Church Leaders United Together in Papua New Guinea

5 Comments

The 2013 Madang, PNG “Power In The Word” Conference of Church Leaders

“We (the churches) need to work together. The days of having our own independent ministries and not joining together in ministry are over.” — Madang Pastor

Power In Word - 1

One hundred twenty-six church pastors and leaders from seventeen church denominations came from all over Madang province to attend the “Power in the Word” conference hosted by the Crossroad Baptist Church. The conference was organised by the Madang Pastors Fraternal with help from PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA), Pioneer Bible Translators and SIL-PNG.

The conference began with a focus on repentance and a time of prayer for the churches, communities and the nation. The next three days were filled with sessions that encouraged and strengthened the leaders. These sessions helped the leaders to see new ways of using the Scriptures in their churches. Topics such as “Power of the Word”, “Using the Vernacular Scriptures”, “Oral Bible Storytelling” and “Preaching and Praying in Tokples” proved invaluable to the pastors.

Other sessions focused on overcoming trials facing the churches. Presentations on “Hindrances to Using the Word”, “Melanesian Spiritism”, “Disunity” and “Western Humanism and Secularism” challenged the leaders to face the issues in their churches with the power of the Word. There were also practical sessions led by representatives from Christian Book Melanesia, Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship, SIL-PNG, Faith Comes by Hearing and Youth with a Mission.

    

Participants were highly interested in the presentation about Scripture Application and Leadership Training (SALT), a program that equips national pastors and leaders in PNG to effectively use translated Scriptures in church ministries. Church leaders in Madang town want to take the training so that they can share it in the rural areas surrounding Madang.

The conference generated a feeling of unity among the pastors and leaders as they saw the need to work together. The “Word” was seen as the common denominator for all churches and denominations—and the translated Word was seen as the best way to express God’s truth to the hearts of those in their congregations.

“There was a great respect for the vernacular and it was often stated that the power of God’s Word is most accurately expr aessed in the vernacular.” — Jim Tomlinson

                                

This church conference of pastors and leaders all coming together to praise the Lord and profess their need for more unity and cooperation among national Papuan churches is most exciting to us.  This is an answer to our prayers of many years, to see the national churches come alive and not just see the magnitude of the task of evangelizing their own people group and others, but also to really start taking on this task, and doing it arm-in-arm with leaders of other denominations.

Even more incredible is that fact that many of them are now clearly seeing that evangelization of their people will be much more fruitful if they use translated Scriptures in their own language.  Putting it another way, Bible translation is now being seen as essential for pastors and leaders to more effectively do evangelism among their own people.  And the spirit of unity which swept through the group was certainly an awesome thing to experience.  Almost makes you think of what it was like in those early days when the Holy Spirit broke forth during the Day of Penetost and the church exploded in very incredible ways.

Power In Word - 2

As I now begin my long journey from North America back to Papua New Guinea, I am excited to think of the groundwork with has already been laid down by all these faithful Papuan pastors and leaders.  It is very obvious that God is moving among them, no matter what their denominational flavor they may be, to bring them all to their knees in repentant spirits and to hold one another’s hand in the sign of Christian unity over there.

This will definitely be a real boost to the work which I do in PNG.  I have a burning passion to train nationals to learn the “Principles of Bible Translation“, guide them in other skills and knowledge they will need, and then send them back out to their villages to do Bible translation among their own people.  There are so many stories that tell how the task of Bible translation so very often ends up with the result that the translated Word of God grabs hold of their own hearts and we see the lives of the translators become transformed for Christ right before our eyes.

So as I said above, I am very eager to get back to PNG and to see what great and awesome things God has done during these four months that I have been away.  And I am excited about the fact that a real passion for Bible translation has now begun among these churches.  Christ himself said that the gates of hell could not prevail against the church.  Now think how powerful and effective the changing of lives will be when we see more and more church support being put into the Bible translation movement that is representative of what our mission does, Pioneer Bible Translators.

Teaching Literacy In East Africa – Pt. 1

3 Comments

 Translation and Literacy Must Go Together

Translating the Bible into the minority languages of the world is the primary task of Pioneer Bible Translators.  It has been my privilege to serve with PBT for 17 years now, and I have transitioned from being a translator working on one language in a remote area of Papua New Guinea, to where I am now a translation consultant, helping to check the final draft of a translated book of Scripture for many language groups.

