Monday, December 1, 2014

Basic Skills

During our very first village stay while we were completing our training in Madang, it very quickly became clear that I (Adam) was very ignorant about basic village living skills that even young Papua New Guinean children had mastered. For example, on our first walk down to the river, I was carrying Asher in my arms. As soon as we started walking down the slippery downhill path, however, I slipped and fell on my back and dropped Asher. (Fortunately, wet ground is also soft ground.) So we decided it was best to have a young boy carry Asher instead because we knew he wouldn't fall. Similarly, when people watched me try to chop firewood, they would feel sorry for me and volunteer to chop the wood for me. They would very quickly have the large log chopped up into perfect pieces of firewood, while it probably would have taken me all day to have various and oddly shaped pieces of firewood. The people in Papua New Guinea grow up with these skills, and so they are second nature to them.

But when it comes to computers and technology, many Papua New Guineans handle computers the same way that I handle an ax. They have never before touched a computer, and they have no idea how to make it work. And just like I needed very basic training regarding chopping firewood and walking down slippery paths, so they need very basic training regarding how to operate a computer and basic software programs. For the first couple of years of translation work, I have always been present with the translation team, and they have always asked me to sit down at the computer because they know how quickly and effectively I use the computer. But now with our furlough coming up next July, it is important for the Enga translation team to develop skills in using the computer themselves. So three of the Enga translators are currently in the midst of a two-week training session on Paratext, the software that we use to enter, edit, and check the Enga Bible translation.

Frank Paiyak, William Walewale, and Nete Talian at the Paratext workshop.
After two years of working together, the Enga translation team now has a very good understanding of the translation process, including common errors to avoid and strategies for creating a translation that is accurate, clear, and natural. As they develop their skills in Paratext, they will have all that they need to continue working on the translation even when we are on furlough. What's more is that they also have the ability to send their work to me via the internet using their cell phones, which means that I can continue checking and back-translating from America during our one-year furlough. It is an exciting world that we live in where even the most remote parts of the globe can communicate and send files instantly at the push of a button.

Please pray for Frank Paiyak, William Walewale, and Nete Talian as they continue learning Paratext. Pray that they will gain the basic skills and competencies necessary to effectively use the program to translate the Bible into Enga. And pray for all of us as we continue learning how to walk on slippery paths in Papua New Guinea without falling down!

Enga Missionaries Deported

Two weeks ago some of our fellow missionaries in Enga received notices that they were being deported. These missionaries are our good friends and have committed no wrong. Their deportation is the result of persecution against them and it is not the first time that this has happened. The missionaries are fighting this decision and not leaving the country, so please pray that this decision will be reversed and that the missionaries will be allowed to stay in the country and continue their work. You can read more about their situation in a recent article published in The National newspaper. This situation indirectly affects us as well. We were planning on building our house on the grounds of a seminary campus, where one of the families currently resides. Their residence at the seminary is one of the reasons cited for their deportation. It is a very complex situation, but the key point is that we do not want to find ourselves in a similar situation in the future where we are facing similar persecution and deportation. As a result, we are now seeking other options for where to build our house. Please pray that the Lord would give us wisdom and provide a good place for us to build our home in January.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The First Fruits of Translation

The first fruits of the Enga Bible translation project are now in the hands of the Enga people. Until last month, the vast majority of Engans had very little access to the Word of God. What access they did have was most often in the form of short Scripture quotations in English or Tok Pisin heard during church services. I (Adam) am a fluent Tok Pisin speaker, but I can tell you that when I hear the Bible in Tok Pisin it goes in one ear and out the other. I understand the words, but they have no impact on my life. It is the same for the people of Enga. While many can understand Tok Pisin, it doesn’t touch them at the core of who they are. But after listening to the new Enga translation, people were saying, “When we read the Bible in Tok Pisin, we never read a whole chapter at a time. But we can listen to an entire book of the Enga Bible in one sitting without getting tired!”

Over the course of six days, we had nine events to promote and distribute the Gospel of Mark and the Abraham Story in Enga. In that time, people purchased approximately 220 Audibibles (solar-powered audio players) and 110 memory cards. We also installed the Enga Bible app and Enga Jesus Film for free on about 60 phones.

It was just as exciting to see all of the church denominations come together to celebrate the Bible in Enga, take ownership of the project, and commit to seeing the translation through to completion. At one event, church leaders stood up one-by-one and pledged to support the project financially. At the end of the night, their pledges totalled nearly K25,000 ($10,000). The Bible in Enga is taking hold of the Enga people.

To see a video of the distribution produced by Newbreak Church, please go to

Adam explains the Enga Audibible while Asher looks at the crowds who have gathered to receive God's Word in Enga

Thank You Newbreak Church
We would like to thank Newbreak Church for your continued support of the Enga Bible translation project. Because of your help, we were able to sell the Enga Audibibles at a discounted price that people could afford. Thank you as well for your pledge to see the Enga Bible translation project through to completion. Your support blesses and encourages not only us but the people of Enga. You are truly planet shakers! We would also like to thank Pastor Darrel Larson, Matthew Nelson, and Eric Edmonds for coming all the way to Enga Province from Newbreak Church to participate in the dedication and distribution of the Gospel of Mark and the Abraham Story in Enga. You guys were an incredible blessing to the people of Enga and a wonderful encouragement to us as a family.

Pastor Darrel Larson with two Assemblies of God pastors.

Translation Progress
In addition to dedicating and distributing the Gospel of Mark and the Abraham Story, we also completed the naturalness check of the Gospel of Matthew and began drafting the Gospel of Luke. As you read this, the Enga translation team is continuing drafting of the Gospel of Luke. This is the first time that they have attempted drafting without me (Adam) present, so please pray for wisdom. This is a good step as the goal is to empower the Enga translators to take on more and more of the responsibilities of the translation work upon themselves. I will still be checking their work daily as they upload it to the internet from Wabag using their smart phones for internet access. Isn’t technology amazing!

