The Listening Post 2014 Review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

    

Helping Children of Papua New Guinea Learn to Read

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How Many Legs Does A Rat Have in Papua New Guinea

[Editor’s Note: this is a thank you letter which was recently sent out from one missionary who works here in PNG to a church back in America who has supported this literacy efforts among a people group called Mborena Kam.]

For years the Mborena Kam schools have been trying to teach their children to read their own language without the benefit of books. The books that were developed over 20 years ago had worn out and the government had shifted away from the vernacular pre-school approach to a full Elementary Prep curriculum. Your generous gifts have allowed the Mborena Kam to prepare over 80 books in their own language including an alphabet book,  and books with vernacular songs, finger plays, and games. In addition, your gifts are paying for  kits of Elementary Prep materials that will be used in 4 schools in the school year that starts at the end of January 2014.

In this next year we hope to help the Mborena Kam develop a full set of curriculum for the Elementary 1 school year. The Papua New Guinea government allows religious instruction as a part of the curriculum, so two times each week, the children will read and talk about a Bible story and sing Christian songs in their language.  When we were looking ahead at 2014, it looked as if it would be impossible to produce the materials due to lack of PBT personnel for all the data entry work, but God was a step ahead of us and he is raising up volunteers to help with the production of Elementary 1 curriculum in their language.  Please pray that these volunteers can help the Mborena Kam and others to produce materials for their Elementary 1 curriculum quickly.

    

Last July I had the pleasure of working with the Mborena Kam teachers as they learned to use the new Elementary Prep Curriculum that teaches children how to read in their own language. Thank you for providing the funding that enabled us to train a group of Mborena Kam teachers.

Below are a few stories from the Teacher Training Course:

“That sounds like a rap song. You were just talking. You weren’t singing,” said Gregory. I was sort of shocked by his analysis of my singing especially since I was using a simple tune that we sang hundreds of time in the car when I was a child in the 1960’s – hardly a time when rap music was around.  So, I decided that that American tune would not transfer cross-culturally to this group of Elementary Prep teachers.   I then asked what tune we should use and they said, “The Five Little Piggies tune” – a tune that is obviously used in all schools in the area.  As I think about their critique of my singing, I am still chuckling at being identified as a “rap” music person!

    

Later in the week, I asked all of the groups to look at their translation of the book “Looking for Legs” – a math counting book that talks about how many “legs” various creatures have.  The pictures start with snakes, which have no legs, and finish with millipedes, which have lots of legs.  It is a fun book that children enjoy, but there was one problem. I had them look at the rat picture and asked them, “How many legs does a rat have and they all said, “Two legs.”  Then they all looked at their translations and all had followed the English/Tok Pisin in which the rats had 4 legs.

In PNG cultures, however, rats have two legs and two hands.  Then we checked the other creatures. Ants and spiders had hands and legs in all 4 languages.  Centipedes had either hands only or legs only depending on the language. Millipedes showed even more variety.  Two  languages had all legs, one had all hands, and one both hands and legs.  In addition to this issue of hands and legs, when all 4 languages talked about hands and legs, they talked about legs and hands – legs always are mentioned first. After that discussion, each group revised their book. While they were revising, I assured them that it was OK for them to use their cultural way of counting legs and hands.  God loves variety and that variety was very obvious in this simple book.

    

The 3 week course in July was full to overflowing with games, songs, finger plays and helping the teachers to try to read and follow instructions in the new Elementary Prep curriculum.  Time after time I was reminded of the fact that they come from oral cultures in which they need to see and do things in order to learn.  Thankfully, the teachers all enjoyed role plays and some of them were quite ornery students, especially when the teacher threw in an English word that the children wouldn’t have known.

My favorite was, “Teacher, what is ‘sep’?  Are you talking about a man shaving?” The teacher said, “No. A ‘sep’ [shape] is something like a circle or a square or a triangle (more words that children wouldn’t know).”

Praise God with me for the teachers and for the large group of missionaries and interns who worked furiously at the office producing new books as they were written.  Because of all of their hard work, four language groups now have complete kits of materials for Elementary Prep with well over 80 books for each language group.

