I don’t like it!

simon-the-leper-66a312e7-7f2c-4657-a617-3cc9ca6af8d-resize-750With PNG in the world news for what could be said are all the wrong reasons, I thought a comment from within may help to put things in context.

Sectors of the Australian political scene and media outlets are raising questions about providing financial aid to a country where wasteful spending appears to be the norm. APEC expenditure is just one issue, but it is a big enough issue to make a splash on the world stage and generate plenty of digital headlines.

Here within PNG, it is an issue being discussed at bus stops, in store queues, and over the counter at hardware stores. Many people are upset, confused, and generally frustrated at the divide between the have’s and the have not’s. In a society where many of the 8.25 million population struggle to obtain adequate health and education services, such a public display of affluence makes disturbing reading.

As debate continues over the reality of this particular expense being carried by the public purse or by private interests, the answer makes little difference in the minds of those caught up in the poverty struggle. The fact that someone, somewhere in the world, thinks it normal to enjoy a luxury vehicle that could feed, educate and care for an entire family in PNG for at least 15 years tends to run around your head for a bit, and gnaw at your heart.

However, perhaps surprisingly, Jesus put his fellow guests in their place when they were critical of the woman who came into a gathering and anointed him with expensive perfume, sighting wasteful spending that could have benefited the poor.

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.” (Mark 14:6-7  ESV)

So how should we respond to waste and apparent apathy towards the needy? Jesus tells us to look inwardly, and to look to him.

Why are outside interests troubled by this? Are they heavy-hearted at the plight of the poor in PNG, or incensed that people with money waste it in a way that they certainly wouldn’t …… “Now, if I had $250,000 to spare…..”

In his gospel account of this event, Mark includes the statement, “whenever you want, you can do good for (the poor)”. So if you see someone in poverty and think “I don’t like it!”, great….. there is an opportunity for you to act.

So what form should this action take? The woman chose to honour Jesus with the best that she had…. equivalent to a year’s wages. Now, it’s between you and God what your best is, be it a care package as Christmas approaches, or regularly helping out at a soup kitchen , or making a life choice to shift from consumer to servant.

If you come to that decision point, Jesus says “Do it… now.” You may not have the opportunity again.

Next blog….. Hand’s wide open

A different outlook….

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This is a one-of-a-kind edition of our ‘Ramblings’…. as it comes from Wewak on PNG’s north-west coast. We are providing relief management of the Wewak Regional Centre for ten days, allowing the current managers to have a break. Wewak was on our list of places to visit while in PNG, so we can now tick that off.

Not that we have had much time to see the sights, as the past week has seen a steady flow of folk coming in to stay, together with meeting incoming mission aircraft, and dealing with routine needs on site.

There are four staff – two housekeepers, a groundsman and night security – so everything else falls to us, including caring for three cats whose purpose remains a mystery, as we haven’t seen any rats… perhaps they ARE doing their job!

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Physically there are differences to Lae – the surf beaches, small town centre, and less vehicle traffic – but the people remain friendly, interested in what we are doing in PNG, and they react positively to our mission role.

We have struggled to adjust in some ways to the change in pace, different methods and new relationships, knowing that we are here for such a short time. We did not realise the extent to which we have become accustomed to the ‘Lae way of doing things’. To do anything well in PNG takes time… and patience for God to work His will through the situation.

We have managed a few afternoon walks around our hilltop suburb, and did steal away for a few hours on Saturday to check out a local beach, savouring the change from the somewhat muddy brown river delta of inner-city Lae.

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Seeing the place will help us to connect with the many East Sepik people that we meet in Lae for whom asples (place of birth) is a significant thing, as it is for all Papua Niuginians.

Please pray …

  • For the Sepik area teams using the Wewak Regional Centre as a base.
  • For the Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop meeting in Wewak from 15-31 October
  • Thankful that our Lae staff – led by Larua – have been able to maintain the Centre operations in our two-week absence.

The big turnaround….

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Last Friday morning saw us farewell a group of fifty-two netballers in Lae for national junior competition….. only to turn around and start preparing rooms for around forty senior netballers in town for the weekend.

