“God Loves Them More Than We Ever Could!”

There are at least 850 language groups in Papua New Guinea. It could be a lot higher than this, depending on how the term “language” is defined. The reason I keep coming back to PNG is to help the people of these various language groups get the Bible translated into their languages. I don’t know the story about most of these groups, but I do know the stories surrounding a few of them.

The general approach for running a translation project of our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, has been to allocate a trained Western missionary to go and live among the people and to learn their language and culture. Once the missionary has achieved a high enough level of proficiency in knowing both the language and culture, then he or she is granted permission to go ahead and begin doing the actual translation of Scriptures.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is the place at which I found myself in 1998. I had learned enough of the local village language by then that I could move forward to be doing translation. It wasn’t long before I was digging into Mark and translating it, and by the end of January of 1999, we had a rough draft translation of Mark. But there were still a number of important checking sessions that we would need to do.

We would need to do the Village-level community check, Exegetical check, Advisor check, Spell check, etc. before we could do the final Consultant and Comprehension check of a translated book of Scripture. All of these are critical checks we have and need to use to help assure us that this translation is: 1) Natural to native speakers; 2) Accurate to the original Greek or Hebrew text; and then 3) the translation is clear and carries a high degree of understandability or comprehensibility.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Let me tell you what happened next for us, our family and our project. We thought we would be working in our project for the next 15 – 20 years. So on our first furlough back to Canada, I built an 8’ by 8’ by 4’ wooden crate to send back to PNG with all of our most important possessions in it. We were able to retrieve the crate through customs here, and set up our things within our village house. But 18 months later, we found ourselves heading to Australia, and then back to Canada, seeing as our son, Eric, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Undoubtedly, what happened with Eric was one of the most difficult events that we had ever had to experience. We ended up walking away from our house (abandoning almost all of our possessions), we lived with the anxiety of not knowing what would happen to our son, and we felt the pain of having to desert the people.

It has been on my heart many times to ask God for us to return to serve among the people group with whom we lived and served. But God seems to have had different plans for them. What was most difficult for me to handle, was the fact that we were 3 weeks away from doing the final Consultant Check on Mark. After revisions, the book would be ready to be published.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What confused me in my faith at that time is why God helped us make such good progress on the book of Mark, only to stall the publication of the book about two years. We were so close to finishing and publishing Mark. But from this perspective now, 10 years later, it seems to me that the people were not ready to receive the book, and the message of the Gospel. But I think they are ready now.

Just like Jesus told the disciples that the “field was white unto harvest”, so too, I see how there has been more preparation time, and maturing of these peoples in being open to God and being ready to hear and obey God. We wish that translation work would proceed forward without any problems or delays. But we have to believe that God in control of all things (including language Projects).

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It was someone else then who went in to do the final consultant check on the book of Mark. It’s only natural that I would have liked to have been that person who carried the published book across the finish line. But that is my human flesh speaking. What we have to remember is that God loves these people more than we ever could. And so He will make sure that they get His Holy Word, whether that is through us, or through someone else.

Even now, I know of two projects where the primary missionary is not able to be the one-on-one advisor to the language group that God has so laid upon their heart. One man agreed last year to be the “Acting Director” for the Branch to take care of important administrative decisions. And the other man has put his full-time attention towards being the Finance Administrator for the Branch. These are huge sacrifices, and I believe God will bless them for the decisions they have made.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But let me share in closing what one of these colleagues said when we thought it was a shame that he was not able to work on the language project: “I know that God loves the people in this one project, but He also loves all the people of these various projects. And when I do my work in the main office, as much as I would love to go back to doing translation with this one team, the work I do now has significant impact on 12 teams.” How true, that God’s loves is always greater than we can ever picture or imagine.

Advertisements