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

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Sunday School In The Jungle

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Transforming Lives In Papua New Guinea

[Editor’s Note:  The following story just arrived in my email Inbox a few days ago, and I wanted to pass it along to my readers right away.  Not only is it fascinating to see how God has used a good friend of mine over the years in a remote area of Papua New Guinea to bring the translated Word of God to the people there, but recently, Martha has been able to help bring Literacy to them as well.

As she has now been able to combine literacy with Scripture translation, via the avenue of the Sunday School program for local villages, slowly but surely a transformation of the people is happening, especially among the children.  Please pray for Martha and the people over there in PNG as you read this story.]

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“Just teach the little kids to pray like you teach your own kids to pray,” I quickly said in response to a question from the leader of another village. In response he said, “My kids don’t pray!  I pray!” His response left me at a bit of a loss and I looked at the couple from another village, who had also come for the Sunday School Teacher Training Course, but they also said, “Our kids don’t pray, we pray.”  

Internally I was thinking, “And these are the people who are supposed to be teaching the kids?” But, externally I said, “This is how we do it here.  I put my hand on the child’s head or shoulder to keep him quiet, and then I tell him to close his eyes and say the exact words that I say.  I say very short sentences like, ‘Big Father, we lift up your name [praise you]. Give us long ears [wisdom]. That is all of my little talk.'”

On Sunday evening when no one had shown up for the Sunday School Course, I had assumed it was cancelled.  No one came on Monday so I worked on translation preparation work and basically didn’t think anything more about the course. Courses normally “lose” people through the week so if you start with “zero”, there is no hope of a course running, but this week was different.”

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“The first leader had started hiking over on Monday, but rain stopped him.  He completed the 4 hour hike on Tuesday morning and said he was ready to start the course.  Teaching one person wasn’t much of an option so I walked to the school to see if two of the teenaged boys would want to attend the course.  

While up there waiting for a school break, the couple hiked in from another village. As they walked by me, the wife said, “My husband just got back yesterday from town, but I got him to come with me today.”  They had hiked over 2 hours to come to the course.  We started that afternoon when the two boys got out of school and then spent another 3 full days going over the material I had prepared.  

A woman from this village joined us on Wednesday and on Thursday, a lady from another distant village happened to come through the village, and decided to join us on Friday.  All of these adults have been Christian leaders in their villages for decades. On Friday morning, I had the teacher trainees explain to the new person each part of the Sunday School routine.  Having them do the “teaching” proved to be a good thing for them and allowed me to give some corrective teaching on parts they had not understood well.”

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“On Wednesday and Thursday we had periodically gathered kids from the village to allow the teachers to teach the lesson that they had just learned.  Then on Friday we “hid” away from the kids in my house and had some serious study time.  They chose a final lesson to teach, prepared their parts and then I went to collect the students.  

I wish I could have recorded the shouts of joy from all the kids when they heard that they were going to have another Sunday School lesson.  They came running from all directions and yelled to their friends to join them. At the end of a fun lesson, the older leader said to the other teachers, “Now don’t you expect it to be like that back in our own villages.  It won’t be. These kids have had years of Sunday School. It won’t go well for us.”  

My first thought was “What a negative thing to say,” but it probably was the truth.  I did, however, encourage them and said, “When we started things here, kids didn’t know anything about the Bible either, but look at them now.” Praise God for Sunday School and for kids who learn so quickly.”

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“Praise God for my sister-in-law, who years ago picked out the lessons to go with our translated material, bought the pictures and reproducible coloring pictures, organized them all and sent them over with all kinds of other helpful supplies such as crayons.  We have been using the materials here for years because I could teach without a written lesson plan, but this year, three more villages will be able to use the beautiful pictures that caught the interest of the adults as well as the kids.

I did have to laugh though when one of the teachers thought a camel was a donkey.  They don’t have those kinds of critters here.  Pray that I can write even better lesson plans for the lessons from Genesis and Exodus. Currently the teachers only have 13 lessons about Jesus’ birth and about his death and resurrection.