As important as Bible translation is, there is anther task that is just as critical as the task of translation.  I am referring to the task of Literacy.  We know from experience that there are some projects that do finish translating the New Testament, or even the entire Bible, but because the people were never taught to read their own language, the translated book sits on shelves and collects dust.

What a shame that is to have worked for decades to complete a translation, only to have it be shelved and not read by the people.  That is one reason why during my linguistic training in Dallas to become a translator that I took a course called, “Literacy For Translators”.  This course gave us an appreciation for literacy, and we put our hand to the task of trying to create and teach new alphabets to each other in the course.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In this course, we learned the importance of starting out slowly, giving students one sound and symbol at a time.  Even if students are able to read in a trade language, we must not assume that it will be an easy and automatic skill for them to read in their own language, which up until the time of Bible translation, had never been written down before.

The final project for the course was to come up with a new alphabet for the English language, and to write lessons and a story in the revised alphabet.  This is much more difficult than you can imagine since we all were highly literate and fluent in our native tongue, English.  But consider what learning English is like for someone who is learning English as a foreign language.

For example, we can say the words “through”, “threw”, and “thru” which all sound the same, but are each spelled differently and also have different meanings.  A harder problem for many is when you see the same vowel set and find out that the vowel is pronounced quite differently in each word.  Take for example these words “though, trough, rough, bough, and through.  And many more examples can be found.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What we try to do then as linguists is to find a symbol that represents one and only one sound, and that each sound has one and only one symbol to represent it.  In our village language, we were able to identify 6 significant vowels and 19 significant consonants.  Other sounds were heard, but they did not produce significant changes in word meanings and so they did not become part of the official alphabet.

It certainly is a lot of work to create these alphabets, but once established, especially if they have this one-to-one symbol to sound correspondence, then it is possible for new readers to begin to learn how to read fairly quickly.  In my official “Revised English” (Reeviyzd Ingglish), I determined that there were 25 significant consonant sounds and 15 significant vowels and diphthongs (a slide between two vowels.)

In the remaining space below, and in the next week’s article on “Teaching Literacy in East Africa”, I have taken a portion of two ladies’ newsletters.  These two women were teaching the concept of literacy for two language groups.  By the end of the two weeks, each language group had prepared a full “Primer” (pronounce with the “i” in “bit” not “bite”) to take back and teach other people in their language group the alphabet and the basics of reading.  Please pray that all of the projects where we are translating the Bible will also be able to get full literacy courses off of the ground so the people can read God’s Word.

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

a, i, l, k, w

Can you rearrange these letters to make words?

Now use those words to create a short story.

This was the first of many challenges given to the 15 local writers at the primer construction workshop this month. For two weeks guest consultants guided teams from two language groups to write 72 lessons. These will help adults learn how to read in their own languages.

This was the short story created by one of the teams for the first primer lesson using the letters above:

Ali ikala. (This is charcoal.)

Alila kawa. (That is a cover.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The first story is very simple, but as the lessons continue the stories get longer and introduce many more letters and words for the new readers to learn. By lesson 12 the letter “Y” is introduced and also the word “Yesu” (Jesus). At least one of the stories for each subsequent lesson focuses on the life of Jesus and His teachings.

These reading primers will be one step toward helping people who cannot read at all to learn how to read the Bible on their own. And those who haven’t heard the gospel will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus while they’re learning to read.

Praying over the finished Primers before they were sent to the publishers.

Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 2

1 Comment

Our First Week in France – Pt. 1

In last week’s article, we caught a glimpse of the heart of a missionary wife and mother, just before they headed overseas to France where they all would concentrate on learning French.  This was an important step for them to become much more proficient in French before they would go next to West Africa and minister there where most people are bilingual in French, the official language.

In the first two weeks that this missionary family spent in a small rural town in France, all of them had some interesting and often demanding experiences.  I’m sure that the leaders and experienced field personnel from our mission were careful to teach them what kind of things to expect when they would get to Africa, and to be prepared for the culture shock that would happen once they got there.

What they may not have been prepared for was the initial stages of being enamoured by the differences they found in France, followed by shock and frustration that comes when they realized that that was not their home.  Familiar activities that would normally be quite easy, could suddenly become very difficult and frustrating when they didn’t work the same way.  Then add to that the language barriers, which can get anyone discouraged and frustrated.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Thankfully, God built most of us to be somewhat in awe, filled with excitement when we first get to our new environment.  This is called the “Honeymoon Stage”, where everything is just so fascinating because things are both different and interesting from what we are used to.  God also has designed us to be flexible and learn how to adapt quickly to new situations that occur in new environments.

