My Life Testimony – Pt. 4

1 Comment

My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 4

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

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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

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

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

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

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

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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

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

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

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

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

A Bible Translation Consultant

3 Comments

Who Am I?  Part 24

In the last article of this series, we left off at the point in 2007 where we were able to reunite our family of four.  For about three months, we were actually split up into three places when Glen went back to Canada.  Jill and I stayed on in East Africa to finish our administrative duties, Eric had stayed in the basement suite of some friends, and Glen room-and-boarded at the home of some other friends of ours in Calgary.

But God brought us all back together as soon as we returned from Africa.  What was so neat was that in March when I brought Glen back to Canada, I overheard a friend say to his wife that he wished he could find some good tenants for his condo rental, and that led to us having a place to move into immediately when we returned to Canada ourselves.  And just as immediately, our two sons moved in with us and we were all together again.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So that got our family settled.  Jill was able to get hired right back on to the same unit at the hospital (which happened to be directly across the road from our apartment).  Eric was going to take a year of classes at our local Bible college, and Glen had his Grade 12 year of online schooling to do.  And that gave direction for our boys.  Which kind of meant that I was left hanging, not knowing what I was supposed to be doing.

It turned out that the answer for what I should do next came rather quickly.  An invitation by email came to me from our Papua New Guinea Branch to consider coming over there in August 2007 so that I could attend a six-week course to be trained to become a Bible Translation Consultant.  This meant leaving the family again within weeks of coming back from Africa, but Jill encouraged me to get this training since we didn’t really know yet what lay ahead for us.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The time went quickly, and it seemed like suddenly there I was, back at the mission base that we had so hastily evacuated as a family five years before when Eric began his cancer journey with leukemia.  (You can read about that story here.)  Now I am not known to be a real emotional guy, but I must admit that for many days I had tears in my eyes as I went around the mission center and memories came back to me of our time as a family there.

But those were tears of joy now, not tears of grief and despair.  And I knew that God was healing a part of me that had been seared with pain when I saw my son so sick back in 2002, and as I also realized that our ministry in PNG had come to an end.  But God is so good, and He not only healed me of the past, He also gave a brand new future to me.  I was there to become a Translation Consultant.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Let me explain for a minute the importance of the training I was about to receive at this course in PNG.  The goal of everyone in our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, whether directly or indirectly, is to get the translated Word of God into the hands of the local people in a language that speaks to the hearts of the people.  So we start the process by making an initial rough draft of the Scripture portion we are working on, and after a lengthy period of testing and revising, we bring that portion to the trained consultant for a final check before the Scripture can be published.

The problem is that we see more Scriptures being prepared for the consultant checking phase than there are consultants available to do the actual checking.  We have had a serious bottleneck over the years of backlogged material ready to go forward, but very few consultants to come check the translations.  So I was eager to get this training, not just so I could become a consultant, but because I saw the importance of doing what it took to help out to get this backlogged material through.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I must say now as I look back on that training, that I think I felt more fulfilled in this experience and in the direction it was taking me than in just about anything else I have ever done.  All of a sudden I realized how all of the experiences of my life had added up to this moment of becoming a Bible Translation Consultant.  Obviously the five years we had done translation work in the remote village of PNG gave me excellent field experience to draw on.  But everything else made sense too.

The theological training from Bible college and two seminaries helped prepare me to do good exegetical inquiries into the translations.  The linguistic training helped me to probe the translations grammatically and semantically.  All my cross-cultural experiences helped me to ask good culturally sensitive questions.  And the 5 years of pastoral work back in North America helped me to see how the translated Word of God would evangelistically impact the people who would receive the translated Scriptures.

Certainly there have been a lot of things that I have thanked God for Him bringing into my life.  But I think the translation consultant training would rank as my  best experience of my entire life.  And after it was over, and when I actually got to use the training in February of ’08 back in PNG, I knew I had found what I had always been looking for.  So as I turned 47 that year, I guess I finally answered the question of what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Entrusting Our Children to God

1 Comment

Who Am I?  Part 23

In the last article about our family and my life journey, we had all moved together in January, 2006 to live and assist with the ministry of Bible translation in a country in East Africa.  But very quickly, we all saw that it was not going to be the nice fit for our family that we had hoped for.  At least we would not be able to recapture the wonderful family times that we had experienced together while living in a remote village of Papua New Guinea.

