Saturday, December 1, 2012

I've Only Learned How To Fight

"I never went to school. I never learned how to read. I never learned how to speak English or Tok Pisin. The only thing I ever learned how to do was fight." As I heard these words, I was standing in front of the congregation of the Assembly of God Church in Immi, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea. I was immediately struck by just how desperately the Engan people need the Word of God in their own language. Sai Mata, the man who spoke these words, was one of the leaders of the Immi congregation. In fact, he was one of the few men left in the village because so many of the other men had been killed over the years in tribal fighting. The church itself had been burned to the ground multiple times, and the church that is there now had been rebuilt just a couple of years ago.

I had been asked by Pastor Darren Terros, one of the men who will be a part of the Enga Bible translation team, to come speak at the church in Immi. We were given a wonderful reception by the church. As we walked across the field to the church building, the entire congregation was outside singing worship songs, and as we reached the church grounds, they put a flower necklace around each one of our necks (including the children). As the singing finished, they stood in line waiting to greet us and shake our hands. It was the best welcome we have received during our time in Papua New Guinea!

I had prepared to share a message in Tok Pisin, the main trade language of Papua New Guinea, thinking that the congregation would be able to understand me. Pastor Darren, however, translated the entire sermon into Enga because many of the people did not know Tok Pisin. What we didn't know is that when Pastor Darren had started pastoring this church two years prior, he told the congregation that one day they would have a "white man" speak at their church. Since they were just a small, village church, it seemed unlikely that a "white man" would ever come, but we were humbled to know that God used us to fulfill Pastor Darren's prediction. Many non-believers came to the service that day to hear the "white man" speak, and so it seemed appropriate to give an altar call at the conclusion of the service and give people a chance to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It was difficult to gauge how many people responded because Engans are more reluctant to raise their hands than people in America are, but I did see some hands slightly raised, and I know God was working on people's hearts.

After praying for people to receive Jesus Christ, I then told people how important it was to read their Bibles. And as the words were coming out of my mouth, it struck me. Nobody in Immi has a Bible! And even if they did have a Bible, almost nobody in Immi knows how to read! I realized in that moment, just how important it was not only to have a good translation of the Bible in the Enga language, but to have an audio recording of the Bible so that people who will likely never learn how to read can hear the Word of God in the only language that they really understand! That is why one of our first and primary goals is to make a translation of the Enga New Testament available on something called an Audibible, which is a small, hand-held, solar-powered audio player that allows people to hear the Word of God in their own language. Please pray with us as we direct our translation efforts towards this goal. And please pray that the people of Immi will experience a long-lasting peace from tribal fighting.

If you would like to see a video of our welcome at the church of Immi, please click here. Please note that our oldest son, Jacob, was holding the camera as we approached the church, so it is a bit shaky, but you will nevertheless get a glimpse of how it felt to be welcomed the way we were in Immi. Sai Mata, the man mentioned in this update, is wearing a light green shirt, and in the video he is standing next to Pastor Darren Terros, the man who is wearing a white shirt and a tie.