Thank you for helping the children of Papua New Guinea learn to read God’s Word.  [Amen!!]

Bible Translation Notepad

2013 In Review – Thank You Dear Readers

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What Happened To Norm?

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I’m wondering if this is a question that has been in anyone’s mind recently.  Although I should qualify this question.  I know my family all know where I am.  And many of my friends know what I am doing.  But for those who are not in the category of “Norm’s family” or “Norm’s friends”, for those who have been visiting The Listening Post or are subscribers to the blog, this question may have come up.

Why would I raise  this question?  Well, for all those who are following me on this devotional blog site, it should have been noticed that the frequency of articles coming out has been declining over the past year.  Back in 2011 and 2012, I was writing three articles every week: to share about all the missionary experiences I have had over a lifetime, to walk through a Christian book chapter by chapter, and to do a Bible study on the Gospel of John.

But since the beginning of 2013, I was only able to write two articles a week for about half a year, and then it became only one article a week.  And then suddenly there were no articles for the past few weeks.  Oh no!!  Did that horrible monster called “Writer’s Block” come up and attack Norm!  Or did the “fount of knowledge” simply run dry for him.

    

Nah!!  Nothing so ordinary as that.  The simple truth is that God has been so good to allow me to be more active for Him in ministry over here in Papua New Guinea, that there really is so much to say, but so little time to sit down and write about it.  There is an interesting universal law at work here I think, which goes something like “The universe cannot stand having a void.”  The idea is that when there is extra space, something will fill it up.

We see this in normal day living.  When a family lives in a small house, the rooms, cupboards and storage spaces all get filled up.  Now what happens when this same family is able to move into a much larger house?  In almost every case, within less than a year, you will still find all the rooms, cupboards and storage space are still all filled up.  How is that possible?  Simply this: we like to fill up our space.

    

Now consider with me this universal law from a Christian perspective.  What happens when a Christian gives freely of their time, their talents and their treasures (money or material possessions).  It is said that a person “can never out give the Lord”.  And this is very true.  When we give some of our money or material possessions away in order to help others or to advance the work of God, it is so often true that God will turn some situation around and bring back an awesome material or financial blessing in return.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  We should never give with the sole purpose or intention of getting something from God.  God does not operate this way.  For Scripture tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Corinthians 9:7)  But the Bible also says that when we give, it will be given back to us by God in “good measure, pressed down and running over”.  (Luke 6:38)  When we give of what we have (in any form) then God will fill back up our emptiness with the abundance of His overflowing blessings.

    

So what has all this to do with my question at the beginning  of “What happened to Norm?”  Well, when the muscle disease first hit me back in 2008, I suddenly found my world shrank down to place very tight boundaries on what I could do in life.  In many ways, my space of existence during the day was not much more than the easy chair recliner in my living room.  But thankfully, I could still do some of my mission work on my computer, and the Internet became my doorway through which I could go to access the rest of the world.

Slowly over the past two years, Jill and I have together been challenging those boundaries by faith, and we made longer and longer trips over to Papua New Guinea so that I could sit in another reclining chair and do the consultant checking of translated Scriptures that is happening among many Papuan languages.  So as we challenged and expanded those boundaries, God filled up the space with more ministry activity.

This expansion of my space and physical abilities (in spite of what the doctors have been telling me) has been an exciting journey of faith.  And it culminated in January 2013 when I was chosen and elected by the Members of our mission group here in PNG to become their Director over all the Language Programs.  Wow, isn’t God amazing.

    

So for the past 8 months, I have been on quite a steep learning curve to know how to fulfill my role as the Language Director, overseeing 13 translation and literacy projects within our Madang Province.  Pretty much every little corner of free space I had before has become full of very exciting ministry work among the peoples of PNG.  And it is because of this that I have reduced down to writing only one blog story each week.  And I do hope that they are meeting some need in your life.  I pray that my articles can be used by God to fill you and to bring healing and joy to you as well.