What’s Next
In November, William Walewale and Frank Paiyak, two of the Enga translators, will be attending the Paratext training workshop. Paratext is the computer program that we use to enter, edit, and save the Enga Bible translation. This will be an additional step toward helping the translators work more and more independently. This will ultimately speed up the translation process and free me (Adam) up to spend more time on other parts of the process such as back translation into English, checking, recording, and production.

Thank you for all of your prayers, encouragement, and support. We hope that you share in the joy of seeing the first fruits of the Enga Bible translation project. Please know that you are making a difference among the people of Enga!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Enga Bible App

When we launch the book of Mark and Abraham Story in Enga the week of October 12, our primary focus will be distribution through solar-powered audio players called Audibibles. Most Engans (and Papua New Guineans for that matter) have never learned how to read in their own language, and often they are not interested in learning because reading is not a strong part of the culture. So if you hand an Engan a printed Bible in their own language, they will likely never read it. If you hand them an Audibible, however, they will listen to it over and over, as will most everybody else who lives in their village. In the oral cultures of Papua New Guinea, audio recordings are the best way to share God's Word. And when the battery runs out, they can just put the Audibible out in the sunlight to charge!

In addition to the Audibible, Enga will also be one of the first languages in Papua New Guinea and the world to have a smart phone app. The smart phone app highlights the text of the Scripture sentence-by-sentence as the audio recording plays. We have found that the same people who would never read a printed Bible will immediatley engage with the Enga Bible App and try to read along with the recording. (Engans love technology!) And those who have learned to read in English or Tok Pisin can fairly easily transfer those skills over to Enga with a little practice. So the Enga Bible app not only gives people the Word of God in their own language, but it also teaches them how to read.

Some of you may be thinking, "What good is a smart phone app for people who have no electricity?" Good question! The reality, however, is that even people who live in remote villages without electricity often have cell phones, and they find all sorts of creative ways to charge them. Smart phones are just now reaching the price range ($35) where the average Papua New Guinean can purchase them. We have gone to villages in Enga where there was no electricity only to be shocked to find the villagers taking video of us with their smart phones! While the Audibible is still going to be the most popular way of accessing Scriptures right now, the Enga Bible App is sure to take off in the near future, especially among Engans who live in town. The best part is that the app is free and can be transmitted for free from one person to another. It would not be at all surprising to share the Enga Bible App with one person and come back a week later and find that all of his friends and family now also had the app. Papua New Guineans are good at sharing media on their phones! Click here to see a video of how the Enga Bible App works.

We will also have printed versions of the book of Mark and the Abraham Story available in Enga printed side-by-side with the Contemporary English Version (by permission of course). So those Engans who do want to read the printed Word will also have access.

Please keep the upcoming launch of Mark and the Abraham Story in your prayers. We are hoping to distribute in four different locations from October 12 to October 16. Pray that many Engans will come and receive God's Word in their own language. Pray also for the team from Newbreak Church near San Diego that is coming to participate in the distribution. We look forward to sharing with you next month about how it all goes!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Shaking Hands with the Enemy

After the fifth robbery attempt on our Ukarumpa house in two years, Martha and I decided that it was finally time to start venturing into the village of Ku'ina and building relationships with the people there. The village literally adjoins our backyard, but visiting is not as easy as you might suspect. Due to various security incidences in the years prior to our arrival, a security fence encompasses Ukarumpa. While necessary for improved security, the fence also cuts us off from our local neighbors. So to actually walk to the village requires walking to the nearest gate in the fence, which is nowhere near our house.

When we first moved into our Ukarumpa house a couple of years ago, there were only a few houses in Ku'ina village, but now there are more than twenty, and new ones are being built everyday. As translators, we are often exhausted when we return from Enga Province, and, honestly, we just want to retreat for a while. However, we have realized that ignoring our neighbors whom we don't know, but can see through the fence, is not right.

So we decided to take the whole family out to Ku'ina and start introducing ourselves and building relationships. We realized that on Saturday mornings there is another gate much closer to our house that is open, and so we got together with some friends and went out to Ku'ina. We had a hunch that the people who have been robbing our house have been coming from Ku'ina, and so Martha and I decided ahead of time that if we saw any of our things, we wouldn't say anything. To be honest, there is very little that we could do about it anyway as prosecuting suspected thieves is not something that generally results in any serious consequences, but it would definitely sour our relationships with the people of Ku'ina.

As we walked through the gate and up the hill into Ku'ina we felt free. Why had it taken us so long to go out and greet our neighbors? What were we so afraid of all this time? We met a couple of ladies washing clothes by a small stream and said hello. They seemed a little bit uncomfortable to see us in their village, and we did not receive the warm welcome that we would have received in Enga. We walked on a little farther up to a basic church structure that is being built. There was an older lady ahead of us on the path who also seemed hesitant to meet us, but we caught up with her and began talking. We told her that we lived in the blue house on the opposing hill.

When we told the older lady where we lived, she seemed intent on leading us on the path in a certain direction. Soon we came to a house and the lady called out to a young man in their own language (Gadsup). The young man came forward to shake our hands, and I realized that he was wearing my watch. He was a very strong young man about the age of twenty…a person the locals would refer to as a 'boy'. As we shook hands he said his name was 'Yonki'. When we told him where we lived, he seemed to grow a bit nervous. I then noticed that he started hiding his wrist so that I couldn't see the watch. As we walked along the path together he took off the watch at his first opportunity. It seemed fairly clear that this was the young man who had smashed our bedroom window and rifled through our room just one month before.

