The Bigger Picture

Some of the crowd looks on at the dedication.

Some of the crowd looks on at the dedication.

Last week was an exciting time for the Urat people of the East Sepik province. They had been waiting nearly forty years for God’s Word to come in their heart language. Three different missionary families or singles have been part of the program over the decades, along with PNG co-translators David, Enoch, and others. July 30 was the big day. Hundreds from the surrounding communities as well as nearly forty visitors from outside the language area came to witness the event. Commercial flights from the US, Finland, Thailand, and various parts of PNG, as well as two SIL Kodiaks from Ukarumpa carried the visitors to Wewak. Then everyone boarded a large PMV (public motor vehicle) and two other rental trucks to make the six hour drive over pretty rough roads. We were very grateful that the roads were dry or there would have been additional challenges.

Singsing group that led the procession

Singsing group that led the procession

Bibles carried in a traditional limbum bag

Bibles carried in a traditional limbum bag

In the beginning, the sky was fairly overcast giving the crowd a respite from the heat. The event began with a singsing group leading the procession to the grandstand area. Behind the singsing group and in front of the visitors were five women from various denominations carrying traditional bags holding some of the newly printed New Testaments. After arriving at the grandstand area, the visitors were shown to their respective seats and everyone settled in to enjoy the ceremony. Many speeches by denominational leaders, mission representatives, community leaders, and translation committee personnel challenged the people to take God’s Word and read it in their homes and churches.

Pastors praying over the Bibles

Pastors praying over the Bibles

The communities were also challenged to work as a team, whether in their villages or across denominations. Two of our experienced Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) trainers come from the Urat language group. They shared a drama about the man who was paralyzed and his four friends picked him up and carried him to meet Jesus. Upon realizing they couldn’t get him near Jesus, they made a hole in the roof and let their friend down in front of Jesus. Jesus then healed the man. However, had the four men not worked together, the cripple would have never gotten to see Jesus. As believers from a variety of denominations, part of what needs to be seen by the outside world, is unity amongst them. After the speeches, there was a time of laying hands on the Bibles and praying over them by the pastors in the area.

All of the languages that the SPES project is working with have translated Scripture in an oral format, not in a written form like the Urat language. We have already begun to see the effects of God’s talk making a difference in their lives. Pray that people will hunger to read God’s Word for themselves. As they experience God’s Word in a way that communicates clearly to them, it can truly change their lives and the lives of others in their communities.

Through sickness, hardship, pain and struggles, it has been worth it all. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!

Advertisements

New Language Profile page

We are excited to announce a new page on the SPES blog.  We have added a Language Profile page where you can check out some of the language groups that are involved with the SPES project.  Learn more about these groups and how you can be praying specifically for them.  We hope to add more in the months ahead.

How does culture meet God’s Word?

The kaukau illustration depicting the actions and what is under them.

The kaukau illustration depicting the actions and what is under them.

Recently the SPES team held a Culture meets Scripture workshop in Wewak. This was the second workshop of its kind held here and the first taught by the SPES team. With a diverse group of participants, both rural and urban, representing a diverse range of denominations as well, there was ample good discussion about the topics shared. Each group was allowed to pick a cultural topic that they would delve into on deeper levels throughout the week. Some of the topics chosen were gardening, hunting, and bride price. All of these have many customs associated with them that have been practiced for generations. Why are these customs practiced? Is it because they are afraid of what might happen if they don’t do these things? As they looked at each of the actions associated with the given topic, they began to dig down deep to see what beliefs, emotions, fears, or needs were feeding the actions. They used an illustration of a kaukau plant which is a staple food here in PNG. The leaves above the ground represent the actions that can be seen, while the kaukau underneath the surface depict beliefs, emotions, assumptions, and so much more.

Participants grapple with the materials being taught.

Participants grapple with the materials being taught.

After they looked at the reasons for practicing these customs, they searched the Bible to see what it had to say about the actions, but more importantly, about the root of the actions. Why do we need to pay a bride price when a girl gets married? What happens if we don’t? Part of paying the bride price is making sure that there is peace between the families and communities and that there won’t be problems in the future. Is this the best way to make sure peace is established? Do you have to appease the spirits to make your garden grow or to have a successful hunt? Who is it that sends the rain or causes things to grow? The practice of taking everyday issues and checking them in light of Scripture is an invaluable tool that they can continue to use as they return to their areas. Many came away from the course with a new understanding of what God wants for our lives and the freedom we can have in Christ – freedom from fear, freedom from evil spirits, and much more.

