Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Nativity Story in Enga

Seeing as how the Christmas season is now upon us, I thought you might enjoy hearing how the nativity story sounds in Enga. This is especially timely since we just recently finished the consultant check of the book of Luke. So here is a very literal back-translation of the nativity story in Enga from Luke 1:1-20. (Note: The brackets indicate words that are not in the Enga but are added to smooth out the English back-translation. The curly brackets { } indicate indirect speech.)

When the man [whom people] call Kurinius stood [as] governor of the land [of] Siria, the chief government ruler [whom people] call Agustas wrote a new law, saying {all the people [who] dwell, shall set [their] names on paper}, and then he sent it into all his lands [that] he ruled. Because he did that, all the people [who] stood in other lands went to their origin lands, saying their names {shall be set}. Then Josepe, because he [was] born of Dapiti's tribe, stood [in] Nasarete town in the land [of] Galilea and went to Dapiti's town, called Beteleme, in the land [of] Judia. That Maria [who was just mentioned], Josepe said he would take her as [his] woman, and he stood wooing her; because of that, while she sat, child in utero, they two went together, saying {we shall set [our] names}. After going and arriving in Beteleme and then looking, the houses [where] strangers sleep were full. Because that happened, when they two went and slept in a house [where] cows sleep, [and] when Maria's child bearing time came, she bore her first child, a male. Maria wrapped the child and then set [him] in the place [where] cows eat food, and then sat taking care of [him].

At that night time, some men [who] stand and take care of sheep were standing and taking care of sheep there at [the] Beteleme land boundary. As they stood, an angel of the Lord came and then suddenly stood with the men. When the light of [the] Lord distributively shone, the men saw and then died [figuratively] with great fear. When they did that, the angel spoke to them and said, “Feel ye not fear! This good word I am coming to tell you, all the people will hear and then feel great joy. Now, at this night time, in Beteleme, the town of Dapiti, [the] Lord Kraisa, [who] will save you, has been born. The child [is] wrapped with cloth, lying in a place [where] cows eat food. When you have sought and seen the child, you will think, saying [that] this word I am saying [is] true." When the angel had said that, a very big gathering [of] angels of heaven came and suddenly stood [where] he lay and then praised God, singing this: "We are praising the God [Who] Stands In The Top-Most Sky. In this down below land, his people [concerning whom] he feels pleasure are receiving lightness [of] heart."

When the angels had said that and had gone upon [the] sky, the men [who] stand and take care of sheep spoke to one another and said, "Let's go quickly [to] Beteleme to see what [the] Lord said to us, saying {something happened}. After saying that, they felt eagerness and went and then saw Maria with Josepe sitting and taking care of the child in the place [where] cows eat food. After seeing [them], they revealed, saying the things they heard when the angel spoke words to them about the child. When they revealed and spoke, all the people [who] heard that word were amazed. When they did that, Maria heard and then took and carried all those words in her heart and then sat thinking. As those [who] stand and take care of sheep were returning, they said [that] the things they heard the angel say to [them] and [the things] they went and saw [were] obviously true and then they returned, praising God.

Praise God for the good news in Enga that Christ the Savior is born! Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

61 Percent!

I am happy to report that we have now drafted 61 percent of the verses in the Enga New Testament! At our current pace, it is my sincere prayer that we will be able to finish drafting the New Testament by 2020. Of course much work remains after drafting including various checks, audio recording and printing. But 61 percent is worth celebrating!

Just ten days after retuning to Papua New Guinea from furlough in July, the translation team and I (Adam) completed a four-week course on the book of Hebrews. We quickly discovered just how much more difficult Hebrews was than the gospels. Gone were the easy translations like ‘Jesus went to Galilee and taught the people’. Now we were facing difficult metaphors, strange vocabulary, complex sentence and paragraph structures, and obscure references to Old Testament practices seemingly in every verse (see below for an example).

The translation team in Ukarumpa for the Hebrews course
After completing our draft of Hebrews, we focused on completing our consultant check of the book of Luke. This first required a final read through of the book by the translation team to check for naturalness—in other words making sure that the translation is clear and sounds like how Enga people speak. Then we brought two Enga speakers, who had not been involved in drafting, to Ukarumpa to check the book with a consultant, who checks for accuracy and understanding by using a back-translation of the Enga text into English.

Benjamin, the man who has donated a portion of his land for us to build our house, and a pastor named Eki Napru came for the check, which involved reading through the text again verse-by-verse in Enga and then answering questions from the consultant in Tok Pisin. Although the consultant found room for improvements here and there, he was very pleased with the quality of the translation. The final step is to record the translation, which we hope to do some time after the New Year. Praise the Lord for enabling our work to this point!

A Difficult Translation
Almost every verse in the book of Hebrews was difficult to translate. But 12:18-21 was especially difficult. We ended up having to completely restructure the verses in chronological order so that the passage flowed well and made sense in Enga. We also had to state explicitly some of the information that is implied in the source text. Below is the draft of our translation. Compare it to an English translation of the same passage.

