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?!”

Tami

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.

Tami

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.

Musim

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.

Musim

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.

Menya

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.

Nek

Nek

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.

 Mato

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.

Buang film
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

The word is life …

IMGP8528 Colich.JPGWe had an encouraging email earlier this month. Kim and Annie Colich are translators working with the Tami people, and often use the Lae centre for purchasing trips prior to heading out to the coastal village by boat.

Kim has previously shared with us his concerns regarding the rate of progress in the translation, given that he and Annie are approaching a stage of life where they have to consider how many more years are available to them to continue the work in PNG.

They endured a number of setbacks and interruptions to the work over fourteen years, yet were finally able to release the Gospel of John in both written and audio form late in 2015. The impact of the word going out was as God promises…

                ” It will not return to me empty,  but will accomplish what I desire                                   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”           Isaiah 55:11

“As I spoke to my people, and read God’s words in our own language, I felt the Holy Spirit pour out from me and ‘hit’ the people. They received God’s talk with great joy and weeping. While we were singing, our joy was so great that we wanted to cry out!”    Pastor Ongengsa

An old ‘father’ of the Tami people cried as he said, “I desire that these words go to the ears and hearts of every Tami man on these islands. I have been waiting for this time.”

Angam (above left) was a man far away from God. Yet when his wife, Aikiba (above right) shared with him Scriptures in his own language from a Bible study Annie was doing with the women, he began to hear the Lord calling to him. He came to the next study, ‘hiding’ in the back corner of the church, and listened to the teaching about the love of God, and his life has not been the same since. His wife told how she watched his face physically change during the study as the Word of Life brought him alive!  She jumped with joy, hands raised up to heaven as she said, “Thank you, Jesus! Look at him! He is a new man!”      

Praise God that the Tami people at Malasiga have come to see that this Bible translation project is theirs, and not Kim and Annie’s. In their own words, “It is in our hearts now, that we are the fathers of this work!”

 

 

Creation groans…

Our travels while visiting supporting congregations has taken us to some varied places. This past week we left Brisbane city behind us, driving west for around three hours as we headed to Bell to meet with folk from the local Presbyterian church.

Early on the Sunday morning there was a gathering of a different kind on our hosts’ back lawn – a fledgling rainbow lorikeet with a number of apostlebirds. The latter group were not behaving in a welcoming and outreaching manner as their name may suggest, but attacked the young interloper as it struggled to get airborne with its immature feathers. The lorikeet managed to claw and hop its way to the top of a large shrub, avoiding sniping attacks the whole time, but glided to the ground again after attempting to fly, making it an easy target for the surrounding apostlebirds.

‘For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.!’             Romans 8:19-21

Creation (what many love to call ‘Mother Nature’) often shows itself to be anything but motherly, with the default being fairly cruel and certainly hard on the weak and helpless. Thankfully our bird-loving host intervened, and we secured the poor thing in a towel before bundling it into a cardboard box. This gave time for the lorikeet to calm down and recover, while its attackers lost interest and moved on.

The message we delivered in church that morning was of the need for the Australian church to be praying for their global brothers and sisters, and not to feel separated by cultural differences, or confused as to the needs of Christians in other countries. Colossians 1 reminds us of the real spiritual needs we can always be praying for – whether for Christians in PNG, Africa or alongside us in church.

Praying in this way may take a shift in our thinking. We can easily be like the apostlebirds and give quality time for the prayer needs of ourselves and our immediate circle, while caring little for those who are ‘different’. Paul makes clear in Colossians that those differences will amount to nothing. Together we ‘share in the inheritance’, have all been ‘rescued… from the dominion of darkness and brought … into the kingdom of the Son’. [Colossians 1:12,13]

Please pray for Christians in PNG, that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and live lives worthy of Him. [Colossians 1:9,10]

Language is relationship …

The need for translation …
A little girl, after just completing her class 6 English exam, asks Lyndal, “Are you from Australia?” Yes. “Do you know English?” Yes. “When you and Ross are talking, what do you speak?” English. “Aah,” (sympathetically) “so you don’t have a language? So, what do you say if you want him to come?”
Ross and Lyndal Webb with the Lewo on Epi Island, Vanuatu
Excerpt from Facebook post
This reflects the perception of the English language as a tool for education, not as a means of communicating within the context of relationship. Scripture must be more than a tool…. it is the very word of God to His children.

The challenge of translation …
As the Nimboran mother- tongue translators drafted the Lord’s Prayer together, they had to grapple with what each line actually means in order to express it clearly in their language – a ‘literal’ translation would make little sense. The compressed language of ‘your kingdom come’ proved difficult.
A kingdom typically features a king, a people and a country. There is no word for kingdom in Nimboran – they have no king, but many chiefs, each chief having jurisdiction over one clan. Furthermore, a Nimboran ‘chiefdom’ (there is no word for that either) is not entirely geographical since more than one clan can live in one area.
So what does that line mean, and how can it be translated? When we speak of God’s kingdom coming, we mean the full realisation of his kingly reign on earth.
So, their first draft read ‘Come on, you become chief!’ But does that adequately convey the original meaning? Over whom are we asking God to reign? Just his clan, or all people? And where, and when?  The current draft (including ‘your will be done’ too) says ‘Come on, you become chief over us, you say the word!’
What do you mean when you pray those familiar opening lines?
Philip Swan working with the Nimboran people of Papua, Indonesia
Excerpt from Wycliffe Today, Spring 2016

The impact of translation …women-reading-the-bible
Toli, a middle-aged man and one of the elders: “When a few years ago, I got a printed copy of the Gospel of Mark, I cried because I don’t know how to read. I prayed. I got a MegaVoice one and a half years ago. Now the message is clear. I listen to it daily. Now I’m like a man who knows how to read. Now I’m like a pastor.”
Mogome, a middle-aged woman: “I heard the story of Zacchaeus, the short man who climbed up on a tree to see Jesus. That story spoke to my heart. He was not a good man, and I’m not a good woman. I want to change a few things in my life. I need to pray.”
Markus and Liisa Melliger working with the Pinai-Hagahai people of Enga Province, Papua New Guinea
Excerpt from Words for life, Winter 2011

Glossary – MegaVoice – a solar powered audio player to share God’s Word

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light to my path. Psalm 119 v 105