My Life Testimony – Pt. 5

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 5

Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now. In this fifth article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators and what is involved in translation work.  My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q9: Some technical questions: of the 850+ languages in Papua New Guinea, what language are you currently working on right now? What are some of the key challenges in tackling that particular language and how much progress has your group been making so far? How do you explain words such as ‘gospel,’ ‘love,’ ‘sin’ and ‘forgiveness’ to people who may have little or no concept at all? What are examples of other tough words equally challenging to teach or formulate for translation?

As a Bible Translation Consultant, I will come and work with any language group that has Scripture ready to be checked.  In these past four years I have worked with 8 different language projects.  In this period of Jan-April of 2012, I will work with one PNG highland language on the Gospel of John, two PNG lowland languages (the first one on John and the second one on Daniel), and one S.E. Asian language on the Gospel of Matthew. 

The greatest challenge I have as a consultant is that I do not know the language that I will be consulting on.  Thankfully, there are two ways for me to check their vernacular translation without having to depend upon just speaking through an interpreter.  Most importantly, each team will take their vernacular text and reverse translate it (called a Back Translation) into either English or Tok Pisin here in PNG. 

I can study this Back Translation and compare it to the Greek and Hebrew and fairly quickly know if there is a problem with the text (missing material, extra unnecessary material, or a clear error in translation.)  The second thing that helps me is the excellent computer programs and tools that we have that help us to analyze languages, even if we don’t know them.  Read through my four-part series “God’s Assignment For Me” (March 31, April 7, 14, 21 of last year, but especially Part 2 on April 7th.)

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Every language will have its challenges.  PNG languages are very tricky in that the main verb of a sentence is normally put on the end of a sentence.  So if you have a long and complicated sentence, you need to wait until the end of the sentence to find out exactly who and how many (singular or plural or even dual) people did or are doing or will do the action of the verb.

Single words or concepts that might be foreign to the culture are also a challenge to doing translation.  In the translation I just checked, the “Passover” (which occurred when Moses brought the people out of Israel) is a long phrase which means roughly, “the day for getting thought about the fact that the man-killing sky-being, and not killing the Israelites’ ancestors, passed by [them]”. 

Sometimes we make comparisons to help the people understand a foreign concept.  For example, a “camel” has often been translated in PNG as “a big pig-like animal called a ‘camel’ ”.  And sometimes we must use other words to convey the meaning of Scripture, such as instead of saying “white as snow”, we might translate it as “white as a very bright cloud”.  It is really “meaning” rather than “form” that we are trying to translate.

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Q10 Aside from translation, PBT is also involved in sending specialists such as teachers, builders and administrators, teaching people to read, planting churches and forming a community to serve God. Could you give us a successful/ ongoing example of changing a certain people/tribe that went through transformation thanks to PBT?

I wish I could give you specific success stories as you ask about, but these stories would really belong to other PBT missionaries. What I can talk about is the larger picture of success here in PNG.  Up until World War II, most of the interior of PNG was still unexplored.  There have been missionary endeavors since the mid 1800’s, but for the most part, the people of PNG remained locked in their Stone Age tribalism, which include terrible stories of barbarism and cannibalism. 

So you can say that the Gospel of Christ has only really been making inroads into the lives of the people for about 60 years.  Pioneer Bible Translators has only been in the country for just over 35 years.  But in that time, PBT has completed two New Testament projects and has another dozen coming along.  Within the groups that have made the most progress of translation, you will also see not only existing churches, but dynamic and thriving churches. 

We are also very happy about how many national men and women are being trained to reach out to their own people.  And some national men are starting to target nearby language groups to help them get a translation and literacy program going.  Just like Jesus transformed Peter from being a fisher of fish to a fisher of men, we have seen some of the people of PNG transform from being animistic spirit worshippers to Christian evangelists.

Baptism & Spiritual Competition

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John 3:22 – 30

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

 28 You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

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It is clear from this passage that baptism is a major topic of these verses.  It is also clear that there is some discussion that comes about due to these rituals of purification.  Actually, it would be better to translate this word more along the lines of “a strong argument” or “a major dispute”.  Not everyone saw eye to eye on this topic at hand.  And it is also clear that there is a sense of competition, at least on the part of John’s disciples as they saw greater numbers of people flocking towards Jesus, rather than their “Rabbi” John.