Before, when the Israel native people went and were at the Sinai Mountain, God said to them, “If a person, cow, goat, or anything comes very close to this mountain, hit and kill it with stones.” When they heard that, they died with fear (i.e. ‘were very afraid’). Then in the midst of the mountain becoming dark and quaking, and flames of fire going about, and a great wind blowing, and lightning striking, and thunder clapping, God spoke words that they heard. After hearing, they said to Moses, “Tell God not to speak words to us like that.” Then Moses, having seen all the frightful things that were happening, said, “Great fear is making me tremble.” That is what happened, but now the people who are going with the purpose of going to where God is, need not fear as those people feared as they were going close to Sinai Mountain.

In the English-speaking world, there is endless debate about whether Bible translations should be literal (like the ESV) or dynamic (like the NLT). We are lucky that we even have the choice between the two in English! Languages like Enga are so different from the Greek and Hebrew source texts that a literal translation is virtually impossible. The translation must be dynamic in order to make any sense in Enga. The end result is a translation that is very clear to Enga speakers, but the process involves a great deal of effort. It was so difficult to take the meaning from the source text and communicate that same meaning in Enga that on a couple of occasions it took us two hours to translate just one verse!
Bella taking first place at Sports Day
Sports Day
Every year the primary school has a Sports Day, where all the students complete in events. Jacob, Bella, and Asher all received ribbons, but Bella truly excelled, taking first place in three individual events: sprints, long jump, and sack race. She also finished second in the long distance run. Congratulations Bella!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Place to Call Home

Last month we shared with you about God providing us with a potential place to build our home in Enga in the village of Immi. We want to thank you for all of your prayers and give you an update on our building plans.

The day after we arrived in Enga, we met with Benjamin Leo, the man who has offered a large portion of his land for us to build our home. We talked very openly about all of our expectations, and he was in agreement with us. The following week we met with all the community leaders and shared our testimony of how God brought us to the work of translating the Bible into the Enga language, and again we shared our expectations. The community leaders were all in agreement and eagerly welcomed us with open arms.

The village of Immi, where we will build our home, is part of the Dyuapini tribe. The Dyuapini tribe has historically been known for its incessant tribal warfare. However, a new generation of leaders is arising among the tribe, and they are refusing to continue the cycle of violence. At a ceremony on September 28, the Dyuapini tribe paid compensation to their (former) enemies, which is a customary way in Enga to apologize for past wrongs and put an end to fighting. At the ceremony, they gave 27 live pigs, 10 cooked pigs, 2 cows, and over $10,000 to establish peace.

The Dyuapini tribe giving compensation to their (former) enemies
Benjamin and I along with the community leaders made the decision that, just prior to the beginning of the compensation ceremony, I would get up and share a brief testimony in Enga, explaining how God brought us here, the work we are doing, and our expectations for building a home in Immi village. So I stood up and address the hundreds of people gathered around, yelling at the top of my lungs in Enga and sharing the heart of why we are here.

The last remaining order of business is to sign a Memorandum or Understanding regarding our house with the community leaders, which we are doing this very day as you receive this email.

We are thankful that God has given us this opportunity. Even though the Dyuapini tribe has a history of violence and tribal warfare, Martha and I both sense that this is where God wants us to be. We sense that God is moving among the Dyuapini tribe and that He wants us to be a part of the community. We pray that we can be a light in what has traditionally been a dark place.

We are scheduled to start building our house on January 23, so please pray with us that all preparations will go well. Thank you for your continued partnership, without which none of this would be possible. We greatly appreciate your support.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Food on the Back Burner is Still Cooking

During our furlough in America, I didn’t study Enga very much. Instead I was focused on visiting friends and family, speaking at churches, helping Martha homeschool the kids, and preparing for our return to Papua New Guinea. And when I did study language, I chose to brush up on my Greek rather than spending much time on Enga. You might say that I put Enga on the back burner for a year.

Because I had focused so little on Enga during our furlough, I was quite surprised at how well I understood people during my first trip back last week. I was understanding speech at a level of comprehension that I never had during our first term, and I was able to speak with a greater level of fluency than before (although still far from fluent). Even though I had put Enga on the back burner for a year, it was apparently still cooking!

We had also, by necessity, put our plans of building a home in Enga on the back burner about six months before we left on furlough. The Lutheran Seminary in the village of Birip where we had planned to build our house became an unsuitable choice due to church politics that were outside of our control. So we waited, and we have been praying ever since. Many of you prayed with us as I went to Enga last week to find a new location, and so I want to give you a report of what I found.

At first we were told about a parcel of land that the owner of the largest trucking company in Papua New Guinea was making available to missionaries (specifically Lutheran missionaries) to build homes. Because of the aforementioned church politics, the owner of the company wanted missionaries to have a place where they could live that would be free from such politics. The site would not only have missionary homes but also a police station and a small shopping center. It sounded like a very promising opportunity. When I went to visit, however, I found out that, while there is a great vision for the land, the development is in its very beginning stages, and is not suitable to our timeframe of building in January. Furthermore, the land has been a hotbed of tribal fighting in the recent past, so the owner of the trucking company has cleared the land of its inhabitants, which would leave us relatively isolated. So, while that area might be an excellent place to build a home in five or ten years, it is simply not ready yet.