Within a few weeks, our older son felt strongly that he would do better if he were to return to Canada and finish his last grade of High School there.  Meanwhile, I was loving the new country I was in, and learning the language and being fascinated by the different culture there as opposed to what I had seen and experienced in Papua New Guinea.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

So I tried to hold the family together and convince my son to stay.  I felt like David did in the Bible when he wrote words like these below:

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the LORD, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

(Psalm 34:8-11)

The problem was that I was equating keeping the family together with God’s blessings on the family.  It took a few months, and many discussions in the family, for me to get to the point where I could see that the lack of social peers, the importance of my son’s schooling, and the pull on him of his Canadian culture meant being in Canada would be better for him.  I had to let go and entrust him into God’s care.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

In August of 2006 then, our first son flew by himself from East Africa and went back to Canada.  (God did provide a contact of a really neat Christian family who lived not very far from Heathrow airport who took care of Eric on his halfway layover in London.)  That left Jill and I with our younger boy, Glen.  Being only 21 months younger than Eric, and having traveled and lived all over the world with his brother at his side, imagine the impact of losing his best friend, his brother.

It wasn’t long before he too was asking us, even telling us, that he needed to return to Canada as well.  Now you think I might have learned something from having worked through the very same issues with Eric that I would have been more sensitive to Glen’s needs at that time in his life.  But no, I have to admit now that I came down rather hard on Glen, and even got overly spiritual with him and suggested that he was rebelling against his own father.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I think I may have even thought of the passage below, and I figured that if my son would just admit his rebellious attitude toward me, then I could be just as forgiving as the Father above is to his wayward children:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His loving-kindness toward those who fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

(Psalm 103:8 – 13)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Well, I can tell you now how awful I feel about how hard I was on my own son.  I knew that it was my responsibility to raise my children to love the Lord and obey Him, and to respect and honor his parents.  I mean, that is what the Bible says, right?  But what I had forgotten was that along with this, there is a strong admonition for fathers not to be so over-bearing that the opposite effect than you want will result.

Read the two verses below:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

(Ephesians 6:1 & 4)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Thankfully, I finally got it.  And I had to ask forgiveness from my son.  And I actually flew with him from East Africa to Canada to bring him back and set him up to live with some very good friends of ours in Calgary.  He was 16 at the time.  I went back to Africa and Jill and I finished out our assignment there and then we too came back to Canada three months later.

We were able to join the family back together at that point.  We bought a nice condo and set up our home and our family once again.  At that time, Eric was going to a Bible college (and got his 1-yr certificate) and Glen was just finishing High School.  We treasured the few more months that we had together as a foursome.  This was to change soon, as the next year Eric got married.  And then we were a fivesome.

Children are a blessing.  But we need to remember that they are on loan to us from God.  We are to raise them the best we can, encouraging them to have faith in God, but still allowing them to have their own personal space and freedom in life.  We found that when we entrusted them to God, He turned around and gave them back to us.  And my response is, “Thank you God!”

A Stricken Father

2 Comments

Who Am I? – Part 20

In the last article of this series, “Living a Missionary Life,” I gave a brief summary of what living in Papua New Guinea was like for us as a family. Those were good years, and in many ways our family has looked at those years as the best years for our family. We were a solid family unit the four of us, living in our house in the tropical forest in the remote village ministering to the Papuan people by day and having many wonderful family times together in the evenings.

Just before we returned to PNG in 2000 after a short furlough to visit family and our supporting churches, we built a crate (4′ x 4′ x 8′) to send overseas thinking that we would spend the next 10 to 15 years over there working on the Bible translation project. This is what I had always dreamed about doing, what I have trained for, and what I was prepared to give my life for in service to God. Little did we know what lay around the corner for us.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now I do need to admit that living in our remote village was not easy. I think of all of us, Glen was the one who enjoyed village life the most. Partly because of his young age but also because of his personality he fit in well. Our older son Eric on the other hand, has always been more suited to larger cities and more Western-style living. And that’s okay, because God makes all of us uniquely different.

