Sepik Prayer Calendar December 2018 – January 2019

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar December 2018 – January 2019.  Thank you for your continued prayers for the people of Papua New Guinea.  They truly make a difference.

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A Fresh Perspective

Sometimes you have looked at something so many times or heard the same story over and over and it seems all too familiar.  Oh, for eyes to see something new and a heart that is open to what God has to show you.

North Palei participants and staff

Recently Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshops began for a new cluster of languages in the North Palei district, near Nuku, north of the Sepik highway.  Six language groups arrived in Wewak ready to learn what OBS was all about.  Trainers had carefully picked the stories for this first course.  Their desire was to give participants stories that wouldn’t be too challenging to learn and yet would also give them a good foundation to some of God’s talk.  They also wanted to do a couple Christmas stories as this would be the first time these groups would have some of God’s Word in their language at Christmas.

Michael leads singing during devotions

One of the Christmas stories picked was the Shepherds and the Angels.  A story familiar to most, but many of the participants saw it in a whole new way.  After the story was told during devotions, the group grappled with application questions so they could interact with the story on a heart level.  This is often the time where new insights are shared and eyes are opened.

When referring to Jesus coming to the earth and being placed in a manger (something dirty and lowly), one man said: “That is just like in my life.  My life is like the manger (a place that was dirty and no good), and now Jesus has come into my life and changed me.”

Aruop participants listen intently

Another man, as he grappled with who Jesus really is, said: “I can no longer worship anyone else.  I can only worship Jesus.”

As you come into the Christmas season, where things might have become too familiar, take some time to look at things in a new way.  Read them and hear them like it is your first time and see if God won’t speak new truth into your heart as well.

Translation efforts grow

OBT participants and staff

The third Oral Bible Translation workshop took place in Wewak for Bungain, Juwal, and Urimo language participants in August.  As it was the third workshop, the participants were keen to put into practice the things they had learned in the previous workshops.  Nearly all the stories for this workshop were taken from the Old Testament.  For those participants who had already completed Oral Bible Storytelling workshops, many of these passages had already been learned in story form.  As a result, they were able to finish more stories than in previous workshops because they had already learned the foundation of these passages.

Hilkka (right) consultant checks one of the Urimo stories.

The number of passages each group has translated has grown significantly over the course of the past year.  We are thankful for all of the completed recordings and look forward to how they will be distributed in the future.  The area of distribution is still in process.  What is the best way to share the recordings in each of these language groups?  Could it be different for some of the language groups?  Could it look different for different generations of listeners?  The SPES team looks forward to growing in knowledge in the coming months as they assess the various situations and seeks to find sustainable ways to help the communities more easily access the recorded scriptures.

Gilbert (left) works with the Juwal translators

The advisors also grew in their knowledge and abilities.  All of our advisors have been trainers for storytelling workshops before, but they only began using computers when the translation workshops started last November.  Through some extra training and time “trying out” the computers, they have grown in confidence that they can help others learn to use the computers.  They continue to learn new translation principles and are excited to put them into practice with future courses.

Bungain translators and community checkers work on creating a well translated passage.

Community checkers come and listen to the translated stories to see if they are clear and natural and convey the meaning of the passage.  The checkers who have been at all three courses have grown in their understanding of their job, as well as in their ability to give useful feedback.  Giving constructive feedback is not something that comes naturally, but they learned this skill so they could better the translation work.

Patrick works diligently to back translate one of the recorded passages.

Sometimes roles within a team change.  At this workshop, we had a couple of changes that needed to take place.  We had one new back translator, whose job it is to take the translated text and translate it back into a common language so that it can be consultant checked for accuracy.  Back translating can be difficult to learn, but Patrick came and understood well the task at hand.  He was able to learn how to work the computer and do the back translation and was a big asset to his team.

We are thankful for eager learners who come expecting to learn and who want to find ways to use what they have learned in the future.  May God’s Word continue to go out as these recordings are shared in communities.

Is It Worth It?

