Archive for August 2005
I’m home! I arrived back in Springfield, Mo., late on August 17.
As my time in Papua New Guinea drew to a close, I was invited to spend several days in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Vanuatu is an island nation about 1500 miles east of Australia. There I had the privilege of visiting the South Efate people with two couples from Denver, Colo. The couples represented a group of people in the United States who are sponsoring the South Efate translation program. God has raised up eight South Efate speakers who are in the process of translating the Scriptures into their own language. The partnership of the 11 American couples enables the translation work to proceed. It was a blessing to see the partnership in action, but I was deeply challenged by the tremendous need for God’s Word in Vanuatu.
The ladies in Pango village were busy creating dresses, rugs, and other items for the Presbyterian women’s boutique.
Ricky shows some of his guests a booklet containing Hebrews, Jonah, and Ruth in the South Efate language.
When I left home in June, I did not fully understand why I was going to Papua New Guinea. I had read a fact book page that said 97% of the Papua New Guineans have ties to Christian denominations. “Why all the missionaries, then?” I wondered. But as I listened to Papua New Guineans and Wycliffe translators alike, I began to realize how absolutely essential Bible translation efforts are.
Countless Papua New Guineans do indeed have ties to Christian denominations, but they completely misunderstand the Gospel message. They still fear evil spirits, they try to earn favor by their works, they attend church because they believe they will receive material rewards, and they do not put away completely the pagan practices of their ancestors. Even some pastors do not understand God’s Word, rendering them unable to feed their congregations. They themselves sometimes solicit the services of witch doctors instead of trusting in the one true God.
Hope for the people of Papua New Guinea lies in God’s Word, translated into the language of their hearts. Only when they really understand the message of the Gospel can they be freed from superstition, sin, and fear — freed to love and follow Christ. I remember the story of Elale, a Kamula speaker who worked hard to learn to read. One day, he read Philippians 1:21-23, newly translated into his language. You mean, he asked the translators, that we go to be with Jesus when we die? Yes, they said. The man was overjoyed by this newfound confidence and wanted to share his joy with others. He had never understood this message before he read it for himself in his own language.
Bible translation is not a silver bullet. People must still learn to read, study, understand, and apply God’s Word. They must choose to yield to God’s transforming power. But without Scriptures they can understand, many will never even have the chance. They will fail to understand the Gospel message, living lives of bondage and fear, even if they go to church every week.
Thank you for making this summer possible. Through your giving, prayer, and encouragement, you too touched the lives of Steven Topo’ogo, Rias and Betty and their daughters, and many other people whose stories I do not have space to tell.
For me, the journey is not over. My supervisors have asked me to return to Papua New Guinea for a few months next year. This fall, I will begin talking with Wycliffe organizers here in the States, finding out what could be next. If you would like to receive updates from me in the future (or if you are lurking on my blog and would like me to know you’re alive), please respond with a quick email. I do not want to burden you with unsolicited mail, so if I do not hear back from you, I will remove you from my list.
Scroll back through the old posts and enjoy the pictures I’ve added. I hope they bring this summer to life for you in an even richer and more personal way.
Again, thank you. May the Lord bless you abundantly.