As we reflect on Christmas and all that means for us, we are reminded of why we are in Papua New Guinea. Hundreds of language groups have never heard the Christmas story in the language that speaks best to their hearts. How can they intimately know the Savior if they don’t understand who He is or that He came to this earth for each of them individually? Some have access to God’s Word in another language, but a second language doesn’t always speak clearly to them. It would be similar to a native English speaker trying to read a Spanish Bible and only getting pieces of it.
‘Hand-and-leg’ mountains where steps had been notched in the mountain for climbing
We have had God’s Word in our mother tongue for hundreds of years. We may have several versions in our home in our heart language. We long for Papua New Guineans across the Sepik region to have God’s Word in a language and format they can use and will make a difference in their lives. Many of the groups we are engaging with are small languages, but God cares for them just the same. Nestled in remote villages on mountain tops or in valleys, they have been hidden in hard to access areas. God is now opening doors to head down these narrow winding paths to meet and engage with these people.
What will this look like? We don’t fully know. The groups who have been doing Oral Bible Storytelling in 2014 will be able to tell Christmas stories in their heart language for the first time this Christmas. People will be able to dialogue about Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, Simeon and others in those stories and find various applications for their own lives. Those we have just met in the Lumi area will begin this process later in 2015.
A village nestled on the hill.
The Wewak and Yabru Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) clusters that began courses in 2014 should finish by mid to late 2015 and will begin looking at what comes after OBS. Will we continue down a written path for translation or literacy, or will we go with oral work on SD cards, smartphones, or other small audio players? With the way technology is advancing, more and more options are becoming available even in the remote corners of PNG. We wait expectantly to see where God will lead the SPES team and the language groups of the Sepik in 2015.
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.
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.
Course particiapnts helping childern put together a craft that relates to the day’s Bible topic.
The Sepik Partnership and Engagement Strategy (SPES) team members had an intriguing multicultural workshop in the last week, dealing with their childhood family environment and how it has shaped their worldview of what is right and what is not.
Having team members from each of the four different cultural types (according to Mary Douglas’ Theory of Culture) creates a more challenging work environment indeed, but also a richness because of our diversity. Our team includes people from Australia, Finland, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and the United States. We give God the praise for allowing Sheryl Takagi Sizler to facilitate this process of self discovery and appreciation of different cultures within SPES.
Mrs. Sizler is a multicultural consultant for SIL International and author of Biblical Multicultural Teams. Through her gifts, she has enabled us to talk about work related issues and how we interpret the Bible based on our cultural biases.
Together we have come up with a list of practical activities to work on. Knowing that God’s image is reflected in each of us is the first step to overcoming barriers that developed through our culturally-biased worldview.
The SPES team recently had the honour of meeting with Steve Martin, the Wycliffe Associates (WA) USA Pacific Area Director, who visited us in Wewak. WA is a major partner interested in making the Scripture Training Centre a reality; one that will facilitate the training of the Bible-less language communities of the Sepik so they can enter the Bible Translation Movement. He visited the proposed building site and has tasked a second team to come to Wewak to do a more comprehensive survey (planned for early February). Steve was excited by the possibilities and we were encouraged by his visit and look forward to working with Steve and WA in the future.
This week has been busy with planning for upcoming events. Sam and Timo have been busy distributing over 20 invitations to different church, mission, and government leaders for the conference on Nov 15-17th. We’re hoping that those who attend the conference will see the need to work together in order to more effectively reach the people in the Sepik Region with God’s word. Tomorrow is a work day to work on the office. We’re planning to use the office for recording of scripture, computer learning, and a backup facility. Hopefully the rest of the masonite can be installed.