Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Go (Away) Steelers!

Earlier this month, I sent a thank you card to the pastor of my parents' church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Because we are in the heart of Steelers country, I thought it would be fun to say 'Go Steelers!' in Enga on the front of the card. You wouldn't think that translating 'Go Steelers!' would be all that difficult. After all, there are just two words, and I wasn't planning on translating 'Steelers', just the word 'Go'. However, the process to translate 'Go Steelers!' into Enga turned out to be much more complex than I had anticipated, and so I included in my thank you card an explanation of the translation process. I am reproducing part of the card below for your reading pleasure.

Dear Pastor David,

I wanted to send you, the staff, and the missions committee a postcard that said 'Go Steelers!' in Enga The problem is, if you translate 'Go' literally it would mean that you want the Steelers to go away, which isn't what we mean when we say 'Go Steelers!' So I decided to translate 'Win Steelers!', which is what I think we really mean when we say 'Go Steelers!'

But there is no single word for 'win' in Enga. Instead they use the idiom 'hold count'. This idiom is derived from the idea that the person who wins is the person who has the most votes or who 'holds the count' of the votes, and it has been extended to mean 'winning' in general.

But if you just say 'hold count', it applies only to the immediate timeframe, and, although sometimes when we say 'Go Steelers!' we are saying it in the immediate context of a particular play, when writing 'Go Steelers!' on a postcard, we are really talking about our general desire that the Steelers win all the time and not just at a particular moment. So instead of just saying 'hold count', we need to say 'hold count, huh'. That little 'huh' at the end makes it clear that we don't just want the Steelers to win in a particular moment but over a duration of time.

But the true word order in Enga would be 'count hold-huh' since the verb always comes last in a sentence. Also notice that 'huh' is hyphenated to 'hold' since in Enga they are just one word.

Finally, we must put 'Steelers' first since they are the ones being addressed. Although one could make the argument that this saying is not addressing the Steelers directly, but rather it is stating our desire that the Steelers 'hold count' without directly commanding them to do so, in which case another verb form would be required ('Let the Steelers hold count'). But let's assume that we are in fact meaning to address the Steelers themselves, regardless of whether or not they will ever read this postcard. That leaves us with...

Steelers, count hold-huh!

So we go from 'Go Steelers!' in English to 'Steelers, count hold-huh!' in Enga, which is actually 'Steelers, ita minalapape!' Imagine, now, that you are translating not 'Go Steelers!' but a difficult verse like Mark 9:49, which says, "For everyone will be salted with fire." No wonder Bible translation is such a difficult task! Yet it is well worth it for people to hear God's Word in the language that speaks to their hearts!

P.S. I'm still working on a translation of 'Deflategate'!

An Engan man wearing a Steelers jersey in Wabag town

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Talk is Cheap

In Enga just saying that you are going to do something doesn’t mean very much. What’s important is when you actually do what you say you are going to do.

In Enga, talk is cheap. Just because somebody says he is going to do something, you shouldn’t necessarily believe him. There is a joke about a politician in the Highlands talking about all the things he will bring to the people if he is elected: good schools, roads, medical care, and even nice beaches. When the people remind him that they live in the mountains and that the ocean is hundreds of miles away, he promises to bring them the ocean as well.

Unlike the politician in that joke, most Engans are not trying to be deceptive in their speech. Rather, because they are highly relational people, they are apt to say what they think the other person wants to hear in order to maintain a good relationship (whether it is true or not).

Because people cannot always be taken at their word, when we tell people that we are translating the Bible into Enga, there is probably some suspicion as to whether or not it is actually going to happen. That is why we have made it a priority to release audio recordings of individual books of the Bible as we complete them. That way people can see that this work is really happening and moving forward.

In October 2014, we released the Gospel of Mark and portions of Genesis. Now on November 11 and 12, the Enga Bible translation team will release audio recordings of the Gospel of Matthew on solar-powered audio players, memory cards, and as an Android phone app. Please pray for this event. Pray that more Engans will have the opportunity to hear God’s Word in their own language. Pray also that Christian leaders in the Enga community will continue to support this work with their prayers as well as their giving.
Community members putting money into a cardboard box to help support
the Enga Bible translation project in October 2014

The Lord's Prayer in Enga
Most English speakers have never learned another language that isn’t related to English, and so they are surprised to discover just how different languages like Enga can be. One method that we’ve used to demonstrate the differences between Enga and English is to take the Lord’s Prayer in Enga and translate it word-for-word back into English. Read the word-for-word English translation of the Lord’s Prayer in Enga below and find out just how different the two languages are. For extra credit, try reading it out loud without stumbling over any words!