I had been extremely angry after that incident. I had visions of the people coming back and me bashing their heads in with a baseball bat or spraying them with pepper spray. I almost wanted them to come back so I could get revenge. I knew that such intense anger and desire for revenge was not right, but it was honestly how I felt. When I saw this young man's face, however, I realized that he was no hardened criminal. He was just a young man getting into mischief like so many young men in America. I'm sure that he viewed Ukarumpa as a place where people seem to have a lot more than he does and thought that it wasn't fair that all those missionaries should have electricity, clean water, well-built houses, and computers and many other things that most Papua New Guineans don't have. In addition, I don't imagine he felt that much guilt about cutting through the fence at night, smashing our window, and taking whatever he wanted. You see, in Papua New Guinea, there is not a strong sense that stealing from people outside of your extended family is wrong, especially if you don't get caught. The shame is in getting caught because it brings shame upon your whole village.

We continued our tour of the village, shaking many hands. Most of the young men we met seemed very hesitant to talk with us, probably because they felt ashamed about what they had been doing to our house. (I suspect Yonki had help.) Not surprisingly, Yonki did not stick around long. We made our way back down the hillside and met Manisa, the chief of the village. We introduced ourselves to him and sat and talked for a while, telling him that we didn't feel right about living so close but not knowing each other. As we returned to Ukarumpa, we invited about 15 children from the village to come back with us to our house to play. They stayed for about two hours and had a wonderful time.

After I got home, I realized that I was no longer angry. After seeing Yonki's face, God laid it on my heart to pray for this young man. But not only that, God had prompted me to return to Ku'ina to share the gospel with Yonki and give him the Tok Pisin New Testament on a solar-powered audio player. Unfortunately, when I returned the next Saturday, Yonki (which I found out is probably not his real name) was not there. So please pray that God will provide an opportunity for me to see this young man again, share the gospel with him, pray with him, and give him the Tok Pisin New Testament. Please also pray that God will touch his heart, convict of his wrongdoing, and open the door for him to receive salvation. And continue to pray for us as we build relationships with the people of Ku'ina.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Corruption and Persecution

Two of the Enga translators along with 300 other pastors were recently barred from their denomination’s annual convention because of the actions of a corrupt bishop clinging to his power.

While we were translating the Gospel of Matthew in June, two of our translators, Maniosa Yakasa and Frank Paiyak, excused themselves for a few days to attend their denomination’s annual convention. The term of the corrupt bishop had come to an end, and it was time to elect a new bishop. In the past, when this corrupt bishop’s term had expired, he barred all of the pastors who didn’t support him from attending the convention and brought people in from the streets to vote for him. This time, however, the rest of the church was determined not to sit idly by while he yet again cheated the system.

So Maniosa and Frank joined together with more than 300 pastors from all over Enga Province to demand entrance into the convention so that they could vote for a new bishop. They arrived early in the morning only to find that the bishop had locked them out and hired police from another town who brought machine guns and machetes to keep the pastors from attending their own convention. When a couple of the pastors broke through the fence, they were severely beaten and had to be rescued by the others who were still outside the fence. In the process thirty-nine men were injured and some had to go to the hospital. Frank suffered a minor wound on his leg when he was hit with a stone. Nevertheless, Godly men like Frank and Maniosa do not allow corruption and persecution in the church to affect their faith in God. Their persistence in the face of trials is an encouragement to us as we face our own trials. Please continue to pray that God will remove the corrupt bishop and install a leader who is committed to serving the Lord.

Translation Progress
Earlier this month we completed our first draft of the book of Matthew. We never expected that our translation work would be progressing so quickly. Last fall I (Adam) remembered hoping that we would be able to finish our first draft of the book of Mark by this time. I never thought that we would complete both Mark and Matthew (not to mention the Abraham story)! In August and September we will record Mark and the Abraham story and prepare them for distribution in print and audio format. Then we will launch the books in October.

Pray for Safety
During our last stay in Wabag we had two separate break-in attempts at our house in Ukarumpa. During the first attempt, a man tore off the screen on our front window that faces the main road. Fortunately, one of our neighbors was walking his dog and saw the man, so he called security and the man ran off. We were not as fortunate with the second attempt. Our bedroom glass window was smashed and somebody came into our house and rifled through our room. Fortunately, we keep our valuables locked in a safe when we are in Wabag and so not much of value was taken. Nevertheless we will be upgrading our alarm system and purchasing laminates for the windows that prevent them from being smashed. Please pray for our safety and security. These incidents take their toll on us emotionally and are very discouraging. After the second incident, I told the Enga translators what happened and shared John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I have a greater understanding now about the desire Engans have for revenge, but I am committed to releasing that desire into God’s hands and placing my trust in Him.

Pray for Transitions
Every June is a difficult time for missionaries in Papua New Guinea as many people leave on furlough. This year many of our close friends have left. It has been especially difficult for Jacob, as he has had to say goodbye to his best friend Nate. To make matters worse, when Nate’s family returns to Papua New Guinea, we ourselves will be going on furlough. Jacob has been bursting in tears at random times as he tries to deal with the pain of saying goodbye. Please pray for God to comfort and strengthen him.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Calling For Back Up

We've watched the scene a thousand times. The one where the cop or the detective goes into a dangerous situation alone, and you are sitting there on the couch yelling, "Call for back up!"

It drives me (Martha) crazy to watch those scenes. It always ends with trouble. Why do they always think they can go in alone?

There is really only one answer.

Pure arrogance.

As missionaries, I think sometimes, without meaning to, we do the same thing. We refuse to call for back up…and we go in alone.

We have arrived in Enga for another five-week stay. I have been very apprehensive about this trip. Our last stay was just plain hard.

