Working together…

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Yes… that’s a clam shell baptismal font

Our wantok (person from the same language) Mick – a Queenslander lecturing at the local Lutheran Seminary – invited us to speak to a group of students and staff. The gathering was one of many surrounding their celebration of 500 years since the Reformation, and the fiftieth year of the Martin Luther Seminary. The Lutheran church has a long history in PNG spanning over 130 years, and works together closely with Wycliffe translators in many regions.

Seminary_2We share a committment to the word of God as being central to the Christian life, and the proclamation of that word as essential if people are to come to know Christ as Saviour.

…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.  John 20:31

IMGP0133Our objective was to encourage church leaders and future Pastors to view Bible translation as a vital part of the church’s ministry. The students responded well, asking several questions about the nature of our work, and several shared their own experiences of having had the Scriptures translated into their tokples (vernacular language).

Some good discussion followed on how the process of translation and tokples literacy can help address some of the cultural issues facing PNG, as language displacement continues to create a generational divide within many communities.

Please pray …

  • praise God for the strong partnerships Wycliffe have with the PNG church
  • pray that tokples translation and literacy programs may add value to relationships within communities, as young and old participate in the task together

One part of the process….

We are accustomed to providing emergency accommodation at our Lae Guesthouse due to cancelled flights, flooded bridges and hospital visits. In ‘The land of the Unexpected’ we need to be prepared for any eventuality.

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Earlier this month the call came for us to provide shelter of a different kind – storing around 700 copies of a New Testament translation.

The printing was undertaken in South Korea before being shipped to Lae – a journey of over 5,000 kilometres – with a further 1,400 kilometres or so yet to travel by sea and land before the dedication ceremony next year. We literally go ‘to great lengths’ to put God’s word into people’s hands.

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Rob and Betsy Bradshaw came to the Doromu Koki language area in 2001. Two PNG locals had already completed a Wycliffe training course in anticipation of someone responding to their call for a Bible in their language. They started translating straight away.

The Doromu Koki community of around 1,800 language speakers is divided between traditional village areas and in the capital Port Moresby. The village region in the Owen Stanley Ranges is fairly inaccessible except by helicopter, so the intention is to hold two dedication ceremonies, in both the village and in Port Moresby, to ensure that people are made aware that God now speaks directly to them in their heart language.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.  Revelation 1:3

Please pray …

  • praising God for the way in which He ‘ prepared the ground’ for this translation work, and sustained the team during the past 16 years.
  • for the Doromu Koki people as they work together to organise the dedication of the Scriptures – whether that be in one or two locations.
  • that those who read will take it to heart.

A busy harvest field….

DSCN1919_1600x1067Our Centre guest register took on an interesting look this month, with four mission groups occupying rooms at the one time.

We had our regular Wycliffe translation team from the Huon Gulf Multi-Language Project (pictured – the subject of many a past blog and newsletter); a couple from SIM Australia aiming to connect with local churches to inspire them to train missionaries for overseas service; a team from That They May Know, an independent mission group from the USA that have been functioning in PNG’s Gulf Province since 2005 with a translation and literacy focus as well as operating a Christian school in Port Moresby; and a couple from the Christian Brethren Church returning to PNG after serving here through the 1980’s, aiming to assist CBC churches in training the next generation of leaders.

Papua New Guinea is generally noted as one of the most missionised regions in the world. There are many hundreds of foreign missionaries actively promoting Gospel ministry in PNG, and though there are numerous indigenous churches in every province with millions of worshippers attending services, the work continues.

Why? Because many still struggle to apply God’s word in their daily circumstances. For some, the influence of traditional beliefs and customs are just too strong, but for many, there are the limitations of a poor education and illiteracy. It excites us to see PNG believers involved in translation and literacy work, for we know that God can use these programmes to bring people into the light of His word.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!      Psalm 43:3 

Please pray …

  • for those serving the Kingdom in PNG, both expatriate and national, that they find strength to continue and model Christ in all that they do.
  • that PNG churches would be committed to proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.

 

An open door….

One of our staff invited us to join her church, and a neighbouring congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, in celebrating the 131st anniversary of the establishment of the denomination  in PNG.

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Across Lae city, and throughout the country, various districts gathered to commemorate the arrival of the first Lutheran missionaries on July 12, 1886. It is hard to imagine their day to day circumstances in such a difficult environment, confronting language and cultural barriers. The first two indigenous baptisms would come after 13 years of labouring for the Kingdom. Over the few years to follow there were others, including 36 from Tami island – a people group only now receiving the word of God in their heart language.

Can you fathom a church enduring for 120 years without God’s word in their heart language? It defies all logic; to us it seems implausible given our experiences.

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.  I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.     Revelation 3:7-8

In fact, it’s not so surprising. The door opened in PNG generations ago has been kept open by the power of Jesus Christ. It is His intent and purpose to sustain His church, perfecting her in Himself. It is all His doing….. it is simply our privilege to be here and see Him at work.

Please pray …

  • that the churches of PNG would be strong in Christ, faithfully proclaiming His word.

What might happen….?

“Oh, Annie – thank you so much for coming! If you had not been teaching the women God’s Word, and if I had not come inside and listened to what you said, oh…what might have happened to me?!”

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This is how Angam expressed his joy at hearing and receiving the Gospel through one of our translation friends. We spoke often of Kim and Annie Colich during our recent furlough in Australia, and shared how life has changed for Angam and his wife Aikiba.