Of us Father top in sky stands the,
Of you name the well doing be say.
Of you ruling place the it shall come say.
Top in sky of you as thinking they do,
Even that down below land in this do say.
Even today as we will eat doing, food the give.
Against us bad they do of them,
Payback the we are abandoning,
You of us bad the payback the abandon.
Bad do saying trial happening to the,
Go saying leave don’t.
Bad from the you us doing get.

October Travels
After sharing at the Brooklyn Tabernacle and Ingomar Church in September, Martha and I were delighted to get some time away to ourselves during the first week of October, taking a five-day vacation to Gettysburg. Thank you to those of you who gave specifically for us to enjoy some personal time away. The last week of October, our family traveled to Florida, where we shared at Life Church in St. Petersburg before heading to Orlando for the Wycliffe Connection. The Wycliffe Connection is a five-day conference for missionaries on furlough to debrief from their time on the field, to learn how to make the most of furlough, and to prepare to return to the field after furlough. Wycliffe places such a high value on this conference that they pay for the entire trip, and we are thankful for the wonderful support!

How are the Kids?
The kids are doing well, enjoying things they don’t normally get to do like going to the pumpkin patch, apple picking, and kayaking. Because we are traveling so much, we are homeschooling the kids this year. Martha is teaching Jacob and Bella, while I am working with Asher on his reading and math each morning before heading to my parents’ church for my regular work of translation. I am also teaching Martha and the kids Enga, so please be sure to keep us all in your prayers!

Bella, Jacob, and Asher at the pumpkin patch

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Brooklyn and the 'Burgh

After four years away, September was the month when we were finally able to return to the 'Burgh (Pittsburgh) to spend a few months with my (Adam’s) parents. A few days later, on September 11, we were scheduled to be in New York City to visit the Brooklyn tabernacle. Amazing, when we arrived that Friday afternoon there was virtually no traffic, even in downtown Manhattan! Upon arrival, we were rather concerned about where to park, but a tiny space opened up for us. However, I didn’t know how to fit our minivan in such a small space. Thankfully, Daniel, our host, helped me out. He showed me that in Brooklyn you need to bump the cars in front and behind in order to carve out some space for yourself! Thank you, Daniel and Aida, for providing us with a wonderful apartment and for being such wonderful hosts!

During the weekend we were privileged to share our story at the Missions Ministry on Saturday. It was a great blessing to pray for many people who responded to a call to missions. On Sunday, though it was not planned, Pastor Jim Cymbala showed our video and asked us to share about our work, at both the 9 a.m. and 12:00 noon services. We were humbled to have the choir dedicate the song 'It Will Be Worth It All' to us. On Tuesday evening, we were able to share a bit more deeply at the prayer service. We were overwhelmed by the many wonderful people who greeted us and told us of their faithful prayers for us during our first term in Papua New Guinea. The people of Brooklyn Tabernacle know how to pray, and not only were we blessed and encouraged, but also empowered to seek God with greater fervency in our own prayers. Thank you to the missions team at Brooklyn Tabernacle and Pastor Cymbala for making us feel so welcome, and for encouraging us so much! We will remember our time with you when we return to Papua New Guinea. By your prayers and encouragement, we will continue stepping forward in faith, knowing that we have a great team of prayer warriors at the Brooklyn Tabernacle!

While we were in New York, we also had the opportunity to do a little sightseeing. We took the kids to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Brooklyn Bridge Park, which both offer fantastic views of Manhattan. We also visited Times Square, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the new World Trade Center Observatory, Wall Street, and Battery Park. Needless to say, by the time we arrived back home in Pittsburgh, we were ready for some rest!

Overlooking Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Last Sunday, we were honored to share again at Ingomar Church, where I grew up, and where my parents have attended for over 30 years. I never imagined as a young boy, that I would one day be standing in front, as a missionary to Papua New Guinea! It was wonderful to share about our work with so many who have been praying and giving to support the work in Enga. It was very special to share with my parents in attendance, knowing how much they pray for us and support our work. My Aunt Kerry also flew to Pittsburgh to hear my message, and we enjoyed the opportunity to have deep, meaningful conversations about God during her visit with us. Thank you, Pastor David Streets, and the congregation at Ingomar Church, for making us feel so welcomed, for receiving us with open arms, and making us feel at home. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

God is good and it is good to be back in Pittsburgh, at a place that we can call home.

Asher and Bella enjoying the beginning of fall at my parents' house just north of Pittsburgh

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Greetings from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where we have just finished our three-week cross-country trip. What a blessing it has been to visit Martha's cousin and his family in Durango, Colorado; camp in Ouray, Colorado; speak at supporting churches in Greeley and Montrose, Colorado; visit supporters in Wellington, Colorado; see old friends in Plymouth, Minnesota and Geneva, Illinois; and reconnect with all of my (Adam's) family as we celebrated my grandmother's 100th birthday in Madison, Connecticut!