But to answer the last question as to why I have not written a story for almost a month now is mostly due to a much simpler reason.  Jill still works back in Canada as a nurse, and her income helps us to live on two continents.  Well, Jill was able to use her vacation time to come over for three weeks.  And what great three weeks they were.  After not seeing Jill for nearly two months, you can understand and forgive me that I did not write a new article for you.  Besides the “urgent” aspects of my job, all my eyes could see was my fair maiden Jill.  But starting yesterday, she flew back to Canada again.  So I hope I will not disappoint you  now to get at least one new article posted every week…..(at least until my darling Jill shows up again in February.)  😀

Head Hunting Days In PNG Are Over

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The Gospel Has Transformed PNG Culture

Making changes in the rough draft of a translation of Scripture can be a very slow, tedious process.  In the article written below by one of our PBT missionaries, she relates how difficult it was to check the translation of John in one language, and was only able to finish checking chapters 1-15 of John in a three week period.  Praise the Lord that she and the language team were able to identify rough spots that needed some corrections and these have now been entered into the computer.

Changing the hearts and minds of a people group can take much, much longer.  This is especially true here in Papua New Guinea, where tribal warfare, fear of evil spirits and all manner of animistic practices have reigned for millennia among the hundreds of distinct linguistic and cultural groups of this country.  But praise God even more, that we are seeing the fruit of countless missionaries and budding churches here as the lives of many Papuan people have been and are being transformed by the Gospel.

                                

“This isn’t right!  What is this ‘doing the head’ thing anyway?  We don’t talk like that!” said one man.  After several rounds of discussions about how to communicate “hate/treat someone as an enemy, ” the national translator finally said, “I have something that will work.”  After a few more minor corrections of pronouns, the first man and the other translation assistants were giving good back-translations and everyone agreed that the phrase was accurate. 

The literal back-translation of John 15:23 now says, “One man dislikes me and puts the head and sees me, he also will dislike my father and put the head and see him.”  In the NIV this reads as follows, “He who hates me hates my Father as well.”

Wanting to better understand this idiom for hate/treat as an enemy, I asked them to explain it a bit more.  One of the older men said, in the past our ancestors fought with various neighbouring language groups.  The leader of our village/clan would take a trophy – the head of an enemy and bring it back after a fight.  They would sometimes eat the edible parts, but sometimes they would just let it rot until it was just a skull and then they would paint it red and hang it up in the leader’s house. That is the way we showed that we were treating those people as enemies.” 

I asked if anyone living had participated in those kind of raids, and he assured me that when the first missionaries came, all of  that had ended.  He had just grown up hearing the stories about it all and various idioms from their head-hunting days (such as the one above) are still a part of their language.  He ended by saying that if it were still the head-hunting days, there would be no way that he could safely travel to Madang – he would have been killed.  Hearing the stories from probably 100 years or more ago, made me very thankful for the transforming power of missionaries on a country that had been controlled by tribal warfare.   

    

A few days before this discussion, we had been struggling with the concept of “peace”.  In the language of wider communication, “peace” is referred to as having a “stomach that is soft/slow/at rest” – bel isi.  The translation checkers, however, objected to the literal translation of this phrase into their own language and said, “What is this soft stomach stuff!”  I tried several scenarios to help them find the correct term. The one that worked best was when I asked, “After you have been fighting for a while with another village/language group, how do you resolve it?” 

They explained that after things were talked through and people all had “one thought” they planted a coconut as a symbol of the peace, the fact that they now had “one thought”.  I explained that John 14:27 was saying that when people end the fighting and have “one thought,” it only lasts for a while and eventually fighting will break out again about something. However, when Jesus does it and we have “one thought,” then that kind of “one thought”  will last forever.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14.27 (NIV)

After three hard weeks, we ran out of time and thanked God that we had been able to complete the checking and revising of John 1-15.  It was a difficult checking session in which the rough draft was heavily revised.  Thank you for praying that we would find the problems.  God definitely answered those prayers.  Pray that the discussions we had about peace and many other important concepts will have an impact on the lives of all the participants in the checking session.  Please pray too that we will find a time to complete the checking of the Gospel of John in 2014.