That is what I would like to do now, in this article and one more, is to see the interesting differences of life in another country seen through the eyes of a new missionary family.  The wife kept a kind of journal, which she would then email back to her family and friends over here.  She has given me permission to put out excerpts from her notes.  I hope you will find some of the things she writes as interesting to you as they were to me when I first read it.

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

Let’s get started, and I think the easiest way to do this is to focus in on some of the main topics which she wrote about:

Traveling & Jet Lag

Our flight was uneventful and we were actually able to get a little sleep in preparation for our 8am arrival in Paris.  Since we had 6 hrs between flight and train, we didn’t feel at all rushed even with the transportation strike.  And the luggage carts are free at Charles de Gaul!  We blessed our French professor many times yesterday!  The kids did great too!

[Note:  most missionaries now will tell you the best flight you can have is an “uneventful one”.]

Many, many trains were cancelled because of the strikes, but ours went right on!  Thanks for praying because it truly was a miracle – the folks in Mours St Eusebe (our town) were told it was supposed to be cancelled.

[Note:  when a missionary first arrives in a non-Western, developing country, we’ve heard enough stories to know to expect things not to go smoothly, especially in the area of transportation and logistics.  But note how this family arrived right in the middle of a transportation strike in France.  So no matter where we travel as missionaries, we always need to keep up our prayer support to cover us for whatever lies ahead.]

On Day 1, she wrote, “After a brief time up around 2:30 this morning, we slept until noon!  Jet lag must be gotten through. 

On Day 2, she wrote, “The whole family was up at inappropriate times last night from jet lag.  Tonight we will try Tylenol PM.  We did get up at 8am though.

And on Day 5, “Have had a rough couple of days/nights.  Jet lag isn’t our favorite.  We were up at seven-ish this morning though so hopefully we can make it through the whole day awake.

And for Day 6, “The girls are the first ones to sleep completely through the night!  Progress has been made!  Our son got up for some decongestant last night but was able to go right back to sleep.  The two of us are still struggling but will get there.

[Then, after Day 6, jet lag and poor sleep is not mentioned very much again.  One conclusion: tough times (like no sleep) can hit us hard, but they only last (usually) a short time.  Trust God to carry you through tough times, and know that better days lie ahead.]

Be Careful At First

We will plunge into our new community and language learning this afternoon.  One thing we were advised was to just tell our neighbors we are here to learn French and not to mention being missionaries right away.  He said people will put you in a category that might hinder the relationship if you tell them right away that you are an evangelical Christian. 

A few days later:

On the way to Bingo, a lady was parking her car near our house.  Since it was raining, I offered to share my umbrella.  We chatted about many things.  Of course, our work in Africa came up.  I tried real hard to dodge the “what will you do” question in accordance with the advice given to us.  But she wheedled it out of me.  She said she was Catholic when she was young but now she was nothing because (here she paused for a long while and I inserted, “La vie est difficile? (Life is difficult)” to which she nodded her head yes). 

[I would agree that we should be cautious at first in new situations with new people.  But we must also be sensitive to the hurts and needs of others so that at any time we might be there to offer words of hope and encouragement.]

Tune in next week for Part 3.

The Connection Between Heaven And Earth

4 Comments

John 3:31 – 36

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.

34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

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

These six verses taken just by themselves can be extremely difficult to follow and to understand.  Often, when we encounter a difficult teaching passage like this, there are at least two ways that we can gain help from Scripture to understand Scripture.  I will do my best here to try to unearth what I believe are the deep truths being taught here.

First of all, we must try to see if we can find a key thought or central message that is being taught here.  It seems to me that verse 35 may be the most important truth which will shed light on the rest of the passage, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand”.  This shows the preeminent place that Jesus holds, and establishes His divine authority.  Keep this in mind as we unravel the rest of the passage.

Secondly, it is always important to see the larger context in which a passage is found.  The last verse revisits the themes of spiritual life and salvation to those who believe in Jesus, vs. spiritual death and condemnation to those who don’t believe.  That was the concluding thought in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.  Verses 31 – 33 become clearer when we realize that this comes immediately after John the Baptist states that Jesus must become greater and he (John) must become less significant.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It would probably be very helpful if we were to replace the many pronouns “he” with the person who is in view, and to bring out explicitly the things that are implicit (i.e. the things that are truths below the text but can be brought up to the surface of the text to be seen more clearly).  See if this helps:

31 He (Jesus) who comes from above (Heaven) is above all (greater than any other). He (John) who is of the earth (i.e. is a human) belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way (speaks about matters that concern us in this earthly life). He who comes from heaven is above all.

