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.