Adventure On My Way To Papua New Guinea

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PNG, Here I Come!

So….  The taxi came right on time and I got to the airport by about 8:40.  I went to the self-help machine and everything seemed to be going smoothly, my passport scanned nicely, and I got my Boarding Pass and luggage tag printed out.  Then I looked at the Boarding Pass and it said that boarding would start at 4:20 p.m  YIKES!!!  Did I get my information mixed up??

So I quickly went over to the ticket counter and got the attention of an Agent.  I asked, “What happened to my ticket?  I sure hope this printed wrong!”

“Oh,” he says.  “Yes, there is a mechanical problem with the plane and it will be about 6 hours before we get a replacement plane flown in.”  YIKES AGAIN!!

So as calmly as I could, although my bass voice may have been closer to soprano… 🙂  I explained that I had five flights to catch over the next 65 hours and I really couldn’t afford to get bumped off schedule on the first flight.

“Oh,” he says.  “Well, there is a plane going to Los Angeles right now.  In fact, if I hurry up here, I have two minutes to get you rebooked before we get locked out and I can’t process any more passengers.”

    

So I said, “Oh, ok.  Sounds good.  Can you do that?”  (Meanwhile, prayers are fervently going up to the One who is really in charge.)

So there we were, trying to beat the clock and not get locked out.  And without even breaking a sweat, and smiling the whole time, he did it.  I was in the system.  Of course there was no time to ask for wheelchair assistance.  And so off we went at a trot, the agent with a limp (he looked about 65 years old) pushing the cart to get me through Customs, and me hobbling/bouncing along on my two arm crutches.

The Agent was not able to go any further than the last security scan station, so I hoisted my laptop strap up over one shoulder, and my carry-on duffle strap over the other shoulder.  And you can guess where the Gate was for my plane.  Yup, it was number 25, the very last one on the concourse wing.  🙂  I got there, checked in to make sure I was still in the system, confirmed that, sat down in a nearby wheelchair, and off we went to get me boarded on the plane.

And so started my first leg of my three day journey to Papua New Guinea.

    

It was kind of unfortunate that we didn’t have another 60 seconds at the check-in counter at Calgary, as I might have been able to ask Air Canada to tag my big suitcase all the way to Brisbane.  But I figured that God would help get me and all my luggage from Terminal 2 to Terminal 7 in Los Angeles.  No problem!  After all, He got me on to that ready-to-fly plane in Calgary.

Now the young man who was my wheelchair attendant at LA was not so positively inclined as I was.  Actually, he had trouble figuring out how to push me with one hand and pull my suitcase with the other hand.  We managed to go down, up and out of the Terminal without too much difficulty.  And guess what vehicle was just pulling up to the curb as we got out the door.  Yup!  It was the Handi-Van Shuttle bus.  I knew they have some here in LA, but you usually have to wait about 20 minutes.  But it was not this day!  😀

And off I went around the horseshoe airport and over to Terminal 7.  The woman driver was so helpful.  She even turned off the vehicle, and helped me get my luggage all the way in to the ticket counter area.  But she felt bad that I was there so early (being 12 Noon) and my next flight to Sydney wasn’t until 10 p.m.  She told me I’d have to wait in this chair for a few hours until they could help check me in.

But by now, I’m thinking, “Hey, this day is going pretty good.  I think I’ll see if I can be blessed again with a nice surprise.”

So I walked over to a nearby United Agent and asked when early check in would begin.  “Well,” she said, “you can start checking in 10 hours before flight time.”  So guess what time it is?  Yup!  It’s 12:10, and I can go check in now.  Yippee!!  🙂

    

Checking in went real smooth.  I got my suitcase tagged all the way to Brisbane, via Sydney.  He then told me to go take a seat and a wheel chair person would come for me at some point.  So I figured, “I’ve got some time until they come.  I think I’ll have a little Yoghurt.”  And guess what?  By the time I had found the yoghurt, my spoon, and sat down, I looked up and “Presto” there was the wheelchair person.  Gulp, gulp, gulp.  That is definitely the fastest I’ve ever eaten yoghurt, and not regretted it later.  😉

And zooommm!!  We were through Security and on to the other side.  She asked me what my gate number was, but it didn’t even have it printed on the Boarding Pass, because I was so early and there was no way to know what gate the plane might actually arrive at.  But that’s okay.  I told the woman that I wanted to go sit in the “United Club Lounge” where it is comfortable, you can do email, and often get food and snacks there.