 32 He (Jesus) bears witness to (shares a message concerning) what he (Jesus) has seen and heard (in Heaven, ie. “spiritual truths”), yet no one (humanity in general) receives his testimony. 33 Whoever (a person who has faith) receives his testimony (Jesus’ message) sets his seal to this (gives his approval, or agrees), that God is true (that the message about God is true).

You can see how tricky it can be to understand these verses unless we first carefully define each person and idea in these verses.  But once we do that, then the meaning becomes so much clearer.  There is a fundamental reality here, namely that there is an earthly existence (that which you and I are experiencing right now), but that there is also a spiritual existence.  That is the realm of God.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

These two realms though, that of Heaven and that of earth, are not to be thought of as separate and isolated from each other.  No, we see immediately in verse 34 that “the Father sent him (Jesus)” to come into the world and “utter the words of God”.  In simpler terms, Jesus came down from Heaven to teach us all about who God is and what the Kingdom of God is like.

Note one very important detail here.  Even though God had sent many messengers before to proclaim the truths of God, namely prophets, Jesus is different from these messengers for it says in verse 34 that God gave His Spirit to Jesus “without measure”, i.e. completely and without limitation.  Prophets had a portion of the Spirit to declare divine truths, but Jesus was given limitless access to God’s Spirit which gave him full ability to bring messages of divine truth to mankind.

Regarding John 3:33-34, Carson’s Commentary on John says:

Throughout redemptive history, God spoke to his people through many accredited messengers. Each received that measure of the Spirit that was required for his or her assigned task. Three centuries after John wrote, Rabbi Aha rightly commented that the Holy Spirit who rested on the prophets did so according to the measure of each prophet’s assignment.  Not so to Jesus: to him God gives the Spirit without limit.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This brings us to the key verse of 3:35, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”  And verse 36 goes on to state specifically what it is that God had given to His Son.  As Heaven and Earth connect through the Person of Jesus, it is declared by the Father that the Son has the right to give eternal life to whoever would believe in Him.  The opposite is also made clear.  To those who do not believe in Jesus and thus disobey God, to them comes condemnation and eternal punishment.

Dear friends: this life is the prelude to the next life.  What you decide here in this earthly realm will determine your fate and condition in the spiritual and eternal realm.  What will you decide?

My Life Testimony – Pt. 5

Leave a comment

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.

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

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.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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.

We Have Found The Messiah

1 Comment

John 1:35 – 42

Introducing Others to Jesus

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). [1]

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

Our last two articles have focused our study in on John the Baptist.  In this study, we will see the focus shift now from John to Jesus.  In this Gospel, we do not have very many words of John recorded for us, but here we see him repeat once more one of the most important messages that he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  (Read the last article to understand this expression.)

We do not know how long John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing out in the wilderness, but we do know that he had gathered some followers who were called “his disciples”.  Now it was time for John to introduce his disciples to Jesus.  And when he identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, two of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

That takes a lot courage and humility to pass the spotlight off of yourself to shine on someone else.  It could have been very easy for John to want to hold on to his followers.  But he didn’t.  Actually, it was his own followers who had trouble with this shift.  If we jump ahead to John 3:22 – 36, we see that John’s disciples were jealous of the new attention and success that Jesus was having.  But John’s response in verse 30 is, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

So two of John’s disciples decided that they wanted to become apprentice-pupils of Jesus.  This was the common practice of that day.  If you wanted to advance your knowledge about God and the Jewish Law and Old Testament teachings, you would look for a Rabbi (a learned teacher) and attach yourself to him as a disciple, more literally an apprentice.

These two men spent the whole day with Jesus.  Right up until the late afternoon (4 pm).  It must have been quite exciting to hear Jesus teach, for the very first thing that one of them did, namely Andrew, was to go out to find his brother and tell him that he believed that he had found the Messiah, the man whom God had chosen to save the people.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The reaction of Andrew is quite a common response for many people when they first encounter Jesus and take Him as the Lord and Saviour of their lives.  There is an excitement and a burning need to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for them in their life.  For those of us who have known Jesus as Lord for a very long time, we may have forgotten what those early moments were like for us.

