Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Had They Seen Or Heard?

When Jesus began his ministry on earth, people were trying to figure out who he was. Mark 6:14-16 says:

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” (ESV)

Now it is clear that Herod had only heard about Jesus, but what about the other people? Had they formed their conclusions after seeing Jesus perform miracles with their own eyes, or had they formed their opinions only after hearing about the miracles that Jesus had done? For English translations, the answer to that question does not matter. But in Enga the answer to that question is an important detail that cannot be ignored.

When drawing conclusions in Enga, a person has to state whether the evidence for the conclusion is visual or non-visual. So, for example, with King Herod, it is clear that his conclusion that Jesus was John the Baptist was based on non-visual evidence, namely, the reports that he had been hearing. But what about the other people who concluded that Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets? Were their conclusions based on seeing Jesus in action or were their conclusions based only on reports that they had heard about Jesus. The text of Scripture doesn’t tell us, but in Enga, we are required to answer this question. So we decided that the reports of others were based on visual evidence, assuming that the reports had come, at least initially, from people who had been eye-witnesses of Jesus’ miraculous works.

Sometimes translation work can be quite difficult! And I base that conclusion on firsthand visual evidence.

On what basis did people form their conclusions about who Jesus was?
Translation Progress
We are currently in Enga Province for our final visit with the translation team before heading home for furlough on July 1. Over the last three months, we have made steady progress in the translation work. We completed our consultant check of Acts and 1-3 John. I also back-translated Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation and made final edits with the team to prepare those books for consultant check. In addition, we completed the necessary checks to prepare Romans for back-translation. I have also reviewed our translation of Mark, which was the first book that we translated. Often translators find that there are many improvements that they can make to the first book they translated, since their knowledge of the language and translation skills improve over time. I have found that to be the case as well. But thankfully most of the changes that I have noted for Mark are quite minor and should not be difficult to update with the team.

Furlough Preparation
Please keep us in prayer as we prepare for our upcoming year-long furlough. We are thankful that we have found someone to watch our dog for us while we are away, and we are hoping to be able to rent out our house while we are gone. So please pray that we would find renters. From July to November 2019, we will be with my (Adam’s) parents north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In December we will travel cross-country to Southern California to be near Martha’s family, where we will remain until the end of our furlough in June 2020. Please pray that God would provide a good place for us to stay very close to Martha’s dad in Sylmar. Housing can be quite expensive and difficult to find in Southern California, so please do pray for us that God will provide in such a way that we can regularly and easily visit Martha’s dad, sister, and niece.

Dr. Michel Kenmogne, SIL Executive Director
Your Language Matters!
We were blessed at our biannual conference in March to hear from Dr. Michel Kenmogne, the Executive Director of SIL International. SIL is Wycliffe’s partnering organization that we work with on the ground here in Papua New Guinea. We invite you to watch a short video from Dr. Kenmogne called Your Language Matters! In the video you will hear a sample of various languages around the world, and Dr. Kenmogne will explain why a person’s mother tongue is so important. You can watch the video at

Monday, April 1, 2019

Lake of Fire

Recently the Enga Bible translation team and I were reviewing our draft of the book of Revelation. And while Revelation is full of symbolism and imagery that can be quite difficult to interpret, it is actually not all that difficult to translate. But we did run into some difficulties here and there. One of the difficulties that we faced was the translation of the term lake of fire. Of course the lake of fire is the ultimate destination of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, along with all of those whose names are not found written in the book of life (see Revelation 20:10-15).

The difficulty in Enga is that there is no traditional concept or imagery of a lake that is made out of fire. Lakes are made out of water, not fire. And there is not even really one word for lake. Instead Enga people literally say water depression. Now the word depression is not referring to an emotional state in which a person is feeling sad, but rather it means “a sunken place or hollow on a surface.” In other words it refers to an area where there is an indentation in the ground. And when the word depression is preceded by the word water, it indicates that the indentation in the ground is filled with water.