“Oh,” she says, “but you’re not a First Class passenger.  I don’t think they’ll let you in.”  And I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m on a roll here.  Let’s go ask them and find out.”

So we went over to the Lounge and I asked if I could buy a Day Pass, and he said, “Sure! Come right on in.”  Yippee!!

And so began my journey back to PNG where we learn to expect the unexpected.  But isn’t that where God shows up the best?  Especially for those who trust in Him.

    

My Life Testimony – Pt. 7

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 7

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 seventh and final article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about how God has helped me through spiritually to continue serving Him in spite of the muscle disease which showed up in 2008.  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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Q12: The muscle disease seems to be your next big challenge out of the blue. It is simply amazing that you keep going on despite the hindrance. How do you focus on the work when the pain comes?

[Editor’s Note: The following section is a continuation of Question 12 from “My Life Testimony – Pt. 6”]

I must mention one other very important way in which God has helped me through the past year and a half.  In the summer of 2010, the time when our PNG Director became sick and died, God used Jill to help me deal with my own pain and suffering.  The husband of our Director was quite an avid blog writer, and he found that he could deal with the sudden death of his wife through his blog writing.  Jill could see that I was still floundering in my emotional and spiritual state at that time, so she suggested that I also try to write from my heart about what was happening in my life.  That is how “The Listening Post” began.

If you go back to the very first articles, you can see how I was trying to deal with my disease, and part of that was trying to use humor to cover over my pain.  But God convicted me of that, and very quickly I realized that I had much to be thankful for in my life and that it would be much better to talk about what God had done in and through me over the years, than to complain about my illness.  This thought was further reinforced by my mother who had been asking me for years to “tell my story” about all my mission experiences.

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Within a couple months of “writing my story” down in my blog site, I saw that many people were starting to read my articles and I was hearing from quite a few people of how blessed they were after reading my articles.  Most of my days are spent sitting in my recliner chair with my legs up to manage the pain, and I had no idea that God was calling me to use my time at home while I sat in front of my computer to be a ministry outreach to other people on the other end of the Internet.  Jill has given this a name and says that God has blessed me with an “Armchair Ministry”.

I can say in all honesty that this blog writing has been as much a blessing to me as it has been to my audience.  In 2009 and 2010, my eyes were on myself and the misery I felt from daily pain and barely having any life outside my home.  Now I look forward to every article I write as God reminds me of His faithfulness over the years, and continues to teach me new truths from His Word.  I can hardly wait to get back to the computer to share another article with my audience.  My life is no longer consumed by focusing in on my pain; it has expanded to see God and His goodness and His glory.

Q14: Finally, could you share with our readers, the invaluable joy of following Jesus and the great rewarding feeling that helped you triumph over all your life’s trial?

In Revelation 7:9-10 it says, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 

There is no greater blessing than seeing the faces of people here in PNG (or anywhere) really light up with joy and reverence as they hear the Word of God spoken in their mother tongue language.  We have heard many times the people say, “Before, God only spoke the White Man’s language; now God is speaking my language.”  And the message of God ignites a fire of faith in the hearts of these people. 

It will be my joy one day up in Heaven to have people coming to me from all these language groups that I have worked with and say to me, “Because you gave of your life and helped to bring God’s Word to us in our language, we too have come to believe in Jesus and we stand around the Throne of Glory as brothers and sisters in the faith, singing praises to our God.”