So shortly after our return to the field, Eric began asking us for our permission to let him go up to the highlands of PNG to live on a large mission base where he would live in a dormitory and attend an international junior high/senior high school. It was very difficult for us as parents to consider the idea of him living apart from us, but over time we came to realize this would be a better arrangement for Eric.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In August of 2001, our family went up to the mission base and begin a new phase for our family. At first, our family all stayed together in one flat (apartment) in the house that PBT owned up there. Then Eric moved over into one of the hostels where other schoolchildren and the dorm parents lived while Jill, Glen, and I remained at the PBT house. The idea was to have us close but to still allow Eric a trial period of separation to see how he would do living at the hostel.

And you know what? Eric really enjoyed living there and going to the mission school for his 7th Grade. Actually, I think it was much harder on us to let him go than for him to leave us. This looked like it would work out well, and so the three of us headed back to our village in the lowlands. Thankfully, we did have a radio connection between our village house and the hostel so that we were able to talk to Eric almost every day.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The first hint of a problem was when Eric got sick on a school outing and couldn’t shake it off after more than two weeks of feeling poor. At the same time, some troubling cultural issues developed among the villages of our language group and so the Directors of our Branch advised us to go back up to the mission center. So our family was reunited, but Eric continued to have throat and bronchial problems as well as feeling very weak.

We worried for our son, but the clinic doctors kept thinking that it was simply a bacterial problem. We were now getting ready to go back to the village but Jill asked the doctors to run one more test on Eric. Now whether that was Jill being a very concerned mother or was prompted by God I don’t know, but the fact remains that this one more examination proved vital for Eric’s health.

When the two doctors finally got together and reviewed the results, something suspicious in the blood work caused them to call us in so that they could talk to us. Being medically trained, Jill caught on much faster than I did as to the potential seriousness of the situation. The next thing I knew we were calling our health provider back in Canada and were advised to take Eric to Australia for more testing.

That afternoon and that evening is still a blur. Phone calls were made, neighbors watched over the kids, and friends came to help pack up all of our belongings from the house where we were staying. The next day we loaded up on the small mission Cessna airplane and headed towards Port Moresby, the capital of PNG. By the next day, we were in Brisbane and Eric was immediately admitted into the hospital. We got the unofficial word that night, and were officially told the news the next day. Eric had leukemia.

Even as I dictate this story into my computer microphone my voice gets choked up, and my eyes get misty with tears. As much as I love living in Papua New Guinea, putting my hand to the task of translation and being in service for the Lord, my love for my family was greater and my heart and my spirit were broken that day when we received news of his diagnosis.

That day in January of 2002 began a long cancer journey for Eric and our family. The chemotherapy treatments went on for 30 months, and Jill and I lived with the fear of the disease and the worry about the treatment during those months. But we entrusted the life of our son into the hands of our Father above. And in His mercy, God watched over Eric and brought us all through those cancer years.

There is so much more to the story that I cannot tell right now, but I will, Lord willing, in future articles. In all those years, I never remember saying, “Why Lord?” But I do remember often asking God, “Please Lord, spare the life of my child and give us strength to walk this path.” Looking back now, I’m happy to say that God answered both of those prayers.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

God Provides Oases – Part 1

2 Comments

Have you been in that place where you say to God, “Enough Lord!  I don’t think I can take any more of this?”  You feel like the hard-road journey you are on is never going to end.  It can take many forms: financial pressures, bad relationships, chronic health issues, or any number of other stressors that seem to be an endless painful journey.

Now normally I do not like to pass on silly sayings, but it is kind of cute when someone says, “Do you know what are the most encouraging words in Scripture?  They are, ‘And it came to pass.’  That means that bad times will not stay with us; they come, and then they will pass on by.'”  I wish it were that easy to say that if we just wait a short while, everything will get better.  In fact, things may stay bad, or even get worse, for a much longer period of time.

