Sepik Prayer Calendar for February – March 2020

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar February – March 2020.  Thank you for praying for the language communities in the Sepik.  God is working in many lives and you are part of that through your prayers.

Upofle

Inebu One teaching team, David is in the black shirt.

The Inebu One (oh-nay) people sat huddled in groups fervently discussing which words in their language would best describe the concept of sin. To a foreign ear it might sound as though they were yelling at one another. But Papua New Guineans often “talk strong” when they are passionate about a subject. And they were passionate about translating sin accurately.  David, the teacher and gifted national OBS trainer, had defined the concept well, sharing it in the original languages (chata’, ‘ava, & pasha’ in Hebrew and hamartia in Greek). The participants sat looking at Bible verses and deliberating on which word they should choose to accurately convey the meaning of sin. For example, Psalm 32:5 “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Would they choose fiaki – to lose one’s way, or nupu sane – to rebel, or upofle – a bad or wrong custom/action. Eventually they chose upofle.

The class met in the church building each day.

During the 10-day Key Terms workshop, the participants also translated Lord, spirit, angel, holy, common, clean, and unclean.  These key terms will be the words used as the Inebu One people translate scripture orally into a language that best speaks to their hearts. It is our prayer that this workshop and others to follow will continue to help the church as it works to draw the peoples’ hearts, habits, and beliefs closer to Christ.

I had the privilege of being a part of this Key Terms workshop with the Inebu One people. I want you to know that they are a lovely, kind, good-hearted people who showed me great love and acceptance. I was the first white woman to come to their village. I had wished to arrive in a low-key manner and was hoping to sort of blend in. But from the moment that we greeted the party sent to meet our plane, I was in a word spectacular. No. I am wrong. I think what I meant to say is that I was a spectacle.  During the 9-hour hike to the village, into the bush and into the night, I stumbled, fell in the mud, lost a shoe, cried, sweated, and barely made it to the village. Once there, I limped and staggered on sore legs and blistered feet, sat in the men’s section at church, fell through a floor, and made babies cry far & wide by merely walking within 20 feet of them.

Jennifer hiking the trail.

But God.

But God was there.

But God was merciful.

But God let the people of Inebu see past my awkwardness to witness Him inside of me.

But God let me see beyond my discomfort to witness Him through a different lens.

He’s a good, all seeing, loving God, isn’t he though!

by Jennifer Belcher

Sepik Prayer Calendar for December 2019 – January 2020

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar December 2019 – January 2020.  Thank you for praying for the language communities in the Sepik.  God is working in many lives and you are part of that through your prayers.

Sepik Prayer Calendar for October – November 2019

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar October 2019 – November 2019.  Thank you for continuing to pray for the language communities in the Sepik.  God is at work in many lives and you are part of that through your prayers.

Time Will Tell

Staff and participants from the In-service training

Over the past five and a half years, the SPES team has engaged with approximately forty language groups in East Sepik and Sandaun provinces through Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS).  Some of those groups completed their training as early as 2015, others as recently as 2018.  We asked if we could hold an In-service training for some of the participants who had come to those courses, in order to give them some additional training to do further work in their areas, but also to be able to hear what has been happening in their communities.

Learning together helps everyone.

In July, thirty-five participants from twenty-two language groups arrived in Wewak eager to reconnect and get some more training.  It was a little like a family reunion!  Learning three new stories as well as how to research and teach a Bible background lesson pertaining to the story were highlights for many of the participants.  They did practice teaching in a classroom and received feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their teaching.  We are grateful for the time to train and encourage these men and women.

Two of the men shared how OBS has changed their village.  OBS, along with the teaching from the Culture meets Scripture course, has helped many of those bent on rebellion, to turn from their wrong ways.  It has transformed both hearts and cultural practices.

Three participants do research for their Bible background studies.

Two different groups told OBS stories at large Easter gatherings earlier this year.  In both cases, many people came to know Christ or renewed their faith.