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This completes the articles on the interview that I had from the magazine “Guideposts”.  It was an honor to be chosen by one of the editors of that magazine.  What I have not mentioned is that it was for the Korean office that I was interviewed.  The article about my life and work as a Bible translator, and as someone who depends on God for strength each day to be able to do this work went out across Korea in over 10,000 copies of the magazine.  My prayer is that all I have shared will bring glory to God in Korea, and around the world wherever these blog articles are being read.  May God bless you richly.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Pioneer Bible Translators of Canada

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How It All Began

When I tell people that I am a Bible translator, they often ask me if I am a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  That’s not unusual since WBT is the single largest Bible translating organization in the world and has been around for over 80 years now.  So I respond, “No, I’m with a smaller group called Pioneer Bible Translators.”  And you can read here about how PBT first got started in the States back in the ‘70s.

When I say I am with PBT of Canada, then people want to know how it began.  This is a great story and I love to pass it on.  It goes back to the early 90’s when Jill and I were seeking direction from God as to how we could be involved in the overseas ministry of Bible translation.  Ever since I was a teenager I was interested in becoming a translator.

In 1990, Jill and I attended a month long orientation course in California put on by Wycliffe which allowed us to see what they were like and they could get to know us.  That course confirmed for me that this is what I wanted to do as a ministry.  At the end of the course, the recommendation was that Jill and I stay settled a little longer in Canada, get our debts reduced and strengthen our marriage before we head to the mission field.

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So we spent the next couple years doing pastoral ministry in Central Canada and worked on all the things we were told to be working on.  We got to the point where it looked like the timing was right to move ahead with our application with Wycliffe.  We sent in all our paper work, but we didn’t hear back from them.  So life carried on and our family by this point in 1993 was in Prince Edward Island in the Maritimes of Canada.

In talking with a good friend at that time, the question came up about whether I was going to go into mission work.  The desire was there, but the timing wasn’t right.  But from that discussion the door opened to pursue my biblical languages again and we moved to Lincoln, IL.  I loved the Greek and Hebrew studies.  And then someone introduced me to one of the staff of the school who just happened to be on the Board of Pioneer Bible Translators.

After having a good discussion with this man, he invited me to drive with him to Dallas to attend their Fall Board meeting.  For a period of four days, I heard all about what PBT was and what they were doing in the world.  My interest in Bible translation was then fanned from a small ember into a blazing fire.  When Jill asked me when I got back as to what I thought, I said, “Start packing.  We’re going to Dallas.”

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In September of 1994, I began my two years of linguistic studies, mostly in Dallas, but also one summer in North Dakota.  Part of PBT’s training was to attend two one-week courses held each June to get more familiar with PBT and get ready for field ministry.  We took our second course in 1995.  At that time, the Board also met to make decisions for the mission.  As students, we were invited to attend one of their sessions.

After the hour together with the Board, the Chairman asked us all if we had any questions or thoughts to share.  It was at that moment that I believe God empowered me to speak up and say, “One day I believe there will be a PBT of Canada.”  Everyone in the room paused to consider this thought and then they broke out into applause.  What a wonderful moment that was to think about what God might do next for us and through us.

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There was a very practical reason for wanting to believe that there would one day be a PBT of Canada.  As Canadians, there was no legal way for churches or individuals in Canada to send money to PBT-US to help support the work we would be doing and be able to get a charitable donation receipt.  There had to be a Canadian mission agency existing through which we could be sent to the field and through whom people could send their donations.

Many discussions were held between me and Rondal Smith, the president at that time of PBT-US.  We both felt that we needed to have a meeting with Canadian pastors.  I told him about the annual “Pastors and Wives Retreat” held in western Canada each winter and suggested that we try to speak with them at that time.  We did get an invitation to attend the Retreat and Rondal spoke for a half hour one afternoon challenging the pastors to consider started a Canadian organization and help in the task of bringing God’s Word to the Bible-less peoples of the world.

We announced that we would have a meeting that evening for anyone interested in starting a PBT of Canada mission.  Quite a few pastors said yes.  The funny part about this story is that the Retreat was held at a hot springs resort, and wanting to enjoy the facilities while having this meeting, we all agreed to get our swim trunks on and meet in the hot pool.