Two days before we left I pulled a muscle in my neck. It was better in the morning so I thought nothing of it. On the plane ride I began to feel the pain, but of course I kept ignoring it. The first week there was awful. I kept injuring my neck over and over and I was in a lot of pain. I thought about asking friends for prayer, but it seemed silly. It wasn't big enough to warrant a prayer request. I felt like an idiot. "Um, hi. My neck hurts. Can you pray about that?" Nope, not me. I searched on the internet for answers instead.

But it just…got…worse. And if you know me, you know that I didn't just have pain in my neck. You know that I pictured the pain never going away, never sleeping well again, never being able to pick up my son again. You know that I created a monster in my brain that told me I would suffer for the rest of my life because I turned my neck the wrong way!

Why is it so hard to ask for help? Why do we always think we have it covered?

After a week of misery I finally caved. I humbled myself and sent the email that asked for prayer. And you know what? I immediately felt better. No, the pain didn't go away right then. But I felt better. I had let it go.

All of a sudden it hit me. There is something about the asking. Yes, the actual prayer is powerful, but the asking is powerful too. When you ask for prayer, you are finally admitting, you cannot do it alone. When you ask, you begin to move out of God's way, and allow Him to work. There is just something about the asking.

Our last trip to Enga was hard for all sorts of reasons. All I kept thinking during those weeks was, we went in alone. We didn't call in for back up. We never asked for prayer coverage.

If this whole Bible translation thing is going to happen, we need prayer coverage, because the enemy wants us to quit.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
- Ephesians 6:12

Consider this our official call for back up. Here are our prayer requests.

1. Pray for protection over our family spiritually and physically. Pray for Jacob who struggles here more than the other two kids. He just said goodbye to his best friend who is going on furlough. Please pray that he would be obedient to his parents and kind to his brother and sister. Pray that all three children would thrive here, play creatively, and grow close as sibling. Pray that Adam and I would have special, quality time here with the kids.

2. The translation team is working on making corrections and refining the book of Mark before recording in August. They will then continue working on the book of Matthew. Pray for protection over the translation team and their families. Pray for unity and clarity as they work together to find the right words to translate accurately.

Names of the translators: Martin Harty, Frank Paiyak, Maniosa Yakasa, William Walewale, John Singi, Nete Talian, and Reuben Yonasa.

3. Pray for Adam. He bears the weight of this translation project. Pray that he has energy, and that he would not grow weary or discouraged. Pray that we will be given wisdom in how to lead the translation team.

4. Please pray that we will continue to develop good relationships with the people here and that the kids and I will learn more Enga during this stay.

5. Please pray that the corrupt bishop of one of the main denominations in Enga would be removed from power. Pray that the church would be unified in making this decision.

6. Pray that God would give us wisdom about where to build our house in Enga.

7. Pray for peace in Enga and an end to tribal fighting.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seek First the Kingdom

I didn't know how to respond when I read the email. I was just sitting there in a state of shock. I didn't even want to tell Martha what it said. I just wanted her to read it for herself so that I could see her reaction. Her jaw literal dropped as she read these words…

Adam...My wife and I have been blessed by you and your family's ministry to the Enga people. God has put it into our heart to pay for your home [in Enga]…we are willing to give you up to $40,000 to build your home.

We couldn't believe what we were reading! The decision to build a house in Enga was one that we had really struggled with. I (Adam) had wanted to explore other options such as renting, but it quickly become clear that nobody was going to let us rent a house just during our stays in Enga and that the cost of paying rent year-round was too high to be worth it. We had already lived in three different houses in Enga, and we knew that constant movement like that would burn us out. We also came to realize that not having a place we could call our own would add a lot of undue stress and negatively impact our ability to stay committed to this work for the long haul. As we prayed about the situation, it really seemed like God was leading us to build a house of our own so that we could have a stable and affordable place to say whenever we were in Enga.

So we decided to build a house even though we had no idea where we would get the money to do so. But we felt like God was leading us, and so we stepped out in faith and began speaking with the construction department about developing some plans. I also included a brief paragraph about our plans in one of our recent newsletters. We weren't asking for any donations at that point, but just for prayers that God would lead us and guide us in the process of finding the right location and figuring out the steps we needed to take to build a home.

Soon thereafter I received an email from one of our supporters asking us questions about building the home. How much would it cost? Were there people who could help us build it? Would we be able to get the materials in Papua New Guinea? I responded to all of his questions and gave him a ballpark figure of what we anticipated a house would cost.

A couple of weeks later, we received the email that made Martha's jaw drop! We couldn't believe that two of our supporters were willing to pay for the entire house! I mean we believed that God would provide, but we never anticipated that He would provide so quickly and so generously! We could barely find the words to express our deep gratitude and appreciation for such a generous donation. But we praised God not only for his faithfulness and provision but for his confirmation that he was indeed leading and guiding us.

While we will keep the names of our two supporters anonymous, we do wish to thank them publicly for believing that God has called us to this work and trusting that we will faithfully do what God has called us to do. May God bless you both! We don't have the words to truly express our appreciation, but we do know that God is pleased by your own obedience to do what he has called you to do and that a great reward awaits you in heaven!

God's provision of funds to build a home are just further proof of the truth of Matthew 6:33, which has lead and guided us from the beginning of our journey to become Bible translators:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

English Course
Martha recently taught a five-day English course designed to help Papua New Guineans get extra practic in English before the annual Translators' Training Course (TTC). Although most Papua New Guineans are taught in English when they attend school, their English is often quite rusty after long periods of nonuse. So Martha's job was to help them get used to speaking and hearing English again as they prepared to begin TTC. It was a great chance for Martha to be involved in helping Papua New Guineans in the work of translating the Bible into their own languages.

Martha's Health
Earlier this year, Martha had her annual heart check-up, and we are very pleased to tell you that the strength of her heart has improved! Shortly after her heart attack in January 2010, her ejection fraction (which measures how much blood your heart pumps each time it beats) was 35%, which signifies heart failure. Before departing for Papua New Guinea, her ejection fraction climbed to about 50%, which is still lower than normal but not in the heart failure range. Earlier this year, however, Martha's ejection fraction was measured at 60%, which is well within the normal range. So we praise God for strengthening Martha's heart! God is good!