Pray for courage as the participants have returned to their communities. It is very difficult to stand up against community peer pressure when you are standing alone. Pray that many believers will stand together and that they help others find freedom in Christ.

Lumi is here!

The classroom is full as participants work to learn each story.

The classroom is full as participants work to learn each story.

After months of preparation and anticipation, the Oral Bible Storytelling workshop for the Lumi cluster of languages began last week in Wewak. Due to the remoteness of the villages, only one trip was made to each of the villages to invite them to the workshop. Most of those visits were done in November and December 2014. So, it was with great excitement that we waited to see how many people would come to the course. We are thrilled to have thirty-eight participants from eleven language groups at this course.

The big truck that carried many of the participants to the workshop.

The big truck that carried many of the participants to the workshop.

How far would you travel to attend an Oral Bible Storytelling course? Some of these participants walked for two days to the closest town of Lumi. Don’t picture this as a stroll in the park, but envision mountains, small foot paths, and rugged terrain. Then they waited for the public motor vehicle (PMV) to transport them to Wewak. This part of the journey took over twelve hours, riding through the night on the back of an open truck. They were tired, cold, and ready to see smiling faces when they arrived. Many of those who came are pastors of struggling churches throughout the Lumi district. Unlike other workshops, most of those attending are from one denomination. We were privileged to have the head of the denomination come and encourage the pastors one afternoon this week.

Throughout the week, there are multiple opportunities to practice telling the stories.

Throughout the week, there are multiple opportunities to practice telling the stories.

As we begin with a new cluster of languages, we are reminded that we are all learners. No one, including the SPES team and trainers, has all the information. With that in mind, we have tried a slightly different approach with how we teach the stories. Repetition is extremely important as stories are learned orally. The participants seem to be getting the idea of how to learn the stories and we are excited to see their progress. As we hear how the stories bring to light struggles for the participants, we pray that they will have this same impact when they are shared in the language communities.

Amos teaches the sequence of Genesis 3 with a story board.

Amos teaches the sequence of Genesis 3 with a story board.

We are so grateful for the team that God has brought together to make this workshop possible. God is raising up capable and gifted Papua New Guinean trainers to do nearly all the classroom teaching as well as most of the mentoring of individual language groups. What an encouragement and blessing they have been to the SPES team as we watch them develop. We also have three consultants who are checking the stories for accuracy and naturalness. Then there are the five ladies who do all the cooking for forty-eight people each day of the course. No one is going hungry and we are very thankful that, in spite of the dry conditions we have had in the Sepik, we have had ample garden food. SPES team members are filling a variety of other roles to make the workshop happen. Please be praying for wisdom and stamina as there is still a full week of the course yet.

Healing our heart wounds

Group discussions about daily topics

Group discussions about daily topics

Certain subjects stir the passion of our hearts to the point they just have to be shared. Those things include seeing Papua New Guineans with access to God’s Word in ways that speak to their hearts. Having access to God’s Word and impacting lives can take many shapes depending on where we find ourselves. One of the recent ways we have been privileged to help people apply God’s Word to their everyday lives is through the Healing the Wounds of Trauma workshop. The workshop was offered to pastors and lay leaders in Wewak area churches. Men and women came from six different denominations to participate in the workshop.

Spending time in worship

Spending time in worship

Over a period of five days, fifteen participants grappled with theological subjects like why do bad things happen to good people and the journey of grief. They looked at much deeper things like how do we heal the wounds of our hearts and forgiving those who have caused us trauma. These traumatic events might include domestic abuse, rape, and HIV. Repeatedly, the class went back to Scripture to see what God’s Word had to say about so many aspects of these topics. However, more than just a Bible study, they were encouraged to apply and internalize the truths of God’s Word and begin the healing process where pain had once resided.  They began each day with worship and additional worship times along the way. God brought a young man to be part of the workshop who was gifted to lead those times. Even with no prompting beforehand, he focused on the materials and leading us to the cross with appropriate songs.

Burning the papers signified giving the pain to God.

Burning the papers signified giving the pain to God.

One of the most powerful parts of the workshop is when participants are encouraged to take their pain to the cross. Some had been struggling with this pain and trauma for many years and as the week unfolded, they began to deal with that pain. As the tears flowed and they wrote those memories on paper and attached them to the cross, it was a physical picture of what God wanted to do in their lives as they gave those hurts and pain to Him. Then they actually burned the papers as a token of releasing that pain in their lives. Please pray for each participant as they continue to grapple with all they have heard and learned. For some, these are only the first steps to having real freedom in Christ. Pray that they would allow Christ to continue to heal them so that they can live abundant Christian lives.