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And that is how PBT of Canada started.  From that famous “Hot Pool Meeting”, a handful of pastors worked with us to build the foundation of a new Canadian mission.  In June of 1996, it was announced at the annual PBT training course that PBT of Canada had just been granted its official status as a Christian Charity in Canada.  Eight months later, on February 15th of 1997, Jill and I and our two young boys stepped on to the soil of Papua New Guinea to begin our career as a Bible translation family.  Praise the Lord!

The Facts About Faith

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What Is Faith – Part 2

This is the second article in this miniseries that I want to write on the topic of faith.  In the first article, “Faith Comes by Hearing“, we learned that faith is something that we can actually get.  And this comes, or begins, at the moment when we first hear the Good News about Christ, and accept that message as being true and we put our faith, or trust, in Christ.

What we are declaring is that everything that is said about this man Jesus is true, and that all the things that He has said are also true.  But there is one fallacy that I would like to correct that is in the minds of some people, namely that faith (or belief) is something that was important in the past, and will one day be rewarded in the future (namely our acceptance by God into Heaven), and have very little connection to our daily lives today.

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You see, true faith is not just a decision made in the past, nor is it just a spiritual reality that only relates to our future in Heaven.  Rather, faith is a journey to be traveled, and it is based upon a relationship with God, and is to be lived out in our daily lives..  Romans 1:17 says it well as Paul wrote, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

As we go through life and encounter all kinds of difficult situations, we must believe that God will work things out positively for us, or He will provide the resources (or the means) to be able to walk through those difficult periods in our lives.  Otherwise, all of the numerous promises found within Scripture (such as God being our Provider, our Healer, our Comforter, etc) get reduced to just figurative speech and are of little value to us right now.

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In listening to one of the sermons from Leon Fontaine on this topic of faith, he tells us that as Christians, we all have faith within us.  We do not need to psyche ourselves up to get or find faith, but rather, we are to actually exercise our faith.  When we accepted Christ into our lives, we were given the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

So the question is not whether we have faith or not, but whether our faith is active or if we let it lay dormant.  Jesus showed the disciples what things can happen when we exercise this kind of faith in Mark chapter 11. This is where Jesus spoke against the fig tree that had not produced any fruit and within a day it had completely withered from the roots up.

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When the disciples responded with amazement at this miracle, Jesus told them that they too could do mighty things simply by faith. He told them that the mountains can be moved by faith. (Personally, I take this to be one place where Jesus was using hyperbole or figurative language to teach an important truth.) The message that Jesus was trying to get across was that no matter what kind of obstacle lies in our path, by faith we can overcome.

There was one more point in pastor Leon’s message that I thought was interesting. He mentioned how Jesus told his disciples that they should “speak to the mountain”.  I think there is truth to the idea that when we actually speak something aloud that there is power in those words. Not that the words themselves carry power, because that would be very similar to the idea of using magic incantations, but rather by speaking them aloud it simply reveals the faith that is there in the person’s heart.

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I can still remember an event that happened in my life that I think can illustrate the things that I have just written. In my teenage years, I struggled with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and had to constantly be eating throughout the day to keep my sugar levels in balance. It got to the point by the time I was almost 20 that I felt like I was in bondage to food.

Due to the dangers of going into a hypoglycemic attack, which could look like I was having a seizure, I wore a medical alert bracelet on my wrist. But a very interesting thing happened while I was part of a traveling mission group. I had been studying the Bible on the topic of healing  and on one night that I was to lead the devotional time, I literally felt a surge of faith within me and I knew I was to speak these words of faith with regards to my illness.

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I turned to one of my friends in the group and I asked him to come over and take the bracelet off my wrist. When he asked me why, I told him and the group that I had a strong sense that God was going to heal me, but to actualize that faith I had to say out loud, “I’m healed! So now as an act of faith I want you to remove this bracelet.”

And guess what? Ever since that day in 1979, I’ve been free from the bondage to food and from serious hypoglycemic attacks. I still to this day believe that it was because I was walking in a daily relationship with God that I sensed him telling me that I was healed, and that when I spoke to my “mountain” that my faith was fully realized and actualized in my life. My faith relationship with God at that moment expanded beyond just the spiritual realm to impact me at the physical level.