Celebrating my grandmother's 100th birthday
It has also been a joy to see the children get so excited about seeing things that many of us take for granted like squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. (They don't remember seeing any of those things before!) For Martha and me it felt wonderful to be on the open road and see the country from the California deserts to the mountains of Colorado and from the plains of the Midwest to the forests of the East Coast. Nevertheless, we are so glad to finally be able to settle down in Pittsburgh with my parents after weeks of living out of suitcases. Martha is now starting to homeschool the kids as I return to work, checking the Enga translation of the book of Luke and continuing to compile my grammar of the Enga language. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support!

El Nino Causes Drought and Frost in Enga The people of Enga are currently facing a major disaster as they face the worst frost to hit the area in 40 years. While Papua New Guinea is on a tropical island, most of Enga is over 5,000 feet in altitude and some areas are over 8,000 feet. Frost destroys the vegetable gardens that people rely upon for their daily food and entire crops of sweet potatoes have been lost. Sweet potatoes are the main staple in Enga, and so those in affected areas are virtually without food. El Nino has also caused a drought, which has left people with dangerously low water supplies. Papua New Guinea's government has promised immediate disaster relief funds for the region, but please keep the people of Enga in your prayers that they would have food to eat and water to drink.

Frost-burnt sweet potato crops in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea. (The darker brown colors
are not dirt but withered sweet potato vines. Normally these mounds would be green.)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Home Away From Home

After four flights ranging from a ten-seat Kodiak airplane to a 247-seat Airbus A330, we are back in America to begin our one-year furlough.

Greetings from San Fernando, California, where we have begun our year-long furlough. After a relatively smooth trip home, we are now getting adjusted to life back in the States. Of course we knew there would be adjustments, especially for the kids. Asher did not remember America at all, and had no concept of how long our furlough was going to be or where we would be living. On one occasion he thought that our most recent two-week trip to Enga was ‘furlough’, and on another occasion he thought that ‘furlough’ would be five days long. At one point during our travels, Asher asked ‘When are we going home”, and we didn’t know if he meant our home in Ukarumpa, the guest house where we were staying, or where we would be staying in America. Bella and Jacob remember a little bit more, but we still had to train them to use water fountains, automatic sinks and paper towel dispensers, and what a red light is and why you have to wait for the light to turn green before you can go. The kids absolutely love escalators and elevators, which seem like fun rides (although the kids got stuck in one elevator because they didn’t get out fast enough).

A tired Asher enjoying an In-N-Out cheeseburger, fries (which we call chips),
and chocolate shake for his first meal back in America
As for Martha and me, we have our own adjusting to do as we experience some reverse culture shock. (No we don’t have a rewards card and no we don’t want to sign up for a credit card to save 15% on today’s purchase! Please stop asking!) The first time on the L.A. freeways made driving the horrible roads in Papua New Guinea seem not so dangerous after all, and we are still trying to figure out why people would power wash their already clean driveways during a severe drought!

Meeting Somaya
One of the highlights of our brief time back in America so far has been meeting our niece Somaya for the first time. Somaya is Martha’s sister Ruthie’s daughter, and she is the only niece or nephew on Martha’s side of the family. She was born just a couple of weeks after we first arrived in Papua New Guinea. So even though she is now three years old, we had not had the opportunity to see her and hold her before now. She has gotten along great with our kids, and she is already calling Martha her auntie.

Bella and Asher with their cousin Somaya
Getting In Gear
It was strange to leave our home in Papua New Guinea with no keys whatsoever (to a house, car, office, etc.) and no working phone. We’ve since been getting back in gear, first getting our driver’s licenses renewed, then getting car insurance, then getting a car (great deal on a used Toyota Sienna from good friends of ours), then getting cell phones. Besides that we’ve been spending lots of time with Martha’s family, swimming in the pool at the house of our dear friend, Roberta, where we are staying this month, going on outings with the kids, eating yummy food, and enjoying a few dates now that we actually have somewhere to go at night! It has not been the most restful time, but it has been wonderful to reconnect with friends and family!

What Do You Do On Furlough?
While furlough is a great opportunity to enjoy some personal time and catch up with friends and family, it is definitely not a year-long vacation. The Enga translation team continues to work on drafting the book of John, and I will be checking the book of Luke. I have also started brushing up on my Greek, and I hope to complete writing my grammar of the Enga language. It is amazing how writing a grammar of Enga forces me to really think through how the language works, which really helps me to learn the language on a deeper level. We will also do a bit of traveling over the year as we visit friends and family. We are currently in Southern California, but we leave on August 7 for a three-week trip cross-country. After spending the fall with my parents in Pittsburgh, we will drive cross-country again after the New Year, spending January through June back in Southern California. We want to thank you all for your continued prayers and support!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Six Days Until Furlough

This past month has been a whirlwind of activity. As Martha has worked tirelessly to clean the house, purge unwanted items, and get the house ready for furlough, I (Adam) have worked hard to finish editing the audio recordings of the Gospel of Matthew so that the Enga translation team can distribute them in October. In Enga culture, it encourages people to see tangible results of our translation work, so it is important to keep releasing books as we finish them. So I praise the Lord that He enabled me to finish Matthew. And I'm so encouraged that the Enga translation team will be launching Matthew even while we are away on furlough. They have really taken ownership of the translation work.