Spiritual competition between religious groups and their strong leaders of each is nothing new.  And the discussion (argument) concerning proper spiritual rituals in their interpretation and application is also something that has been around long before the time of Christ.  I do want to speak about the passage above within getting myself or any of my readers into a discussion that is full of spiritual landmines.  But let’s see what we can try to understand and apply to all of who call Jesus their Lord.

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Let me begin with an imaginary dialogue between two clergy.  The first man is the pastor and preacher of an Anglican church.  The second man is the pastor and preacher of a Baptist church.

One day the Anglican minister was talking to the Baptist minister and wanted to understand better their traditional form of baptism.  And so the Anglican said, “If the water is low and only comes up to the thighs, does this constitute baptism for you Baptists?

The Baptist preacher replied, “No.  That would not be enough to call that a baptism.”

So then the Anglican minister asked the Baptist preacher, “If the water comes up to the shoulders of the person, does this constitute baptism?”

The Baptist preacher replied again, “No.  That would not be enough to call that a baptism.”

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One more time the Anglican asked the Baptist preacher, “If the water was high enough to cover the person’s eyes, would you call this a baptism.”

Exasperated, the Baptist preacher told the Anglican minister, “No. Definitely not!!”

And at that, the Anglican minister then calmly went on and said, “Oh, ok.  I see now.  It is the little bit of water that is put on the top of the head of the man that makes the difference.”

It is my hope that I can talk about such a sensitive issue as baptism, not being cavalier about it like the funny story above, and write a good article about it that will be acceptable to people of many different Christian religious groups. 

It is sad that wars have been fought over this point of doctrine, for when one is different from us, and vice versa, then a wall of separation comes between us and them.  The “enemy” then becomes not the true enemies of the Kingdom, the forces of evil in the spiritual realm.  No, the “enemy” becomes the Christian who believes and practices different from me.  How sad!

Great theological debates have come around because of trying to emphasize the form of the baptisms being given.  But here in John’s gospel, the questions that arise do not deal with how baptism is done, but rather they deal with “who” is performing the baptisms. 

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John quickly reminds his followers that John’s primary purpose in coming was to help identify who the “Christ” or “Messiah” was who would save people from their sin.  John compares Jesus to the “Bridegroom”.  The “Bride” would be all those who believe in Jesus and follow Him.  That leaves the “friend of the Bridegroom” (that would be John) who stands to the side and rejoices to see the happiness there is when the Bridegroom will be able to fully redeem for Himself His holy people, all who believe in Jesus.

As hard as it may seem, the issues that carry very little importance to the main thrust of this passage is not baptism, nor the form or ritual of it.  What is most important is that people are flocking to see Jesus and hear His message.  Remember that Jesus has come to be the Light of salvation to all people.  So John does not entertain any thought of competition or jealousy as he sees people go and follow Jesus.

I wonder if you and I would be able to exercise such great humility that John did.  At one point, John did have the center stage of attention as people wanted to be baptized so that their sins would be forgiven.  But John knew that One greater than he had arrived, and so now his job was to encourage people to follow Jesus.  What a great example of faith and selflessness he left for us to follow after.

The Beginning of Missionary Life

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One of our fellow PBT missionary couples wrote a in their monthly newsletter in 2010 a summary of the experiences they had during the first year that they were on the mission field in East Africa.  It is truly amazing all the things that they did.  Enjoy their story, and then I will write about a few things that I recall from our first year of living in Papua New Guinea.

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Reflecting on our first year on the field as full-time missionaries, I recall both triumph and trial but through both evidence of the hand of God at work in our lives. Here’s a snapshot of the last year:

We arrived on September 17th, went through basic orientation to life on the field, attended language school for 2 months, spent a month living in a village to further our culture and language acquisition, became involved in branch and community life, attended our first Branch meeting, participated in two consultations, took on responsibilities as exegetes and taught in the annual training all the while continuing in our language learning with the help of several tutors.

    

Those are the facts, these are the feelings we’ve experienced:

We have felt excitement over the distribution of Scripture portions, discouragement due to the complex and challenging task that we still face and feel inadequate for, and hope for the transformation of a culture. We have experienced several bouts of parasitic and bacterial dysentery, skin issues and other consequences of physically adapting to a new place and climate. We feel relief over being spared from malaria this first year.