It is a rare sight to see the “Cleaning in progress” tags on virtually every livable space in our Guesthouse.

Our staff worked feverishly to strip and remake beds, wipe down surfaces, mop floors, reinstate kitchen cupboards, and of course…. set a vase of fresh flowers on the table. Available office staff also pitched in dealing with a constant stream of sheets and towels needing to cycle through the washers, dryers and clothesline space stretched to the limit.

It is a credit to our staff that both groups spoke highly of their wonderful stay, the beautiful grounds, clean rooms, and the way in which we made them feel welcome.

That said… we REALLY appreciated our quieter week that followed!

Please pray …

  • thanking God for the servant heart that our staff display in their work.
  • that the outcomes of our work will be seen for what it is… an expression of our desire to honour God with our efforts.
  • thankful for the positive injection into our budget for the year [which ends September 30], with all proceeds from our operation contributing to the work of translation and related ministry.

Some industrious sisters …

 

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Jacqui, Avata, Ayap and Gima (absent – Eunice) from the Executive working through plans to promote Bible studies and other CWCI initiatives in PNG

Earlier this month, our Lae Centre hosted a group from CWCI (Christian Women Communicating International) which involved the Melanesia Director, Jacqui Guy from Australia, meeting with local women from the PNG Executive body, and the leaders of KYB study groups operating in Lae.

Over ten days our guest lounge area became a worship centre full of lovely hymns and praise songs; a meeting room; training classroom; and a break room for meals and fellowship.

It was an honour to host these dear sisters, and their presence brightened up a grey and rainy week, and cheered our hearts as we walked back and forth past the lounge (especially the singing!).

There is a real place for bible study material directed to women in PNG, as the effects often reach into the family and the community. As Jacqui shared in a 2017 newsletter;

Overwhelmingly their favourite book is Ruth, and as many live with mothers-in-law as is the custom, the topic of relationships is so important. I’ve even had strong feedback from family members of the impact this study has had on the family.

There are study materials available in Tok Pisin and Accessible English, which allows for a certain level of literacy. It is just one more way of placing God’s word in peoples’ hearts and minds on a daily basis.

Please pray …

  • for more KYB leaders and study groups to be formed in PNG churches and communities
  • that the material would significantly impact the lives of the women and their families
  • for the PNG Executive, that they may continue to serve the LORD with gladness (Psalm 100:2)
  • for Jacqui, that she may know the Spirit’s leading in this often challenging role

A wow of a time ….

We are taking the opportunity of a rest from blogging by handing the responsibility to a guest. Keith’s father, Ross, is visiting PNG with a long-term family friend, John Greensill, and has a story to tell of just one aspect of their ten-day visit.

On a Thursday morning we (Keith, Ross and John) headed south from Lae on a 150km trip to Wau (pronounced ‘wow’), travelling through Mumeng, where there are large washouts across the road with rocks and boulders left by heavy flood rains; Zenag, the centre of the region’s egg and chicken production; and Bulolo, the largest population in the area with crowds out on the streets amongst colourful market displays.

Wau is situated 3,500 feet atop the Bulolo Range and boasts amazing views. We were told it had been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the most liveable climate on earth. We can attest to that!

We stayed the night with Luther and Martha Smith, Independent Baptist missionaries from the United States who came to PNG in 1980, and met Kenny and Kalie Keck and their two lovely children over dinner.

The next morning we were privileged to join in devotions at the Baptist school and meet the students and staff. Luther then took us to the Bible college where Kenny was leading a Romans study group of seven second-year students, including a couple with a very small child. It was moving to see the smiling, happy students eager to learn God’s word in Tok Pisin.

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We then visited an amazing lady, Donna Harvey-Hall, who operates an orphanage for unwanted children. Over coffee we learnt that this Aussie provides accommodation and preparatory classes for over twenty boys and girls, then met some of the children and saw their rooms. Donna’s historic home was the only one left standing after a Japanese offensive was repelled in 1943, with a memorial marking the event just a few hundred metres down the road.

