Prayer, Praise & Heading To Texas

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PROVIDING HIS STORY

A Ministry Update of
Norm & Jill Weatherhead

To the Bible-less People Groups of the World

Exodus 6:2     וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

This verse is perhaps one of the most important ones in the entire Bible.  In it, the Creator God (Elohim) reveals His personal name (YHWH) to Moses.  He goes on in the next verse to explain that He did not reveal His personal name to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  But from now on, the people of God would come to know Him in a personal and powerfully intimate way, as the Israelites (and now us) became His people, and He truly became their God.

During the summer months, Norm spent many hours studying the “Basic of Biblical Hebrew” to be able to once again read the Old Testament in its original language.  It had been 18 years since he last took a Hebrew course, and he is so glad to be able to get back into the OT text again.

The reason that Norm first studied the basics, and then now is working at understanding the various discourse features of Hebrew (such as narrative, instructional and hortatory discourse and poetic style), is so that he can be ready to do consultant checking of Old Testament books for various translation projects.

In our next trip to Papua New Guinea (Jan – May 2013), Norm will work with one language team as they do the final checking and the revising of Exodus 1-24, and Psalms 101-150.  Pray for everyone involved in this translation project that they will be able to find the right words and sentences to be able to express these OT portions well in the language of the people.

Heading To Dallas Again

In just a few weeks, Norm will be spending two months (Oct. 25 – Dec. 18)in Dallas to work on the various translation projects from there, instead of back in Calgary.

While in Dallas, Norm will do much of the initial checking of Exodus 1-24 as mentioned above.  He will also work on preparation questions for the books of James, 1 & 2 Peter for the Tay translation in PNG and James and Jude for the Mborena Kam project, also in PNG, which is being done by national translators.

Please pray for us as Norm goes south and Jill stays in Calgary and continues to work at the Foothills hospital.  We thank God that Jill has been able to get many overtime shifts which she then banks as hours into the future so that she will be able to be with Norm longer in PNG.

We are also so grateful for the prayers of so many people for God to bring healing to Norm.  It was especially moving when the churches which we have just visited called us up and prayed over us.  We see some great improvement, so keep on praying.

Our Family Is Doing Well

We praise God that all of our children are doing well.  Our older son was not only was able to stay on working full-time with H & R Block after the regular tax season at their Call Center,  he was also asked to become part of a special team that would totally rework the interface and the graphics for the website of their company.  His wife is continuing to get good praise reports at her job, and has moved from being cashier to working in the Flooring Dept.

Our second son, on the other hand, has been on the move a lot this year.  He finished his Army Basic Training in Quebec back in February.  Next he went to a base in Borden, Ontario for a few weeks before doing his Soldier Qualification course in Gagetown, New Brunswick.  Now he is back in Borden for his last long course to get trained in his area of being a Vehicle Technician for the Army.

It was wonderful then when he was able to come home to Calgary on a two-week leave period in September.  We packed in as much family activities that we could: a zoo day, movie outings, a few family BBQ’s, pizza and movie nights and lots of good visiting.  We are proud of all of our kids who are maturing well in life and in their faith in God.  Please continue to lift them up in prayer as they seek to make an impact for the Lord in their world around them.

Sharing The Ministry Work Through Media

Many of you know that for almost two years now, Norm has been writing articles in a devotional blog site called “The Listening Post”.  This has been so therapeutic for him over the past two years.  In his articles, he shares a lot about the ministry work that he has done, and is still doing in the area of Bible translation.  He also shares insights into spiritual topics that are based on a couple of Christian books, one of them by Max Lucado.  And currently, he is doing a weekly Bible study as he goes through the Gospel of John.  Click on the title above, or on the words “Sermon” or “Trailer” below to link to the stories.