    

Prayer:  “Lord God, we praise You that the truth of Your Word can be expressed in every language of the world.  We pray that You would help all of the missionaries and the national translators who work so diligently to find the best way to express Your truth into their local languages.  We praise You for the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ so that we are no longer Your enemies, and that You can grant to us Your eternal peace.  May this message of Love continue to transform the lives of the people here in Papua New Guinea and around the world.  Amen!”

Praise God

The Bomb That Did Not Explode

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It is always exciting to read a suspenseful story.  It’s quite something else if you are a part of that story.  For most of who are involved in doing mission work, the exciting stories usually have to do with some experience that we have had while living overseas doing our work somewhere in the mission field of the world.  But the following story, which just came out in September 2013, has to do with something that happened over 50 years ago.  Read Linda’s story:

                                

Powerful Providence

A radio news item caught my ear last week and quickly had my full attention. It was not about a current event, but rather something that happened 52 years ago. A recently revealed secret US government document showed that on January 23, 1961 an atomic bomb was accidently released from an American B-52 bomber over Goldsboro, North Carolina. It was 260 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. [i]

The errant bomb was equipped with four safety switches to prevent detonation in an accidental release such as this. The first three switches failed to operate. The fourth, a very vulnerable low-voltage switch was the only thing that kept that bomb from detonating and decimating the US eastern seaboard.

My parents, brother and sister were living in Jacksonville, North Carolina on that day, just 70 miles from Goldsboro. The blessed event of my birth in Jacksonville, North Carolina in December 1961 obviously would never have happened if that fourth switch had malfunctioned like the other three switches. I believe God made sure that last switch worked. I believe He saved us.

    

Really Linda? You think that was about you? Well why did God save your family but He didn’t save the people who died at the mall in Nairobi last week? Or those who died from the earthquake in Pakistan this week? Or the people who are being killed in Syria and Afghanistan right this moment? I honestly don’t know. I don’t understand. But I do know for certain it is God’s will for me to be serving Him in Africa in September 2013.

It was His providence which orchestrated many events in history to make this possible. He could not accomplish His will of sending me to East Africa if I had never been born. So yes, I believe that one of the myriad reasons His hand was on the switch that day was because of my calling. I remember the stories of God’s providence throughout the Bible, and I believe He is the same today as He was in those days – willing and able to do what it takes to accomplish His perfect plans.

    

That is just how my mind works and how I live my life – I believe. I trust God; I rely on Him and know that even though I will someday die, no one or nothing can take my life unless and when He decides for it to happen. You see, my life belongs to Him and no one else; not to even me, because I gave it to Him. So what is my part in all of this? To cling to God’s grace, love, provision and mercy; to listen to His Spirit and to say yes to whatever He asks of me.

You have a part in it too. I long to hear you (yes you) say to me, “… we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:11b-12 (NASB)

                                

I would have to agree that one of the great mysteries of our world is that we can never know why some good things happen to certain people, and bad things happen to other people.  We would want to conclude from our own human reasoning that good things should happen to good people, and bad things should happen to bad people.

But the Scriptures do not support this idea.  In Matthew 5:45, it says, “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” [ii]  In other words, God will allow both good and evil things to be distributed to all people, though not necessarily in proportionate amounts.  Our family has felt that it has carried more than our fair share of crises: a pregnancy death, considering the option of bankruptcy, our son getting leukemia, and now I deal daily with the family genetically inherited mitochondrial disease.

The question we must all ask ourselves is this, “In light of what has just happened, how should we respond?”  Jill and I learned an important life skill statement to help us through.  It says, “Given this…then what?”  All of us will experience many experiences in life.  When we find we are in the middle of a very difficult life situation, we could get angry, but that almost always back fires on us.

    

We could choose to simply accept the situation as being out of our control, but I would contend that this is self-defeating as I believe that there is always some action we can take, under the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of course.

And so that leaves me with the saying, “Given this… then what?”  We will all need to realize that there is the possibility of happening at any time.  Our response to this is not to get angry, but simple decide what the most appropriate action would be, and then to do it.  And Linda, I’m so glad that that bomb did not go off, for then I would never have had the privilege to be able to call you my friend.  Blessings upon you.

Praise God

 


[ii] Tyndale House Publishers. (2007). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (3rd ed.). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers

A Journey Through The Jungle For God

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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.