But don’t let this get you super discouraged or depressed, for even during the worst periods of our lives there will be moments of great joy and periods of relief from the things that press down on us.  Our author that we are following, Mark Atteberry, who wrote “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“, has some wise words to say, and then gives us some very good points to talk about in Chapter 8.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Consider this quote on page 99:

Maybe you’re just getting started on your hard road and you’re deeply discouraged.  Perhaps your first steps have been agonizingly difficult and you feel you’re not going to be able to endure.  Well, cheer up!  Every desert has some oases, and sooner or later you’re going to come to one.  It’s true!  Even on the hardest roads, there are wonderful pleasures to be found.

Atteberry goes on in the rest of this chapter to explain that there are at least four excellent sources from which we can draw upon and be refreshed.  I will reflect on two of these sources in this article, and then two weeks from now I will reflect on the other two sources of encouragement and spiritual refreshment.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

1.  “Refreshing Seasons”.  It is very normal for most people to talk about the weather.  Even if the person is a complete stranger, it is not unusual to make casual comments like “Looks like it’s going to rain again,” or to say, “Man, it sure is cold today!  I just about froze my fingers off walking out there today!”  And if after a long period of such bad weather we finally get a good change, like the sun shining  in the midst of a clear blue sky, or a warm wind coming to break the cold spell, then we feel such a sense of relief.  Even if it is only for one day, that good weather is enough to help us go forward and to continue enduring the bad weather.

I think it was kind of like that when our older boy, Eric, went through his cancer journey.  That first year of the aggressive drugs he took to battle against the leukemia seemed to stretch on forever for us.  Week after week he endured his chemotherapy, and there were a few times when we were very worried for him, and with good reason.  We did make it to the end of the aggressive year, and continued on with other regular but milder drugs for another 18 months.

It certainly was a difficult road for every one in the family.  But God was good, and He provided some wonderful refreshing moments throughout the 30 months of treatment.  Eric was chosen as a cancer “spokes’ kid” for one year and had a blast meeting famous athletes, radio announcers and got a special private dress rehearsal concert with his favorite Christian rock band.  These islands of pleasurable and memorable experiences made the hard-road journey more bearable for all of us.  Thank you God.

2.  “Refreshing Servants”.  There is a little spot in northern Ontario (Canada) that may not be on every road map, but one spot that Jill and I will never forget.  It’s called Agawa Bay.  I mentioned in another article about how sick I was in Ontario in 1989, and this prompted us to leave Toronto in January to pull a U-haul 3,300 kilometers across Canada while Jill was 6 months pregnant and I was lying on a mattress in the back of our station wagon.  (Read that story here.)

When we got to Agawa Bay, after fighting our way through a Canadian blizzard and snow squall conditions, we stopped to get a bite to eat and to gas up as there would be no more restaurant or gas station for at least 150 more miles.  We went to start the car, and the battery was dead.  But even if we could go, the Mounted Police just put up a barricade to stop traffic from entering deeper into the forest wilderness of northern Ontario.

So what were we to do in this little place that had only a restaurant, a gas station and garage, and a couple of houses for staff to sleep in.  And a dead car.  We needed a miracle, and He sent us a refreshing “servant-hearted man”.  The car mechanic on duty heard about our dead car, and that the road was closed.  So he helped us push the car into the garage and hoisted it up and started working on it.

He figured that with the roads closed and nowhere to go, he might at well make himself useful.  So through half the night he fixed our battery engine problem and also found that our timing belt at the back of the engine was actually half chewed through and worn down.  If we had continued past Agawa Gay, there would have been a good chance we would have broken down literally in the middle of nowhere.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So what is the point of these two stories?  Namely this:  life is full of difficulties that can seem endless and may go from bad to worse.  But if we have the eyes to see it and discern it, we will often notice how God actually was there with us through the difficulties and in one way or another, He provided a short season or a person with a servant heart to bless us and to give us refreshment so that we can carry on down our hard-road journey.

Proclaiming God’s Word in Papua New Guinea

3 Comments

Many of my articles will talk about the 5 years that our family spent in a small remote village of Papua New Guinea (1997 – 2002) as these stand out as some of the best years we’ve had in our years of mission experience.  I have not said much yet about our older boy, Eric, and the battle he had with leukemia (he is doing okay today, praise God).  One consequence of Eric’s cancer was the need for our family to evacuate PNG to Australia, and then to Canada.  None of us have been back to our village in the jungle.