While in PEI, Norm preached a sermon that gave an excellent overview of what all is involved in Bible translation work.  That sermon was recorded and put online and can be viewed by clicking here (“Sermon).  And then we were very pleased to have two other sources pick up on Norm’s blog site.  A Korean editor of the Christian magazine “”Guideposts” did an interview of Norm and wrote an article in their magazine about him and his work with PBT.  Most recently, a friend of ours produced a Christian movie called “Remember” and did a trailer interview of Norm.  (“Trailer”)

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So this is what is happening for us.  We would ask you to please keep our family in your prayers as we all seek to serve God in our various ways.  Please pry for the time of separation that is coming up for me and my wife that we will be okay while I’m gone.  Pray I get much done in my preparation work while in Dallas so that I will be fully ready to do the consultant checking of 6 New Testament books and 2 Old Testament books for people of three different language projects.  May God bless you richly as you remember us and our work in your prayers.

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Networking & Praying For God’s Word in Southeast Asia

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[Editor’s Note:  It is exciting for me to be able to share with you about a couple who are colleagues with me in Pioneer Bible Translators.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, for many years they helped to impact a people group close to where my heart is, the Island of New Guinea.  Now God is using them to impact the lives of millions of people in a large region of Southeast Asia.  How exciting!

What makes this especially meaningful for me is that I have the privilege to work along side with this couple in their new work.  Once the Scriptures have been drafted and checked through a couple of times (for comprehension and exegetical accuracy), then the team sends me the language files electronically and I do the final consultant check on their Bible translation work.

In the past two years, I have had a hand in checking parts of or the whole of Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Matthew and just recently Philippians.  The work is progressing well and it is hoped that the New Testament will be published for this regional language in 2013.  Come along with me as we learn more of what this couple is doing to promote the advancement and distribution of God’s Word to Southeast Asia.]

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Phil and Gale came to Pioneer Bible Translators with 29 years experience with another Bible translation organization. They worked with a language group of 2,000 people in the rainforest of Papua, and didn’t need much in the way of networking skills. Work proceeded smoothly once a few government and church officials were aware they were translating the New Testament.

Now they are working in a vastly different situation, translating the Bible into a national language with a potential audience of over 200 million people. The work is no longer just faithfully translating each verse; it is about knowing the right people, and what partnerships can be set up with various Christian organizations.

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The people who make decisions are in the cities, but the people who need the translations are mostly in rural areas. Rural language groups won’t have a chance to hear God’s Word if we don’t succeed in advancing our projects in the cities. Phil travels often by taxi, giving out local translations of Scripture to every driver. He rode with 51 drivers on his last trip; only one was a Christian.

He visited the managers of a Christian radio network and discussed sending out our books as free gifts from their stations. He is scheduled to meet with a producer of a free satellite TV network that has viewers in cities and rural areas all over the area. He met with a Bible class that is part of a huge mega-church in the capital, and he will soon be visiting seminary students who will distribute our Gospel of John on their mission trips.

There are approximately 400 languages in South Asia that need a Bible translation. After Phil’s presentation at one seminary, 10 students made the commitment to pray about becoming Bible translators for 10 of these languages. It is amazing to see God work out the details! Pioneer Bible Translators has an enormous task ahead of us. We must complete our translation work and get God’s Word in the hands of these people.

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Prayer Requests

  • Pray local supporters would be found to publish local translations of the New Testament and find channels for distribution to rural areas.
  • Pray that Phil will successfully navigate unfamiliar cultural expectations as he speaks with important people.
  • Pray that God will provide a means whereby nationals can be trained and equipped to translate for many needs. There are many who would volunteer to become translators, but cannot see past practical reasons.
  • Please pray that churches in the area would feel called to support Bible translation, and that training centers would be established in the area.
  • John 4:23 – Pray that many from among the Bible-less peoples will become true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

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[Editor’s Note: For almost two years I have been writing articles about my work and the larger work of Pioneer Bible Translators in the world.  I have asked my readers from time to time to pray about some important issues and current events.  This is the first time that I would like to suggest to my audience that they consider taking the next step after praying for Phil and Gale and their translation work and to consider the possibility of helping them with a financial gift to see this work accomplished.  I end this article with a quote from Phil, and a link to where you could become a financial partner.]