As we have planned and prepared for furlough, there have been a lot of unknowns such as Who will take care of our dog? Who will rent our house? Will our house be safe if nobody rents it? What will we do with our car? How will we be able to monitor the work of the translation team from overseas? Where will we spend our time on furlough? Where will we live? God in his timing has answered all of those questions, and we are grateful for His providence. It is so reassuring to know that we have a God who loves us and cares for us, even in the details of life.

As we prepare to go, we are sad to say goodbye to so many good friends whom we have come to know during our first term here in Papua New Guinea. We are especially sad to see some of our dear friends 'go finish', which is a Tok Pisin way of saying 'go for good (not to return)'. It helps us understand a bit of what our own family and friends may have felt when we made the decision to come here in the first place.

Bella enjoying time with her friends before furlough.
On July 7, we fly into Los Angeles, where we will be staying until August 7. Then we will drive cross-country, stopping in Colorado, Minnesota, and Connecticut before settling down in Pittsburgh for the fall. Then after the New Year we will drive back out to California and stay there until the end of our furlough next July. It will be a whirlwind of activity, but such a wonderful blessing to our family and friends again.

Some supporters may be wondering whether or not they should continue their financial support during furlough. The answer is Yes. We are still just as reliant upon gifts for our supporters during furlough as we are during our time in Papua New Guinea. We have truly been overwhelmed by the faithfulness of our supporters over our first term, and we can't express just how thankful we are for your continued support!

We hope to see all of our supporters during our furlough time, so please don't hesitate to contact us to schedule a time to get together. We would love to see you! Until then, please pray for traveling mercies as we travel from Ukarumpa to Port Moresby to Brisbane to Fiji to Los Angeles over the course of two days. See you soon!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Redeeming the Time

The last two months have been a whirlwind of activity as we have sought to make the most of the our time before returning home on furlough on July 7.

During the last week of April and first week of May, we spent our time in the village of Birip in Enga Province, polishing up the book of Matthew for recording and saying goodbye to our friends and coworkers. Our translation coworkers sent us off with a good Engan meal, including boiled chicken, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cooked bananas, broccoli, Japanese parsley, ginger, and rice. It was a good trip, and we found ourselves wishing that we could have stayed a little longer.

Our last day in Enga before furlough.
One of the highlights of the trip was when I (Adam) got to see my good friend Benjamin graduate from a short pastoral training course sponsored by the Wabag Assembly of God church. You may remember my story about Benjamin from a couple of years ago. (At that time I referred to him as Joseph.) Benjamin used to be a mercenary hired out by other tribes to do their tribal fighting for them (and he did a fair amount of fighting for his own tribe as well). At one point he showed me the shotgun that he used to use (a Winchester Model 37A). But God got ahold of his life, and he became a Christian. When we lived in the village of Immi for five weeks, Benjamin became one of our good friends, and I gave him a Tok Pisin Bible, which he received with great emotion and tears. Later he helped us to consultant check the book of Mark in Enga, and now he has graduated from a basic pastoral training course despite never having had any formal schooling. At the graduation he told me that our stay in Immi and my relationship with him was one of the driving factors that led him to pursue this training. Now the Assemblies of God church has appointed him to plant a new church in the Kompiam District of Enga Province. This is an area where many pastors who go to formal Bible schools won't go, but Benjamin is open to serving God wherever God chooses to send him. What a blessing to see God use Benjamin in this way! Please pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide Benjamin as he takes on this new role as a pastor.

Benjamin's graduation ceremony.
After returning to Ukarumpa, we didn't have much down time as two of our coworkers, Martin Harty and Maniosa Yakasa, arrived the next day to begin recording the book of Matthew. Martin did a tremendous job of recording. The recordist told us that many Papua New Guineans read phrase-by-phrase, practicing each phrase two or three times before reading it. Martin would often read multiple verses with no mistakes, and sometimes we had to stop him so that we could scroll the text up on the screen that he was reading from. Not only that, but his voice sounds like a professional radio broadcaster. With Martin's help, we were able to record the whole book of Matthew in just over six days! The Enga translators have already begun planning the launching of Matthew in October (while we are on furlough), so pray for me as I edit the recordings and prepare the book for print in time for them to launch it. It is so encouraging that the team is planning on continuing their work even while we will be gone because it shows how much ownership they have in the translation. Please pray for them to work well and be able to upload their work to the Internet while we are on furlough.