We have felt a sense of accomplishment as we successfully communicate something in a second language! We have felt encouraged by our team-mates and national co-workers. We have ached over our longing to be with our families back in the States. We have rejoiced over babies being born to friends and colleagues and grieved over the loss of parents and even children.

    

We have felt like children having to learn all over again how to speak, act and live in our new culture. And we have felt grown up after successfully learning how to feed ourselves and set up our home and drive on the left side of the road! All this and more has been packed into a single year of our lives.

God has not only seen us through but given us all that we need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be His witnesses. Our triumphs are ultimately His and the trials have served to deepen our dependence on Him. We are so grateful for the amazing support we have from the home front and the mercies of God which are new every day.

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For anyone who has not travelled outside of their own country, and I think especially for North Americans, it can be difficult to really appreciate all the challenges that missionaries face when they first leave their home country and culture and start their lives over within a new cultural context.  In those first hours and days, the missionary is bombarded with sights and sounds and oftentimes smells that can be very overwhelming.

Quite naturally, as missionaries prepare to go to the field, they will talk to those who will support them through their prayers and donations about the ministry work that they will do once they get there.  Pioneer Bible Translators helps to train and send linguists, church planters, administrators, and many other support workers to the field.  But we must never forget that these highly skilled people are still just ordinary people.  And we have experiences of joy and sorrow and fears just like anyone else.

    

It certainly was a big adjustment for me and my family as well when we first came to Papua New Guinea.  Jill and I had already had a number of other mission field experiences.  But when we came to PNG, we were also bringing our two young boys with us as well.  And just like any other parents, we worried for the safety and the health of our children as we settled into a small village in a remote part of the tropical forest of PNG.

I remember quite clearly during those early days how I would walk through part of the village and around the grass airstrip area holding on to the hands of my boys.  I would then carefully explain to them what the boundaries were of where they could go and where we did not want them to go. 

Those boundaries were pretty restrictive at first, since we had no idea yet of what to really expect.  But as we got to know the people and the area, and as we continued to experience God’s hand of protection and provision, we grew to love the people and the village where God had placed us.

    

The “missionary life” is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  But it is also not something that only those who are “spiritual giants” can do.  But leaving the safety of our own personal comfort zone to reach out to people who are hurting and don’t know Jesus yet is something that God calls all of His children to do.

You have probably heard about or seen the sign that hangs over the door on the inside of some churches, “Entering the Mission Field”.  The saying is cute, but it is also very true.  God calls all of us to be missionaries.  It won’t be easy for most of us.  Some of us may travel thousands of miles to respond to this challenge from God.  Some of us only need to step outside of our door.  In either case, God is faithful and He will help us to do all that He asks us to do.

Heaven Is Our True Home – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 6

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences. 

                                          

Chapter 3: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOU FIND YOUR TRUE HOME

Question #1: In what ways do you long for the kingdom of God and heaven to come?  Instead of talking about what you imagine will happen, talk about why you want it to happen.  Share reasons you have for anticipating the day when all will change for eternity.

Many people ask the question about “Why is there evil?”  Or more specifically, they ask “How can God be a God of love when so many bad things happen in this world?”  I recognize the significance of these questions, but I believe the focus is wrong.  When these questions are asked, the focus is very man-focused, or can I say “anthro-centric”.  The Bible makes it clear that God created mankind with freewill and they exercised it and rebelled.  That is the primary reason for the broken world that we live in.

When I look at the picture this way, it does break my heart to see all the suffering and sickness, disease and death we have in the world.  It is not easy to live in developing countries like I have and not be affected by the suffering that goes on all around us.  And it is for this very reason that I yearn for the Kingdom of God to be fully realized here on earth.

Scripture promises us that all of our suffering will one day be gone completely.  Revelation 21:4 says, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  As someone who himself carries the burden of a muscle disease, I long for the day when not only will I not have pain, but I will be able to “run and not get weary, walk and not get faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

Question #5: Why is it important that we not only enjoy the journey but also long for the destination of eternity with God?  How does this adjust the way we talk about “journey” and “destination” as Christians?

As I said in part one of this article, there is certainly a lot of beauty and good things in this world.  And there is no reason why we should not enjoy this world.  Isn’t it natural to want to take our family on a trip out to the mountains (that’s what I like) or to go swimming at a beautiful beach (that’s what my wife likes)?  Of course!  And it is good to want to share all of God’s glorious creation with those whom we love the most.