My fallback position was to build a home on the land of our lead translator, Maniosa Yakasa, in Sakarip village. This is where I stayed during my brief visit, and I love the people and the area. However, the land is packed with homes and there is very little land available. If we had no other choice, we could probably build there, but we would have very little space to ourselves. In the long run that could be a problem because when you are living in a foreign culture, you need a certain amount of private space where you can withdraw at times to avoid cultural fatigue.

On Saturday, I went to the Assemblies of God church in Birip (the same village where the Lutheran Seminary is located). It is a peaceful village, and the pastor of the church had told me a while back that we could build a house on his land (although he would probably want us to pay him to use the land, which, for reasons I won’t go into now, is a bit of a red flag). But without many other options available, I decided to check it out. When I arrived at the church I found out that the pastor had died and there was now a new pastor. So that was the end of that option.

After stopping by the church, I walked a couple of miles up to the village of Immi to visit my friends, Max and Benjamin. Immi was the village where we had stayed in a bush house for five weeks after allocating to the Enga project. When Benjamin and Max found out that I was coming, they walked down the road to meet me. We then walked up to Benjamin’s house, and I told him about our desire to build a house. Then he said, “Why don’t you just build here on my land?” and he showed me a huge sweet potato garden just down the hill from his house. I said, “Well, if we build there, then you won’t have any garden to grow food.” He replied, “We have lots of other land besides this, this is just a small piece of land. You’ve been such a good friend to us that I want to give you this land for free to build your house so that we can be together.”

Benjamin's Land in Immi (It is hard to tell from the picture just how big the sweet potato garden actually is.)
Immi has a reputation for being a place of tribal fighting. But for the last few years, they have been committed to peace. In fact Benjamin told me in the strongest way possible that they have sworn off any more fighting. They’ve even given payments to their enemies to express their sorrow for what they’ve done to them in the past. Benjamin has come to learn that Jesus calls us to love our enemies, and while he used to be a warrior, he is now whole-heartedly committed to following the way of peace.

I told Benjamin I would talk with Martha about his offer, but inside I was glowing. My heart told me that this was where I wanted to be. My spirit told me that this was the answer to prayer we had been seeking for more than a year and a half. This piece of land was just what we needed to thrive: large enough to give us some privacy, close to the main road with something like a driveway for the car, free from the church politics that made us abandon our plans before, and in a place where we have good relationships with the people. There is no electricity in the village yet, but it may be coming soon.

Nevertheless, there are some risks. If we build on Benjamin’s land we will not be in the security of a protected institution as we would be if we built on a seminary campus. Instead we will be among the people. That carries a certain level of risk, but our hearts yearn to be among the people. After all, Jesus left the perfection of heaven to come and live among us, therefore should we not be willing to do the same? There is also the risk of tribal fighting flaring up, which could prevent us from being able to stay in the area. But that is a risk in almost every part of Enga, and we know that the people of Immi are now committed to peace.

So we ask you to pray with us as we pray about building on Benjamin’s land. We are marking Sunday, September 4, as a day of prayer and fasting about this important decision, and we would ask you to join with us in prayer that day. And if you feel led to do so, you could even join with us in fasting for the day or even just for a meal. And as you pray, we invite you to share anything that God may reveal to you regarding our decision. While we are excited about this possibility, we want to cover it in prayer before making our final decision, and we know that your prayers for us will only help us all the more.

Thank you for your partnership with us and for your prayers, and let’s rejoice that when we put our difficult circumstances on the back burner that they are still cooking in the eyes of God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Prayer Request

Tomorrow morning Adam will leave on a short trip to Enga to seek God's wisdom and look for a suitable and available piece of land where we can build a house. Having a house in Enga will allow us to spend a lot more time there, working on translation, distribution, scripture use, and building awareness about the translation project. We are sending this brief message to ask that you all join us in prayer for safe travels and for God's clear direction and favor. Pray that the Lord will provide a good place where each member of our family can thrive. We are believing and trusting that God will provide. Your prayers are much appreciated.

Children at Jacob, Bella, and Asher's school praying for our house
while building a model house with blocks

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Transition Blues

I have come to recognize that feeling. It is a mild sadness and depression accompanied by a sense of unease and disorientation. It is the transition blues. I (Adam) go through it every time we go to the village and come back, and I am going through it now after our arrival back in Papua New Guinea. At first it was scary. I would think, "What's wrong with me? Am I ever going to feel any better?" But I have come to recognize that it soon passes, which helps me get through it each time.

Now don't get me wrong. We are happy to be back in Papua New Guinea. Although our bodies aren't used to life here anymore. We're having to adjust to the altitude again. (We live at 5,500 feet.) We have to get used to walking up steep hills again, which, in all honesty, we never fully get used to. And, most of all, we have to get used to the extra work of cooking everything from scratch (and having to wash all the extra dishes that come with cooking everything from scratch). Couple that with having to unpack our entire house, we have been so tired at night, that we don't even mind not having Netflix anymore (which we couldn’t watch anyway since our Internet connection is about as fast as a carrier pigeon).