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STAY  TUNED…

In a few days, I will listen to the next sermon on faith and then I will share what I’ve learned in another article. I pray that this article has been an encouragement to other Christians to speak out their faith and to see mighty things happen as well in their lives.

And The Angels Rejoiced

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A “Hevi” Moment Turns Hearts to God

I just recently came across an article that we had written sometime after the first year of our time living in a remote village in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.  The vast majority of Papuans consider themselves to be Christians, based on the fact they had been baptized in infancy, and they were able to confess their sins once a year when a priest came around.

For the rest of each year, the people mostly revert back to their animistic roots.  They are afraid of evil spirits, and would like to find out how they can harness the spiritual forces of all the spirits and spiritual forces that surround them so that they can use these powers to be beneficial for themselves.

So there is a surface veneer of Christianity, while there is a deeper core belief in the power of the animistic forces that surround them every day.  This is the backdrop against an event that happened in our village.  Here is the story….

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When an unexpected or unhappy event happens in the village it is called a “hevi” (heavy).  During an afternoon meeting we heard “wanpela pikinini em i dai” which translated says, “one little child has died!”  (An important bit of language learning here, the pidgin word “dai” by itself meant to faint or be unconscious.)

John brought his son, Nika, to our PBT house and we had prayer for him. (Names changed for privacy sake.)  John was convinced that the illness was brought on by the workings of black magic.  Jill went to the clinic to ask the doctors their opinion and the word was that Nika had cerebral malaria.  With the amount of seizures he had, they were not very optimistic about the outcome.

The next day, word came that Nika had “dai finis” (died completely).  But John couldn’t find a way to deal with this sudden death of his son.  He was convinced that an old man of our village was a “sanguma man” (sorcerer) and had worked black magic which caused not only the illness but also the death.  When the old man heard the accusation, he fled into the jungle afraid that John would now seek to kill him in return.  But I sent word to the old man to come to see me, and let me talk to him.

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I also sent word out so that many PBT people and friends would pray for both of these families, and for wisdom for all the leadership of the village.  The old man did come back and they all marked Sunday afternoon to have a village meeting.  The local council leaders would come and hear the “evidence” as John would set out to prove that black magic was used to kill his son.

I was invited to attend the meeting.  After listening to all the arguments, I then added my thoughts about how the child had been under our care, was on the mission property (which they considered to be God’s territory) when he had actually died the week earlier, and had also been covered by the prayers of many people.  I presented the thought that the child was in God’s hands before he died and that no force of this world could “cause” the death.

The meeting broke out into a heated argument from both sides.  And even though I tried to help them see what Scripture has to say about the power of God and the power of prayer being more powerful than any spiritual force of this world, John refused to change his opinion about the old man.  This had gone on for a few hours, and no final conclusions were made.  I was quite upset with how things had turned out.

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So all the discussions stopped and since they couldn’t come to an agreement on the case, it would then have to go to the provincial court.  This would not be good for anyone, and our village would be marked as one that has a history of black magic trouble.  The meeting broke up, but then the women began to bring food out for everyone.  (This is the normal way to show hospitality after any kind of meeting.)

I felt emotionally sick about the whole meeting….so I just handed my food to one of the men and said, “I’m too upset to eat,” and I came home.  Now in this culture, it is a major insult to refuse food.  However, it also shows that someone is “bel hevi” (heavy-hearted) when they do not accept the gift of food being offered.

And so I left the meeting, and crossed the shallow stream to go to my house, and I was so upset that I stomped back and forth around my house feeling frustrated at the whole affair.  But about 15 minutes later, two council members came by and said they wanted to talk to me.  I came out and they said, “It’s a miracle!  They’ve shaken hands!”

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Since “shaking hands” is a cultural way of saying that someone has forgiven wrongs done to them by someone else, I was absolutely amazed.  So I asked them to repeat what they had said, thinking that I had missed something in the language.  But both these council members could speak English too, and they said in very plain English, “It’s all settled.  God has brought us a miracle.”

