Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Ends of the Earth

The alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. It was time to get up and travel to 'the ends of the earth'. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said, "you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NLT). For me, both literally and symbolically, the 'ends of the earth' is Enga Province in Papua New Guinea. I (Adam) turned off the alarm, got ready, and went with my language guide, Reuben, to wait for a PMV (public motor vehicle). After waiting for nearly an hour and a half, we got on the first PMV of the morning and headed off to Goroka, about two hours away. From Goroka we boarded another PMV for the four and a half hour trip to Mt. Hagen (not including the hour and a half we spent driving around Goroka trying to fill up the PMV with passengers). In Mt. Hagen, my co-translator, Maniosa Yakasa, picked us up and drove us the remaining three hours to the village of Sakarip, just outside the town of Wabag. It took a total of twelve hours traveling over bumpy, pothole-filled roads, but I finally made it to 'the ends of the earth'.

During my one-week stay, I (along with my co-translator Maniosa) visited leaders from various churches to tell them about the Enga Bible translation project and ask them to support the work by providing capable people to help. All of the church leaders enthusiastically supported the translation project and pledged to provide whatever support they could. The importance of this church-support cannot be understated, because if local church leaders do not support a translation project, it is not likely to succeed. I was especially pleased to visit the Wabag Assembly of God church and attend their Sunday service, where I was asked to get up and share a little bit about why I had come. While I had only been studying Enga for about five weeks, I was able to get up and tell everyone my name, where I was from, and how many children I had in the Enga language. The people were overjoyed to see a 'kone' (white man) speaking their language. I then switched to Tok Pisin (the trade language) and explained more about our ministry and the need for a translation in the Enga language.

It became clear to me over the course of my stay just how desperately the Enga people need the good news of Jesus Christ to become alive in their lives. While Engans are very welcoming to foreigners, they are often short-tempered and quick to fight with each other on both the individual and the tribal level. These fights are very destructive and cause deep wounds that I believe only forgiveness and the love of God can overcome. Another problem that I witnessed firsthand in Enga was drunkenness. In traveling around with my co-translator, I was amazed at how many people in the streets were completely drunk, even in the morning. Without the love of God in their hearts, people in Enga are turning to alcohol to provide temporary pleasure and relief from the problems of life.

I was sad and troubled by the problems I encountered in Enga Province, yet overcome by the appreciation the people had that I had come to be with them. I was torn, questioning why I would want to live in a place that had such problems, but then remembering that God has called me to be a light in dark places. I am not called to choose the road that is most comfortable for myself, but rather the road that leads out of my comfort zone, away from all I know, and even to the 'ends of the earth'.