It was with great interest then, that I heard about the visit the summer interns for our mission would make to our village as part of their experience of PNG in 2009.  When I talked with them, they told me about their plans to share the Gospel by means of a digital recording.  I was so excited to hear of these plans.  Read the story from Delaina, one of the interns, and share in this wonderful experience.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“The Proclaimer”

The day after our meeting with the 4 translators, Lindy and I took our laundry down to the shallow river to wash the clothes. (No electricity in the village means no washing machines.) We waded barefoot into the cool flowing water, filled up a large bowl, and added some powdered laundry detergent. After scrubbing each garment by hand, we would rinse it in the river, squeeze out the extra water, and put it in a net bag called a bilum that was hanging from a tree branch nearby. Later we would have to carry all the clothes back to the house and hang them on the line to dry. We could see that it was going to take most of the morning to wash all of the clothes, so we wanted something to do while we worked. Lindy walked along the path by the airstrip back to the house and brought the Proclaimer to where I was at the river.

What is a Proclaimer you ask? It is basically a big MP3 player, but instead of music, it has a recording on it of people reading the entire New Testament in Tok Pisin, the trade language of PNG. I suggested that we listen to the recording of 1 Peter, so Lindy and I continued scrubbing dirty clothes, but now we were hearing something that sounded a lot like this, “Mi Pita, mi aposel bilong Jisas Krais. Mi raitim dispela pas long yupela ol manmeri bilong God, yupela ol lain i stap nabaut olsem tripman long provins Pontus, Galesia, Kapadosia, Asia, na Bitinia.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Now Daniel, one of the national translators, lived right across the river in his village hut. His wife heard this voice coming from the Proclaimer and sat down on the bank to hear 1 Peter. After all 5 chapters had been read, she thanked us for letting her listen in, and she told us, “This talk is shooting my stomach,” which is their expression for saying, “What I heard really touched my heart.” We had brought the Proclaimer to the river to entertain ourselves while doing laundry and help us learn Tok Pisin, but God used His word to speak to that woman’s heart.

The story doesn’t end there. At 7:00 the next morning, I was working on getting breakfast for the team. I had just hauled 2 buckets of water up the stairs from the rain tank outside to use for cooking and washing dishes when I heard a cough coming from the front yard. I looked out and saw Daniel standing there waiting to talk to us. I had to wake Lindy up, and she went to see what Daniel wanted. We were amazed by his request. He said, “Can you bring the Proclaimer and come with me? There is a group of people waiting right now to hear 1 Peter before they go work in their gardens for the day.” Apparently Daniel’s wife had told her friends and relatives that they needed to hear what she had heard the day before.

We grabbed the Proclaimer and followed Daniel across the river to a cluster of huts where about 20 people were waiting. These people sat still and listened to all of 1 Peter and half of 1 Corinthians. That’s 12 chapters of the Bible! God was speaking to them through His Word, and again many people said, “This talk is shooting our stomachs!”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Several times over the next week, groups of people from this village and even surrounding villages met outside our house to listen to the Bible on the Proclaimer. There was a group of over 70 people who came one day. That was almost the entire village! The last day we were there, a group of people sat for 3 solid hours listening to book after book of the New Testament, beginning with 1 Peter. They only left then because the Proclaimer shut itself off from lack of solar power.

And these are people who used to murder other people for money, who are still involved in witchcraft, and who don’t all get along with each other. But they came together to hear God’s Word because God was working in their hearts. We serve a powerful God, and if He can change the hearts of these tribal people in Papua New Guinea, He can do anything.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As a footnote, let me say this.  It is wonderful to hear how excited the people were to hear Scripture in Tok Pisin, the trade language.  But this is a second language that they learn as they grow up.  Try to imagine the pure joy in their hearts (or in their stomachs) that they would experience when they hear the Word of God spoken in their mother-tongue language.  I’ve seen that joy, and that is why I am a Bible translator still to this day.