This transition blues is not fun but lasts for only a short while
But each difficulty of life in PNG has a silver lining, and we cling to those. All of the walking up steep hills is great exercise. Cooking things from scratch is a great excuse for Martha and I to spend more time together, and we enjoy the challenge of trying to make our own mayonnaise, bread, and Greek yogurt. All the extra dishes to wash provides a great opportunity for the kids to learn responsibility and contribute to the family. Not having good Internet is a great reason to spend more quality time together as a family and less time staring at our individual screens. And the transition blues causes us to seek the Lord more fervently for the joy that only He can provide. And when we seek Him with all of our heart, He is so faithful to respond in His great love.

Hebrews Epistle Course
Ten days after we arrived back in Papua New Guinea, the Enga translation team came to Ukarumpa for the Hebrews Epistle course, which is a four-week course lead by an experienced translator to guide us through the translation of Hebrews. We have now completed our first two days of the course. We are so thankful to have guided help in translating this difficult book!

How do you make your own yogurt?
It is easier than you might think. Just mix powdered milk with cold water, sugar, and a little bit of yogurt starter in a container and then let it sit in a larger thermos-like container with boiling hot water for about 12 hours and voilĂ , you have yogurt. For thick Greek-style yogurt, line a colander with a big coffee filter and let the yogurt drain overnight. Not only is it good for you, but it is a great way to keep your digestive system healthy (a very important consideration for long-term living in PNG).

Homemade Greek yogurt!
How are the kids?
The kids were very excited to return to Ukarumpa and see our dog Yana. Since getting back they have been asking for play dates incessantly (although we have encouraged Jacob to start asking instead if he can ‘hangout’ with his friends). Asher, who is our worrier, has been a bit nervous about going to school, particularly as it relates to who will drop him off, pick him up, and how he will get to his classroom when the bell rings. Bella was so excited to get back to Ukarumpa when we were still in America that Martha started to say that Bella thinks Skittles grow on the trees in Ukarumpa. We were worried that she might be disappointed when she got back. But on our first day back, she just kept talking about how much she loves it here, and she has been very happy to be back. Jacob, on the other hand, has mentioned that he misses America, although he is quickly making friends with some of the new boys in his sixth grade class. He has also joined band and is learning the clarinet.

Prayer Request
We are currently scheduled to build our home in Enga in January of 2017. While God has provided the funds for the house and it is halfway put together in Ukarumpa, we still do not have a place to build. Please pray that God would reveal a place for us to build where we can have good relationships with the community and thrive as a family. I (Adam) am planning a short trip to Enga this month to find a location.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Missing Years (Martha's Furlough Reflections)

The subject of grief is talked about a lot in the missionary world. We live a life of perpetual goodbyes that take it’s toll on the heart, but I think the thing I grieve the most are the missing years.

When we arrived back into the states after three and a half years I didn't realize how much I would expect everything to be the same. I knew in my head that people and circumstances had changed, but not in my heart. In my heart I believed that time had stood still. We would come back and just carry on as if we had never left. But that is not how life works. The missing years are gone and you never get them back.

I can remember a time right before we left, when my son said, "I want to be the same age when I get back." Those words haunt me at times. They were the words of my six year old son Jacob before we left for Papua New Guinea in January 2012. I was stunned when I heard them. At his young age he completely understood that he was about to lose three and a half years with his best friend that he would never get back—experiences that would never happen because they would miss those stages of life together.

Jacob with his best friend Jerry in 2011
My children met many cousins that they barely remembered this year. I have beautiful memories of watching them make instant bonds with cousins they hardly knew. It was extraordinary to watch them play together like they’ve done it their whole lives, and it was heartbreaking when I was hit with the reality that they don’t get to grow up together. I could have stayed in that place of sadness and loss all furlough long, but I didn’t. I chose to embrace a gift.

Living the missionary life makes you more awake. You become keenly aware of how fleeting every moment is. A few nights ago I watched my family tightly squeeze into my Aunt Ruth’s kitchen. It was roaring loud with laughter, teasing, and story telling. It was a moment I wish I could I freeze forever. And in a way I did. I stood back and watched and memorized. That is the gift a missionary gets. We don’t get to rely on 'See you next holiday' or even 'See you next year'. We know it will be a long time before we can recreate it and that we may never get to recreate it all, because next time someone might be missing. And so we make the decision over and over to sit in the chair a little longer, to put the kids to bed a little later, and to linger in the moment. We understand that the moment may be all we get, and we live, more awake.

That is the amazing thing about furlough. No moment is taken for granted. I am fully present with every gathering, every meal, every conversation, because more often than not, it will be the only one I have with that person. And there is something really beautiful about that. You have an intense appreciation for people who were once taken for granted. This awareness is a beautiful gift, and it has allowed me to replace the missing years with great moments and memories.

This has been one of the hardest years of my life. But instead of focusing on the loss, I am choosing to focus on the gift. The gift of being more awake. I can choose to believe in a God who never wastes our pain, who redeems all people, and who turns our loss into gain.

Those two boys with the three and a half missing years picked up right where they left off. God is our Redeemer and he restores all things. He turns my mourning into dancing. He always has and always will.