Many of these participants are now facilitators-in-training so they will begin to share the material that they have learned with other groups who need to experience the same healing and freedom Christ can give.  Pray that God will lead them to those who need to hear these truths.

Out of my match box

Gilbert, with his infectious smile

Gilbert, with his infectious smile

As we prepared to leave for the recent Yabru Oral Bible Storytelling course, it became apparent that we would be short of the trainers needed to run the course. Now what? We knew that at least one of the Wewak trainers mentioned he would be interested in helping with an OBS at Yabru if we needed an extra trainer. We contacted him and he said that if he couldn’t, possibly a fellow pastor and trainer could. This was indeed the solution. Gilbert cheerfully agreed to come and help out in whatever ways he could.

Having never flown in a plane before, boarding the small SIL Kodiak was a bit daunting. White knuckled, he sat in the very back seat, with fear and trepidation, and waited for what would come next. However, once he was in the air, he marveled at all he saw. Seeing the little villages that dotted the ground and the great expanse of trees was amazing. He said it was as if God was showing him that there was so much more to Papua New Guinea than his little corner of the world in his village.

Gilbert (second from right) facilitating group work

Gilbert (second from right) facilitating group work

In coming to Yabru, there were many things new for him. The plane that brought him, the canoe that took him back to meet the airplane, the myriads of mosquitoes, the intense heat, and new people from new places were all part of his experience. He said he learned so much from the people he met and it made him realize that no matter where he goes, there are believers who he can bond with in the body of Christ. He feels that he has gotten out of his “match box” from his own world and been given a glimpse of other people in Papua New Guinea. Rubbing shoulders with people from other denominations and hearing their stories has given him opportunities to learn as well. He has no idea what the future holds, but he knows that it may not look the same as the past did.

We don’t always know why God allows our plans to change, but we know that He has a purpose. Expectantly we wait to see what God has in store for Gilbert and his family. OBS is changing not only the lives of participants and communities, but trainers as well.

Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and the Sepik Partnership and Engagement Strategy (SPES)

Drama Outreach in Town

The Drama course participants with the YWAM team at an outreach.

Youth with a Mission (YWAM) is a missionary organization that does outreach to all parts of the World. The YWAM team that visited the East Sepik province are participants of this year’s Discipleship Training School (DTS). They are doing outreach here as part of the completion of their course at the University of Nations, a YWAM Institute in Kona, Hawaii.

The Sepik Partnership and Engagement Strategy (SPES) is a partnership of different bodies that share a common purpose to make the Word of God known to the unreached population, in the language that they understand best so that it impacts their lives. An ongoing process is the engagement of key stakeholders in SPES and a key stakeholder in this partnership is the Church. YWAM is also a stakeholder although their roles within SPES are yet to be defined.

In November 2011, SPES in partnership with the Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association brought together top people in the hierarchy of denominations in the Sepik Region (East and West Sepik Provinces) and formed a group called the Sepik Churches in Partnership for Christ (SCPC) thus fulfilling its vision to work in partnership with the Church. However, there is also the need to help this group of many different denominations bond together. Organizing something cooperatively was important but lacking in the group until the YWAM team came and gave them the opportunity.

At the training

Unity and humility at the YWAM training.

Through much deliberation, the SCPC tasked the YWAM team to do some training which each denomination would then send its representatives to attend. The YWAM team decided to run courses on drama and children’s ministry for two weeks. The result was a blessing. Participants from different denominations enjoyed the learning experience in each others company and appreciated each others strengths. Psalm 113:1 summarizes this experience perfectly.

YWAM has found an important role as a stakeholder within SPES. A partnership between YWAM, SPES and SCPC enables the sharing of knowledge and outreach through a united interdenominational front. We want to see this kind of event as an ongoing process in the Sepik Region. Please pray with us that this will become a reality.

Craft activities during children's out reach

Course particiapnts helping childern put together a craft that relates to the day’s Bible topic.

Announcing the Sepik Churches in Partnership for Christ!

On Tuesday, January 10, the leadership of most of the denominations and many missions in the Sepik region set up Sepik Churches in Partnership for Christ (SCPC) to “work together to see people in the Sepik truly know God’s Word and emulate Christ in their lives”. This is a major milestone as the responsibility for translation and language work needed for the remaining 100 languages in the Sepik region is taken on by the Papua New Guinean churches. It also tasks the churches to work together to see God’s Word have a transforming impact in peoples lives.

The SCPC will draw up bylaws and pick a pilot project before reporting back to the larger church body. Thank you for praying and for standing together with us. God is moving in exciting ways!