So, knowing that the Enga people say water depression to talk about a lake, I of course suggested that we should translate lake of fire by saying fire depression. In other words, a sunken place or indentation on the surface of the earth that is filled with fire instead of water. Well, as often happens when I think that I have made a brilliant suggestion, I was met with blank stares. In Papua New Guinean cultures, people will often not disagree with you directly, but they will show their disagreement by simply ignoring what you say. Not only that, but it can be difficult to articulate why something doesn’t sound quite right. The translators knew that fire depression didn’t sound right, but they might not have been able to articulate right away why that was the case. English speakers also have the same problem. For example, a typical English speaker would immediately be able to recognize that goed is not the past tense of go, but if they had to explain why, they would run into difficulty. (It is because the past tense went is actually from the verb wend as in wend your way through a crowd.) So just as English speakers know when something does not sound right but can’t always explain why, Enga speakers also encounter difficulties in explaining why something sounds wrong, especially since most Enga speakers have never had any formal training in their own language. Well as we continued pondering the best translation, I kept ignoring the nonverbal cues and pushing for fire depression as our answer. Finally, it dawned on our lead translator Maniosa why fire depression did not sound right. He said, “Do you know what a fire depression is? It is the little fire pit that we have in our homes that we cook over.” To give you a better sense of what that looks like, please see the picture below.

A typical Engan fire depression—not really a lake of fire
As you can see, what I was hoping would mean lake of fire actually just meant fire pit. Big difference! So the terminology that I was suggesting would have people envisioning that the lake of fire, which is supposed to be an intimidating image of the ultimate end for untold numbers of those whose names are not written in the book of life, was nothing more than the little fire pit where people cook food in their homes. In fact, if more than one or two people were thrown into a lake of fire like that, they would probably smother the fire and put it out, which is not quite what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the “fire that is not quenched.” So we had to abandon the idea of using the term fire depression and translate lake of fire as the place where big fire continually burns. The idea that this fire is burning in a depression or indentation in the ground had to be left out because that concept created the wrong image of a fire pit where one cooks food in the house. And fire pits are considered to be useful things that help people cook. They are not places of punishment.

I am thankful that I am not alone in doing the work of Bible translation. Rather I am part of a wonderful team, who can correct me when I make bad suggestions. Thankfully there are many times when my suggestions are more helpful. But I am thankful not just for the translation team, but also for you who pray and give to make this work possible. We are all contributing a small part to the work of the Lord in Enga. And it is a work that none of us can do alone. We need each other. So thank you for playing your part so that the translation team and I can play our part.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Consultant Checking 61% Complete

Yesterday we completed a two-week-long consultant check of the books of Acts and 1-3 John. To refresh your memory, a consultant check involves translating our Enga translation back into English and submitting it to an experienced translator who is well-versed in Greek, who then checks the translation for accuracy. The consultant not only reviews the back-translation into English, but also asks two checkers from the language group questions about each verse of the translation to make sure that the translation is communicating clearly and accurately. We were blessed to have with us Pastor Joe Perai and Pastor Timoti Pesone from the Christian Life Church in Enga as our checkers. Now that we have completed the book of Acts and 1-3 John, we have sixty-one percent of the Enga New Testament consultant checked!

Checking the books of Acts and 1-3 John
Pastor Joe
One of the things I enjoy about consultant checks is the opportunity to get to know Engan Christians who are not a part of the translation team. It was a delight to spend time with both Pastor Timoti and Pastor Joe. I was particularly impressed by Pastor Joe's life story. He grew up at a time when Enga still had very little influence from the outside world, and he told me that he only began wearing western clothes in 1980. He has no formal education, but he taught himself how to read, starting with the Enga language, and then moving to Tok Pisin, and finally learning how to read in English. As he read the Enga translation during the check, I quickly realized that he was one of the best Enga readers I have ever heard. During our time together, Pastor Timoti kept referring to Pastor Joe as a human Bible concordance, and the consultant was impressed by his Bible knowledge. At one point the consultant tried to keep asking Pastor Joe more and more difficult questions, just to see if he could stump him, but Pastor Joe knew the answers to all his questions. Now, a consultant check is not really about testing the biblical knowledge of men like Joe, but about checking the accuracy of the translation. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see an Engan Christian who had such a deep desire to immerse himself in the Scriptures. Please pray with me that the Enga translation we are working on will have a role in producing many more people like Pastor Joe who thirst after the things of God. And please join with us in praising the Lord that we now have more than half of the New Testament consultant checked.