God Promises All Things Work For Good – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 18

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 9: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD

Question #1: In what kind of circumstances is it difficult for people to see “all things” as working together for the good of those who love him?  (See Romans 8:28)

There is no doubt that it is difficult for any person to see good in an event that we would classify as “tragic” or where great suffering is involved.  There is a quote that still haunts me from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies.  When King Theoden mourns at the side of his son’s grave, he says to Gandalf, “No parent should have to bury their child.”  I can truly empathize with Theoden as my wife and I buried our stillborn daughter (29 weeks in).  And then we feared for the life of our 12 year-old son who battled leukemia.

It can be very easy, and trite, for someone to say, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”  Even though this old religious saying is ultimately true, it does little to comfort those who have lost a loved one.  And this is especially true, the younger the age of the one who has died.  So it is quite natural for people to feel anger towards God when they see no good reason for that death.

And yet I have seen in our life, and in the lives of others, what a tremendous impact it has on people when we rise up in these moments of despair and still hold on to the promises of the Bible that God is a good and loving God.  One verse that has meant so much to me is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him.”  I believe that one day I will see my daughter again, and because all my children have a strong faith in Jesus, I know we will all live with God forever in a world where there will never be any more pain or sorrow.  (See Revelation 21:4)

Question #3: Which of your life experiences of privileges is God using, as He did with Paul, to His advantage?  How are you uniquely able to do what others may not be able to do?

Paul talked about having a “thorn in his flesh”.  Some say that was a spiritual temptation that he could not overcome.  But most believe that it was some physical ailment or condition that he sought healing for, but God chose not to heal him.  No matter what it was, God was still able to use Paul in great ways to advance the work of God and tell others about Christ.

Now I know that I cannot be compared to Paul, but I can empathize with him with regards to having a physical limitation.  For four years now I have lived with the challenge of the genetic muscle disease that has limited my mobility and causes me great pain.  (By faith though, I am believing that God is in the process of healing me, and I have seen some great positive progress in the past few months since some churches prayed with me and over me for healing.)

But these four years have not been easy.  And yet, I have seen God work through me to bless others in ways that I do not think would have been possible if I had been healthy.  When I travel over to Papua New Guinea to do the Bible translation consulting work, people are amazed at what gets accomplished on these trips.  I tell everyone that is is by the grace and strength of God that I can do what I do.

And then when I started this devotional blog site two years ago in November 2010, I had no idea that so many people would come to the site and read the stories.  In 22 months, there have been over 22,000 visits to this site.  Praise God!!  And I love how my wife Jill describes this work that I do propped up in my easy chair with my  laptop in front of me.  She calls this my “Armchair Ministry” to the world.  And for that, I am very grateful to God.

Question #4: How would you like God to sift and stir the difficult situations you see around you into a well-prepared ending to the story?  Describe the preferred future you would like to see in these situations.

This is a hard one.  I really am reluctant to paint a picture that I then turn around and expect God to fulfill it for me.  I have learned so much in these last four years to simply take one day, one week, and one month at a time.  In many ways, that has released me from worrying about the future.

But there is still part of me that is quite human, and I do have a couple of things that I talk to God about from time to time.  I do pray for my own healing and believe He is in the process of doing that.  I would have to say that I yearn at times to be able to walk and run like I used to.

But even if that doesn’t completely happen here, I know I will be running again when I get to heaven.  The other thing that Jill and I talk about frequently is the idea of being able to return to living overseas in Papua New Guinea again full-time.  This one too is possible, but we leave this also in God’s hands.

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

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

God’s Rainbow Colored Children

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God’s Rainbow Colored Children

[Editor’s Note: The story below was written in 2010 by one of our missionaries who works with Pioneer Bible Translators while living and working in an unstable area in North Africa.]