I still remember though a special night in my life when I was about 14 and was still relatively new in my faith, only two years or less.  My parents took me on a weekend campout to attend a Square Dance rally.  Some people brought their motor homes and campers, others put up large tents to sleep in.  The big dances for the adults were usually in the evenings, which left us kids free to hang out and have fun in the tents together.

Fairly early in the evening, one of the kids asked me something about me going to church, and I responded that yes, I did believe in Jesus and what the Bible had to say.  Well, this generated quite a few questions which I gladly answered.  If I wasn’t sure of the answer, I would take the time to search my Bible to find an appropriate answer.  This spontaneous evangelistic moment and small group Bible study went on through the night until about 3 a.m.  I had never felt so invigorated in my young spiritual life as I did during that night.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As I reflect back on that night of sharing my faith with about 10 other kids crammed into that tent, I can also see in my mind the same kind of excitement that Andrew must have felt.  We actually do not know much about Andrew in Scripture.  He is kind of one of those silent disciples of Jesus.  But he will forever be known as the one who brought Peter to Jesus.  And we know from Scripture just how much impact Peter had on the beginnings of the early church once Jesus got a hold of his life.

So let me encourage both you and me.  Knowing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour is a wonderful thing.  But introducing others to Jesus is what it is all about.  And who knows what God might do in the life of that person that we lead to Jesus.  Maybe that person will become a modern day Peter.  I pray that would be so.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:35–42). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Taking God’s Word to Africa

1 Comment

The Trek Up North….

(A true story from one of my PBT colleagues.)

This year began with an amazing trip to our friends in North-East Africa.  After spending a nice Christmas with our son and family in Europe, as full as ever with memories, my wife and I flew to N.E. Africa.  There we met up with our first full-time team who are living and working in that region of Africa.  We flew up to their new home and enjoyed encouraging them and getting a feel for that “neck of the woods.” 

This is an extraordinary outreach into new territories that merits our most fervent prayers.  Together we explored 5 different language groups on motorcycles and found an amazing openness to our work of literacy and translation.

From that area I caught a ride in the back of an old truck (used as a bus) to another people group that I had heard about.  They had the New Testament, but wanted to begin translation of the rest of the Bible.  I studied their language and trained 10 men in translation principles for a week. 

The stories they shared of surviving a long civil war and then eventually taking refuge in Ethiopia were sobering.  Pray for them as they re-establish themselves in their homeland and prepare for a future that does not promise to be easy.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The next part of our adventure consisted of an hour-long plane ride to an unreached people group that we had already visited once.  This time we went bearing gifts of new Bible story books in their own language, fruit of our labors from the last visit. 

The people were elated to finally see something written in their own language; it was a first for them.  It is hard to believe the impact that a simple Bible story book can have on a group of people.  We dream of the day when we will deliver the whole of God’s Word to them.

After a logistic nightmare, we finally arrived on the western side of the country.  We spent some time looking for accommodations for our next colleague to move on site.  She will develop the literacy projects that God has enabled us to begin in an area covering at least 5 different language groups.  We’ve already prepared primers and taught literacy teachers in these areas, but the fire needs to be fanned.  Our sister will have quite a job on her hands; please pray for her.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

During our many visits to this area, we have also facilitated the translation of a book on “Trauma Healing” based on Biblical principles.  For a war-torn country, that is quite a necessity.  We had several manuscripts that we took back so that they could be proofed before we publish them in the various languages. 

[Editor’s Note: whether we are translating Scriptures into the local language, or other educational/medical information booklets, many different kinds of checks are done to make sure the message is clear, natural and accurate for the people of that receptor language.]

Our final destination brought a special joy to our hearts.  This was our fourth visit to this isolated people group, and this time we finally had a significant gift for them: the Gospel of Matthew.  Once a year the leaders of this people group gather together for a time of reflection about their people’s needs.  They spent an entire day reading the test copies of Matthew that I took to them and they were amazed to hear God’s Word in their own language. 

It was exciting to see the wise men of the group discuss the various terms that we had used to translate key concepts. We also delivered 150 copies of a songbook in their language that was finished years ago, but which had never been printed.  I was touched as the main author of the song book held a copy in hands and said, “I didn’t think it would ever be published.”  Praise God for your help in reaching out to these people.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We then spent two weeks with our colleagues in a different country of East Africa.  They are involved in 10 different translation projects in the southeast corner of that country.  Once a book of the Bible is translated by the team and checked in the village, a “translation consultant” goes over the book using a back translation into English. 