Martin recording the book of Matthew.
On a final note, Martha had her annual heart checkup a few days ago, and her heart is doing well. Thank you for your continued prayers for her health.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pure In Heart

During our recent consultant check of the book of Matthew, our consultant helped us to make it crystal clear in Enga just what it means to be pure in heart.

Second language learners are often slow to realize that one word can have many shades of meaning. For example, it took me a long time to realize that the same Enga word that means ‘stand’ can also mean ‘be’, ‘live’, ‘stay’, ‘inscribe’, ‘fasten’, and ‘from’. The same is true for Enga speakers who have the opportunity to learn English. Often they are unaware that an English word can have multiple shades of meaning, and this can corrupt their understanding of the English Bible (especially since the English itself is a translation).

So as the Enga translation team translated 'Blessed are the pure in heart', they were focused on purity only in the sense of ‘moral perfection’ because that was the sense of ‘pure’ that they were most familiar with. As a result they translated Matthew 5:3 as 'God blesses those who have no filth in their hearts'. But as our consultant explained the meaning of the Greek source text more closely, the Enga team realized that being 'pure in heart' is actually more focused on singleness of motive in one’s devotion to God than it is on moral perfection (which none of us can ever achieve in this lifetime anyway). In other words, Jesus isn't telling us that only those who are morally perfect will be blessed, but rather the ones who are blessed are those who completely devote themselves to God (even if they are sometimes imperfect). So after much discussion, we adjusted the Enga translation to read 'God blesses those who set their hearts upon Him alone'. After hearing that translation, Stephen Larsen, an Engan youth leader who had come to help us with the consultant check, said, "I've never understood this verse before, but now it makes sense."

Stephen Larsen listening to our consultant explain the meaning of a passage from the book of Matthew.

That Was Close...
Anyone familiar with the Wicked Bible knows just how devastating a typo can be. The Wicked Bible was a printing of the King James Version that accidentally printed, “Thou shalt commit adultery” (famously omitting the word ‘not’). We had a similar close call as we were checking Matthew 18:3, which reads, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” As our consultant checked the Enga translation, she was asking the Enga team what children were like and what qualities of children Jesus might have been talking about. We were expecting them to talk about how children are quick to trust and believe and other such qualities that would make them a model for people who want to live a life of faith. Instead, the Enga team members just kept listing all of the bad qualities of children, and both the consultant and I were very confused as to why they were ignoring more positive aspects of what children are like. As I sat there puzzled, I reread the Enga text only to discvoer that it said, “If you change your ways, and humble yourselves, and become like little children, you will not go to the Kingdom of God.” We forgot to put in the word ‘don’t’ before ‘change’! No wonder the Enga team was telling us all the negative characteristics of children that we should avoid! They were trying to figure out how not to be like children so that they could go to heaven!

Just For Laughs
On the subject of typos, they are actually much more common in the English back translation of the Enga text than in the Enga text itself. Our consultant chuckled to point out to me that my back translation of Matthew 27:26 read, “Then Pilate freed Barabbas and then gave Jesus to the soldiers, telling them to hit him with a witch and then crucify him.” Thankfully she figured out that it was supposed to say ‘switch’ instead of ‘witch’. A switch is the closest equivalent in Enga to the whip that would have been used to flog Jesus.

Pastor Peter Rai enjoying a laugh at our consultant check.

What's Next?
We are currently in the village of Birip for our final stay in Enga before our upcoming furlough. We then hope to record the book of Matthew and edit it. Please pray for God’s grace and strength during this final stretch of our first term.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Time For Reflection

Between having to delay our plans to build our house in Enga and having to wait for months for parts and repairs to get our car running right, we have stayed in Ukarumpa longer than we ever have before. As we've been settled in one spot and as we've been reflecting during this season of Lent, God has revealed many things to us. I (Adam) thought I would take the opportunity to share some of those things with you.

Asher and Adam
Martha and I decided to give up watching TV shows on DVD at night for Lent. We decided to give up TV shows at night so we could focus ourselves more on seeking God together. But what I found was that I was too tired at night to be very spiritual, and I also found that I was too tired in the morning to be very spiritual either. I recognized that I could be starting to feel the effects of burn out. Then I felt the Holy Spirit gently speaking to my heart about my diet. He allowed me to see that I had been fueling myself on a nonstop diet of sugar and caffeine, which is not a sustainable mode of operation. So I decided to cut way down on sweets and wean myself off of coffee. After a few days, I found that I had more energy than I remembered having in a long time, and I was able to get into God's Word and prayer without this feeling of complete exhaustion hanging over me. It's funny how God works, we went into Lent giving up one thing, and God showed me that I really needed to give up something else.