Translation Progress
In May we completed the consultant check for the book of Mark. Three men from Enga came to Ukarumpa for this important part of the translation process. One man would read a couple verses of the text and then the other two would tell the consultant in Tok Pisin what they heard. It was a tedious process, but well worth the effort as we improved many minor shortcomings of the text. While the story came through loud and clear in Enga, it was interesting to see how much trouble the men had translating it back into Tok Pisin. Over and over again the men would tell me in Enga, "I know what this word means, but I don't know how to say it in Tok Pisin." It was just further proof of how important it is for people to hear God's Word in their own language, and how difficult it is to really grasp or communicate the Bible in a second language.

Thank You
We want to thank you for your continued prayers and support! We couldn't do what God has called us to do, without each one of you doing what God has called you to do. Your prayers are powerful. As we come closer and closer to releasing our first published Scripture portions in October, we do feel spiritually attacked, and so please pray for God to protect our family and give us His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Peace Amidst Trials

During our last five-week stay in Wabag, we were again reminded of just how much the Enga people need God’s Word in their own language.

The town square across from the police station was filled with students one morning shortly after our most recent arrival in Wabag. I had received word the night before that the Secondary School Coordinator for Enga Province had been murdered in a dispute about who should be the principal of one of the local high schools. The school was immediately closed and the students came to town seeking answers from the government. When they didn’t get the answers they wanted, they started a small scale riot in town, burning down a vehicle that belonged to another school and throwing rocks at the Enga Provincial Government building. I (Adam) was working with our translation team in the Enga Cultural Center just down the hill from the center of town. We heard the popping sound of tear gas guns being fired as the police dispersed the crowd. We smelled the gas as we peeked outside to see people pouring down the hill out of the town center. The employees locked the gate and we continued our work after about a twenty-minute break. Public disorder like this is far too common in Wabag.

One of the Enga translators, Pastor John Singi, told me that he would not be coming into town to work until the situation grew less tense. But after two weeks of not hearing from him, I sent him a text message to check on him. I was shocked when his daughter texted me back to say that he had been robbed, abducted, and beaten, and that he was now in critical condition in the hospital. When I went to visit him, I found out that members of his own tribe had done this to him after falsely accusing him of stealing 8,000 kina ($3,200). They had also tried to make him drink acid, which would have killed him. Fortunately, he batted the acid away with his hand. Unfortunately, the acid landed on his stomach, where it caused several large sores. When I visited him, I could see God’s peace upon him despite the horrible ordeal he had endured. His attackers were unable to rob him of his joy. As a Christian, Pastor John is committed to pursuing peaceful and legal means to seek justice, which is remarkable in this culture of payback and retribution.

In yet another incident, the bishop of the Gutnius Lutheran Church, who had been properly excommunicated by the church because of issues of corruption, was allowed to remain in power when a court overruled the church’s constitution and bylaws. Although disappointed with the decision, we were not surprised by it since one of the judges is the corrupt bishop’s relative. As a result of the decision, our lead translator, Maniosa Yakasa, is legally banned from ministering in the Gutnius Lutheran Church since he was one of the main advocates for the corrupt bishop’s removal. Nevertheless, Maniosa is unfazed by the court’s decision and will continue working on the Enga Bible translation and ministering as God has called him.

A side effect of the court’s decision is that it complicates our plans to build a house at the Lutheran Seminary in the village of Birip since it is technically on the grounds of the Gutnius Lutheran Church. However, years ago the local land owners (the ones who really have the power) forbid the bishop from stepping foot on the seminary campus. We are confident that they will stand behind us and support us if we build a house on the seminary campus. Birip is one of the safest and best places for our family, and so we are continuing with our plans to build there despite the corrupt bishop. Nevertheless, we would appreciate your prayers regarding this matter.

As we share these events with you we realize that many of you might be tempted to worry about our safety. Even though the people of Enga are often violent toward each other, please be assured that they show the utmost kindness and respect toward us. We ourselves are quite safe, so please do not worry about us. At the same time, please pray for Pastor John Singi and for peace among the Enga people. And praise God that, despite the chaos, we are continuing to translate His Word into Enga without delay!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Encounter with God

I (Adam) ignored the voices of the security guards outside our home that morning. It had been too long since I had had quality time with God, and I didn't want anything to disrupt it. But soon I had to face reality. Security guards are not usually talking outside your house at six o'clock in the morning unless there is a problem. When Martha and I finally went outside, we discovered that the storage area under our house had been broken into and that the kids' bikes and my tools had been stolen. It was the second time our home had been broken into since we moved in a year and a half ago. The first time it happened, I had heard a loud crashing noise in the middle of the night. My first thought was that one of the kids had gotten up and accidentally knocked something over, so I ran out of the bedroom to see if they were OK. As I approached the family room, I saw a man trying to climb into the house through the window he had just shattered. I started yelling, almost growling, in a deep, loud voice, and the man ran away before he had the chance to take anything. Both break-ins happened right before a trip to Enga for translation work. The devil doesn't like that we are here.

A few days after the second break-in, I got bitten by a snake while working in the garden. I never actually saw it, but judging by the bite marks it was just a small snake, and after some time passed it became clear that it wasn't poisonous either. (Although I discovered, much to my chagrin, that the shortness of breath produced by the anxiety of being bitten by an unknown snake in the same country with a snake called the 'death adder' is remarkably similar to the shortness of breath one is supposed to feel when bitten by a venomous snake.) That night Jacob and Bella accidentally broke Asher's tricycle, the only bike that hadn't been stolen and which we had just recently received in a special shipment from America for Asher's birthday.

