteri Village. Then, in 1990 their forth child, Buzz was also born in Papua New Guinea. It was in 1995, that the Buser’s officially passed the torch of the responsibility of the church completely too local leadership. The translation of the Bible in the Iteri language was finally completed in mid 1999. After 20 years in the village, with the translation done, the church up and thriving, their need to live among the Iteri had come to an end. The Buser’s left the Iteri Tribe, the East Sepik Province and Papua New Guinea truly believing that it was a privilege to live among the Iteri for those many years.
Today men like Wimo, Afu, Abcu, Ometvbi, Fumi, Bao, Inuwa, and Unc are faithful Bible teachers in the Iteri churches. The Iteri church is growing and is strong as they have the Bible in their own language and faithful leaders teaching “God’s Talk” to their people. Yet, the Iteri are only one people in the country of Papua New Guinea. PNG has approximately 860 people groups; nearly half of them still have no gospel witness in their language. Brad and Beth go back every two years to encourage the growing Iteri Church. Every time they visit they see that the gospel message that God planted among the Iteri Tribe continues to grow in numbers and in depth.
The Buser Family Legacy
The Buser Family ministry for the first twenty years included raising a family, learning an unwritten language and culture, creating an alphabet, teaching God’s word, planting churches and translating the New Testament. God granted them much fruit, as hundreds accepted Christ as Savior and have since begun reaching their own people with the gospel. The Buser’s also served in leadership in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea and at Numonohi, a boarding school for missionary children Since returning to the U.S. in 1999, Brad has served as the West Coast Representative for New Tribes as well as the Missions Pastor at Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Diego where he came to know Christ. Brad teaches Inter-Culture Studies at Eternity Bible College; Cross-Cultural Church Planting at The Masters College; Intro to Tribal Missions at the New Tribes Bible Institute; and the Book of Acts at Ecola Bible School in Oregon. Brad is also a frequent speaker at Christian colleges, churches, and Perspectives courses. Brad’s passion is talking to young people, exhorting this generation to reach the unreached world with the truth of Jesus Christ. Brad and Beth have four children and four grandchildren. Brad is humbled by the fact that when he meets Jesus in Heaven that he can lay at His feet the and say here is the Iteri Church; this is what my family gave their lives for. Yet, the Buser story continues as two of their oldest children have married, have children, and have just recently returned to live among two different unreached people groups in Papua New Guinea.
Natalie and Buzz
Natalie their daughter is currently finishing nursing school and Buzz their youngest of four kids is in high school and playing waterpolo and wrestling. Brad and Beth are grateful that each of them are walking with God and have hearts to serve Him.
Brooks & Nina Buser
Brooks, Brad and Beth’s eldest son works among the Yembiyembi people. The church in Yembiyembi is currently going through serious persecution. Yet the church is still growing amidst all the drama and persecution. Brooks and three of his Inanbimali co-workers have just finished a comprehension test of the first five Bible lessons at the mission center in Papua New Guinea. Brooks took two of the village leaders with him to hear the lessons presented for the comprehension check. The men had a clear understanding of the material but at first were not too excited about what they were hearing. As the lessons progressed their minds and hearts began to be challenged by the truths they were hearing for the first time.
About 20 Yembiyembi have given their testimonies and just recently were baptized along with quite a few more that are debating it. The first group we baptized almost resulted in Brooks and one of the Yembiyembi believers getting speared in the water, so the tension is thick when these things happen. Baptism among the Yembiyembi is not simply a personal confession of faith, but rather a very public break from their old way of life.
Brandon & Rachel Buser
The Buser’s second son, Brandon just recently moved onto the Biem islands, 82 miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Brandon and his wife Rachel have just begun to learn the language and culture of the Biem peoples. It will take sometime before they are competent to share Christ. They are enjoying getting into a routine that has made their language learning very profitable. Brandon and Rachel are encouraged with the Biem way of life and learning to live in their new environment. They are currently learning conversational phrases like “I don’t know,” “My legs are in pain,” and the universally important “I have to go to the bathroom.” Rachel has been learning what every good Biem woman should know, gardening and cooking, while Brandon recently enjoyed one of the main cultural events, fishing. Brandon reports, “Fishing is a huge part of the Biem culture and while I’m not a true-blue fisherman I can appreciate how it is done here. Last week the tuna were hitting and I went out with some of the Biem guys. No rods or reels, just a spool of fishing line in your hand as you pull in a 70-pound tuna. It’s quite a trip.” Brandon and Rachel’s children are also continuing to settle into their new island home. Fearless Briana wants to climb the volcano, Brady has turned into a coconut addict, and timid Gracie seems much like the island toddlers who tend to cry whenever the white-skinned missionary gets too close. Please pray for Brandon and Rachel and their children as they all learn the culture and language of the Biem people and build relationships so they can some day give a clear Gospel presentation.