Southeast Asia Plain Translation
“This island nation in Southeast Asia has a Bible, but the translation is old and very hard to understand. Our team is creating an easy to understand translation that will be life-transforming for millions in this area. These books of the New Testament will offer Living Water to a thirsty land. Click to donate. Choose ‘Projects’ and ‘Southeast Asia Plain Translation’ from the drop-down menus.”

My Life Testimony – Pt. 6

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 6

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 sixth article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about the challenges that Jill and I have faced in light 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. Were you not tempted to take on a less challenging task in Canada? How do you focus on the work when the pain comes? How does your family cope and how do they help you with the task?

When the muscle disease flared up for me in March 2008, I literally went from globe-trotting and running through the airports in February to not being able to walk across my living room floor six weeks later.  I felt like I had changed into an old man overnight.  I had to cancel a teaching trip to Africa, and I didn’t know if I would be able to go on another mission trip again.  But Jill and I went anyways for about 3 ½ weeks in the Fall of ’08 to PNG for me to check on a translation project.  It went very poorly and I was in a great deal of pain on that trip. 

At the same time that this happened to me, there was an administration problem of some missing documentation that caused our mission in Canada to be put on hold for a few months with the government.  Suddenly I found that I was unable to do anything with my mission back home or overseas.  In the coming winter months I truly was in a deep depression and a state of great despair. 

As part of my initial therapy, I was seeing a physiotherapist and a social worker to help me deal with the physical and emotional pain and loss of purpose.  God gave me two wonderful professional women who worked with me and to whom I could share the deep burdens of my heart.  I found that as I cried and spoke of my great desire to still be used by God in mission service, God came and lifted the emotional pain from me and I gained a confidence that God would still use me in spite of my physical limitations.

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So Jill and I went forward by faith, believing that God had given me all this training and these experiences for a reason.  In the next two years, Jill and I kept coming back to PNG so that I could do the consultant checking of Scripture for various language groups.  We found that as long as I requested wheelchair assistance, the airlines took good care of me all the way from Canada to PNG. 

My strength could no longer do this on one long haul, so I would take rest stops along the way as I traveled to PNG.  It now takes me about five days in either direction to get me to and from Canada over to PNG.  But I now have an LA hotel, a Brisbane motel, and a PNG Guesthouse who know me very well and help me whenever I arrive there.

It is also important to tell you how much Jill has helped me to continue to do this ministry work.  She has been working as a nurse in Calgary for many years since we left PNG in 2002.  We both knew that I would not be able to manage on my own over in PNG with my muscle disease.  So what Jill has done now for the last four years has been to save up her vacation time and bank ahead her overtime hours into the future so that she could come for a month or more on these trips with me.

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When I am doing the checking sessions in PNG, we sit and examine the translation verse-by-verse from 8:30-12:00 and then 1:30-4:30.  This is both mentally and physically very exhausting work for me.  Every day I do checking sessions, I must sleep for one hour during the lunch break, and then again at the end of the afternoon before supper. 

There are many days that I am so exhausted at noon that I do not even have the energy to make myself a peanut butter and jam sandwich.  Jill and I laugh about the idea that she has come half way around the world, just so she can make me a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

This sense of “God is not finished with me yet” that I had in 2009 kept growing as Jill and I continued to take trips over to PNG.  Each trip seems to get longer and longer as I find more ways to adapt my environment and work within my limitations.  One doctor has prescribed a “medicine patch” which helps to lower my daily level of pain, but has not eliminated it. 

I have also found that if I get a 2-hour massage session on my legs and arms every 2 to 3 weeks, then the painful knotted muscles get loosened up and I can continue to function in my life and work.  It is not easy to live with so much pain, but I know that the ministry of giving God’s Word to others in their heart language is worth it all.

