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!