Both John and I have been amazed by the dedication of all the people from various countries, many labouring for twenty, thirty, or forty years at translation, teaching and preaching, serving both young and old. It is humbling to see the joy on the faces of PNG nationals who have been brought to faith essentially through these ministries, and now serve alongside their new found brothers and sisters in Christ. It is difficult for most of us to imagine what it means to have the opportunity to read the Bible in their language for the first time in generations.

 I will never forget these first experiences of PNG. I read this morning a phrase from Andrew Murray – “Unknown is unloved”. Now I know, in some sense, PNG and its people.

The grass withers …

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While staying at the Regional Centre in Kokopo, East New Britain, I found a shelf with numerous photos of the region’s translation personnel over the years. I did not recognise most of the group other than a few who are still serving in PNG.

I started to think about all of the people who had been and gone as part of the translation work. I have met so many from all around the world, but of these past faithful servants, it is unlikely that we will ever meet so that they could become more to me than a photo on a wall.

Each of these personnel had relationships with their family, friends and mission supporters that enabled them to serve here in PNG. But with their work completed, they are largely forgotten other than by the colleagues they worked alongside. It is humbling to realise that in years to come, we too may be simply a photo in the Lae Regional Centre photo album.

However, the outcome of the work goes on. These translation staff have left behind a legacy of God’s word in the heart language of the communities in which they worked. Our work in Lae looks beyond our time as managers as we encourage and support the translation and literacy teams.

The grass withers, the flower fades,                                                                                                             but the word of our God will stand forever.   Isaiah 40 v 8

Please pray …

  • That we remain focussed on glorifying God in our work, rather than making a name for ourselves.
  • Giving thanks for the confidence that comes from knowing that the battle belongs to the Lord.

 

Making it count …

In a recent newsletter, a translator shared the difficulties of dealing with concepts within the Scriptures that may have no connection to the culture of a language group in Papua New Guinea. The following is Katri’s comments on translating number references from Revelation.

Have you noticed how many numbers there are in that book: cardinals (1 hour, 2 prophets, 3 plagues, 4 winds, 5 kings, 6 wings, 7 churches, 10 days, 12 gates, 24 elders, 42 months, 144 cubits, 1260 days, 144,000 people) and ordinals (from the 1st to the 7th angel) as well as fractions (e.g., ½ day, ⅓ of the ships, ¼ of the earth and a 1/10 of a city)? It’s a struggle to express them when the Nek language has only two cardinal numbers – noŋgan ‘one’ and tɨpet ‘two’ – as well as the adjectives many and few, which can be further modified to be very many or very few, and no ordinal numbers or fractions.

Three is tɨpet gɨt no ‘two and one’ and four tɨpet gɨt tɨpet ‘two and two’. For five we could say kɨt noŋgan ‘one hand’, and for six kɨt tambon, tambon noŋgan ‘one hand and one [of] the other [hand]’ and so on, until we reach ten kɨt tɨpet ‘two hands’. However, that way the terms become rather long, people disagree about the exact forms, and it seems that once we go beyond three, the younger generation can no longer cipher how many we are talking about anyway. So we use numerals to write the cardinal numbers, and people read them using the trade language terms. As for the ordinal numbers, we can talk about the first angel and the last angel, but to refer to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. angel we have to say ‘angel number 2’, ‘angel number 3’, and so forth.

Expressing fractions is a bit harder, and people are not used to them. (Once I asked a prep school teacher how many quarters there are in an hour, and her guess was five!) We do have the word tambon ‘half, part’, so for a tenth we used to say something like this, ‘divide it, and ten parts appear, and one of them’. Now we try to say “one part of the ships were destroyed, and two parts were OK”, but only further testing will show whether the readers will in fact understand that that left no ships unaccounted for.

It is perhaps not surprising that many PNG vernacular languages do not deal with number concepts to the extent that we are used to. The culture is not obsessed with quantifying anything and everything. From birth we are measured in grams and centimetres; we count our years; track our performance through our education; measure our houses in square metres and our vehicles in terms of power or fuel economy. Even our recreation is often measured in calories burned and points scored for and against.

But we find in Revelation something that could never be counted or measured.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb… crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9

The day whandsill come when all that we now measure won’t count for anything at all.

Please pray…

  • For translators to be thoughtful and creative in presenting God’s truth to the people of PNG.