But let us remember that there is One whom we ought to love even more than our spouse; there is Someone who ought to be our closest most intimate Friend.  And that would be Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour.  So now let me extend my thought from above.  While we are on our journey through life here on earth, we can and need to share our joy with Jesus in our daily affairs.  But think about how much more special it will be to explore the universe and share that joy when we are with Him forever in heaven.

Everything that we thought was beautiful and glorious here and now will pale in comparison with how beautiful and glorious they will be in the new heaven and the new earth.  And we will have the privilege of sharing that joy and that experience with Jesus face-to-face.  Wow!!  I can hardly wait to go roam the galaxies with the Creator of it all.

Question #6: Describe how it might affect one’s life to believe there is “no more beyond” this world.  How should it change us to believe there is “more beyond”?

Paul said it very well in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 when he said, “And if Christ has not been raised [from the dead], your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep [i.e. “died”] in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  The entire Christian faith rests on this one central belief that Jesus died for our sins, but He also rose from the dead to prove He is God and can forgive us our sins and offer us the hope of life after death.

But if that is not true, then we will have lived a life of lies and we can only be thought of as fools.  If our belief is wrong, then all our self-sacrificing and serving others is pointless.  We might as well do as the agnostics and narcissists would do: “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  If there is no “life beyond”, then we might as well get all we can for ourselves while we still can.

But we have such good grounds to believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, that all of our sacrifice and service to others has meaning and purpose.  And in fact, knowing that all of us have such a short time to live here, and that an eternity awaits all of us, we ought to be even more concerned about the spiritual welfare of others before it is too late.  Therefore, believing there is “life beyond” becomes the motivation for evangelism.  Are you with me on this?

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

“For God So Loved The World” – Pt. 2

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John 3:16 – 21

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

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In last week’s study, we examined in detail verse 16 above, which is probably the most well known and most loved verse in Scripture.  Now I want to take a look at the larger context of this passage to show how John sees spiritual reality in terms that are very black and white.  As such, we will see that there are two sides that are complete opposites of each other.

In these six verses, I see at least four pairs of spiritual opposites: life vs. death; salvation vs. condemnation; light vs. darkness; and obedient deeds vs. evil deeds.  In John’s theology, there are these two clear and completely opposite realities.  There is no middle ground.  The question as we go through this is to ask ourselves “Which side are we on?”

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The first truth is that in Jesus there is spiritual life.  Apart from faith in Jesus there is spiritual death.  I encourage those who have not read Part 1 of this two-part article to click here and see what I wrote about verse 16.  It is very important for a person to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is there a God, but that He loves each and every one of us so much that He let Jesus come to die in our place so that He could offer spiritual life to us.

Verse 17 goes on to tell us that the very purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to bring us the gift of salvation.  Before Christ Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin there was only the sure consequence of condemnation awaiting all of us.  But Christ came to free us from that condemnation.  By putting our faith in Jesus, His righteousness becomes ours, and in God’s final day of Judgement, God will be able to say to us who believe, “Not guilty!”  What an amazing gift of grace.

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The third comparison is made between “light” and “darkness”.  John is not talking about the physical properties of light and darkness, but the spiritual realities of good and evil, truth and deception.  In chapter one, we saw how John the Baptist spoke out about “the light that was coming into the world.” Later in this Gospel (8:12), Jesus will say this about himself:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

One of the properties of light that can apply both in the physical and the spiritual realm is that light has the ability to reveal or expose that which is dark.  And light always overcomes darkness.  The question for us is whether we are attracted to that Light, or are repelled by that Light.  Those who are hungry to know God will draw close to the light, but those who want nothing to do with God will shrink away from spiritual truth.

And it is in this attraction or repelling that the true nature of our character comes out.  Those people who are attracted to God will want to do the things that please God.  Perhaps a better way to translate verse 21 would be something like, “But whoever follows after the truth of God will come to the light and in so doing will clearly show that he was obeying God.”

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There is one more important linguistic aspect to these verses that I want to make sure that none of us miss.  The majority of the verbs in this passage, specifically those that refer to the actions of people, are written in Greek in the present tense.  Not the past tense, i.e. “those who did…” and not in the future tense, i.e. “those who will do…” 

But it is not enough to just translate the verbs in the simple present, i.e. “those who do…” as if obeying God or rebelling against God is a one-time event in our lives.  No, this passage should be translated in the present continuous, and in that way this passage has much more punch to it.