During our time in Ukarumpa, God has also allowed me the joy of seeing the Enga translation team working independently in Wabag. They have been so faithful, working five days a week and uploading their work to the internet so that I can review it from Ukarumpa. Since November, they have drafted the first 20 chapters of the book of Luke, which is truly amazing! I have been reviewing their work and providing my comments, which they have been reading and responding to by making changes in the translation. It is hard to fathom that the elder members of our translation team, who were born at a time when stone axes were still in use, are now uploading their translation work to the internet via the WiFi hotspots on their cell phones! Praise God for the technology He is giving us to speed the work of translation.

Bella and Martha
As the Enga translation team has been working in Wabag, I've been working in my cubicle translating the book of Luke back into English so it can be checked by a consultant. During that time the Lord has also revealed to me that I should not be the one doing the work of back translation. Because the team is moving so quickly in the translation work, I am becoming a bottleneck in the process. Rather than doing the back translation myself, I feel God leading me to train an Enga speaker who knows English well to do the back translation. This would not only speed up the process, but it would get a fresh set of eyes checking the text. As much as I have learned Enga in the past three years, I will never know it as well as a native speaker. And while I am able to offer many good suggestions (and will continue doing so as I review the text), having another Enga speaker review the text and translate it back into English will only serve to improve the translation as the person doing the back translation catches problems with the translation that I would never be able to see.

As I feel God leading me more and more out of the day-to-day work of translation (although I will still be involved in reviewing and checking the work), I feel that he is leading me more in the direction of promoting the use and awareness of the Enga Scriptures. One of the sobering realities that we have discovered while working in Papua New Guinea is that it isn't enough just to do a good translation of the Bible. You also need to be active in the community, making people aware of the translation work that is happening, distributing books and audio recordings as they are completed, and most importantly, teaching people how to apply the Word of God to their daily lives. As expat missionaries in Enga, we have the unique blessing (and sometimes burden) of drawing people's attention wherever we go. This puts us in a unique position to be able to raise awareness, distribute Scripture portions, and teach people how to apply the Scripture in their daily lives, and I sense that God is increasingly wanting to use us in those ways. As a result, we are planning and hoping to be able to spend a much greater amount of time in Enga during our next term (once our house is built).

Jacob (whom we love but didn't get a good picture with that day)
Often people talk about a missionary's first term on the field as being about survival. During that first term, it is enough if someone just learns the language and how to live in a foreign culture. God has blessed us by enabling us not only to survive but to see the first fruits of the work He has called us to. During our next term, we hope to build upon that foundation. God has made it clear to us that our job is to train our Enga coworkers to do the work of translation, in a sense working ourselves out of a job. At the same time, God has shown us that we should be operating in the areas where we are uniquely qualified. So please pray with us, that God would continue showing us what our next term is to look like and how we can best use our time and abilities to train our Enga coworkers while focusing on the areas where we ourselves are able to have the greatest impact. As you pray, we would love to hear your feedback, so please feel free to share your own reflections with us about the direction in which God may be leading us.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Funny How Things Work Out

It's funny how things work out. Back in November as we were getting ready to build our house in Enga, we realized that we would need to have a vehicle at our disposal for the four-week period when we would build our house. The cost of renting a truck was high, but we really didn't have much choice. At that same time, a 1989 Toyota Hilux became available. The vehicle was in relatively good condition and had just 65,000 miles on it. We decided to buy the vehicle because it would allow us to invest the rental costs of a car into the purchase price of the vehicle. Since the cost of renting was nearly 25% of the cost of purchasing, it seemed to be a wise investment. The vehicle just needed a new clutch and pressure plate, which the seller agreed to have put in for us.
Our 1989 Toyota Hilux

Four days after buying the car, we received the news that missionaries in Enga were being deported due to the back room dealings of a corrupt bishop. After much prayer, we decided not to proceed with our plans to build our house in our chosen location. On December 3, I (Adam) drove up to Enga to try to find a new place for us to build. The Auto Shop had installed the new clutch and pressure plate the day before, so I was able to drive the car up to Enga along with three of the Enga translators who had just finished computer training in Ukarumpa.

We left at six o'clock in the morning for the ten-hour drive to Enga. As we were driving along, the car was backfiring on a few occasions and the fuel gauge was bouncing all over the place so it was hard to tell how much fuel we had or if there was a leak. As we stopped in Goroka (two hours away from Ukarumpa) to refuel, I considered letting the translators take public transportation the rest of the way and turning around to go home. But I decided to keep going.