Three days later I left for Enga for a short ten-day trip to resume our translation work there. Since it was a relatively short trip, Martha and the kids stayed in Ukarumpa. Needless to say, I wasn't well spiritually. I was in a daze of confusion, doubt, and anger. As the Papua New Guineans would say in Tok Pisin, I had a 'heavy'. Transitions to and from Enga are always the most difficult time for me emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and the 'heavies' from the previous week were really weighing upon me. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I went through all the doubts that the devil attacks me with from time-to-time. Am I really making a difference? Am I just wasting my time here? Will the Enga people really care that we are translating the Bible into their language? Why should I put up with break-ins, bathing in river water, and not having so many of the nice things that are part of every day life in America? I was physically affected by the spiritual heaviness and felt sick.

The day after I arrived in Enga, I poured my heart out to God in prayer. I wrote down exactly how I was feeling. I told God that I felt hopeless and alone, and I begged, literally begged, Him to help me. I have found in my experience that God rarely answers prayers like that for me immediately. However, by the end of the day I realized that the heaviness was gone. God had answered my prayer. He had also revealed to me areas in my life, like parenting, where I was falling a little bit short, and He gave me the grace and desire to begin making adjustments in my life.

Five days later, as I was relaxing on the couch after dinner, I looked up at a banner on the wall that says, 'Keep your eyes on Jesus'. I spontaneously started singing hymns. As I continued, I felt the Spirit of the Lord fall upon me in a wonderful way. The Lord led me through a wonderful time of prayer in which I felt closer to Him than I had felt in months, maybe even years. I physically felt His presence upon me and it was true bliss. God didn't abandon me. He has been here with me all along, and He reminded me of that at just the right time!

By the way, as a result of the second break-in, we are getting a watchdog, which is a highly effective way of protecting your home in Papua New Guinea. Her name is Yana, which means 'dog' in the Enga language. (We really stretched ourselves creatively to come up with that name.) She was born four days after the recent break-in, and we will take her into our home in a couple of weeks. The kids are so excited about getting a dog that they have been surprisingly at ease with having their bikes stolen.

Yana, our new watchdog

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Culture Hike

Recently I joined my friends Max and Benjamin from Immi village for a weekend hike out into the bush. I wanted to get a glimpse of life in Enga a bit off of the beaten path of the Highlands Highway. As I thought back on my trip, I was amazed at all of the little bits of Enga culture I encountered that seem so natural to me now, but which might be quite interesting for you, our partners back home to read about. So please take a moment and soak in Enga culture through the eyes of a weekend traveler into the bush.

I woke up at 6 in the morning and made my way to the bus stop in Wabag town to get on a PMV (public motor vehicle) to Immi village. My friends Max and Benjamin met me in Immi and we walked along the Highlands Highway toward the village of Birip. Benjamin refused to let me carry anything, which is typical of the type of special treatment our family is often shown. As we walked along, I greeted some friendly faces, which I remembered from our five-week stay in Immi last year. One lady, whose face I didn't recognize, was Maria, but she recognized me. Benjamin told her I had come, and she came from her garden trembling and weeping. She clung tightly to me in the way I would imagine a mother hugging a son she hadn't seen in years and thought she might never see again. It was humbling that just living with people in their village for five weeks could have such a powerful effect upon them.

When we arrived in Birip, we left the Highlands Highway and walked south along a bush road toward a mountain range. Before long, we had to cross a river by means of a large log that was about 18 inches in diameter, 20 feet long, and ten feet above the water. There were no handrails, so Max held my right hand in front of me and Benjamin held my left hand behind me as we went across. According to Enga ways of thinking, if I got hurt, it would be their fault and they would have to compensate me and my family for any injuries I sustained.

We then continued our hike, greeting the local people as we went. Benjamin said that they would be telling stories to their friends and family members for weeks to come about the 'white man' who passed through their village. Three and a half hours later, and 2,200 feet higher, we reached the summit of Sambe mountain. My right knee had started to hurt, and so I was very thankful that we would now be going downhill. For the next hour we walked through the part of the mountains where nobody lives...the true bush. As we crossed over the mountain range, we began to enter the Saka Valley, one of the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen. It was full of beautiful rivers, thatched roof homes, gardens, trees, mountains...even the road was beautiful (a rarity in Enga province).

It was raining during the last hour and a half of our hike, and my knee was hurting more and more with every step. As we approached our destination we met up with James, Benjamin's relative, who led us into the village of Yokosa (which was on the other side of a slippery bridge that, although wide, was deteriorating and currently situated at a 30 degree angle toward the river). As we entered Yokosa, we passed through the market area, where many wanted to shake my hand (a custom much more important for Papua New Guineans than it is for Americans). But because of the rain we didn't stay in the market very long and couldn't greet everyone who wanted to greet us.

We went on a little bit farther until we arrived at James' brother's house, where we would be staying. It was one of the nicest bush houses I have ever seen: well-built, clean, and spacious, with lots of light pouring in from the windows. There was exactly one chair, which had obviously been placed right next to the fire for me. (Papua New Guineans generally don't use chairs but they know 'white men' prefer them.) I've learned to get over the embarrassment of situations like this and just kindly accept the special provisions that are sometimes made for me. So I sat down on the chair while everyone else sat on the floor.