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“A few months ago, before the rains had graced us with their presence, we took our 500 liter tank to a nearby borehole one morning to fill up with water. While my husband worked the hose and pump, I sat in the shade across the road and chatted with a handful of curious neighborhood kids who had gathered around. It didn’t take long for their initial shyness to wear off and I was soon engaged in an Arabic ver-sion of 20 Questions.

About half a dozen six-year olds jumped on the opportunity to ask me everything they had ever wondered about ‘khawajas’ (referring to us as western white people). Though some questions were hilarious (“Does your husband sleep in that little car?”) others were more endearing. “Where is your baby?” they asked. “I don’t have a baby.” I replied.

They pondered the plausibility of this response for a moment then one piped up. “Well, when you do have babies, do you want black ones like me or red ones like you?” That afternoon I stifled laughter and truthfully told them I would be happy with whatever kind of baby God chooses to give us – red, yellow, black or white.”

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“Today I am still smiling as I wonder about the colors God is knitting together inside of me now. We were so honored and thankful to find out we are pregnant a few weeks ago. We have been praying for God’s grace and wisdom in this matter for many months now and we feel like He has answered our prayers. We are so excited about the many ways we believe this new life will prove to be such a rich blessing. We are eager to learn more about unconditional love and to grow in the knowledge “that life is simple after all”, as one wise friend described parenthood.

We are looking forward to yet another reason to learn to trust more fully and freely in God. We are excited to see how a baby will draw us into more authentic relationships with parents and families here in North Africa. And we are joyfully anticipating meeting this new person and witnessing the incredible ways he or she will be shaped by the experiences, peoples and languages of this place over the years to come.

Our deep hope is that this pregnancy will be a testimony to the faithfulness of God and bring Him great glory in the months and years ahead. We are not without trepidation as we enter unknown territory yet again, but we are filled with peace and the memories of God’s faithfulness demonstrated over and over again in our lives. Please join us in prayer throughout the months ahead as we anticipate the arrival of the newest member of our team.”

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In the following year, on April 16, this couple was blessed by God to have a beautiful baby girl born to them while living in East Africa.  The unstable elements of North Africa exploded wide open which resulted in many people, including all of our PBT missionaries, needing to evacuate to another country in Africa.  No doubt there was sorrow in having to leave newly made friends, and also some fear as battles raged closer to where they lived.  But for this couple, there was joy at the end as they welcomed their newborn daughter into their lives.

Thankfully, it has not been very often that our missionary families have had to evacuate their homes and flee out of country due to civil unrest or outbreaks of violence.  One of the questions that many people have asked our family has been, “Was it safe for you to live by yourselves in that remote village in Papua New Guinea?”  We quickly responded that we always felt safe.  And whenever there was even the hint of trouble coming our way, we would have some of our men from the village patrol around our house throughout the night to make sure no harm ever came to us.

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What caught my attention in the story told above was the comment from the one child about how there are some babies who are “black” and some are “red”.  The children see there is a difference in the color of the skin, but in reality, they do not see any difference between the actual person of the child, they are all babies sent by the hand of God into our lives.

I have a couple of cute stories to tell which point out how wonderfully innocent children can be in their perspectives, and also how wonderfully creative our God is in how He has made us all.  One day in the village we asked our older son to go get our younger son who was playing at the end of the grass airstrip.  There were a bunch of kids playing down there, and so our son said, “How can I tell which one is Glen?”  We laughed as we pointed and told him, “Glen is the one with blond hair!”

The other cute story comes from another missionary family who were back home in the States to visit family, friends and churches.  They brought out photo albums of their time in Papua New Guinea.  When the young boy of this family showed pictures of his friends to others (some Papuan and some American) he would say, “Now these are my chocolate friends, and these are my vanilla friends.”  God bless our children who have such love and acceptance of others, no matter where they were originally born.