 

My Life Testimony – Pt. 5

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Little Piece of Paradise

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Bitter Sweet Memories

Here I am, looking out my window at the luscious velvety green rolling hills of the Aiyura Valley up in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  There are some puffy white clouds sitting lazily within the gorgeous blue skies above.  I am once more living here, if only briefly, in what I consider to be one of the truly peaceful little places of Paradise here on earth.

Those were the thoughts I had while I was at the mission base again up in the highlands of PNG.  I was doing the translation consultant check on the Gospel of John for one of the language groups there.  The missionary couple that work in that project are friends of ours and are also fellow Canadians.  They graciously opened their home for me to live with them for the three weeks that we worked together.

In that quiet moment, I thought back over the many years that I have come and gone and done mission work here in PNG.  And especially when I have been at this highlands base and get reflective, I see all the good times, and the not so good times.  But in all of these times, God has been there.  Allow me now to share some of these with you.

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The PBT mission house is located in one of the corners of the center where it is a sharp dip down from one of the more major roads to our side road area.  The roads are not paved, so they are dusty and bumpy when it is dry, but muddy clay and slick when it rains.  That does not phase the children here though as they play their various games on the center whether on the grass sides or on the rock-strewn dirt roads.

We will never forget that one day our son Glen decided to try to ride one of those stand up foot scooters down the steep curving road near the PBT house where we were.  I think he would have been fine, except for the anxious shout from Jill who said, “You be careful son!”  That is when he looked up and the front wheel hit a rock.  Glen went flying off the scooter and landed on his chest and slid down the road.  Oh, we wish he had been wearing a T-shirt that day.  Yowwee!!  Gravel and skin are not a good mix.

I also remember the times that I was done my work and Eric was nearby and it just felt like having a “father-son” moment.  We would go across the lower road to a little grassy knoll that overlooked the beautiful valley.  We would talk about nothing and everything, whatever seemed to be the most important thing to talk about that day.  And we connected in a powerful way in that place of quiet and peace.

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And then came the fateful day in 2002.  Eric had found a place for himself in the International School there on center.  He had presented a good case for leaving the village and starting his Grade 7 up there and to live in one of the Youth Hostels.  He had made some friends, and he felt like that was where he belonged.  The other three of us in the family had gone up there to spend some time with Eric before we went back down to the village where I would continue the Bible translation work.

But a nagging string of little illnesses caused us enough concern that we had Eric checked one more time.  The blood work looked suspicious and we suddenly found ourselves packing up overnight and heading to Brisbane, Australia instead of to the village.  It turned out that Eric did have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia which sent us all on a three year road of chemotherapy treatments.

But God had not abandoned us.  Just like we quickly picked up Glen after his wipe out and tenderly treated his bruises and scrapes, we saw over those cancer years some wonderful ways that God sent us encouraging letters and prayers from others and gave us special moments for Eric that were only made possible because of his illness.  No, God does not abandon us, but He may change the path we are on.

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And I thought that was what was happening for me when God opened the door in 2007 for me to return to the mission base to get the training to become a Bible translation consultant.  I was so thrilled to be involved again with language projects, and this time I would help with the last check to be done before a book of Scripture goes to be published.

But immediately following my first trip to do consultant work in Feb. ’08, my own disease hit me and I have not been able to walk since then without experiencing pain and fatigue.  I thought my time of Bible translation work was finished when this hit me.  But I could never have been so wrong.  This is now the sixth time in four years that I have come back to PNG to do the consultant checking of a Bible translation project.

I don’t know why I feel that this mission base seems to be just a little closer to God than in other places.  I just know that it does.  And even though my family has experienced many bumps and bruises, and even life-threatening diseases which have been partly connected to this center, I still know that God is with us and loves us.  Maybe that is the point.  Through thick or thin, good or bad, God is still God and His loving kindness is always there.  We just need to open our eyes sometimes to see it.