    

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.

Countryside  9

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.

    

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.

    

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.

My Life Testimony & Being a Missionary

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When I was very young, going to church every Sunday was the normal thing for our family to do.  I should qualify this by saying that it was my mother who would bring the kids with her to church.  My father wanted nothing to do with religion.  By the time I was in Grade 6, my older brothers were in High School and we were not really serious about God.  Only my sister seemed to like going to a Youth Group at another church.

My sister invited me the next year when I was old enough, and I started to see that not all Christians were boring.  In that Fall of 1972, our Youth Group went to a Youth Conference in northern Alberta, and I was surprised to find hundreds of young people getting “excited about Jesus”.  It was at the banquet night, when a girl sang the song “For Those Tears He Died”, that I suddenly found that I too was crying, for Someone was starting to melt my toughened little heart.

    

I started to attend this church in Calgary with keen interest and I would listen to the messages each week.  Afterwards, I would go up to the preacher and ask lots of deep questions.  I also started to read through the Bible to see if the same answers could be found within this Book.  For six months I searched for the Truth, and by the Spring of 1973, I was ready to give my life over to Jesus.  I was baptized then at age 12, and I committed to making Jesus the Lord of my life.

Within two years, I felt the strings of my heart being tugged by the Holy Spirit as He began to call out to me to walk toward the path of becoming a missionary.  I would go to many evening services at church and listen to the missionary stories and I knew that someday I would also be a missionary.

The next step forward in my life happened when I was just 16, serving a year in the Canadian Naval Reserve.  The ship that I was stationed on had traveled from Victoria, Canada to Lima, Peru.  While docked there, I was given permission to go up to the mountains of Cuzco and visit a family that I had heard about.  They were missionaries which our church supported, and they were doing Bible translation work.  After spending a few days with them, I knew in my heart that this was the kind of ministry that I would want to give my life for.

    

Over the next four years, while finishing High School and entering University, I sought out mission groups and was able to do some short-term mission work with Teen Missions Int’l.  I enjoyed that so much that I actually stayed past the summer mission and became part of the staff of TMI, allowing me experiences in Brazil, Honduras, Scotland and doing mission presentations across America.

I became convicted though that my zeal for the Lord did not match my understanding of the Scriptures. In 1981, I entered into Bible College and worked diligently at learning the Bible and being involved in church life and ministry.  I found preaching hard at first, but as my love for God and my knowledge of Scripture increased, I found that 30 minutes was often not enough time to express the truths of God.

I still hungered to go work in overseas missions, but it seemed that so few people around me had any concept of what that was all about.  There was one person though with whom I would spend long hours into the night talking about the things each of us would like to do for the Lord in missions.  We developed a great friendship, even having good arguments too about how life ought to be lived.  But our friendship prevailed, and our passion for missions led us to become husband and wife one week after I graduated from Bible College.

Wedding Pic

Jill and I both felt strongly about being well prepared to serve overseas, so I pursued a Master’s degree in missions, while at the same time, Jill pursued one of her heart’s desires, to become a nurse.  We felt like we would make a great team together for the Lord.

Married life and education bring with it financial responsibilities, and so we found that God led us through a winding path of nursing jobs for Jill and church preaching experience for me.  And we also started a family in this time with God blessing us with two wonderful sons.

Always the mission field beckoned though.  And after some good advice from a friend, I returned to do a little more study of Greek and Hebrew at a Seminary in Illinois, and that is when we found out about Pioneer Bible Translators.

    

The moment I met some of their leaders in Dallas, I knew this was the mission group we were looking for.  In 1994, we moved to Texas to get the linguistic training I would need.  And then in 1997, our family stepped off the plane over in Papua New Guinea and began our five year ministry among a tribal people group there.

In that time, after learning the language and culture, a team of national men and I were able to translate the book of Mark for the people.  That is the beginning of what is now almost 20 years of ministry with PBT, first in PNG, then across Canada while our son underwent some cancer treatment, then to East Africa for 18 months, and now for five years of travel back and forth to PNG to do Bible translation consultant work.