Jacob with his best friend Jerry now
I worry all the time. My Aunt Ruth once said to me, “Martha, it is a sin to worry.” Well, I guess I am a great big sinner. But really it is worse than that. When I worry I am choosing to believe that God is not capable. In my mind I think I am more capable of fixing things, and there are so many things that I want to fix.

Not too long ago I went on a walk to the store alone. It was a cloudy, miserable day and I felt like the weight of the world was on me—a dark heaviness that had been there for weeks. I was angry—angry at the circumstances of life that I couldn’t fix. I walked to the store listening to worship music, but not really hearing it. I daydreamed about fighting some bad guy and rescuing someone. On the way home I had a view of the mountains that were covered with dark, menacing clouds. All I could see and feel was the dark heaviness that sat on my chest like a ton of bricks. And then I began to listen, to hear the song that was playing on my head phones:

It’s only in surrender that I am free
It’s only in surrender that I am truly free
All that I am for all that you are

And that’s when I understood. Surrender. That is all I can do. Surrender. Surrender to a great big wonderful God—a God that is far more capable than I am of fixing anything. A God who will be faithful to complete the work He began. A God who created me for a purpose.

Saying goodbye this time is harder than the first because, as a good friend recently wrote, “We love you more now than we did before.” I have loved every minute that we got to spend with friends and family. Thank you to all of you who rearranged your schedule to make time for us. That meant everything.

All year long we have visited with people and spoken at churches, and we have heard the words thank you, over and over. Thank you for all that you do, thank you for your sacrifice, thank you for following the call of God. We are put on pedestals that honestly, we don’t feel like we deserve. We are honored and made to feel like heroes at times. But there are other people that also deserve a thank you. Our family and close friends who let us go. We are not the only ones who grieve and sacrifice. Our family and close friends grieve too. They lose something too. They sacrifice something too. And it is no small thing to miss Christmases and birthdays and never get them back. The memories are missing for them as well. So we say thank you. Thank you for letting us go with grace and not bitterness. Thank you for your sacrifice.

This year it feels like the entire world turned upside down, both personally and in the news. I am not sure that I will ever feel like anything is home again. But I am not discouraged. I know that God is in control, that He loves me unconditionally, and that my true home is waiting for me in heaven. Our only answer to all the turmoil is to call on the name of Jesus.

Yeah in this wasteland where I'm livin'
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it's all that I need to get by

Yeah in this wasteland where I'm livin'
There is a crack in the door filled with light
And it's all that I need to shine

Oh if God is on my side
Who can be against me

Friday, July 1, 2016

Furlough by the Numbers

As our time in America comes to an end, we thought it would be interesting to look back on our furlough by the numbers:

Places We Called Home: 3

Nights Away From Home: 71

Miles Traveled: 25,530

Hubcaps Lost: 1

States Visited: 30

Cousins Visited: 34

Churches Visited: 29

People Receiving Christ: 50-75

You know you are a missionary kid when...
The number one highlight of your trips to New York City, Niagara Falls, and Washington, DC is seeing squirrels.

What we will miss most about America:
Friends and Family
Convenience of Life

What we look forward to most in Papua New Guinea:
Being Home
Simplicity of Life

We want to thank all of our friends and family for making us feel so welcome and loved during our time here in America, especially our parents: Bob & Heather Boyd and Charles Zimmerman. We love you and we will miss you dearly!

We will be at Covina Assembly of God on Sunday, July 3. If you would like to say goodbye to us, please look for us in the lobby after the 9 and 11 a.m. services.

Please pray for us as we transition back to life in Papua New Guinea.

Asher, Jacob, and Bella with the Grandpa Zimmerman and cousin Somaya

The kids with their Grandma and Grandpa Boyd

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Eternity in Their Hearts

In his book Eternity in Their Hearts, Christian anthropologist Don Richardson asks, "Has the God who prepared the gospel for all peoples also prepared all peoples for the gospel?" His answer is a resounding yes, and he goes on to state that "more than 90 percent of this world's folk religions acknowledge at least the existence of God. Some even anticipate His redeeming concern for mankind."

Enga fits right into that pattern. Although Engans have a deep-rooted fear of the spiritual world (as we explored in our last two newsletters), traditional Enga culture believes in a male creator God named Aitawe. According to Enga tradition, Aitawe is symbolized by the sun and inhabits the upper realm of the heavens, controlling all aspects of the universe. He is considered to be benevolent and kind but nonetheless capable of stubbornness and wrath. Although he is interested in the lives of people, he does not often intervene and is therefore viewed as distant.

Along with the assistance of the moon, Aitawe created the sky beings. The sky beings live lives just like normal Engans in that they raise pigs, grow crops, and get married, but they do so without any of the problems and tensions that people encounter on this earth. In fact, they live an abundant life that is in perfect order. And because they drink from the 'water of life', the sky beings are immortal.

Many Enga traditions state that some of the sky beings came down to earth and became the founders of the various tribes. The sky beings who stayed in the heavens above maintained relationships with the sky beings that came to the earth below, particularly to continue providing them with the 'water of life' so that they could maintain their perfect immortal life, free from problems and death. However, when the wives of the sky beings gave birth to children, they fed them with breastmilk instead of the water of life. This caused them to lose the blissful life of immortality, leaving them with the burdensome life of problems and death they now have.