Agai said that OBS gives God a big name. He does OBS in a men’s group and one man who has taught the Bible for more than thirty years says he is learning new things.

In a couple instances, participants have gone to neighboring languages to share stories with other groups.  This is creating a new hunger for God’s Word and bringing more requests from people wanting OBS training in areas where we haven’t previously worked.

Jacob prepares his Bible background study.

Not all the stories were glowing.  In some areas, little has been done to continue to share Bible stories.  After hearing other encouraging reports, Jacob bravely stood and shared that nothing was really happening in his area with OBS.  The OBS team was not working together, one had fallen away from the faith, and there was some opposition.  However, when he left the training, he went with a renewed vision and passion for how he could carry God’s Word into his area more.

Christa tells a story during the closing program.

Pray with us that the recent training would encourage those who are still pressing on in the work and that it would rekindle a vision and passion for those who are struggling.  Many left with new ideas of how they could work in their communities or with neighboring groups.  Pray for changed lives as people interact with God’s talk.

Sepik Prayer Calendar for August – September 2019

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar August 2019 – September 2019.  Thank you for continuing to pray for the language communities in the Sepik.  It is exciting to hear what God is doing in the lives of many.

Standing on God’s Truth

Cecilia Pani stands no more than a couple inches above five feet tall, but her wisdom far exceeds any expectations. Quick to laugh and as humble as she is compassionate, Cecilia exudes an incredible peace that is deeply rooted in the Word of God.

Born along the Sepik river in Kambot, she explained her people were carvers of storyboards. Having moved to Wewak many years ago, she was attending a church with her family when SPES invited representatives of churches across the area to observe a Culture Meets Scripture course, with the hope that they would take the trainings back to their respective denominations. Cecilia’s church leadership, particularly her bishop, urged her to observe the course and later take an Oral Bible Storytelling course.

Cecilia recalls attending the first OBS course with a conviction that she was already aware of everything being taught. She assumed she knew the points that would be made and would return to life after the course unchanged. Upon hearing the trainer speak, however, she realized the talent, dedication and power that the trainers invested in the stories. “I thought I knew everything, but I realized that I don’t have that talent [of storytelling]. I wanted to tell the story, to know it in my heart. You could see in the trainer’s face as he was telling the story, and hear it in his voice, [that his purpose was] to touch other’s hearts,” she remembers. “In my heart I said, I want to come to the training. I want to know the Word of God.” Soon after, she joined the course.  Later she was asked to become a trainer.

“In the beginning, I controlled my tongue and I didn’t know how to pray – I only had my own prayer.” Her journey through OBS was one of God revealing Himself through scripture, showing her His grace through the other trainers and coming to each course with the intent of serving God. She explained she would come with her weaknesses, the trainers and leaders at SPES would support and walk with her through them and she would go home encouraged before coming again to learn more at the next course. “I thought I had to be one of them in the beginning. I thought I had to know their language,” Cecilia stated, recalling the many times she would take the teachings home to her children, writing them out on charts and telling them that it was in the Word of God that they would find all the strength they needed to overcome anything in life. As time passed, she realized she was training to simply stand upon the Word of God, to pray, and was called to take the Word back to the villages and families she knew.

“This is God’s Word, not a pastor’s, not a preacher’s, not a bishop’s,” Cecilia reiterated,  “So when I talk with church members I don’t tell them ‘do this’, I let the Lord tell them.” Her emphasis rests solely in her love of Scripture and her belief that when the truth of the Gospel is presented, as it is at SIL, and individuals remain neutral in the Word, God will teach us many things. Having taught at the pastoral center of her church, she stands on the truth that the Lord is her teacher and that His name will ultimately be honored through her work as a trainer. “I am not the same person that I was when I came. I leave different,” Cecilia said, reflecting both dreams for the future of SPES and for her own family, church and village.

Story and photos by Youth With a Mission