This adventure of serving the Lord began 40 years ago, and I find that it is still just as exciting to me today as it was the first time that I stepped out of North America and into a different culture group.  I look forward to what the next 20 years will hold.

25th Anniversary Pic

Looking For The Good When Bad Things Happen

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Can Good Come From Bad?

This is an age old question.  And in many ways, it is a question that tries to understand the nature of God.  As people often have said, “If God is a loving God, how can there be so much evil and pain in the world?”  Personally, I think this is the wrong question to be asking.  I recognize that not everyone who believes there is a God, which is the first question to deal with, will accept that the Bible of the Jews and Christians is the “Word of God”.

But that is my starting point.  And for a number of good reasons.  But this article cannot deal with that question either, as there would not be enough space here to expand on this belief.   This article then is written primarily for Christians who share my belief in God and in the Bible as God’s Word to mankind.  But just because we have these strong beliefs in the Divine and the Almighty does not mean that we will never experience bad things in life.  Nor does it mean that we will always understand why we experience suffering and pain.  Yet I believe that we still have much more to guide us and help us deal with the heartaches of life than many people.

    

I raise these questions today because of the recent experiences that I just went through.  I was in Papua New Guinea serving the Lord doing the ministry of Bible translation for people groups that do not have the Bible in their language.  Next thing I know, I’m being told that I have a retinal tear in my right eye and I am boarding planes to come back to Canada to get this fixed.  You can read about my experiences in the article “God, Help Me Overcome My Unbelief“.

It would be so easy to turn around and say to God, “Why me?  Can’t you see I’m giving my life to serve you over here in PNG?”.  But I’ve always thought of that question as being a self-centered and self-absorbed question.  As if the universe (or the Almighty) is supposed to bow down to our own personal likes and needs.  Sometimes I do catch myself though asking the question of “Why now, Lord?”  But this too I think reflects some level of lack of faith.  If God really is God, then He knows what is going to happen, and so events in life never catch him by surprise.  And if we really have faith in Him, then we too should not act surprised.

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I believe that the best question we should be asking when bad things happen to us is this one, “What now Lord?”  In other words, we ask God, given the current circumstance that we are in, what is it that we can and should do in the situation.  Sometimes God will reveal to us that there really is nothing we can do, except to hold on even stronger to our faith that He will work things out.  And to believe that good can and will come out of this bad situation.  Romans 8:28 says:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

I also believe that there are many times when we are to take action within these new circumstances, under God’s guidance of course.  In other words, to respond according to the spirit, not according to our natural earthly desires and behaviors.  Our natural inclination when something bad happens might be to get angry, or to take things out on another person.  Our supernatural response though is to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thess. 5:18)

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This is much more that just being an optimist, or trying to be a “half full glass” kind of person.  Even as we give thanks to God, acknowledging Him as our Lord through tough situations, we ask the question of “What now Lord?”  We want to be proactive and to ask God to help us make the most of the situation.  This is what is called “Redeeming the Time.”  To “redeem” means “to rescue; to buy back”, and so when we redeem the time, we are taking back the situation and by God’s strength and direction we are making and finding ways to allow good things to happen.

You see, I believe that a life of faith is a partnership between a person and God, and both sides have their part to play.  And that is how I approached the situation with my recent eye surgeries.  (Yes, plural, as I needed three surgeries.)  I actively trusted God to take care of me, and He did so in some amazing ways.  But I also have actively been seeking how to make the most of the time I now have been given to be back home.

And what have I done?  I have been actively seeking ways to be with my family and do things together that would not have been possible if I was still in PNG.  I have been in meetings in our international office in Dallas, and having conversations with young aspiring missionaries.  These have been precious moments that couldn’t have taken place while I was in PNG.  And I am reconnecting with my home churches as well as some potential new supporting churches.  And so this time off of the field for me has been one of seeking and finding great opportunities to see good things come about.

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You need to ask the question then: “How do you respond when bad things happen to you?”  Is your focus upon yourself, and your sense of pain that the situation may be causing you?  Or are you putting your focus upon God who will not only guide you through the tough times in life, but will provide great opportunities to see some good come out of the situation.  It is a choice.  What are you going to choose?

Praise God

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