As we read about this traditional Engan worldview, we can't help but notice parallels with the biblical worldview. Just as God created everything and it was good, so too did Aitawe create a good, peaceful existence for the sky beings. And just as Eve rejected the other trees in the Garden of Eden, choosing instead to take from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so too did the wives of the sky beings forsake the water of life, choosing instead to feed their children with breastmilk. And just as Adam and Eve's decision to eat the forbidden fruit brought sin and death into the world, so too did the decision to feed breastmilk to children bring in death and all the problems that plague Enga society.

God was preparing the Enga people for the gospel long before missionaries ever came.
The traditional Enga worldview is ripe for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Engans know that something is horribly wrong that has taken us from the blissful world of the creator. They understand that we have rejected the water of life that gives us perfect peace and immortal life and exchanged it for the things of this world that lead only to death. But until the good news of the gospel came to them, they did not understand that there was a way to undo what has been done. But as they hear God's Word in their own language, they know that it is possible once again to drink from the water of life.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:37 (ESV)

I would like to acknowledge and thank Paul Brennan for his anthropological research among the Enga people, which has proven to be quite valuable in understanding the traditional Engan worldview.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

She Stole My Heart

In English when a man says ‘She stole my heart’, it means that he fell completely in love with a woman. In Enga the meaning is much more literal and horrifying.

Last month I shared about how fear of the spiritual world drives the traditional Enga worldview. In the past, rituals were performed to keep evil spiritual forces at bay. And while most of those rituals have now been abandoned, the underlying fear of the spiritual world is very much alive, and this fear is manifesting itself in new and horrifying ways.

Recently a Engan man named Max (not my friend Max) accused four women of using witchcraft to invisibly steal his heart and cut it into pieces. Max says that as he lay dead, his relatives ‘dealt with the women’ by tying them up, beating them, and then burning them. Max further claims that as a result of his relatives’ actions, the women returned his heart to him and he came back to life. (Click here to read the story for yourself and see video of Max making his claims.)

This is not an isolated incident in Enga but a rising trend. Engans believe that everything in life has a spiritual cause, and so when a man like Max is sick, he either looks for sin in his own life as the cause or he looks outwardly to see who might be practicing witchcraft to influence the spiritual world to cause him harm.

These beliefs are widespread, even among some who call themselves Christians. Many people in Enga don’t realize that ‘if God is for us then who can be against us?’. Nor do they realize that ‘neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’. They need God’s Word in their own language.

An Engan man named Max accusing a woman of stealing his heart
Busy Busy Busy
Before we came home on furlough, we had heard that we shouldn’t expect our time in America to be restful, and we have discovered that to be the case. In fact we chuckle to ourselves when asked how our ‘time off’ is going, because we feel busier than ever. Between homeschooling the kids, completing endless paperwork for visas and work permits, getting in three years worth of doctor visits, trying to buy clothes and other necessities for the next three years, visiting friends and family, preaching at a different church every Sunday, and trying to get in a little translation work, we are looking forward to enjoying a few boring weekends when we get back to Papua New Guinea. Nevertheless, despite the busyness, it has been so wonderful to reconnect with friends and family. We wouldn’t trade it for the world! So many of you have gone out of your way to make time to see us and to make the kids feel special, and we appreciate it more than you know!

Spending time with Martha's family at Easter
Halfway There!
In April the Enga translation team began drafting Acts 11, which marks the halfway point of the New Testament. In the past it was common for a New Testament translation to take thirty years. But by God’s grace and the efforts of many who have gone before us, He has enabled us to draft half of the New Testament in just under two and a half years. Now there are many other steps that need to be completed after drafting, but it is worth celebrating this important milestone. May God speed the second half of the New Testament!

When Do You Return to PNG?
The good news is that the time and effort we have invested in applying for renewed visas and work permits has paid off as we now have all the documents we need to return to Papua New Guinea. We have purchased our plane tickets and will be departing from Los Angeles on July 10. Please pray for us as we make our final preparations and say our final goodbyes. Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things we have to do, and so we would really appreciate your prayers.

Thank You Covina Assembly
In April we shared at our home church of Covina Assembly. We were so blessed by the outpouring of love and support of our church family. Thank you, church, for making us feel so loved and for standing with us to help us translate the Bible into Enga. We love you all!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Bitten by a Ghost

"I must obey my father (in life) so that he won't bite me (in death)."

Perhaps no saying better summarizes the underlying spiritual fears of the Enga people than this one. Traditional Enga culture teaches that every person is born with a spirit, which is received from their father. At death, this spirit leaves the body and becomes a ghost. The ghost then wanders through the clan's territory, often accompanied by whistling or rustling sounds at night. It perceives human thoughts and influences human events, usually in malevolent ways. It can even kill an individual by 'biting' him. Although, much like a honey bee, the ghost can do this only once. Usually the ghost will bite a close relative with whom he is displeased. After 'biting' someone, the ghost then descends through a hole in the ground to join the realm of the ancestral ghosts, who act together as a whole to influence the entire clan, also in malevolent ways. So if you don't want to be bitten by your father after he dies, you better obey him while he is alive. And if you don't want the fraternity of ancestral ghosts to disrupt the livelihood of your clan, you better maintain good relationships among the clan and uphold the traditions of the ancestors.