As the consultant, my task was to review the book of Romans in 10 different languages, and to try to make sure that the translators had understood and communicated the correct concepts.  The team there continues to make progress; please keep them in your prayers.

Editor’s Corner

It is not unusual for those of us who work with Pioneer Bible Translators to be literally “globe-trotting” as my friend and his wife did in this story.  We have taken Jesus’ words to heart when He said that we need to take the Gospel to “the ends of the earth”.

It is also not unusual for us to experience this same kind of joy as we give God’s Word to different people groups and see how receptive they are to hearing the Word of Life in their heart-language.

But did you notice what else is needed in this story related above?  Many people groups are open to receive the translated Bible.  Missionaries are doing all they can to meet this need.  What we need from people like you who are reading this article is your prayers.

Please keep praying that these doors of opportunity will present themselves to us, that we will make good progress in bringing God’s Word to the nations, and that God would receive all the glory in what we do.

Thank you in advance for your prayers for the Bibleless peoples of the earth.

We Are God’s Ambassadors

Leave a comment

The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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

Prayer Burdens

In an amazing statement, Jesus said to His Father: “And the glory which You gave Me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me” (John. 17:22, 23).

God’s pattern for saving the world is His own! In the Old Testament, when God purposed in His heart to save Nineveh, He called Jonah to go and preach to them. When Jonah finally obeyed, after God severely disciplined him, all Nineveh repented (Jon. 3:5-10). Down through history when God wanted nations to hear of His love, He chose, called, and sent prophets.

It is no different in our day. God’s people still hold the key to reaching a lost world. So, the biblical pattern in praying for a lost world is to pray for God’s people, as Jesus did. How do we practically implement this? When God places a burden on our heart for a nation, we need to pray for:
• The missionaries in that nation, using Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17 as our guide
• The national believers and the churches in that nation
• Mission ministry groups
• Denominations
• For God’s people

The salvation of the nations rests with God’s people. Missionaries have shared the testimony that when they preached the gospel in some villages who had never heard before, these same villagers upon believing asked the missionaries: “How long have you known this good news? Why have you taken so long to come to us? Why did you not come before now? Our parents and others are in an eternity without God and without hope! If only you had come earlier!”

It has been mathematically calculated that if one person discipled another, and they in turn witnessed and discipled one each, and if this continued to multiply and each one hearing remained faithful to sharing with one other each week, it would take a short number of years for all 6.25 billion people in the world to hear the gospel and to be saved. We must pray for the world, by praying as Jesus did, for God’s own people.

–Adapted from Chapter 61 of Giving Ourselves to Prayer (The Bible and Global Prayer by Henry Blackaby).

Lord Jesus, each day, thousands of people you love die without hope…many without ever hearing Your lovely name! Give me, and the rest of Your people, a sense of urgency for finishing the task You gave us so long ago! I repent of my complacency and discomfort! Please fill me with renewed earnestness and determination to witness and to teach others how to live godly, holy lives.

Posted: 10 Oct 2011

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

This same kind of prayer burden is becoming the model within our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators.  Not only do we pray for the people to whom we have been called by God to serve, but we are gathering to pray for each other.  Don’t get me wrong, we are not offering up naval-gazing prayers, you know, the ones that are only me-focused and look at life from a perspective of “What do I want, and when I pray in Jesus’ name, I will get that, right?”

No, I am talking about deep soul-searching and soul-wrenching prayer for all of us to be renewed spiritually within, so that the heart will be a fertile ground of exhibiting the genuine love of Christ for those who are perishing without the knowledge of God.  And especially, we pray for those people groups where they still as of today do not have any Scriptures yet published in their own mother-tongue language.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is not hard to see that PBT is a praying organization.  Most field Branches have a regular weekly prayer bulletin put together which is sent out to thousands of people who uphold our work in prayer.  There has been a drive to fill a 24/7 prayer schedule of the names of people who are solidly committed to offering up the “sacrifices of praise” and the prayers for the saints and the work of ministry of PBT.