After leaving Goroka we went through Simbu Province, which is the worst part of the road. After a particularly rough patch, we started to hear a rattling noise. We stopped but couldn't find the source of the rattle, so we continued to Mt Hagen (six hours away from Ukarumpa). We then discovered that the rattle was due to a problem with the front left shock absorber, which had lost its rubber bushings. Also after we refueled, the car had difficultly starting. Again, I gave serious consideration to just letting the Enga translators go the rest of the way without me. With problems like that, it seemed a bit unwise to continue driving farther away from help knowing that I would also have to return at some point. But we kept going.

The car made it to Enga and I took the car to Maniosa's house the next day. (Maniosa is our lead translator.) One of his relatives is a mechanic, and Maniosa had the necessary tools to access the shock absorber. I was amazed when he went into his house and brought out a bag full of rubber bushings. He didn't have quite the right size, but he instructed his relative to cut one of the bushings to size (with an axe mind you) and smooth it (with a stone). He installed the bushings for me and the shock absorber was now working again. He also assured me that the other problems with the car would not prevent me from driving back safely to Ukarumpa.

Fixing the car at Maniosa's house

After a couple of days in Enga, in which I searched in futility for another piece of land where we could build our house, I set out again for Ukarumpa with my friend Max. I took it slow over the bumpy roads and the car did fine…that is until we got to Daulo Pass. Daulo Pass is a mountain pass located at an altitude of 2,478 meters (8,130 feet). There are good road-side food stands there, and Max and I stopped to get some food. A couple of the locals asked us for rides, but we sort of ignored their requests because we didn't know the people well.

Daulo Pass Summit

Right after ignoring their requests, we got back into the car to get moving and avoid any awkwardness that would arise from further requests. I turned the key and the engine turned over but would not start. I tried it again…no luck. One more time…no luck. I decided to let the car sit for a few minutes and try again. In the meantime, I also decided that I better become fast friends with the locals. So I started asking them how to say various things in their language, and they enjoyed hearing me try to repeat what they said. I told the two men asking for rides that if we got the car started again, then I would take them where they wanted to go.

So after a few minutes I got back in the car and tried to start it again with the same result. Having been stranded on the road before, I told myself not to panic even though there is no such thing as AAA in Papua New Guinea. Somebody suggested turning the car to face downhill and push-starting it. It seemed like it could work. However, for someone who had never tried it before, the thought of pushing the car downhill from a mountain summit without clearly knowing if the brakes would still kick in was a bit daunting. But I didn't have much choice.

The view from Daulo Pass

A couple weeks prior I had seen a friend push-start a car in Ukarumpa, and so I knew that I needed to turn the key to on, put it in second gear, keep the clutch in, and then pop the clutch once I got a little speed. I tried it and to my utter delight, the car started up. I picked up the men whom I had promised rides to and we were back on our way. I decided right then and there not to turn the engine off again until we got to Ukarumpa, and we made it back safely.

The mechanics at the auto shop in Ukarumpa determined that the car needed a new distributor and carburetor, which they ordered from Australia. After waiting a month or so for the parts to come in, they were installed, but the car still wasn't running right. After 10 more days in the auto shop, the mechanics finally determined that the person who sold them the carburetor actually sold them a used carburetor (but marketed it as new), and so we are now waiting for another new carburetor to come in from Australia (probably another month's wait). It takes patience to live in Papua New Guinea!

The good news is that since the building of our house got delayed until after our furlough, we have plenty of time to get our car in good working order. Without the delay in building the house, we would have had to rent a vehicle anyway even after buying our Hilux. It's funny how things work out! We thank God that He has a plan even though we don't always know what it is.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Repay Evil With Blessing

1 Peter 3:9 teaches us that we should not repay evil with evil, but rather we should repay evil with blessing. Recently, God gave us a chance to do just that with our neighbors in Ku’ina.

In September we shared a story about shaking hands with a man who we knew had robbed our house. We had encountered this man in Ku’ina village, which is adjacent to our backyard but separated by a fence. Although in our hearts we had forgiven this young man for his crime against us, we still had difficulties forming relationships in Ku’ina. Over the past few months, some tensions in the local villages made it difficult for us to visit Ku’ina. But they were resolved in early January and we were able to visit again. A couple of weeks ago Martha and I brought the kids along with some other missionaries to Ku’ina to attend their church service. The people were interested to see us but not overly welcoming. At the end of the service the pastor invited me to pray. At the conclusion of my prayer, I shared about the translation work that we do and also invited the local community to come to an area near the fence to receive some gifts.

We had recently cleaned out our house and had a lot of garage sale items. But instead of selling them for just a small amount of money, we decided to give them to the people in Ku’ina village. I prefaced the event by telling the people that some among their community had stolen from us and that if I followed traditional Papua New Guinea customs I should pay them back for what they had done. I went on to explain that God’s way is not to repay evil with evil but to repay evil with blessing. I also told them that I had forgiven the wrongs that had been done to us. Although a bit taken aback by my speech, the people received the gifts gladly and we received a much warmer welcome in Ku’ina than we ever had before.