Pastor Joe Perai

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Furlough Plans

After a three-year term in Papua New Guinea, we will be returning to America for a one-year furlough this summer. We will depart from Papua New Guinea on June 24 and make our way to Singapore, where we will enjoy a six-day stopover before heading back to America. On July 1, we will fly from Singapore to Pittsburgh, where we will be staying with my (Adam’s) parents until early December. We plan to spend our first two weeks in America just getting adjusted to the time zone and taking care of basic needs like getting a vehicle and phones and going to doctor’s appointments. Then we will be taking a road trip to various places on the East Coast, including Vermont, Boston, New York, Washington DC, and central Pennsylvania. Then, in early December, we will drive cross-country to Southern California, where we will stay until our return to Papua New Guinea at the end of June in 2020.

We would love to see family, friends, and supporters during our time on furlough. We know that many of you have very busy schedules, so please consider this an open invitation to contact us ahead of time so that we can put something on the calendar.

We would also like to ask for your prayers for housing in Southern California from mid-December 2019 until the end of June 2020. We would really like to be close to Martha’s dad in Sylmar, California, but it can be difficult to find short-term rentals at a good price, especially ones that are furnished. If you happen to know of any short-term housing options near Sylmar, please do let us know. Otherwise, please keep us in your prayers that we would find a good place to stay that will enable us to be close to Martha’s family.

During furlough I will still continue on our translation work as we are coming closer and closer to completing the New Testament. Our goal is to finish, record, and publish the New Testament during our next field term, so please pray for endurance. 

The kids have grown a bit since our last furlough!
Translation Progress
Over the last three months we have continued to make good progress on checking the New Testament translation. During our last village stay, we reviewed all of my notes from my advisor check of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, Revelation, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. I never expected that we would be able to finish reviewing my notes for all of those books, but we did! Since that time, I have been busy back-translating those books, a tedious process, but a fruitful one that helps me to identify any further edits that need to be made and which also prepares the books for being checked by an outside consultant. In addition, I have prepared my advisor notes for Romans and 1 Corinthians to check with the team. We praise the Lord for enabling us to make great progress! At the same time, we ask for your prayers as the process of checking the translation and creating back-translations into English can be quite tedious and draining.

School Activities
Now that Bella is a sixth grader, she is at the middle school and can participate in school sports, and so we have a very busy household. She is on the girls’ soccer team and continues to play both trombone and piano. After being apart from Jacob for eight weeks during the last school term as he stayed in the youth hostel, we are glad to be together as a family again for this school term. Jacob exceeded all of our expectations and made the A team for basketball this term. He is one of two eighth graders on the team. Besides one tenth grader, the remaining five players on the A team are all juniors and seniors. Jacob also continues to go to the gym regularly and is getting quite strong. Asher is in third grade now and does not have quite as busy a schedule as Jacob and Bella, which gives him a lot of time for playing with his friends. 

Bella playing the trombone
Martha Tutoring
After spending 25 hours over Christmas break watching training videos in the Barton system of reading and spelling, Martha is now tutoring elementary school students who need extra help in those areas. Martha is also a part of the spiritual emphasis committee for our organization’s upcoming biannual conference. This is in addition, of course, to all that she does to keep the household running. So please pray for strength and energy for Martha as she volunteers her time to be a blessing to others in the community.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What Kind of Animal is the Beast?

Have you ever considered what the “beast” in the book of Revelation looks like? Have you ever considered what kind of animal the “beast” is? Do you even think of the “beast” as an animal, or do you associate the “beast” with a person? And when you think of the “beast,” do you forget, as I do, that Revelation 13 actually describes two beasts?