In other words, it is the people “who are continually and habitually doing the things that are evil, and are constantly living their lives in spiritual darkness and in rebellion against God who experience spiritual death, both in this life and certainly in the life to come.”

But for those “who are continually and habitually coming to Jesus, the Light of the world, and who constantly are seeking to please God through their acts of obedience to Him, they are the ones who have entered into spiritual life and salvation from the condemnation that sin brings.”

So my friend, which side are you on?  If you haven’t already, I urge you to accept God’s love and receive Jesus into your life so that you can truly live.

Faith In Spite Of Suffering

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Turning Suffering Into a Testimony

Sad as it is true, life is filled with pain.  Unfortunately, many crises in our lives are not of our own doing, but have come about simply out of the unfortunate circumstances of life.  At other times, our suffering does come at the hands of others and so we have no control when it strikes us.

One of my readers of “The Listening Post” has shared confidentially with me about how hard her life has been, but she has a great testimony of faith and trust in God.  It is her desire to have her testimony shared so that it can be of encouragement to others who may have gone through similar experiences.  I will call her Shelly for the sake of her privacy.  Let me summarize for you Shelly’s story:

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“When I was a little girl, my Mom gave me away.  I have been in Foster Homes and badly beaten. I had no one to care for me.  But through everything, God was there.  At age 3, my Dad got me back.  He worked in the coal mines.  He pulled me from a burning house.  I was almost killed in two house fires and a car wreck, but God was there.

“I grew to 6 years old and had to take care of my 2 year old sister.  I cooked and cleaned and had to learn on my own.  I had stayed with my cousins who were ages 13 and age 3.  This was the second house that caught fire.  My Dad came running up the street and pulled me out, but my two cousins did not make it out.  But God was there for me.

“In 1982, two days before my graduation from school, I was sexually assaulted.  I went to the Counsellor’s office who listened and she went to the principal and they helped.  I suffered a lot in that last week of June.  But God helped me through.  There was one woman who treated me like her daughter who helped me, and when I visited her one day, I saw the picture of her oldest son.  I fell in love and so the woman called him up and told him a Christian girl wanted to meet him. 

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“He came to see me, and we fell in love at first sight.  We went together for five months and in November we got married.  But then he got sick in January and went into a hospital.  It was snowing a lot and I had to thumb a ride to the hospital in the middle of that winder storm.  The snow was up to my knees.  But I kept my faith, and God took care of us.  I knew that He was with us. 

“My husband got well and came home from the hospital in March.  He got well, and I got pregnant and gave birth to a son on December 18.  We walked everywhere, going to the stores, and to the doctors, or wherever.  We lived in a small trailer.  In ’87 I became pregnant again, and then two weeks before time to give birth I was in a car wreck.  On May 6, I gave birth to a baby boy, but he died.  It took three doctors to bring him back to life.  God had his hand in it.  He was my miracle baby. 

“Jobs were hard to get so we moved a couple time.  My brother committed suicide, but before he did, he tried to kill me and my two sons.  God was our shield and protected us.  I had some more pregnancies after that time, another son in ’92, but then lost twin girls.  We had to move a lot across Texas for my husband to find different work.  God was there and helped him find work. 

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“We did go to one church while in one town in Texas.  My son got in trouble and went to jail for 6 years.  The church turned us away, but I still knew God was with us.  Then we found a good church in Waskom, Texas and we stayed with them and the town there for eight years.  I helped out in the church, I cleaned it and handed out cards and sent birthday and get well cards.  But then we got a letter from the city that put us out of our home and on to the streets.

“The trailers in this park were not moveable and the owners were selling the land where we rented.  They wanted to build on the land.  Our pastor tried everything he could to help us.  But none of the plans succeeded.  So our church gave us a going away party.  Well, a week before this my husband called his dad who found us a trailer to live in Charleston, West Virginia.  We did not have money to move.   But our church took up a collection and we got enough to make the move. 

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“We got there in November, but the trailer had no water or heat for one month.  But God was still there.  I still have my Lord and Savior.  We were there for one week and we were looking for a good church.  And God brought us to a wonderful church.  We went in and the next thing we knew the church welcomed us with open arms, as if they were waiting for us to arrive.  WOW!!  Our God is awesome. 