Bella sitting with an elderly woman in Ku'ina who gave her a bilum (net bag) to show appreciation for our efforts to reach out to her village.
Teach in PNG
The Ukarumpa International School that Jacob, Bella, and Asher attend is currently experiencing a teacher shortage. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Jacob’s teacher had to leave over the recent school break, and so Jacob’s fourth grade class is being taught by committee since there is no full-time teacher available. If you would like to serve as a teacher in Papua New Guinea, please let us know, and we can connect you with the right people. We can’t do our work of translating the Bible without others serving alongside of us in important roles such as teaching. The need is greatest for grades 3–6, but teachers and administrators for positions at all levels are welcome.
Come to PNG and teach missionary kids like these!
Enga Imperatives
I (Adam) recently had a paper entitled ‘Enga Imperatives’ published through an online journal called Language & Linguistics in Melanesia. Enga’s use of imperative (i.e. command) forms is quite rich. In fact, imperative forms are such an integral part of the Enga language that it is hard to make sense of even basic Enga without an understanding of how they work. While my primary focus is on translation work, I was amazed to discover just how much the process of writing a paper helped me to understand how the Enga language works. Of course, this deeper understanding of the language helps me to do a better job as a translator, and so it is well worth the effort. If you would like to look at the article, you can access it online at tinyurl.com/luvvfbr. (Although I do not recommend doing so unless you really like linguistics!)

Translation Progress
This month Adam finished back-translating the book of Matthew from Enga into English so that it can be checked by a consultant and approved for publication. In the meantime the Enga translation team continues their work on drafting the book of Luke. They are now more than halfway done. We hope to record the book of Matthew before our furlough begins in July.

Furlough Plans
We will fly back to America on July 7 and stay until June 2016. If you would like us to come to your church or home to share about our ministry, please let us know so that we can be sure to schedule a visit. We look forward to seeing you all again in a few months!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Holding On Loosely

Recently an experienced translator told us that you have to hold on to things loosely in Papua New Guinea. Life here is very unpredictable, and things can change dramatically almost overnight. These sudden changes can cause unforeseen challenges that require major planning adjustments, so you can't cling too tightly to any plans that you have.

When we learned of the orders to deport our missionary friends in Enga, it became clear that it would not be wise to cling too tightly to our plans to build a house in January in Birip. One of the missionary families who received deportation orders was living in Birip, and their residence there was cited as one of the reasons for their deportation. Although I (Adam) had accepted that we could not build our house in Birip, I was still clinging tightly to the idea of building our house in January, so I took a short trip up to Enga in December to try to identify another location to build. An opportunity presented itself to build in the village of Rakamanda, and I quickly jumped at the opportunity because the area would provide us with a wide open piece of land for our family, which is what we wanted. Martha did not have a chance to see the land, but I assured her that it would be a great place for us.

A political cartoon that was published in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier depicting Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato trying to deport the Lutheran missionaries (who serve in Enga) and Prime Minister Peter O'Neill blocking the deportation.

After making the decision to build in Rakamanda, I received warnings not to build there because the tribal fighting in that area had not yet been resolved. Years ago the whole area had been burnt to the ground in tribal fighting, including church and school buildings. Although the fighting has now subsided, the underlying problems and tensions have not yet been resolved. This means that the fighting could flare up again at any time and that our home (and potentially our family) could be at serious risk. Although it initially appeared to me that God had provided this piece of land for us at the last minute, I realized that, by clinging too tightly to my own plans, I had not done my due diligence in investigating the area nor had I spent enough time seeking wisdom from the Lord and others about the decision. Thankfully, God did not give me peace about the decision to build in Rakamanda, and others spoke up warning us about the potential dangers of the area.

After spending time with the Lord in prayer and seeking counsel from others, we have decided to wait until after our upcoming furlough to build our house. Our prayer is that the deportation orders for the missionaries will be reversed by that time (and it is looking like they will be) and that the underlying leadership problems in the Lutheran Church will also be resolved. That would enable us to build our house at the original location we had chosen in Birip, which would be a wonderful place for us. Please pray that God would again open the door for us to build in Birip after our furlough. Please also pray that the construction department will find a good place to store the parts of our house that have already been assembled in Ukarumpa. Pray as well that the corrupt church and government officials who actively oppose God's work in Enga will be removed from power. Finally, please pray that God would give us the grace to hold things loosely in our hands, listening closely to His still small voice as we navigate the ever-changing and unpredictable world that is Papua New Guinea.

Some of the walls of our house that have already been constructed in Ukarumpa and now must be kept in storage until we return from furlough.