If you are like me, you have probably never given any consideration to what kind of animal the “beast” is, and you have probably considered the “beast” to be more of a man than an animal. After all, in English we can use the word “beast” to describe a person. For example, we might describe a cruel and inhumane person by saying, “He is such a beast.”

However, the Greek word for “beast,” which is θηρίον (thērion), refers very definitely to animals, particularly wild animals. These animals were created on the sixth day along with the domesticated animals and the things that creep upon the ground. But unlike the domesticated animals such as cows and sheep, and the small animals that creep along the ground such as mice and lizards, the beasts are large, dangerous animals that live in the wild, such as lions and bears. So the word “beast” simply means “wild animal.” 

An artist's rendition of the first beast in Revelation 13
A great advantage of the English language is that it has words like “beast” and “animal” that describe large categories of things. However, languages like Enga do not have large category words like that. When they describe an “animal,” they use the specific word to describe the specific animal that they are talking about. Sometimes such categorical words can be created, by saying things like “things that have four legs” or “things that move” or “things that are alive,” but often such created categorical words do not work well in translation.

Although Enga does not have large categorical words like “animal” or “beast,” words such as “pig” and “dog” do cover smaller categories of animals. For example, the word “pig” describes any four-legged animal that has hoofs of any kind. So when animals such as cows, sheep, and horses where first introduced into Enga, the Enga people called them “pig cows” and “pig sheep” and “pig horses,” with the word “pig” describing what type of animal it was. Similarly, the word “dog” describes not just dogs but also cats, because both animals are similar in that they have four legs and claws and hunt for food. Similarly animals like lions and bears could be described as “dog lions” and “dog bears.”

A fascinating component of language learning is the discovery of how different languages and cultures classify things differently. English speakers would never describe a cat or a lion or a bear as a type of dog, nor would they describe a cow or a sheep or a horse as a type of pig. Nor would English speakers classify mice and lizards in the same category as did speakers of classical Hebrew. The words that we use shape how we see the world and what categories we put things in.

So as I was reviewing the translation team’s draft of the book of Revelation, I was eager to find out what sort of “animal” they would envision the beast to be. Now, different members of the team translated different chapters of Revelation, and so I found out that some of the translators were calling the beast a “wild pig,” while others were calling it a “wild dog.” In researching the “beast” more closely, I discovered that the first beast is described in Revelation 13:2 as being like a leopard and having feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. That solved the problem right there. According to the Enga system of animal classification, leopards, bears, and lions all fall into the “dog” category, so the beast is obviously a “wild dog.” In English, something that resembles a leopard and bear and a lion defies specific categorization, but in Enga such an animal is clearly a type of dog.

So beware of receiving the mark of the wild dog on your foreheads or your right hands. Actually, since Enga has no word for “hand,” but simply classifies the hand as part of the arm, you should be careful not to get the mark of the wild dog anywhere on your arm at all. And since Enga has no word for “forehead” but simply uses the word “head,” you should also be careful not to get the mark of the wild dog anywhere on your head at all.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Literacy Graduation

In November, I (Adam) was invited to be the keynote speaker at the literacy graduation ceremony for one of the local church denominations. I was pleased to see forty students from three different congregations gathered together to receive a certificate acknowledging their progress in Enga literacy. I was also encouraged by the fact that most of the people who were graduating had little, if any, prior exposure to reading in any language. Before the literacy course, they were mostly illiterate. And so it was joyful to see people, many of whom were middle-aged or older, learning how to read for the first time in their lives.

Some of the literacy graduates and people in attendance at the ceremony
Often people in Papua New Guinea need encouragement to try to read in their own language. They just assume that they will not be able to do so, and so they either never learn how to read in their own language or they settle for reading Scripture in English or Tok Pisin, neither of which they understand as well as they understand their own language. To help people grasp the beauty of receiving Scripture in their own language, I shared from Psalm 119:103, which, in Enga translation, sounds like this:

The sweetness that happens when I heard your word, surpasses the sweetness that happens when I taste honey.

Applying this Scripture for the graduates I then said to them,

The sweetness that happens when you read God's Word in the Enga language surpasses the sweetness that happens when you read God's Word in other languages. Why? Other languages are not yours. The Enga language is yours.

