God Triumphs Through Difficult Times

On June 8, 2010, a letter of invitation was sent asking me to come over to Papua New Guinea to help do the consultant check of Matthew for one of the local language groups.  There had been some discussion about me also doing the consultant check of Hebrews for another group, but dates and circumstances did not allow me to do this on this trip.  Instead, we are anticipating that this may be put into a program plan for a Spring 2011 trip.

During the month of July, I did some initial study of key terms and difficult phrases in Matthew.  This would help me identify potentially difficult parts of Matthew which would need to be examined carefully.  Meanwhile, I was waiting for the VE file of the Matthew translation to be sent to me from PNG.  (A VE is a vernacular to English literal back translation from the village language into English from which I can compare with the Greek NT to spot errors or areas of discussion.)

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At the beginning of August, it was clear that a more pressing matter was arising within the Branch, namely the sudden illness of the Director.  Immediately we began emailing the leadership in PNG and praying as to whether we should actually try to come as planned, or cancel the trip until a later date.  As we dialogued with them, we all came to the decision that we should still come, and trust that we would be able to get some of Matthew checked.

And so I began in mid-August to do intense studies on the Greek text of Matthew, and using a computer program called Paratext, was able to write myself inline text notes.  I noted areas of the Greek text where translation would be difficult or ambiguous, and also made note of various interpretations and cultural issues unique to the biblical era.  These exegetical and cultural notes would help me to evaluate the translation when the back translation was given to me orally, so that even without the written VE, I would be able to spot potential problems and areas needing revision.

Sadly, the Director died on the day I left Canada, and even before we started, we all wondered how this would affect the team and when the memorial for her would take place.  So I went into the sessions expecting that there would be even more delays and interruption.  I think what helped all of us from the beginning was that we all agreed that any verses we could do the consultant check on was still good, and was still moving forward the goal of having the New Testament finished for this language group.

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The date for the memorial was finally set for October 9, the day Jill and I would fly out of PNG, so it did not turn out that we would stop our sessions in the middle of our checking of Matthew.  But then a new area of major concern arose.  Due to a drought and the stagnation of existing water in the region where the national team members lived, scores of them were becoming sick and three people did die during our three weeks of checking.  In addition, the wife and son of the key national translator, were also sent to Wewak for medical attention.  Thankfully, they recovered quickly after getting treatment.

Understandably, this caused the team much distress and concern which made the checking even more difficult.  The final decision by all of us was to end the sessions early and have the men return to the villages so that they might be able to help out and comfort the people during this difficult time.

In spite of all these obstacles that our team faced, it is amazing to look back and see what progress was made and how God’s hand was in all of this.  In 12 days of actual work, we were able to check, correct and revise 20 out of the 28 chapters of Matthew.  We were able to check an average of 56 verses a day, which is pretty good considering the many hard passages of Christ’s teaching.

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Another area for praise is how God sustained us all.  My health was good during the entire time, and I discovered two women in the Center who knew how to do massage therapy so that I could get my legs worked on twice while there.  The massages, along with adequate rest periods each day, allowed me to function with a much lower pain level than I expected.   For this I was very grateful to God, and I am sure the many prayers of God’s people helped to carry me through this trip.

I am also thankful once again that Jill was able to come join me (two weeks later) and then return with me on the trip back to Canada.  She helped me in so many ways to be able to function and live each day over there in PNG.  And she has such a desire to help out, that when a special formatting task was sent up by CD disk from our Publishing Dept on short notice, Jill willingly worked on the computer during my breaks (sharing my computer) and on the weekend to get 166 Shellbooks (literacy picture books with empty text boxes) fully reformatted and ready for use by translators.

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So what is next?  There is already discussion about me and Jill coming in Feb-April of next year.  The book of Hebrews in one language is ready to be checked.  The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and Jude in another language are anticipated to be ready.  And there are still the final eight chapters of Matthew to do for this language group.  Translation consultant checking remains a constant area of need in our overseas branches.  I am just happy that I can be involved and do my part to see God’s Word made available to these language groups.

I must also say thank you to all of you who so faithfully pray for us and support our ministry work with Pioneer Bible Translators.  We  could not do this work without you standing behind us.  Above all, we give thanks to God who has equipped us and sustained us to be able to do this good work.

To Him be all the glory,

Norm & Jill Weatherhead