This plan to have someone praying every hour throughout every week is not that many months old, and already there is about 47% of the prayer time slots that are filled.  Just imagine when the entire chart is filled.  We have seen some amazing things happen in PBT these past few years.  But once we have round-the-clock prayers, watch out, because God will do even more great and wonderful things.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Even here in Dallas in the small circle of people I am with we are “breaking out in prayer”.  For the first time in a long time, we have a large number of people in the Dallas area who are interested in serving PBT over in Papua New Guinea.  And one of the first things we did (after going out for ice cream of course), was to form a prayer group that met each Tuesday at lunch hour so we could pray for each other and the work being done in PNG.

And then finally, let me mention an evening I spent with a family a few nights ago.  They invited me over for supper and to visit.  We had a great time eating and sharing with one another.  But it wasn’t long after we had finished the meal, and as we kept talking around the table, that we all felt that the appropriate way to close our evening together was to spend time praying together.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Dear Readers:  I hope you too are catching the Spirit blowing and are hearing the call to prayer.  Do that, and you too will see God do great and marvelous things.

Be A Witness For Jesus

Leave a comment

John 1:6 – 8

Testifying Concerning the Light (Jesus)

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The first five verses of this chapter of John take us on a tour of spiritual grandeur that is mind stretching, taking us all the way back to the very beginning of time itself.  Verse 6 and following helps to give the historical setting into which Jesus, the Eternal Word stepped out of eternity and entered into our world of space and time. But we don’t start this opening scene looking at the life of Jesus, but the one who would prepare the way for Jesus and His ministry.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The College Press NIV commentary gives us a good picture of the ministry of the man who preceded Jesus, whom we have come to know from the Gospels as John the Baptist.  It says:

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. History within earthly time is now reached with John the Baptist. He was sent from God, his message was repentance, and his action was immersion in water, so that his audience could publicly certify their repentance.  1

Something that I find interesting in John’s Gospel it that although we learn a lot about him through the messages he proclaimed and the interaction he had with the Jewish leaders, we do not know much about the success of his preaching among the people.  We need to turn to other gospel writers to see that multitudes of people were constantly coming to John to publicly confess their sins and to be baptized.

In anyone’s books today, that would be considered a very great success.  You would think that John would have been proud of his accomplishments.  Not so with John the Baptist.  He knew the very heart and mind of God and he knew that the purpose of his ministry was to bear witness to God’s Son.  The primary purpose of this life was to be there at that specific time to be able to give testimony concerning one man, Jesus.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Again looking at the NIV Commentary, we can see better who John the Baptist was:

John’s real purpose was not (1) to save the world (he never died or rose for anyone), nor (2) to seek recognition as the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy (he acknowledged that he was not the Messiah), nor (3) to found the Kingdom and/or the church (he was not even a part of or in the kingdom/church [Matt. 11:11]). John’s purpose was (4) to testify or to bear witness to the Light, who was Jesus.  2

Now in a way, all of us are witnesses in life.  We witness things happening around us and what others are doing.  Some of us are called by our judicial systems to testify as an eyewitness concerning what we may have seen happened.  That is a rare thing to be called into court to be a witness.  But as for John, the entire meaning and purpose of his life was to be a witness leading others towards the Light, leading them to Jesus.

That sound awfully radical, doesn’t it.  And yet, remember what Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Just like John, there is meant to be a primary purpose that permeates our daily lives (regardless of what else we may be doing in life) and that is to lead people to God and to Jesus by what we say and do.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

One more thing to notice concerning “being a witness for Jesus” is that there is a goal to be kept in mind.  Specifically, just like John, the goal of us speaking the truths concerning Jesus is so that people will “believe the message that we speak.”

I know that it is hard for most of us Christians today to even speak up at all about our faith in Jesus.  To not only state the facts about Christ, but to try to even persuade people to believe these truths is a huge step that many of us feel uncomfortable to do.

But let us remember what is given to us in verse 8 above.  Again just like John, we are not the Light.  Jesus is the Light.  And light is something that draws the attention of people.  When the sun comes out from behind a large cloud, faces turn towards it.  Many insects will swarm around a light bulb or a candle.  When we are in the dark and feel lost, if a flashlight turns on, we immediately breathe a sigh of relief and head to that light.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I found an interesting little story that says:

Dr. Alexander of Princeton once described a little glow-worm which took a step so small that it could hardly be measured, but as it moved across the fields at midnight there was just enough light in its glow to light up a step ahead, and so as it moved forward it moved always in the light.  3

I feel like all of mankind can be compared to this little glow-worm.  We don’t often know where we are going in life.  But if we can let Jesus, the True Light, shine in our darkness, no matter how deep that darkness is around us, we will find our direction and purpose in life, just like John the Baptist did.