I then told the graduates that when Israelite boys first started learning the Hebrew Scriptures, the rabbis would gave them a taste of honey to remind them that the Word of God is sweeter than honey. After that, I had the graduates come forward for a taste of honey to reinforce to them just how sweet the Word of God is when they read it and hear it in the Enga language. 

Tasting honey, which is not as sweet as God's Word in Enga
Please pray for these graduates as they have only just begun the long road toward becoming fully literate. We in America often take literacy for granted, and we forget how long it took us as children to learn how to read. It is harder for adults to learn how to read, especially when literacy is not a value of the surrounding culture and when there is little access to books or libraries! To promote an ongoing interest in reading, we gave each of the graduates a free copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Enga. Please pray that they will read it each and every day and improve in their newfound literacy skills.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reading the Printed Gospel

When we decided to allocate to the Enga Bible translation project, we knew that we would need the help of local churches to promote literacy. With over 300,000 Enga speakers, there was no way that we could teach them all how to read. As excitement for the Enga Bible has grown, churches have begun literacy programs to prepare for reading the New Testament in their own language. What is most exciting about this development is that we ourselves did not start these.

Local Church Literacy School
To meet the demand for the growing interest in literacy, we decided to print 250 copies of the Gospel of Matthew so that those who are pursuing literacy will have something to read. Rather than selling these books, we are strategically distributing them as promotional copies to drum up further interest in Enga literacy. A couple of weeks ago, I gave copies to four pastors in town, and they each immediately began reading aloud. One of the pastors, Pastor Joe, was so impressive in his ability to read fluently that I quickly pulled out my phone and took a short video of him for you all to see.

Around the same time, our friend Jenny (not her real name) stopped by our house. You may recall that Jenny was the lady who was accused of witchcraft and was nearly tortured to death in the village across the river from us. While we were away in Ukarumpa, Jenny took it upon herself to take a short two-week course in Enga literacy. We wanted to see how much she had learned, and so we gave her a copy of the Gospel of Matthew, and she immediately began reading it. She wasn’t quite as fluent as Pastor Joe, but we were still highly impressed that a woman who had gone through such difficult trials had taken it upon herself to learn how to read. She is now teaching ten other women how to read. To see a video of Pastor Joe and Jenny reading, please go to (

Translation Progress
We continue to make excellent progress toward the completion of the New Testament in Enga. During our current two-month stay in the village, we will complete the advisor check for Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, Revelation, and perhaps even 1-2 Timothy and Titus. After returning from the village at the end of November, I will begin working on preparing the Pauline Epistles for advisor check. Preparation for advisor check involves reading the Enga draft translation and meticulously comparing it with the original Greek, making notes and drafting suggested changes. This is very tedious work. For example, in the book of Revelation alone, I have 891 notes to review with the team. Please pray for strength and endurance for me to complete advisor checking. While our work is challenging and tedious, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Enga New Testament and hope to have the entire New Testament completed within three years time.

Bird’s Eye View
A few months ago our friend and fellow missionary Anton Lutz brought his drone to our village house in Enga and took video footage of our house, village, and the surrounding area. We’ve made this footage into a short video along with commentary from the family so that you can get a better idea of where we live. You can view the video at the following link: (

Drone footage of our house in Immi village
Jacob in the Hostel
Our oldest son, Jacob, decided to stay in the hostel during our current visit in Enga. He is now in eighth grade and very busy in school with many activities. There are many other boys and girls his age in the hostel, which is overseen by hostel parents. While we are sad that he is not with us, he seems to be thriving and enjoying a bit of independence. But please keep him (and us) in your prayers.

Upcoming Furlough
We our planning to begin our next furlough in late June 2019. We will begin our furlough in Western Pennsylvania, where we will be staying with my (Adam’s) parents. During this time we hope to visit friends and relatives in the East Coast area. In December, we will drive cross-country to Los Angeles and spend the remainder of our furlough there before returning to Papua New Guinea in June 2020. We hope to see you then.