And in a state of disbelief, I asked how this miracle came about.  And one village elder said, “Well, didn’t you say you and many of your PBT friends were praying?”  I said “Yes.”  And he responded, “Well, God answered those prayers.”  And that was good enough for him, and it also was good enough for me.

And just as we were speaking, we heard the sound of singing.  It was a group from the church that had come back from a village hike and they were singing and praising God for their safe return to our village.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  It reminded me of Luke 15:10 about the angels rejoicing whenever a sinner repents.  I wish I could have peeked into heaven at that moment.  But I have a sense that yes indeed, the angels were rejoicing that day.

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God Is Healing Me!

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By Faith, One Step at a Time!

Last month I had an incredible experience. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God is real and alive and He answers the prayers of His people. In Scripture, God is clearly seen as the God of miracles. Scripture also says that He never changes. Based on that truth, and on the testimony of thousands upon thousands of believers today, I believe that God is still the God of miracles today. Let me share my story:

I will not forget the wonderful night in April when we gathered to celebrate communion as a body of believers. It was a beautiful experience of fellowship and worship. More importantly, I will not forget the call to healing at the end of the service. And I knew that God was tugging at my heart and working within me. I felt an electric spark go through me that night, and my heart yearned for Jesus. I was one of many who went forward that evening asking God to do a miracle within me.

During the time of standing at the front, I had tears running down my face as I worshipped Jesus with song from my lips, and my heart and mind were praying to and praising Him. At the end of the service I had a deep need to go to the Senior Pastor. My heart was alive with hope and faith, while at the same time I wept over my years of pain and illness.

When I was able to get to the pastor, I had to hold on to him and weep from the depths of my soul. I don’t know why I wept so. He asked what was wrong that I wept the cry of a person who is mourning over someone who has died. I told him my story briefly, how that I have barely been able to walk for three years. The pastor asked if I believed that Jesus has healed me and I said yes, I do believe.

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Now let me give a little more background here. It has been since May of 2008 that I have not been able to walk, at least not more than 40 feet without some form of assistance. On good days, and for short distances of less than 50 feet, I would use my walking poles.  (When people asked, I would say, “I am an athlete in slow motion!!)  For intermediate distances, I would use my arm support crutches, and for long distance I would use my walker.

In 2009, I met with a godly couple who know how to lead a person in deep listening prayer. Just like most people, I wanted to know from God if there was a reason I had suddenly been hit with this muscle disease.  So I asked God at that time if there was any sin in my life that might have led to this happening to me. And I know I met with God in that prayer moment.

God gave me a deep sense of peace back then, and during the prayer time I was given a form of a vision, of Jesus kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. I heard (or understood) God to say, “Just as I asked my Son to carry this pain for a purpose, so too I am asking you to carry this pain for a season. And through this you will bring me honour and glory.”

I have believed for these past two years that God gave me that message. And it has been a great comfort to me to know that through my weakness, His strength is made known. In many ways, I have seen more people blessed in these past few years, as they saw me continue the ministry of Bible translation across the world despite my disability and pain, than I have seen in all the years of my service to God before this point.

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I think that what happened on the communion night is that I bared my soul before God as I praised Him, but I also asked Him to release me of this burden and allow me to walk again. My mind wants to tell me that nothing has changed since then, but my heart believes that healing is coming from the Lord. Not all at once, but in small degrees I am going to “walk” in faith that the healing is coming.

From a medical point of view, my disease (Mitochondrial Myopathy) can be simplified this way. Basically my body is producing bad mitochondria (the energy production part within all our cells) which results in fatigue and pain. And by faith (as simplistic as it may sound), I am believing that God is going to replace all my bad mitochondria with good ones. And when that happens, then I will be able to walk and jump and run once more.