It rained for the rest of the day, so we spent the afternoon and evening sitting around the fire talking (or 'storying' as they say in Papua New Guinea), and eating four different foods which were served in succession. First we had sugar cane, which is a customary way to welcome visitors in Enga. Engans just use their teeth to rip off the skin, bite off a chunk, chew it up, suck the juice out, and spit out the remainder. (Technically speaking, you 'drink' sugar cane rather than 'eating' it.) Benjamin knew I would have trouble removing the skin with my teeth and was kind enough to cut the skin off my sugar cane with his bush knife (machete). Even so, I made a mess of the sugar cane trying to bite off the chunks and sugar water dripped all over the floor. Next we had sweet potatoes (the staple food of the Papua New Guinea Highlands), which were cooked in the ashes of the fire and eaten with no condiments, plates, or silverware. Then we had corn, which was cooked in its husks on the lid of the top portion of a 55 gallon drum placed over the fire. (This is by far the most common type of cooking set up I have seen in Enga.) The corn was also eaten with no condiments, plates, or silverware. Finally, we had pumpkin greens, which were boiled in oil and water in a large wash basin set on top of the drum lid. Even after the water had been boiling and the greens had been cooking for a long time, James' wife Jenny picked up the lid and the basin with no hot pads. (Engans seem to develop a tolerance to heat in their hands, and even put them in the flames of the fire for seconds at a time without feeling any pain).

Knowing that I would be fed and given a place to sleep, I had brought a small bag of basic supplies, including salt, sugar, cooking oil, soap, matches, and crackers (as well as some lollipops) to give to James and his family. While Papua New Guineans usually have more than enough to eat from their gardens, basic packaged supplies like the ones I brought are a bit of a luxury. The mother of the family detailed to various people throughout the night the list of items I had brought for them because she was so excited to receive them. Even though I had bought the crackers in Wabag town, the family had never seen them before and were quite excited to eat that particular 'white man' food. The family had four children, and the first born was an eight year old boy. I asked his parents if he had ever seen a 'white man' before, and they said no. Their youngest daughter, who was about two years old, was scared of me at first, but I assured her in Enga, “Don't worry...I don't eat children.” That seemed to be good enough for her, and the next morning she even let me hold her.

About 7:30 p.m., the questions of 'Do you want to go to sleep?' started coming. I shouldn't have been surprised by this. We had learned during our training in Madang that when we stayed the night with Papua New Guineans, we would be encouraged to go to bed early so that they could then talk freely about us and all the things we do that seem so strange to them. (It doesn't seem to bother them or occur to them that we can hear what they are saying through the thin bamboo walls!) I resisted for an hour until about 8:30 p.m. when the repeated question of 'Do you want to go to sleep?' became so persistent that I started laughing out loud. So I finally agreed, even though I wasn't tired, because I knew they wanted to talk without me there. James' brother even came to make sure that I closed the door to my room! Sure enough, as soon as the door was closed, the room erupted with conversation! While I didn't understand everything they were saying, I understood enough to know that my training in Madang was correct! I picked up phrases like 'he even carried his own water'. (Engans don't seem to believe me that even though the water from the stream is clear to the eye that it can still be impure and cause me to become sick. It is very odd that I would carry heavy bottles of water when I could just drink from small streams along the way.) Well I just decided to let them have their fun talking about all the strange things I do without taking offense. (I have certainly had some laughs of my own about the things they do!)

When I woke up the next morning, I immediately emptied a one-serving-size packet of instant coffee into a plastic water bottle and drank it cold. (Papua New Guineans don't generally drink coffee in the morning and usually don't offer anything to drink other than the sugar water you get when you 'drink' sugar cane.) I won't get into the details of bathroom procedures in the village other than to say there was nothing there other than a nice deep hole and a four-foot high wall on three sides.

As everyone gathered together, we had more sugar cane and sweet potatoes for breakfast. Since I had to be back in town that night, we started making our way back at about 10 o'clock. We decided to go a different route that wouldn't require hiking back over the mountains. My knee was still hurting from the prior day's hike, and so I was really hoping we might find a PMV to take us most of the way. I had seen only one vehicle the day before on the remote road we had walked along and that was an ambulance (which in Papua New Guinea is usually a Toyota Land Cruiser), so I didn't have high hopes for finding a PMV. We walked through the valley, greeting people, and shaking hands along the way.

My knee kept hurting more and more as we went. I knew it would be a six hour hike or so if we couldn't find a PMV, so I was doing my best to just ignore the pain and tough it out. Benjamin's legs were also hurting (carrying my heavy bag didn't help him), and so I was praying that God would make a way for us to get back home without having to walk for six hours. After hiking for two and a half hours, my knee was in such pain that I told everyone that we had to rest for a while. As soon as we sat down on the side of the road, a blue Land Cruiser came by. It was a private vehicle, not a PMV, but at that point I didn't care. I waved down the driver to stop, knowing full well that the curiosity and hospitality typical of the Engan people would make any driver very likely to stop and help a foreigner who needed a ride. Much to my relief, he pulled the car over, rolled down the window, and said, “Do you know who I am?” I recognized his face immediately but struggled to match it with a name. Then it hit me, “You are Ezekiel,” I said. “Ezekiel Peter, the General Secretary of the Gutnius Lutheran Church." I had met Ezekiel on my very first trip to Enga, and he is a good friend of our lead translator, Maniosa Yakasa. Ezekiel told us to hop into the car, and he drove us the rest of the way home. God heard my prayer and took care of our need.

As we passed through Birip (where we had started our hike), I saw the vehicle of a new missionary family in Enga. So we stopped (in the middle of the highway mind you) and had a conversation. They asked me to join them in town for lunch, which I happily accepted. After a good lunch catching up with good friends, I went home, limped up to the house covered with mud, went into the bathroom to take a shower, turned on the water, and nothing happened. The water was out...typical of a weekend in Wabag.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Love Your Enemies

In a culture where payback and retribution are still common practices, small acts of love and forgiveness show that God’s Word is beginning to take root.