Parents Of Missionary Kids

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It’s Hard To Let Them Go

For most of my life, I have been a missionary.  That means my Mom and Dad were parents of a missionary kid.  I’m still a missionary kid who also happens to be a father of two great sons.  Both of them are launched out into life, but that does not mean that I don’t still worry for both of them and commit them and all their ways to God.

I read an excellent book recently by Will Hathaway called “What If God Is Like This?”  In this book, Hathaway presents some intriguing ideas and insights into what God might really be like, if we would take the time to really get to know Him.  Many times in the book, he states that he has such a better grasp of how great God is and how much He loves us, because now he is a father too.

    

There is just something that is very special that can exist between a parent and a child.  I do realize that not every parent is a good parent, but nevertheless, even the toughest and meanest person can have their hearts broken when they sense their child is in danger or just simply needs love and approval.

Back to the thought of me being a missionary kid, I’d have to admit that there have been many times in my life when I headed overseas (even as young as 16 years old) when all I could see was the adventure and the challenge that lay ahead.  It had to be hard on my parents to let me go at times (even when I was grown and had a family).

Then recently, I read a newsletter written by a colleague of mine that helped to remind me (and anyone who has read their newsletter) just how tough it can be to be a parent of a missionary kid.  It reminded me to be thankful for parents who worried about me, but still were okay with letting me go.  I pray that this letter below will help you too to appreciate your parents, even if you might not be a missionary kid.

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“My dad asked me jokingly the other day if he could take us to court to prevent us from taking his grandkids to Africa. I told him that if the judge were a grandfather, he would probably side with dad against us. We both spoke in jest, but we knew that the feelings involved in taking our family overseas are very real.

Most people know that packing up their children and moving to Africa involves some sacrifice. But what about the sacrifice of those we leave behind? We get all kinds of accolades for what we are doing. We get to go through the line first at church potlucks. People bring us up in front of crowds of kids and tell them to make us their role models.

One might say we have received our reward in full. But there are no awards for being the parent of a missionary. Yet what they give up to allow us to follow God’s calling are some of life’s most treasured moments – birthday parties, ball games, heart-to-heart chats, Sundays around the dinner table, and thousands of precious hugs.

    

They had little say in our decision, but just as with so many things over which one has no control, they got to decide how they would respond to it. Our parents would have had every right to be angry with us, to obsess over the perceived dangers we are exposing ourselves to and discourage us at every step, or to refuse to do anything to move us closer to our goal.

But they also have the option to offer us up as sacrifices willingly, to embrace and make the most of their position as long-distance grandparents, and to encourage us like no one else can when we face difficulties. What a blessing it is to us to have parents like that!

Our families have given of their time, their finances, and their talents to help us every step of the way. They have made plans for how to stay connected with us and our kids once we leave. They have said they would like to make the long trip across the Atlantic to visit us if they have the chance. And, perhaps most difficult of all, when faced with the opportunity to remind us of what we are asking of them and saddle us with guilt, they have refrained.

    

I hope that someday, if our children tell me that God is asking them to go to some place where I can’t follow, where I can’t keep them safe or get to hug and kiss them every day, that I will have the faith to give them my blessing and help them on their way. Our children are the most precious of God’s gifts, and nothing is more natural and right than to hold them close.

But at the same time we have to remember that they belong to God first of all. We have to raise them to be the kind of people who will love Him with their whole being and follow Him anywhere. And when they follow Him far away from us, we have to pray and give and speed them on their way, even when it breaks our hearts.

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I want to thank my colleague for the honesty shown in writing this message that should be a challenge to us all.  Let us all be thankful for our parents, and let us in turn do all we can to be the best parents possible to our own children.

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

“I’m A Father!”

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Who Am I?  Part 12

For five months now, I have been posting articles every second Saturday that talk about the milestones or major events in my life that have shaped and defined who I am.  Things were not looking very good for me where we left off in the last article.  (Click here.)  I was deathly ill, lying on a mattress in the back of our station wagon, while Jill was over six months pregnant and pulling a U-Haul behind our wagon through some horrible “white out” storms across Canada as we headed to Alberta.