So now you know where I am at, and what happened that night. It is painfully obvious that I am not fully healed yet, but by faith, I am stepping out to walk more, one step at a time. Please keep me in your prayers that the process of healing will not be stopped or slowed down by circumstances or doubt. I claim the promise in Isaiah 40:31,

They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings of eagles. They will run and not get weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Translating Ephesians

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Insights From Checking Ephesians

Earlier this week I finished doing the consultant check on the translation of Ephesians into one of the languages of Papua New Guinea.  It would take too long here to explain the process of doing a translation consultant checking session, so I will leave that for a future article.  What I would like to do now, and on each of the Thursday articles over the next seven weeks, is to share some insights that we have made into some of the verses of Scripture that we are checking.  Needless to say, in this limited space, I will only touch on a couple of the more interesting discoveries we have made.

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“In Christ”

This phrase, “in Christ”, is one of Paul’s favorite expressions to describe our state as Christians.  He uses this exact phrase 12 times in the book of Ephesians, and the idea of it is at least more than double that if you include phrases like “in Him” or “in whom”.  In other words, it is a very common phrase found throughout the book.  But what does it mean to be “in Christ”.

Most commentaries will use wording like “united with Christ”, or “joined with Christ”, and this is helpful.   But I love how the T. language handles this phrase.  It literally says “we who are stuck to Christ”.  To me, it gives the picture of us being super-glued to Jesus.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we do not have a casual “take-it-or-leave-it” relationship with Him.

It is more like we are “joined at the hips” and so what He wants, we want, and what He has (i.e. all the spiritual blessings of heaven – v. 1:4) we also have.  This is such a comforting thought to me.  The God that I believe in is not some distant deistic God who doesn’t care or involve Himself in our lives.  No, when we are “stuck to Jesus”, we have become partners and co-heirs with Jesus, who is the Son of God.

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“The Mystery that was Hidden”

Another word that is one of Paul’s favorites in the book of Ephesians is the word “mystery”.  This word shows up 7 times in the book, and it in itself is a bit of mystery when you first start reading the book.  Paul introduces the word in 1:9-10, and says that “God had made known to us the mystery of His will…which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times have reached their fulfillment…

Paul goes on in the rest of verse 10 to explain what the mystery is, namely, “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”  Even though this world and its course appears to be chaotic and meaningless to some, there is in fact a master plan which will all be revealed and order restored when Christ one day will come back to rule the world.

In chapter five, Paul talks about another “mystery”, and it is based on the picture of a husband and wife relationship.  Quoting from the Old Testament, in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  But then Paul says the mystery is the fact that what happens between Christ and His people is just like a marriage relationship.  There is a spiritual union that happens between Christ and the Church that is just as mysterious as the spiritual union of a husband and wife.

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But chapter three is Paul’s best use of the word “mystery”.  He uses the word four times, and he is so excited about the wonder of the mystery that had once been hidden but now is made known, first to him and then to us through Paul.  He says in verse two and three that people should know God had given the task to Paul to make this mystery known, and after reading his words, they too would understand the insight Paul has into this great mystery.

He then goes on in verse five to state that the mystery “was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”  And by this time, after waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more, you want to scream out to Paul, “So what is this great mystery?”

I almost believe that Paul did this deliberately, to tease us along for quite a few verses, just so that we would catch the full impact of what this mystery is when he finally revealed it to us.  And the key verse to this chapter, and to much of the entire epistle is found in verse 6 of chapter 3.  It reads:

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

When we reflect deeply on this, it is truly amazing that after many millenia of bitter hatred and wars fought between those who were Jews, and those who were not Jews, it is amazing that peace and unity can be found for them in Christ, and together they will share the eternal blessings of God.

It is for certain that in Jesus’ day that such a statement of God’s will, namely the “breaking down of the walls of hostility” between these two ethnic groups, would have been quite a revolutionary thought.  But what is really profound is that God had intended from the beginning of time to bring peace to those who are by nature bitter enemies.  And if God can do that for the Jews and non-Jews, then God can do that between any two hostile groups today.  So let us pray that this peace of God, by means of the Gospel, can truly be known by all peoples today, and that all would see His unfathomable love for all mankind.

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