I (Adam) will never forget when I called our dear friend and co-translator Maniosa Yakasa to see if his house had been burned down in tribal fighting. He told me in his unique singsong style of English, “They murdered seven of my pigs and burned down eleven houses.” I had never heard the term ‘murdered’ said with such pleasant intonations, nor used to describe the killing of pigs. But the way Maniosa said it showed the joy and peace that was in his heart because of Christ. Most Engans would be on the warpath if someone ‘murdered’ such highly prized possessions as pigs. Fortunately Maniosa’s house was not touched, even though some of the houses right behind his were burned to the ground. 

On our next trip out to Enga, we brought some children’s clothes and shoes for the people of Sakarip who had fled because of the tribal fighting. I gave them to Maniosa to deliver to whoever needed them most. Even though most people had fled, Maniosa was still living in Sakarip, where gunmen were nightly roaming through the village hunting their enemies who had previously sought refuge in Sakarip.

The next time I saw Maniosa he told me that he had delivered the clothes and shoes to his enemies! I was amazed by Maniosa’s ability to love the same enemies who had caused so much destruction and turmoil in his village. It gave me hope to see that God’s Word is changing even the most deeply rooted cultural norms. Maniosa understands that the only way to stop fighting and killing is by love and not by more fighting and killing. I pray that as people hear God’s Word in Enga that they too will learn to love their enemies!

Translation Progress
During our recent six-week stay in Wabag, we completed drafting the first twelve chapters of the Gospel of Mark. Our goal was to finish the first eight chapters, and so it was encouraging to be so far ahead of schedule. Immediately after returning to Ukarumpa, we had three Engans join us to have our translation of the Abraham story, which we had completed earlier in the year, checked by a consultant. The consultant check is a tedious but necessary part of the translation process, whereby a person who does not speak Enga and who has not been involved in the translation process checks our work. Because the consultant does not speak Enga, we must first translate our work back into English. The consultant then checks our English back-translation to make sure that we haven’t missed anything and to provide other helpful suggestions based on his own experience.

After the consultant check, I (Adam) prepared the back translation of the first twelve chapters of Mark that we had drafted in preparation to have that checked later this year. Now I am back in Wabag for a short trip to review the notes from the consultant check for the Abraham story as well as my own notes on the first twelve chapters of Mark. There are a lot of steps to the process!

Prayer for Building a House
During our last stay in Enga, we were informed that the apartment where we are staying in town will no longer be available after 2014. That news is a blessing in disguise because it has been difficult for the kids to be in town without space outside to run around and play. We have now lived in three different places in Enga and honestly we are tired of moving and not having a stable place of our own. As a result, we are praying about building a small house on a seminary campus in Birip, a village about twenty minutes outside of Wabag town. This area has been relatively insulated from tribal fighting over the years, and it has lots of space for the kids to play. The seminary seems willing to give us land to build, but the thought of building a house is daunting! Please pray that God would give us clear direction and provide the funds and practical help that we need to build a home that will provide a stable place for our family.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Is It Worth It?

They must have wondered what the white lady was doing. I (Martha) sat a few rows from the back on a wooden pew in a church in Wabag. Adam had been invited to preach that Sunday and near the end of the sermon he pulled out an Audibible with the story of Abraham in Enga. I began to twist and turn, stretching any way I could, watching the faces of the men and women sitting near me on the wooden benches. I searched for a glimpse of something in their eyes. I wanted to see something that would tell me… it was worth it.

I have asked this question many times over the past two years. Is it worth it?

I asked this question while lying on the floor of a dark bush house shining a light on the rats circling the ceiling above my head. I asked this question while riding in the back of an open truck in the pouring rain with my husband and children and a pile of stinky pig poop. And most recently I asked this question when we were spontaneously invited to someone's home while shopping in the open market of Wabag, and the path to the home required climbing up a mountain of trash.

Truth be told, these inconvenient moments don't take up the bulk of our life here, they simply make for interesting stories. Most of the time we live in a western style house, and most of the time the hardship doesn't stem from the uncomfortable situations we sometimes find ourselves in. It comes from something else.

When Adam pressed the play button on the Audibible that morning, it took everything in me not to stand up on the bench and start hollering, "Do you know what I left to come here? I wasn't there when my niece was born...I really miss my friends and heart was wrenched when I watched my son say goodbye to his best friend, and it felt like I had died and the world was moving on without me." I wanted to say this… but I didn't. Instead I searched their eyes as they watched the tall white man pull something out of his pocket and press a button.

We've been here for two years now. If you had asked me two years ago if I had a heart for the people of Papua New Guinea, I would have said no.

But this past year there were sporadic moments when I fell in love. When I saw the wide toothy smiles of the three men my husband honored from the village of Immi, my heart opened up. I have never in my life seen smiles like that.

Earlier this year, we brought several men to Ukarumpa, many of whom did not know each other, to be trained in translation. I watched those men become a team, become a family. And they became our team, our family. I remember the moment well. I stood there watching as they all sat at desks, diligently trying to complete an assignment and flipping through their books. They didn't know it at the time, but I sat there and let the realization hit me. I love the people of Papua New Guinea.

Nevertheless, on that Sunday morning I got up on one knee so that I could see their faces, their eyes. Papua New Guinea is so far away, and we live a life that is filled with constant goodbyes, and I wonder if I will ever fit in here, and I worry about how all this will affect my children. As Adam pulled out the Audibible and pressed play, I could see everyone sit up a little straighter. They began to listen to the story of Abraham in their own language, while I continued to twist and turn and watch. It didn't take long for me to see what I was looking for, for God's assurance to wash over me, for me to say, "Ok God, I get it." Because when I watched their eyes as they listened, I saw it…I saw light.

These are the moments that help me answer the question, "Is it worth it?" Yes, it is worth it when I see the reactions of the Engans who hear Adam speak their language. It is worth it when I realize that my children don't have to live this life, they get to live this life. For every goodbye, there is a hello that follows. And even though I would give anything for Adam to be able to bring home a pizza for dinner, I know that it is worth it, because God is in it.