As mentioned in another article (1987 – A Pivotal Year), we had just recently lost a pregnancy that was very devastating to us.  Now we were very concerned about my health, as well as this next pregnancy.  In 1987, I know I was not emotionally or mentally ready for a child, but in ’89, even as I was lying there so sick, one of my prayers was to let us have this child.

I prayed, “Lord, let us have a safe delivery, a healthy child, and let me be a father.”  I knew I would be ready this time.  As I now reflect back on that time when I would become a parent, a passage of Scripture comes to my mind.  Psalm 127 tells us a lot about children, parenting, home life, and putting our trust in the Lord.  It’s not long, so I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read it.

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So there we were, driving across Canada, ready and hoping that this time we would be able to start a family.  We were wanting to “build a house” as Solomon wrote in this Psalm.  (Most scholars would lean toward the idea that the Hebrew word here is referring to a family in verse one, and not just a building.)  We definitely had not done well in Toronto, but I figured that things would be different as we headed toward my home town.

We did manage to make it to Calgary, despite our car deciding to quit in upper Ontario leaving us stranded at a lonely gas station stop.  And the RCMP closed the highways due to zero visibility on the highways.  Thankfully the gas station had a mechanic there who fixed the problem in our engine, plus replaced the timing belt which was almost worn out.

I kind of felt like a failure when we arrived back at my folks house.  They graciously let us stay in the basement and did not charge us anything to live there while I recovered and Jill prepared to have our baby.  I felt like I had really let my wife down, I had disappointed my parents, and I was unable to contribute anything.  I didn’t realize at that time how wrong I was.

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In Psalm 127, Solomon tells us that if the Lord is not the foundation and the protector of the house/city (which are both figurative ways to talk about the family) then all that we do can be considered “in vain”.  I still get caught up today in the trap thinking that “it is up to me to provide/save/help the family.”  The truth is that only when we are putting our trust in Him for anything and everything, that we can really be strong and able to withstand the crashing waves of life that pound at us.

But I didn’t get that at this time in my life.  The day for Jill to deliver had almost arrived.  Thankfully (or should I say by God’s grace), I had recovered from my three-month illness that had left me bed-ridden so that I was able to be there for the birth of my first son.  WOW!  What a day that was.  I was allowed to be there for the delivery (pretty awesome moment), and afterwards, I would go around with my chest puffed out and say, “I have a son!”

And then I again felt like it was up to me to provide for our family.  I put myself in charge and tried everything I could do to find employment.  I even stooped so low as to go around door-to-door to sell these huge one-volume dictionaries.  I lost a lot of sleep, and time with my family, while I tried to “make it” on my own.  Only when I had exhausted my resources and turned to rely on God did He let me get back into active church ministry as a youth pastor.  I also made a commitment to help more at home and to help raise our son Eric.

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And I think that is when I started to realize what a blessing it was to be a father and a husband.  I did the work that God gave me to do, but I did not let the job control my life.  I wanted to be home with Jill and my son Eric, to share meals together and build our family.  There were a few people at the church that thought I should be “in the office” more than I was, or work “like a man” and put in 60 hour work weeks, and then do volunteer ministry on top.

But in those early months of Eric’s life, and then a couple of years later when Glen was born, when life could get real busy, and the demands of ministry could start to control me instead of the other way around, there will always be one memory that reminds me that I did make some good choices.  After a work day, when I would walk into the house, and Jill would say, “It’s Daddy!”, first one son, and then two sons would come crawling or bounding into my arms, and I knew where my treasure truly lay.

1987 – A Pivotal Year

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Who Am I?  Part 10

For those who have been following me in this series which gives a rough outline of my major life events, we come now to a pivotal year for both Jill and me.  It was 1987, we had been married for three years, and both of us had completed our studies for our vocations.  Jill received her Nursing Diploma, and I had finished my Master of Divinity Degree.  You can read about these things here.

