Sepik Prayer Calendar October – November 2018

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar October 2018 – November 2018.  Thanks for continuing to pray with us for the people of Papua New Guinea.  Your prayers make a difference.

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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

Thankful for a Team

The Juwal translators discuss some of the new material being presented.

It was with great anticipation on Monday, November 20, that the SPES team waited for participants to arrive for the first Oral Bible Translation workshop in Wewak.  There were many moments in the last several months when the team didn’t think this time would come.  After many prayers, project proposals written, emails, project proposals rewritten, and a flurry of last minute activities, the workshop is moving forward for the Bungain, Juwal, and Urimo language communities.

Teams learn about computers and the new software.

With new people joining some of the participants from earlier Oral Bible Storytelling workshops, these teams will learn some new concepts and then begin to put those ideas into practice.  Using computer software specifically developed for oral translation, these groups will listen to scripture passages and begin to take the text, paragraph by paragraph, and translate it into a natural and understandable format that their communities can understand clearly.  After it is reviewed for accuracy by other community members, it is given to a consultant who will again go through the whole passage to make sure things have been translated correctly.

We are so thankful for the team who have worked hard to make this come together.  The SPES team has written and revised the project proposal multiple times so that it meets the necessary criteria.  They have visited language groups to invite the needed personnel to come to the course.  A myriad of logistics including arranging transportation, food, accommodation, and personnel, have all gone into the process.

We have three consultant checkers who have agreed to help with this project of three workshops – one who has worked in various countries recently, but has significant experience in the Sepik in the past, another who is a current translator in the Sepik, and the third is a Papua New Guinean from another province who wants to help.  As we have not had courses that have utilized computers before, someone has agreed to come just to help make sure the computers and related equipment run well and take care of bugs issues that come up along the way.

Facilitators confer as they prepare to help the teams.

Cooks preparing food for the afternoon meal.

Most of the facilitators who will be working with the individual language groups are from the Sepik and have been working with SPES in other training capacities.  Three ladies will be sharing the duties for making sure this group is well fed.  They are excited to try out some new menus this time.

If we look further, the team grows even more.  There are those who help make sure the project is written correctly and that all guidelines are followed.  These folks are not on location in PNG.  Then there are those who make sure the money is available and get it to where it is needed.  The team of computer programmers who have written the Render software that can now be used are a vital part of making this workshop a reality.

Last, but integral to the workshop, there is a large team of people who are praying that projects like this can move forward around the world.  We thank God for each part of the team that helps to get God’s Word to the people of the Sepik.

Beyond our scope

A Kwomtari man tells his story.

Knowing that the vision of SPES is to work with the last one hundred languages in the East Sepik and Sandaun provinces, we understand that we cannot do that alone.  Sometimes our partnerships include working with other SIL teams in these provinces.  Murray and Carol Honsberger have been working with the Kwomtari people in Sandaun province for twenty-seven years.  They have a desire to use Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) to reach out to some neighboring language groups, to help them get some of God’s stories in a format that can be understood by the communities.

In light of that, they asked if the SPES project would have trainers who could come and lead OBS workshops with four language groups (Kwomtari, Nai, Yade, and Baibai) in the Sandaun province.  We give thanks that, at this point, enough training has been done, that we have several trainers who could go and run these workshops.  What a joy and privilege to be a part of getting God’s Word to even more people.

Nai speakers work on consultant checking their story.

Recently these four groups finished their first workshop and all twenty-one participants would echo the words of one Nai speaker: “The OBS course is a tool to use – pray that God will strengthen us. God is opening our eyes and changing our way of thinking. Pray that God will prepare our villages and the hearts of the people to hear. Pray that we will be able to finish all four courses and that we will see real change in our lives.”

Three Yade men came and are praying that five more will join them for the next course. One Yade man wrote: “In this first course I learned about what is involved in giving something to God, and about being a true friend to my wife.”

Baibai participants work on crafting their story.

A Baibai man at the course wrote: “I have been chosen to do church work but do not know how to preach. OBS is teaching me how to share God’s Word.” Pray that the Baibai group will find one more person to join their group. They really struggled through the course but God enabled them to finish all four stories.

Praise God for the united effort of the Baiberi people who hosted the workshop. They are already talking about the next course in February and the preparations they need to make. One of the Kwomtari participants wrote: “OBS has strengthened my faith. It has taught me how to put a story well into my thoughts and keep it there. I have learned how to tell a story with an opening and closing. I feel OBS is teaching and enabling me to do my work as a church leader.”

Yade speakers find just the right words to make their story clear.

Almost all of the participants were lay pastors – some were relatively new believers who had been sent to start a church – they felt lost. After the two weeks they left feeling like they had something they could share and a way to do so. Many were challenged personally by the stories.

We give praise to God for the impact God’s Word is already having on lives and will continue to have in the weeks and months ahead.  Will you pray for these groups to know God more deeply?

Photos by Carol Honsberger