How do we answer Angam’s question, “…what might have happened”? God had His hand on Angam long before Kim and Annie ever set foot on Tami ground in PNG. Scripture assures us that we are in His thoughts before ever we draw a breath.

My frame was not hidden from you. when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!    Psalm 139:15-17

God would work in Angam’s life, drawing him to Himself in one way or another. In this case, His way was through Kim and Annie and the translation of Scripture into Tami. And we know from Romans 10:14-15 that this is God’s default method….. sending, preaching, hearing, believing, and calling out to the Lord.

There is more room for some extra feet on the mission field. We are in need of translation and literacy workers, together with teachers, medical staff, administrators, tradespeople…. anyone with a heart for people needing God’s word.

This work does not just impact the ones receiving the word. Annie comments that, ““If this was the ONLY fruit I ever saw, the ONLY life in which God ever used me to draw someone near to Him, then my 26 plus years in PNG among the Tami would have been worth it all!”. It is such a joy to be one of those with “blessed feet”.

Perhaps you should ask yourself…… “What might happen?”.

Please pray …

  • that God would provide workers for the task ahead of us – reaching the many people groups in PNG yet to have His word in their heart language.

Meanwhile, in Morobe Province …

These summaries give some insights into what has been happening in the Morobe Province while we were in Australia for 8 months on furlough.

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One Tami leader said, “When I read the Bible in another language I need someone to explain it to me. Now reading this book of John in Tami it is clear, ‘out in the open’. It explains itself!”

As people hear the Word of God in their own heart language, pray for a new understanding of the gospel message.

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Before 2016 there was no Scripture translation work, but in God’s providence a young Norwegian fellow, Eyvind, decided to work amongst this group. Eyvind walked with Elisa, a National translator, to all the villages to talk about the translation work that was about to begin.

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Pray as Eyvind is building relationships with all the villages before starting work.

Pray as he undertakes the building of his village house which will allow him space to live as well as translate.

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The New Testament is currently being printed with the expected Bible Dedication to happen on Friday 23rd February 2018. The audio recording of the New Testament will hopefully be finished this year.

Praise that people are interested in learning to read the Scriptures which will be published in 2018.

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This year, Katri Linnasalo along with her National co-translator Pastor Kaik Yunamu, has consultant checked Acts and John’s letters, and revised Ephesians, Colossians, Titus, and Esther.

Praise that the National co-translators are eager to learn more techniques to translate effectively and accurately.

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In February 2017, the consultantMato checking of the New Testament was finished. Later this year it is planned to begin an audio recording of the New Testament and the Jesus film. In 2018, God willing, the typesetting for the Mato NT will be undertaken and completed.

Praise for the people’s growing enthusiasm as they see the results of 20 years translation work.

Central Buang

In April 2015, we blogged about a group from Central Buang who came to our Centre to record the Jesus film (an outreach tool among many language groups worldwide). Well, the film dedication occurred in January 2017, over three consecutive nights in different villages with about 1550 people coming along to hear in their own heart language the story of Jesus.

As well, about 850 people came to three afternoon literacy classes (the Buang alphabet contains 39 letters). 140 DVDs, 10 SD cards of the film plus more downloaded onto other smart phones, 215 New Testaments, and 200 Buang Life of Jesus comics were sold at these events.

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The welcome path into the Central Buang Village for the Jesus film dedication

Two mothers and their children who watched in one of the villages said, “In the past, when we heard the Bible, it was a story. But when Jesus spoke in our language, we felt it inside. We felt that we must receive this man as a friend.”

Pray with thanks that during the three film screenings there was no rain on the iron roof to dull the film sound as many people came to hear their language on film for the first time. Please pray for the 3 YWAM workers who have been trained to continue showing the film amongst other villages within the language group.

The need to know…

Our travels so far have been much different from the equivalent ‘tour’ in 2013/14. Back then we were excited at the prospect of heading to PNG, sharing other people’s photographs and stories of God’s work in that strange, exotic land.

Now…. we struggle to select which of the hundreds of our stories are most suitable to share, and every photograph brings with it memories of experiences and of people that have come to be such a big part of our life. Those that tend to stand out are the many PNG national believers we have met through translation teams and local churches.

The words of one of our trainers from Wycliffe Australia always come to mind, “Tell people what you believe they need to know.”  So, what do people in Australian churches need to know about PNG?

That there are people in PNG who love the Lord, who have a heart for reaching their lost brothers and sisters, yet are crying out for the resources to do so – primarily, for God’s word in a language and form that is relevant and accessible to those they are trying to reach. For every expatriate Wycliffe translator working in PNG there is a team of national co-workers, and a local community supporting through prayer and provisions. We tell people about Elisa, (Spotlight Sept 2015) who walks for a whole day across three mountain ranges to come to Lae for training workshops. Saleng, (Newsletter March 2016) who hand writes his Old Testament translation drafts into school exercise books as he has no computer skills. The Urii co-workers (Spotlight March 2016) who left families and gardens to work 14 hour days for several weeks in an effort to complete the process of audio recordings of their previous written translation.

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The work is the Lord’s, and He will move His people – in PNG, and in Australia – to see that it is completed. It is such a joy to us when we see Australian believers getting the message, receiving the challenge to consider their PNG brothers and sisters and to pray for the work.

We have visited small churches without a permanent pastor; communities in the midst of drought; congregations with elderly folk facing deteriorating health – people with their own concerns and difficulties. Yet they care for us; they open their hearts and their homes; they pray for the PNG people; they support us in our planned return.

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They understand the need and they respond.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”        Matthew 9:36-38