After a number of years of education, some short-term mission experiences, some practicum work for Jill and some minor ministry experiences for me, we felt like we were ready to go out and make a difference in the world.  While still in school, Jill attended a hospital recruitment meeting and things fell into place, and the next thing you know we were packing a U-Haul to head to Texas.  In addition to this, Jill announced with excitement, “WE’RE PREGNANT!”

Now I must admit that I was more stunned than excited at this announcement.  But as the weeks and months crept along, I began to really warm up to the idea of being a father.  There were a few little snags in our paper work to cross into the States, which caused us to delay and stay with my folks for over a month.  So by the time we finally started out with our U-Haul, there was definitely 2 1/2 people ready for the adventure that lie ahead.

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We arrived in Port Arthur, Texas where Jill would work at a charity hospital (which the recruiter had promoted as a great place to work just off of the Gulf of Mexico).  He neglected to tell us that most of the bay area around Port Arthur was filled with oil refineries which blocked the view of the Gulf and blackened the port and town area around them.

But we were young, and it was an adventure in many ways for us.  And one of the first adventures for us was to find a church to fellowship with.  Having just graduated from a Christian and Missionary Alliance seminary, we looked for one of these in the area, but the closest C&MA church was 50 miles away in Baytown.  This wasn’t too bad, as it gave us time to talk and be together on the drive to and from Baytown each Sunday.

As a result of these visits we made regularly to this church, something very interesting happened.  I was approached one day by the pastor of the Baytown church and asked if I would be interested in helping to start a new church in Beaumont, the large city next to Port Arthur.  I accepted the offer as I saw this as a way to serve God.

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The excitement of this new ministry opportunity was almost immediately crushed as Jill and I experienced the most bitter of all events, the death of our child.  Jill was 29 weeks pregnant in October of 1987.  There was no warning and no indication of anything wrong.  One day our baby was alive and kicking hard, and then the next day there was no movement.

We couldn’t believe anything bad had happened, until finally after waiting anxiously for a doctor’s report, they informed us that the child had in fact died in the womb.  Because Jill was so far along, it was necessary to have her induced to deliver our daughter.  When it was over, we held our little Deborah in our arms.  She was over a foot long and almost looked like she was sleeping, except that she wasn’t breathing.

The doctors have never to this day explained to us what happened.  It was an inter-uterine death, but no cause could be found.  That day in October was the blackest day of our entire lives, and it continued to cast a shadow and have a negative effect upon us for many years after.  One wise person said to us, “The intensity of the pain will never really go away, just the frequency of it.”

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There is no doubt that we were in pain because of this event.  For many days there was a sense of emptiness in our apartment.  Jill took a few days off to recover physically.  The hospital and the doctors were so gracious to cancel our medical bills, so we were not hurt financially.  But the emotional and spiritual impact of this tragedy was very huge.

The church people in Baytown were so good to us.  Some of them visited us, or sent us flowers and cards.  The pastor visited us quite a few times.  And with his support and encouragement, we still went ahead and tried to lay down the foundation for a new church plant in Beaumont.  I think us moving from our apartment in Port Arthur to Beaumont was good for us.  But even after a year of hard work, this church plant also did not get birthed and it was closed down when we came back to Canada.

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Of all the different aspects of this major life crisis for us, there is one memory that stands out the most.  Jill and I had gone to the cemetery where we had buried Deborah.  We knelt down by the unmarked cross and held hands and gently cried together.  Then we sang a song together to reaffirm our faith and hope in God.

But while we were there, another woman came and knelt down by her child’s little cross.  Then she broke out into wailing and threw herself on to the ground and wept in great torment at the loss of her child.  Jill and I quietly left that woman to her grief, but we could leave the cemetery with the song still in our heart.  The song says:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

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