“Within a week I was going to the quilting ministry group.  The church loved us and they helped us with almost $500 so we could get our water and electricity turned on.  God is so Great.  We are still Christians who are living for our Jesus.  We have helped many young people and took them off the streets and into our home.  We gave them food and shelter.  And many days now, God keeps blessing us.  Our church in Texas loves us and still misses us.  And the church here loves us too.  My life is great with my God, and His blessings keep on coming.”

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Thank you Shelly for sharing about your faith, telling us of how much you love God and God loves you, and how you show the compassion of Jesus to others who are in need.  May we all learn from you how to be stronger Christians ourselves.  Amen.

My Life Testimony – Pt. 4

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 4

Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now. In this fourth article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about the emotional and spiritual crisis that occurred when we were in Papua New Guinea and found out that our son had developed leukemia.  My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q7: Your biggest challenge at the time was when your son was diagnosed with leukemia in Papua New Guinea. How did you manage not to quit altogether out of grief? Where did you find God’s will in all this after those long years of your faithful service?

Yes, one of the greatest challenges to me emotionally and spiritually was when we were told to evacuate with our son out of PNG and go to Australia to get a diagnosis of leukemia for him confirmed.  Many of those months during the first year of his chemotherapy are still a blur to me.  Our son had to have 33 months of treatment, but the first 12 were what they called “the aggressive drugs” while the next two years were the “maintenance drugs”. 

During that first year, the job of the strong drugs was to literally kill off the new blood cell production right down to his bone marrow.  Then after that, the doctors used the maintenance drugs to slowly rebuild his blood system.

There were a few times in that first year that his blood counts went right down to zero and he was in danger of catching any other illness, even as simple as a cold or the flu, that could threaten his life.  So we lived at home and also at the hospital at times in a “quarantine” environment.  We are so thankful to God that He spared our son’s life, and we still believe that it was the prayers of God’s people that made the difference. 

In the first five weeks that we spent getting treatment for him in Brisbane, Australia, we had more than 500 emails from people around the world that had heard about our situation and were praying for our family.  Almost half of these came from people I had never heard of before.  Praise God that we are part of a larger Body of Christ as believers.

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What is interesting as I look back, is that I don’t ever remember asking God, “Why us? Why our son?  Why this illness?”  I do remember asking God, “Why now?”  We had finished all the checking on the Gospel of Mark in our village language except the final consultant check.  We were three weeks away from doing that when we got the diagnosis. 

This was also the time that followed immediately after the people of our language group went through a spiritual battle called “Cargoism” or “Cargo Cult”.  (You can read about some of this in “Satan is the True Enemy – Pt. 2“) We left the project, our house and most of our belongings in the village.  But I kept asking God, “Why didn’t you let us finish Mark and help the people at this critical time in their spiritual lives?”

Now many years later, I believe I can see that the people were not ready to receive the book of Mark.  They had to deal with the cargoism within their group first.  Then over a year later, someone else was able to complete the consultant check on Mark and get it to a publisher and take it to the people. 

Ten years later now, there is a revival movement happening among the people.  I won’t say that God deliberately gave our son the cancer (that would be a cruel God to me), but He had all things in control and used the cancer years to bring about His work in His timing among the people.

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But for me, as I watched and waited with Jill over our son, I certainly had many moments of tears and fears.  Yet I hung on strong to the promise found in Romans 8:28 that promised me that “in all things” no matter what the circumstances were, God would bring good out of the situation and show us that His love for us had never changed. 

And we saw some amazing things happen during those cancer years.  Our son was chosen to be the cancer Spokes’ Kid for “Kids Cancer Care Foundation” in Alberta in 2003.  And God used him to speak about his own faith in God despite his cancer in meetings across the Province, on radio and on television.  He even gave a speech in Calgary at one of the biggest events of the richest people in Calgary, including the Mayor of the city, and in that speech he gave testimony about how God had sustained him and cared for him in spite of his cancer.

God allowed me to experience one more terrific blessing during those few years in Canada.  I was invited by one Bible College in Saskatchewan to teach Missions and Bible courses for one year, and then the next year I was invited by the Bible College in Calgary to teach Missions and Greek.  The staffs at these two colleges have mentioned that I had the opportunity to teach some of the best students they had had for years, and some of those students (and the staff) are still talking about these classes that I taught. 

So while I cried out concerning the lost people in the villages back in PNG, and I cried out over my son, God rewarded me by giving me wonderful opportunities to continue serving Him.  To me, that was a tremendous privilege and blessing from God.

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