Sometimes when discouragement and weariness rear their ugly heads, it is easy to ask the question, “Is this really worth it?”  This question may come regarding one’s work, ministry, raising a family, or a myriad of other topics.  In the Sepik region, taking time to hear the testimonies of lives changed and see how God’s Word is having an impact is usually enough to say, “Yes, this is all worth it.”

Graduates with their certificates

The final Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop for ten Nuku area language groups finished with graduation on July 16.  Over the last five workshops, it has been encouraging to see some rather dramatic changes in these men’s lives.  Men who before were prone to heated discussions and always having to be right, have become more submissive and are willing to seek out answers in a reasonable way.  People are searching for truth in God’s Word to the many questions they are facing.

There has been more of a spirit of working together to make a difference in their communities.  An OBS Awareness day is being planned for August 10.  Representatives from several of the language groups will be telling about the work of OBS, sharing one of the stories learned, asking discussion questions, and trying to help people better understand how OBS can make a difference in each of the communities.  This meeting was initiated by the participants and the SPES team is excited to see how God uses this in the communities.

Lazarus receives his certificate

Lazarus, from the Pahi language group, shared a testimony during graduation.  When Gary, the SPES team leader, came to his language group to do awareness about the upcoming OBS courses, he was very cynical and thought Gary was not telling the truth about what they were going to do.  When it came time for the course, the community had not marked anyone else to come, so he decided he would come and see what all the talk was about.  Up until that time, he was doing drugs and up to no good.  He came to the course and as he sat there and began to listen to the Bible stories, God began to get a hold of his thinking and he became a Christian.  At this last workshop, he said, “Now God has completely changed my thinking.”  Thinking back to the first course, he never really said anything during the discussion times; but at the final course, it was amazing to see how involved he was during the devotions and other interaction times.  His smile is huge and he appears like a completely different person now.

Yes, it is worth it.  Thank you, God, that your talk does not return empty.

Photos by Faith Halverson

Meet Betty Nawe

Betty Nawe was sent by the women’s ministry at her church to take the Healing the Wounds of Trauma course in 2015. Deeply compassionate and gifted to work with all ages and individuals, Betty was already counseling and walking with individuals through difficult journeys they did not feel comfortable bringing to a pastor. Her empathy and stability within the church drew many women in difficult situations to share with her and seek counsel for a variety of issues.

Before taking the course, she assumed she was emotionally healthy, and was simply there to gain knowledge in order to assist others. Once the week long training began, however, she realized God could bring healing to her past as well. Through family deaths and difficulties throughout her life, she realized the bondage that came from a dual standard within the church of adhering to ancestral beliefs while attempting to follow God. “When we’re afraid of those spirits we are not ready to meet God, and sin is holding us captive.” She was determined to follow the Word in every scenario and would advocate for it to be referred to always when in doubt.

Betty teaching at the course.

Approximately a year after her training in Healing the Wounds of Trauma, Sam invited Betty to accompany a three-week SIL initiative to teach in remote villages with pastors and leaders from multiple locations. “I started out fearful,” she remembers, “some were very confrontational! I couldn’t even stand the first time I taught [because I was so nervous].” When individuals would question the teaching or her own authority, Betty simply replied that this course was a school for learning and if they did not wish to learn interactively with the class, they were welcome to find more training elsewhere. “Many [were] confused because they don’t know how to interpret Scripture,” especially with regards to difficult and traumatic experiences. Betty witnessed elders and pastors weeping freely as the powerful application of Scripture, discussion and case studies imparted life-changing understanding to each of them. The men who had originally confronted her with questions returned and apologized, thanking her for teaching and discussing it with them. “Now God gives me strength and boldness to talk in front of many men and many pastors.”

Betty continues to impact many lives through her counseling, teaching and courageous gift of hope to men and women across Papua New Guinea. “Many times they might hear this in church, but it is easy to forget,” until application of the Word creates healing in their lives. Betty reflected, “I changed through the course to begin to forgive more easily. That is the key to healing. I know God is with me.”

As shared with a Youth With a Mission interviewer