Growing Excitement

Participants listen attentively during class

Participants listen attentively during class

The most recent Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) course finished for the Lumi cluster participants last week and the participants began the long journey home on Thursday.  With forty participants from fifteen language groups, it was a busy time of learning six stories during the course.  We purposefully picked stories to do a panorama picture from both the Old and New Testaments so that they can have a better picture of what God has done for us.

Drama of Jesus carrying the cross

Drama of Jesus carrying the cross

Four new stories were introduced this course.  These were new not only for the participants, but the trainers had not taught these stories before either.  Three of the stories focused on Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.  As connections were made between the lambs sacrificed in the Old Testament and Jesus being our sacrificial Lamb, the lights began to come on as people understood more of what Christ did on our behalf.  A video was shown to help them understand more of what Jesus endured when he took our punishment.  As the men watched, you could hear them whisper, “Enough, enough!” as they saw how much he suffered for us.

Six stories are the most we have attempted during any one course which means the participants had to stay focused and work hard.  One of the memory activities that seemed very effective this time was drama.  Most of these stories translated had a significant amount of action in them, so they were more conducive to cementing the stories in their minds through drama.

Collen leads the discussion

Collen leads the discussion

Daily afternoon debrief with the trainers

Daily afternoon debrief with the trainers

As staff we are excited to see many of the participants growing in their abilities to tell Bible stories.  After each course they are becoming more effective as they go back and share their stories in the village.  During this course nine participants had the opportunity to “student teach” part of the class material.  They were pared with seasoned trainers who coached them, gave them pointers, and helped out when they found it difficult.

At the end of each teaching day, all the trainers and whoever had taught during the day gathered together for a time of debrief to see what went well and what needed to be changed.  Debrief is always a good time to connect as a team and figure out how to prepare for the days ahead.  Some of these participants will have the opportunity to become trainers after the final course is completed in January 2017.  Some of them seemed very natural standing in front of fifty people teaching.  What a blessing that could be, to have incoming trainers with these gifts!  Mentoring is one way that OBS works to train up new workers to continue to help carry this work into more parts of the Sepik and Papua New Guinea.  We look forward to seeing how God will use these trainers in the future.

angel-shepherds-dramaPray for the participants and trainers as they go back and share these stories in their village.  Christmas will soon be approaching and this may be the first time some of these groups hear the Christmas story in their own language.  As they share the stories surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, pray that God’s Word will impact lives and people will come to know Christ as Savior.  Isaiah 55:10-11 promises us that “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty.” (NIV)

2016 – What’s ahead?

A clouded mountain in the Sandaun province

A clouded mountain in the Sandaun province

As we embark on 2016, it is with both excitement and a bit of apprehension. Sometimes we think how simple it would be if we could just see months or years down the road, but then are reminded how that thinking is faulty. How can we really trust God if we know all that is going to happen? How can we rely on Him to guide our steps and plans when we think we already have the plan? This year promises to be one in which we need to trust fully in the One who knows what tomorrow holds.

One of the planes that carriers our participants and staff

One of the planes that carriers our participants and staff

It is easy to prepare for the workshops already on the schedule. But, there is always the unexpected. Who knew how hard it would be to find consultants for the Lumi Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) course that starts in under two weeks? After trying for many weeks to find the needed consultants, the third one was finally confirmed late last week. How will the weather be when it is time for the workshop to start? Will the airplane be able to get the participants or will the airstrips be too wet? So many things force us to depend on God. We are expecting nearly fifty participants, as well as twelve trainers and other staff. The logistics have potential for unexpected things to come up.

There will also be personnel changes in the new year. Gary and Denise Abbas will be going on home assignment for about six months to share about SPES with their partners and families.  Rocky and Wendy Dede will be more based in Ukarumpa than Wewak this year. There is potential for others returning to Wewak, as well as possibly some new faces. As we deal with many transitions, pray for unity among the team and people to fill all the necessary roles.

Besides OBS, there are a number of other training opportunities that will occur this year. Some of those have been confirmed and others are still in the planning stages. We look forward to the opportunities we will have to share God’s truth with the people of Papua New Guinea and how that can have an impact on individuals and communities.

A small group welcomes the canoe and team.

A small group welcomes the canoe and team.

For the language communities that have already finished OBS, this year will be a time of dialogue to find out if and how these groups want to continue in some kind of translation work. This is probably the area where there are the most unknowns (partly because we are trying to have this phase be community driven), but we know God will direct each group to the plan that best fits their needs.

We also hope to begin engaging with language communities in a new part of the Sepik, so that they are poised for the next intake of OBS. This will involve a fair amount of research regarding different groups, as well as visits to each of the areas. There are still lots of groups that we haven’t worked with, but we want to be hearing where God wants us to go.

Are we ready for what 2016 will hold? We can say yes because we know that God will lead us each step of the way.

Another Chapter finishes

Meyas receives his completion certificate.

Meyas receives his completion certificate.

It is hard to believe that the Yabru cluster of languages recently completed their last Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop. The group began their first workshop in June 2014 and finished the fifth one in November 2015. The participants have worked diligently to learn the stories during each workshop. This course focused on the stories of The Golden Calf, Moses’ Death, and Elijah and the Prophets of Baal. Two of the stories were lengthy and challenging, but the teams gave their best efforts. Graduation was held November 10th with twenty-two participants eagerly ready to receive their certificates. Because of the remoteness of the area, it was difficult for families to come and witness the event, but there were some that were able to participate with the group. Now that the OBS chapter has finished for these language groups, we look forward to seeing how the next chapter will unfold for them.

One language map showing the multiple villages involved.

One language map showing the multiple villages involved.

This time we shortened the OBS course because of the need to combine it with another training which we call SAAT (Survey, Awareness, and Assessment Training).  The attendees were new, but also included a few of the OBS course participants. This training was designed to help those who came, understand the vitality of their heart language – is it really strong yet and being used by everyone in the village? Is it only being used by adults? Is it only spoken by the older generation? Is the trade language the dominant language of communication? Through some participatory activities, people can see for themselves the answers to these questions. Then they take the activities back to the village and walk through the same process with the rest of the people in the village. Some of the language groups only have a couple villages, so doing this will not be time consuming. However, one of the language groups has over a dozen villages and will take much longer. So, the next step in the process will not happen until early 2016 to give everyone ample time to complete their work.