How different the Enga worldview is from our own! I thank God that I don't live in fear of being bitten by the ghosts of my recently deceased ancestors, who can read my thoughts and destroy my life. Rather, I thank God that He sent his son Jesus, who, by his death, gave us the hope of eternal life, freeing us from fear and death.

A man dressed as an evil spirit at the Enga cultural show

One criticism that is often leveled against missionaries is, "Why don't you just let people believe what they want to believe instead of forcing your beliefs upon them?" Criticisms like that incorrectly assume that people are living their lives in a perfect spiritual harmony, which Christians disrupt by forcing Christianity upon them. The reality is, however, that people are often held in great fear and bondage by their belief systems. And without the gospel of Jesus Christ, they have nowhere else to turn and end up living their lives in spiritual darkness.

In the past, the Enga people would perform various rituals to try to manage the spiritual forces that were always working in malevolent ways against them. Today most of those rituals have been abandoned, however the underlying fear of the spiritual world is very much alive. Next month, I will share a recent example of how this fear of the spiritual world is rearing its ugly head in Enga, and just how much people need the hope and freedom that comes from believing in the good news of Jesus Christ.

Speaking at Covina Assembly
We will be speaking at Covina Assembly of God (our home church) on April 24 at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services, and again with a different message at the 5 p.m. service. We invite you to join with us and hear our story of what God has been doing among the Enga people.

I would like to acknowledge and thank Paul Brennan for his anthropological research among the Enga people, which has proven to be quite valuable in understanding the traditional Engan worldview.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Forgiveness is Contagious

They say that in order to be an effective Bible translator, you not only have to translate the text, but you have to let the text translate you. Well, during our first term in Papua New Guinea, we had the opportunity to translate the following text,

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
– Mat 6:14-15 (ESV)

It is one thing to translate that text into Enga, it is quite another to live it out. During our first term in Papua New Guinea, we not only had the chance to see our Engan coworkers living out this text (see our Feb 2014 update), but the Lord challenged us to live it out as well (see our Sep 2014 and Feb 2015 updates). And after seeing our coworker forgive, we too were encouraged to forgive.

Sharing about forgiveness at a recent church service

Now, as we share about our experiences at different churches each Sunday, we talk about how the Lord challenged us to forgive those who had wronged us, and we encourage others to do the same. A couple of weeks ago after a service, the youth pastor came up to us and shared the following story about a high school senior I will call Mary (not her real name).

Mary has had a tough life due to the lack of a stable family environment. Her parents were divorced when she was very young and her mom received custody of all the kids. She went on to have three more children and none of those relationships lasted. Mary was abused physically, sexually, and verbally, and she will tell you to this day that it was all her fault because that was what she was told for thirteen years. Finally, when she was thirteen years old, the courts stepped in and gave custody of all the children to her father. It has been a very hard path the past four years. Mary has struggled with suicide attempts, depression, PTSD, and cutting, but she started faithfully coming to our youth group about a year and a half ago. She is seeking God but still feels as if she is not worthy of God's love. She came to me this past week after you spoke and said that the service was great. She started to tear up and said that when the service came to an end and you said, "If you need to forgive someone to please consider forgiving them," she felt God's presence and was lead to forgive her Mom. She knows that this will be a work in progress and that this hurt and pain will still be there, but she is on the road to forgiving, which is one of the largest steps a person can make towards having a stable life. We are still in prayer for Mary and her whole family. They still have a ton of work to do, and a lot of healing needs to take place, but it gives Mary hope to know that you were able to forgive a man who committed murder, burned down houses, and destroyed lives. She has started to see the hope that she has in God and is starting to understand that she is also worthy of God's forgiveness.

Praise God that He is working in Mary's life, and please join with us in prayer that the work He has started in Mary's life will be brought to completion according to His perfect will.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Golf Ball-Sized Hail

During our cross-country trip in January, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a storm with golf ball-sized hail stones, and it got me thinking that sometimes that’s what missionary life feels like.

"What was that noise? It sounded like someone just threw a rock at our car. There it is again. It keeps coming. I think that is hail. I hope the windshield doesn't crack. Maybe we should pull over. No, just keep driving through it." Those were our words as we made our way cross-country just north of Houston. It had been a nice clear day, and then all of a sudden a hail storm was upon us, with golf ball-sized stones pelting the car, leaving large dents in the exterior. It was a bit terrifying. But we kept driving, and even though the storm subsided, the dents are still there.

Sometimes the transition of missionary life feels like that hail storm. Everything is going along just fine, and then out of nowhere it feels like we are getting pelted with large hail stones. Sure, the hail lets up sooner or later, but we wonder if the damage that is done might be permanent.

Since arriving in America in July, we have ‘lived’ in three different homes and spent the night in more than twenty other locations. And along with the joy of saying hello in each new place is the pain and grief of saying goodbye to those we are leaving behind, yearning for the stability of a life lived in one place surrounded by family. And when we finally get a moment to settle down and think about it all, the hail storm hits and we wonder if the damage done is permanent.

