Archive for June 2005
Greetings from Ukarumpa!
The final step in our orientation course at Madang was a three-day, three-night stay in a village called Aihac. We stayed in houses built from limbs, bamboo, and morota (sago palm thatch). The village elder was born in 1939 and liked to talk about World War II. His son Clement was our host, and he and his family worked very hard to serve us and make us welcome. Every night, we had big meals together, and then we exchanged stories and songs.
It was a tremendous language-learning experience — it was time to sink or swim. We bathed in a river, and we got tours of gardens and vanilla plantations.
The people group is called Amele, and their New Testament was completed in 1998. It was exciting to see God’s work among the people, but it was saddening to see the darkness that is still present among them. Only 28 copies of their New Testament remain undistributed. After that, there are no more, and at this point there is no one to revise and reprint the book. Though we had known each other for so brief a time, there were many tears on both sides as we drove away from the Amele people on Monday morning.
Last Wednesday, some of us flew to Ukarumpa, which is perhaps the largest mission center in the world. Six others are already scattered across the country from Sepik in the west to Alotau in the east. Four others are headed out this Friday, and the rest of us will come and go from Ukarumpa for the rest of the time here. Ukarumpa, SIL’s main headquarters in PNG, is located in the Eastern Highlands Province. We are about a mile in elevation here, and the cool weather is a welcome change after the sweltering heat and humidity around Madang.
Today was the first day of actual work for those of us here in Ukarumpa. Three team members are assisting with an internal audit here on center. Those of us working on the communications team have been welcomed into a sorely understaffed office. We were assured today that we are an answer to prayers and dreams. Each of us has different interests and skills, so we will be working on video, photography, art, graphic design, interviewing, writing, and editing. I will be doing writing, editing, and interviewing, and probably some photography too.
I will probably spend Wednesday night in a nearby village after conducting an interview; this Friday, we are all headed out to attend a New Testament dedication; and later in July, I and a partner are flying to Wuvulu Island to cover a New Testament dedication there. Wednesday, we will be interviewing an old man to gather background information for a video celebrating 50 years of Bible translation in PNG. Evidently we have to hike to the village, spend the night, and hike back in the morning. Then on Friday, we are going to the East Kewa New Testament dedication, which is an eight or nine hour bus trip — and my guess is that the roads are not very good. Interestingly, the West Kewa New Testament was the very first to be completed in PNG. East Kewa is a related language but was not completed until now. I’m very excited about the trip to Wuvulu in July. Wuvulu is a tiny island north of the main island; it is far away from everywhere. In addition to the New Testament dedication, we will stay to cover a short-term team that will be conducting a Scripture-use course.
So far, I’ve learned a great deal about the immense difficulties involved with Bible translation, and I’ve learned a lot about how Wycliffe operates. I suppose I’d always thought of Bible translation as a silver bullet, but it is not. Bible translation is a very important first step, but it is not enough by itself. Sadly, there is often no one (whether national or expatriate) to continue the work. It’s been good for me to see how Wycliffe works, especially since part of the point of this trip is to consider working for the organization full time.
I’ve been thrilled to see God’s work here among the Papua New Guineans, but I’ve also realized more than ever before the tremendous need that still exists here. During my time in the village, I was able to talk with some people — especially our host and his oldest daughter — despite my limited knowledge of Tok Pisin. They were patient with me, and they were happy to talk about God’s work in their lives. They assured us that they would pray for us by name every week, and they asked us to do the same for them. On the other hand, the tremendous spiritual needs are also clear. Hundreds of languages still do not have New Testaments, and even in heavily missionized areas, many people are only “skin Christians” (in the Tok Pisin vernacular) who have not really been transformed by the power of Christ.
Please pray for health: a stomach virus is running rampant through the team right now. On the bright side, it seems to run its course in 12-24 hours, but more people get sick every day. I have been spared so far, but the sickness strikes suddenly. Now that we are actually working and preparing to travel, good health is even more important than before.
Please pray for protection both here on center and as we travel this weekend. Ukarumpa is located in a less safe place than was the camp near Madang. It is very sad that an area hosting such a huge mission compound is still so dark. Recent revivals have lessened crime problems, but many people are still in need of new life.
Please pray for peace and cooperation among team members. Living with a diverse group of people in such unfamiliar surroundings has been stressful for everyone, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get along.
Please pray for motivation, inspiration, and strength for me and for all of the other team members as we continue our work here.
Thanks for your prayers.
We arrived safely in PNG after safe and smooth (but exhausting) travel. All flights were on time, and we had very few hitches along the way. We flew out of Los Angeles on Thursday evening, June 2, and somewhere in the night we crossed the International Date Line. When we landed in New Zealand 12 hours and 6000 miles later, it was 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 4. From there, we had three more flights before we finally landed in Madang, PNG, shortly before 5 p.m. local time.
Our first destination was an SIL training facility near the city of Madang on PNG’s north coast. The camp is located on top of an old volcano, and the ride up from the coast is very rough and bumpy. We have breathtaking views of mountains, canyons, and the coast and sea in the distance.
The vegetation is lush and colorful, and we have a continuous supply of bananas, papayas, pineapples, and other fruits from the local gardens.
Orange-flowering trees grow on the canyon’s steep sides, and Madang town lies far in the distance on the coastal plain.
Birds, bats, butterflies, moths, and mosquitos are diverse and abundant. The buildings are all relatively open (because they are not air-conditioned), so we share them with crickets, moths, and chirping geckos.
We sleep under mosquito nets at night, and there are always various creatures in the showers with us — but hey, at least we have showers. We’ve also had two chances to swim and snorkel in coral reef areas, which has been amazing.
We are about one week into a two-week introductory and training program. Each morning, we have lessons in Tok Pisin, the trade language used in PNG. After a lecture time, we break up into smaller groups to spend time with national teachers. My teacher’s name is Dimad, and tomorrow we are going to his house for morning tea.
The language learning is going fairly well, considering we’ve been at it for all of five days. The vocabulary is 60-70% English in origin, and the grammar and morphology are fairly simple. That said, it’s still difficult and frustrating trying to communicate with people when I can’t understand them and can’t say much to them. In the afternoons, we have practical skill-building sessions like hiking, kerosene stove operation, market shopping, etc.
So far, we have been blessed with good health and safety overall. We’re all taking our malaria medicine, and though several people have fallen on the slippery mud trails, there haven’t been any injuries. I’ve felt fine most of the time and have had minimal trouble with allergies. (Praise the Lord!)
Please pray that I will learn quickly as we continue our training. As I mentioned above, the language barrier is frustrating; I alternate between hope and despair. Once the formal lessons are over, we’ll still need to continue learning the language so we can communicate for the rest of our stay here. And my actual work assignments haven’t even started yet, so there are more learning curves ahead for sure.
Please pray that all of us will continue to be protected in body and in spirit. A couple of the team members have chronic illnesses that could be problematic, and there are unfamiliar dangers in this country.
Please pray for continued personal and interpersonal growth and development. We are diverse bunch, and we can’t let the little frictions and differences distract us from what we’re here to do. Also, it’s easy — even here — to give into selfishness and fears. Please pray for empowerment and focus for me and for all of the other team members.