The Solar Powered Notebook Project – Pt. 1
Imagine that you would like to write a document on your computer. You leave your home and drive to your office, sit down at the computer and start typing. You print a copy of the document and take it over to your boss for him to look it over. He says it is really good, but notices four places that you need to make some corrections. So you go back to your office, sit down at the computer again, and within a few minutes you have made the corrections and can print out a revised form of the document. In all, this takes perhaps as long as a few hours. By the end of the day, you feel good about what you have accomplished and drive home to your house and relax for the evening.
Now imagine that you are a national Papua New Guinean who is involved in a Bible translation project. You have heard that a few men in other projects have a laptop computer, but that is the exception rather than the norm. It is now your time to leave your village house and slowly make your way towards Madang, where the main office is for Pioneer Bible Translators. I say slowly, for it might take you anywhere from two to four days to reach the office.
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First you will need to get up early, before the sun has begun to peek out over the mountains nearby. You grab some cold food, left over from last night’s meal, and start your brisk walk through the lush tropical jungle that surrounds your village. You are used to walking for many hours along the narrow jungle path, greeting friends in other villages along the way. Some of them even help you by sharing a little bit of their starchy sago flat breads as you go along.
But then you pass the boundary of your tribal group and now you are walking through a neighbouring language group, one which has been hostile to yours for many years. You do not feel safe, you pass through or around their villages as quickly as you can, and you keep on walking along the trail, slick and slippery from last night’s rain. You even need to push through streams that are up to your waist, or find a fallen tree to ford some of the swollen rivers.
After many hours, you come to the larger river where you will have to wait for a ride to go downstream. There is no “public” transportation out here. You simply have to wait until a motorized canoe or dugout comes by which still has room in it for you and your backpack. Sometimes you are very fortunate and only have to wait for a few hours. Sometimes there are no rides available and you have to stay there by the river for one or two days. This time there was no ride on the first day, and so you make a rough bed among the banana leaves and underbrush, praying that no snakes or wild pigs will disturb you at night.
The next morning you dip in the river to clean off, but within an hour you are hot and sweaty once again as you swelter in the jungle heat. The Lord answers your prayers though, and you only have to wait two hours to get a ride on a motorized canoe. It glides along the crocodile infested river with only about two inches of the side of the canoe being above the water, but the gentle breeze feels good on your face and skin.
For five hours you sit in a cramped position in the canoe until you get to the connecting point of where a road had recently been made through this region. There are vehicles that regularly come along this road on the way to Madang, but most of the vehicles are already full of people. So once again, you wait on the side of the road until you can flag down a vehicle that has room to squeeze in one more person. But it’s too late in the day, and you must make a place to sleep by the side of the road and hope that no robbers will come to steal your things as you sleep.
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On the third morning, you watch as many vehicles go by. Finally, a large flatbed lorry comes and stops at one point and you tell the driver you are going to Madang. He sets a price, which you agree to pay, after of course you get some money from the PBT office in Madang. You then hop up in the back of the flat bed and hang on to the side railing as you and about 25 other people stand face-to-face with another.
The ride only takes about three hours, but your legs are tired from standing for so long and enduring all the potholes which the vehicle hit. You feel sure that the driver was making sure to hit every one of the potholes as you went down the highway. And once you get off the flatbed, it is good breathing fresher air than the foul body odour of all the people crammed in beside you.
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At long last, you make your way up to the front door of the Pioneer Bible Translators’ office. They let you in and welcome you as you finish your three day journey to town. You sign in to receive your bed sheet, towel, plate, cup and spoon, and get a small supply of food from the office, and then head back across town on a public transport van to go to the National Coworkers House to catch up on sleep.
Tomorrow you will return to the office and for 2-3 weeks you will work with a missionary advisor as you enter in the text of the Scriptures which you had translated while you were out in your village. After doing all the computer work you can in town, you bring back the PBT supplies, head out across town to find a ride on a vehicle, and begin your three day journey back to your village.