Bryant, B. H., & Krause, M. S. (1998). John. The College Press NIV commentary (John 1:6-7). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.

Ibid.

Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.


Christ In Us: The Hope of Glory

Leave a comment

The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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

The Hope of Glory

“Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

We believe that Jesus is present when we gather as the Church. But we don’t act that way. That is not the way things happen on Sunday. You know why I know your church needs revival? The reason I know your church needs revival is when church services ended last Sunday, you went home. What would happen if Jesus was there? Let’s just suppose Jesus was there. Would you be looking at your watch? Would you be eager to leave?

One of the characteristics of the great revivals was extended times of worship. They never wanted to end the service. Now obviously people had to leave, they had to take care of physical things, they had jobs that they had to go to, but as soon as they were done they were back, because that was where God was. They wanted to be in on the action. They wanted to be where God was. They wanted to experience His presence.

I want to suggest to you that revival is not strange or mystical. It is simply the Church waking up to the presence of Christ in her midst. It is almost as though God reaches out and slaps us and we wake up and we realize God is there. That is what revival is. It is God shaking us. It is God waking us up. And we recognize that Jesus really is here.

Father, I long to experience Your Presence, to be where You are, and to fully know You. Deepen my desire to be still before You and to listen to Your voice so that You might speak Your truth to my heart. Wake me up to the knowledge of Jesus living in me!

–Taken from the article Praying for Revival by Dave Butts. Read more…

Prayer Points

Praise God for the mystery of the Trinity—a model of love, unity, and oneness. Give thanks that God is able to bring a spirit of oneness among you and other believers, “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6). Confess any comments, thoughts, or actions that may have led to division, rather than unity, between you and another Christian. Ask God to make you humble enough to see your own fault in strained relationships and to seek forgiveness and peace.

Ask God to put his special protection around the staff and leaders of your church, so that Satan will not be able to bring division through misunderstanding, pride, or self-interest (Phil. 2:1-3).

–Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend (Click on the blue title for more information about this resource).

Posted 17 Sept 2011

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

This is a powerful devotional thought, and it challenges all of us I’m sure.  We live our lives at such a rapid pace, running from event to event and trying to juggle all the myriad of responsibilities and decisions that we must face each day.  And yet where is God in all of this?  It’s true that Jesus wanted us to really experience life, but is this the life He was talking about?

Perhaps we need some direct, external challenge to our faith, maybe even some persecution in our life for us to wake up and value our faith and to be more vigilant in prayer.  We have heard over the last 60 years how the faithful Christians in China have been persecuted and killed.  And yet at the same time, we hear reports of the phenomenal growth of the Church in China, perhaps the greatest evangelistic explosion of all time.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

How about another example of how persecution produced fervent prayer-mobilized Christians.  What I am thinking of is the Moravian Movement.  In the mid 1500’s, some early Protestant Pietists fled persecution in lower Europe and by the early 1700’s ended up being sheltered by a nobleman named Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf.  Under his protection and inspiration, the small community of believers became passionate in prayer to God, and this led to an evangelistic zeal that sent missionaries around the world.

In fact, the prayer movement that began in earnest in 1727 at their center was to be held unbroken by members of their movement for over 100 years.  The first overseas missionaries were sent to the Caribbean in 1732, and within fifteen more years, they had sent evangelists to countries as far away as China and Persia.  One source states that in 150 years from the start of their prayer revival,  over 2,150 missionaries were sent world-wide for the cause of Christ.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Wouldn’t that be something if we saw this kind of revival again?  And yet, even as I ask this question, it makes it sound like those “good old days” will never come back again.  The real truth is that there are plenty of signs that there is a renewed sense of an awakening to fervent prayer, here in the United States, and also in many of the developing countries where Christianity is flourishing quite well.

And as I mentioned in a previous article (Giant Step For Bible Translation), Pioneer Bible Translators is going through a growth spurt that is nothing short of a miracle.  In five years we have grown from being a mission with 182 missionaries to 322 members.  We expect to be doubled (380+) by next year, and then doubled again to about 800 missionaries in the next following six years.

And what has made the difference?  Prayer.  No doubt about it.  And Scripture promises to us, that when two or three are gathered in His name, that He is there in their midst.  So just imagine how powerful the Spirit can move when the 400 missionaries and supporting Christians who stand behind PBT keep up the current prayer focus.  WOW!!  Watch out world – Christ is on the move.

Older Entries