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



Well done good and faithful servant …

2015-12-helenHelen initially came to work as a casual housekeeper in the Lae Regional Centre managers house, then in 1982 began employment as a housekeeper for the Lae Regional Centre, serving the Wycliffe community using the centre as a temporary base.

On Thursday 22nd September, our Lae team of six permanent staff and ourselves travelled to Ukarumpa for the combined retirement gathering to honour seven retiring PNG national staff, and to celebrate their contribution to the work of Bible translation. There were many heartfelt farewells and stories of how those retiring had been an encouragement to others, training younger staff, or simply providing a smile during a tough day.

With 34 years working in Lae, Helen was the most senior staff member retiring this year.

On 30th September, the last day before the set time for retirement Helen was there to join in our morning prayer and team debrief. She was there to be a support to a trainee housekeeper having a difficult morning. She was there to share a final staff farewell meal before we commenced a six-month furlough period.

Sometimes that is what faithfulness comes down to … being there.


“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25 v 23

One body, many parts

Elspeth was reconnecting with some PNG friends this morning via Facebook, and this prayer request popped up. [edited slightly for clarity, name withheld]

During a single day at the clinic ……. lost a 6-month-old baby girl, she saw a 2yo girl with a tumour behind her eye that’s pushed the eyeball out of her head and has spread to the other eye, the brain, and likely elsewhere. There’s nothing we can do for her. Then a 15-year-old girl came into the clinic with a congenital heart or lung problem. Her current oxygen levels are only 50%. She gets exhausted just blinking her eyes. She is unlikely to make it another year without God’s intervention. Then there was the little baby with sepsis (a terrible life-threatening infection), and another 1-year-old with bad pneumonia. They all showed up so very sick, some too late to save. …….. spent her lunch time counselling an 18-year-old who wanted an abortion. That night, ……. spent much of the night lying awake in bed wondering what she could have done differently to save the little 6-month-old baby girl. I’m telling you, watching a little baby or young child die in your arms under your care is very hard to deal with. Having 6 hard cases back to back… she is a mighty strong wife, but needs your prayers.

We spoke at our home church yesterday during a luncheon, and a mission friend previously based in PNG highlighted the valuable work done by Regional Centre managers in supporting them in Bible translation. He noted how tough the manager role can be and the heavy workload required.

It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it?

We are thankful that God has enabled us to serve in whatever way we can, and praise Him for every individual that He has gifted, and inspired, and moved, and continually strengthens to be a part of His kingdom work in PNG.

But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Corinthians 12:24-27

Please be praying for the team in PNG, your fellow ‘body parts’, in what can be a very challenging role.

Unexpected blessings …

Joe came to our reception window enquiring about the availability of a room for he and his wife. On hearing the cost, he headed back out to his vehicle. Perhaps it was more than he intended to pay on this 20160721_093855occasion.

He soon returned, explaining that God convicted them to stay with us as the money would support mission work. While checking in, Joe noticed the PNG map in our foyer showing the many language groups which have had a translation work commence. He located his home area and asked if there was anything produced in Arapesh (vernacular language).

Armed with our new digital source of translation material, SaveLongGod (see our June 2016 Newsletter), Elspeth was able to provide Joe with an audio version of Mark’s Gospel which he immediately had playing on his mobile phone. Joe will return soon to collect a CD with additional material, including the complete New Testament in pdf and other recordings.

God is good. Joe came to us willing to support the ministry of Bible translation, using his finances in a thoughtful. intentional way, and God provided a blessing for him that he had not imagined.

 There are thousands of people in PNG who have moved away from their traditional home regions – away from the tok ples language they learnt in their youth. In Joe’s case, he was unaware of the Scripture resources available in Arapesh, but is now excited at the opportunity of sharing this with  other Arapesh speakers in his home village and wherever he meets them throughout PNG.

Joe just needs his phone and a willing audience.

As the rain and the snow  come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:10-11

Please pray …

  • that Joe, and many believers like him, would have opportunities to share the Gospel with their families and other tok ples speakers
  • for us at the Lae Centre to have wisdom in making best use of the Scripture resources that have been made available
  • for the hundreds of language groups yet to be reached with the Gospel in tok ples

God’s precious Word …

During our two years here in Lae, I have been involved with a women’s Bible study, initially using study guides in English then switching to Tok Pisin to help me with my language learning.

Recently we had an international visitor who encouraged the women to continue meeting together and provided guidance in terms of organisation and future expansion into other study groups. She also arranged for a quantity of Tok Pisin Bibles to be used with similar groups starting in the Finschhafen region west of Lae.

The study groups provide PNG women with the opportunity to share what it means to be a Christian in the context of their culture, and to encourage each other in living out their faith daily.

Three of the Lae group arrived at our office today to collect the Bibles, which will be sold at half price to raise funds for an upcoming mission trip to the Highlands planned for late August.

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Lynne, Gaiye and Roberta collecting the Bibles

Please pray …

  • for the women to continue to grow in their faith and be witnesses to family and friends of God’s grace, love and mercy
  • for the Bible study groups to expand to other regions and be effective in encouraging and training women
  • that the leadership and study skills gained would prove a blessing to the local church communities
  • for those intending to join the mission trip, that travel plans and funding would be arranged in time