Yet we know that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). And so when the hail storms come, we keep driving through, confident that our Lord will bring us safely into His arms, even if we pick up a few dents along the way.

Dents on our hood from the golf ball-sized hail storm that hit us just north of Houston

Release of Matthew in Enga
In November the Enga Bible translation team released the book of Matthew in Enga. They traveled to four of the five districts in Enga Province to make the new book available in audio format and found that there was a high demand for the ‘top-up’ memory cards, which people can insert into their Audibibles to receive the new book. In fact all of the top-up memory cards sold out! Last month we also received a surprise email from an Engan man who said,

“I live and work in Enga as a civil engineer. I am from a small village called Lakui in the Ambum Kompiam district. I am so moved by the incredible work that you have done in translating the Bible into the Enga language. I am enquiring to find out where I can source some of those audio bibles so that I can distribute to Christians in my community who cannot read the Word of God in Tok Pisin and English. I believe that according to Romans 10:17, ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ It is my prayer that the Lord continuously bless you as you carry out the great commission of spreading the Word of God to the ends of the earth.”

It is so encouraging to get feedback like this and to see people excited about receiving God’s Word in Enga.

We spent the first couple weeks of January traveling cross-country from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Pasadena, California, where we are now settled into a two-bedroom apartment in a missionary housing complex. (You can reach us at the address below until mid-July.) During our trip we enjoyed visiting friends and relatives in Priceville, Alabama; Bethany, Oklahoma; Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona. It was a special treat in Houston to visit Martha’s aunt and cousins, who are the only stateside connection to Martha’s Mexican family that we have. We hadn’t seem them since our wedding, and it was wonderful to reconnect with them and practice our Spanish (which apparently has rented out the space in our brains that is now being occupied by Tok Pisin and Enga). Bella especially enjoyed getting to meet her second cousin Ramiro Jr. and became like a big sister to him during our stay in Houston. Thank you, Lord, for a great trip!

Jacob, Bella, and Asher with their cousin Ramiro Jr.

Friday, January 1, 2016

How to Say 'Steelers' in Enga

Happy New Year! We got such a good response to our update last month about how to translate the word 'Go' from 'Go Steelers!' that I decided to follow up this month with a segment on how to translate 'Steelers'.

Normally, proper nouns like 'Steelers' are not translated. Rather they are just transliterated (in other words, they are written according to the writing system of the target language). Enga doesn't have the letter 'r', and it doesn't allow consonant clusters like 'St', so a transliteration of Steelers would look something like 'Sitilas'.

But, for fun, let's say we actually wanted to translate 'Steelers' into Enga. The name 'Steelers' is based on the fact that Pittsburgh is historically a city of steel workers. So the name 'Steelers' roughly means 'those who make steel'. (It does not mean 'those who steal'…that would be 'Stealers' with an 'a').

The problem is that steel as a building material is completely foreign to traditional Engan culture. As such there is no word for 'steel' in Enga. When there is no corresponding word in the target language, one option is to borrow a term from another language. Now we could borrow the term 'steel', but Engans would confuse it with the Tok Pisin term 'stil', which itself is borrowed from the English term 'steal'. So just borrowing the English term 'steel' would not work. We have to look for another term to borrow. The best option would probably be 'ain', which is the Tok Pisin spelling of the English word 'iron'. So if we borrowed the word 'ain', we could translate the name 'Steelers' as 'the men who make ain'.

But let's say we wanted to translate without borrowing any words from Tok Pisin or English. We would then have to find the closest equivalent to the word 'steel' that does exist in traditional Enga culture. That would probably be the term 'anda pingina', which means 'house post' and is the largest post that is used to make a traditional Engan house. That would leave us with 'the men who make house posts' as our translation for 'Steelers'. But to really emphasize how strong steel is, we would need to add the qualifying phrase 'very strong', which would leave us with 'the men who make very strong house posts'.

But really, when we talk about the 'Steelers', we aren't talking about men who make steel. Rather we are talking about men who play football like men who make steel. In traditional Engan culture, there is absolutely no equivalent to 'football', so we would be forced to borrow a term. And because American football is not well known in Papua New Guinea, the closest equivalent would be 'rugby'. So that would lead us to 'the men who play rugby being like those who make really strong house posts. But in Enga it would literally be 'men house posts very strong make being like rugby play the'. Combine that with our translation of 'Go' from last month's update, and we have, 'Men house posts very strong make being like rugby play the, count hold-huh!', which is the truly Engan way to say 'Go Steelers!'

Adam's family gathered together for Christmas
Hard to Say Goodbye
It is with sad and heavy hearts that we prepare to leave Pittsburgh to return to California. We've had a wonderful stay with my (Adam's) parents, and we truly enjoyed getting to spend Christmas with both of my sisters and their families. We are grieved to have to say goodbye again. While it is difficult for us to say goodbye to my parents and family, we recognize that it is equally, if not more difficult for them to say goodbye to us. We are truly grateful for their sacrifice in supporting our calling to serve in Papua New Guinea despite how difficult it is for them. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for a great few months together. We love you, and we will miss you greatly!