God Given Friends

1 Comment

Hard Road Journey – Part 5

We now begin a look into chapter three of Mark Atteberry’s book entitled “Walking With God on the Road you Never Wanted to Travel“.  We continue to study and learn together how to keep on walking forward when we find ourselves in a difficult place in life.  Often the journey is difficult and the road is long, but let us see what Atteberry’s next strategy is that can help us get through.  (If you have not read previous articles on this book, then click here to go back to “A Hard Road Journey – Part 1“.

The title of chapter three is “Travel With a Friend“, a principle that I totally agree with.  Whenever we go through tough times, often what happens is one of two things.  Either we withdraw and don’t open up to others about the difficult things that are happening in our lives (and then sometimes we wonder why “no one cares” because they do not call or visit).  Or, we approach people and are ready to talk about the tough things happening in our lives, but the people we approach are living such rapid and ragged lives themselves, it is nearly impossible for them to slow down to listen and to care for us.

The result is that for many of us, we live very lonely lives, even while we are surrounded by millions of people.  Now some godly people may offer truly genuine compassion when they tell the suffering person, “You are not alone!  God will never leave you nor abandon you.”  And they are right, God is with us at all times.  But for many of us who walk these hard road journeys, this spiritual truth and answer is just not quite satisfying in and of itself.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I truly believe that for most people, and maybe I can be bold enough to say for all people, along with the Lord we need a real flesh-and-blood person to whom we can turn for help in times of great difficulty.  Atteberry says:

The hard roads of life are best traveled with a friend.  Even though God will be walking with you every step of the way, there’s a benefit to human companionship that cannot be denied.                                                                                                                                                          (pg. 28)

And then he says further:

And if it wasn’t good for him [Adam] to be alone in the safe haven of the Garden of Eden, how much more dangerous is it for him to be alone in a fallen world where the roads are hard and evil lurks in every shadow?”                                                                                                                     (pg. 30)

These words of Atteberry are quite wise.  And he expands on this thought of how important it is to find a friend to be with you while you walk through these dark valleys and difficult roads by giving us advise on exactly what kinds of friends we should be looking for.  Although there may be an abundance of friends who might look like good candidates of a person you might choose to have with you on this journey, not all friends are equal, and in fact some friends may actually be harmful to you.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so Atteberry tells us that there are four good qualities that people should have if they are to be the perfect friends for us, friends that can truly be helpful to us in our times of need.  First of all, it would be most helpful if your friend has also walked through a “wilderness experience”.  That person can empathize with us when life suddenly turns upside down for us.  Secondly, the “perfect” friend must have an intimate and daily relationship with God.  He or she can help you tap into spiritual truth and spiritual practices which will lighten the terrible load which you carry along your hard road journey.

The third quality that is so important for someone to be the perfect friend is that this hard-road companion must have a heart of compassion.  It is rather easy for people to say to others who are emotionally hurting something like, “Well, your husband isn’t suffering any more.”  That statement is true, but shows no compassion to the person who has just lost their spouse of 45+ years.

And the last good quality of a hard-road journey companion is that of loyalty.  Many friends will be there for you when you first encounter that great trial of life or experience the difficulty that turns your world upside down.  Long after all the other well-wishers have gone and are once again caught up in their busy lives, there are still some who decide to continue to stay by your side, and these are the kinds of quality friends that you need to associate with.  Then the hard-road journey you are on suddenly gets easier to walk upon and the burden gets lighter to carry.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As I write this article, I think about a man whom we had never met before but who was there for us during a difficult period for our family.  His name is Christian.  (Pretty cool name, eh?)  At the time that I am thinking about, our first-born son Eric had been diagnosed with leukemia which caused us to leave the mission work in PNG and return to Canada.  While going through treatment, and by means of fascinating circumstances, Christian became aware of Eric’s situation.

And at that point, Eric had become a great fan of all Nintendo consoles and games and the Game Cube had just been released.  So as a surprise, and remember that Christian was a total stranger to us, he wanted to encourage Eric’s spirits, and he sent one of the first available Game Cubes to my son to help him (and us) face the hard-road journey that we were on, and would last for 33+ months of treatment.

Christian came alongside and became a hard-road companion to our family at the exact time we needed it.  Thankfully, I have been able to return the favor in recent years.  So stay tuned.  Two Saturdays from now (March 26) I will pick up this story about me and Christian.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