2012 Review In Pictures

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Looking Back At 2012

So much has happened for us in this past year.  There just are not enough words to tell all the stories and to convey our joy over what God has been doing in our lives as a family and through our lives in this work of Bible translation.  Let me share a few pictures with you then to try to capture the highlights of 2012.

Translation Checking in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

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Working with a team of national men from Papua New Guinea in January along with their missionary translator, a good friend of ours who is also a Canadian.

Glen Graduating From Basic Training With Canadian Army

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After four months of Army Boot Camp, Glen graduated in February 2012.  He was one of three recruits chosen to march in the flags, and he had the honor of carrying in the Canadian flag.

Translation Checking in the Lowlands of Papua New Guinea

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Most of March and April, Norm worked in Madang where our field office is for Pioneer Bible Translators.  He worked with national men from two language groups and checked the books of the Gospel of John and the book of Daniel.

Home in Calgary Enjoying a Canadian Summer

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In June, our family celebrated Jill’s birthday (with Glen’s picture in the background); Norm enjoying freedom on his electric scooter; and visiting the Calgary Stampede in July.

Visiting and Preaching in Prince Edward Island

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After being away for three years, we visited three churches in PEI and Nova Scotia to tell about the great things God is doing through the work of Bible translation.  On an off day, we would go spend a day together on the red sandy beaches and cold Atlantic waters.

Together Again

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We were thrilled when Glen was able to come home for two weeks in September.  We had our family together, including a special meal time with my mother, and my brother and his wife.

Time in Dallas and Illinois

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For the benefit of my health, and to work on translation projects, I was going to be in Dallas for two months away from Jill.  We were able to have a short holiday of fun before I headed south to work at the center where our International office is for PBT.  In the middle of this, a trip came together to visit four of our supporting churches in Illinois.

Home For Christmas

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Christmas with family.

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Happy Birthday Jesus!

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Starting Our Mission Experience In PNG

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Our Orientation To Papua New Guinea

Last week I shared a story about a young couple that had just started their missionary experience in East Africa.  I was very happy to hear how well their first six months went in their new country of residence.  They sounded like they got a good start to learning Swahili, making new friends, and beginning their time of ministry over there.

I also shared the fact that things did not go quite so well for us when our family went over in 2006.  One of the things that was taken for granted, both by ourselves and those with whom we would work, was that we would do well very quickly since we had already served as long-term missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

What we all neglected to realize was that there are huge differences between life in PNG and life in Africa.  In PNG, our family lived in a remote jungle village of about 200 people and learned a Papuan language slowly over the first couple of years.  Whereas in Africa, we were in a city of about 200,000 people and had to start communicating in Swahili within the first few days we were there.  That is why an orientation to the mission field is so important.

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I am very thankful then for the training that our family got in 1997 at the Pacific Orientation Course up on Nobnob Hill near the town of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Following their advice, we landed in Madang (after 52 hours of travel) and were immediately whisked off to the training center on the hill.  They believed it was best to go straight to the training center so that we did not “learn any bad habits” by being in the country on our own first.

It was certainly a culture shock for us seeing as we left a frigid Canada behind that February and then came into PNG where it is almost always above 90 F year-round on the coast.  The funniest thing happened though when we first entered PNG at the Port Moresby airport.  Jill saw no reason to keep a winter coat, so she stuffed it under the seat ahead on the plane.  In the customs line, they called her name out (oh no!!) and said, “I think this is your coat, Ma’am.”  🙂

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Once we got to the training center, we had more surprises to adjust to.  Back then, when emails and cell phones were just really beginning to take off, we were told that there would be no communication with family or friends except by letter.  (Really??)  The idea then was that if we were to get posted to a remote area that had no contact with the outside world (except by snail mail), then it was important to start practicing what that would be like while in our orientation course.

The other big challenge for some was that they didn’t even want us to bring any soft drink cans into the center.  (That was hard for Jill who liked Coke so much back then, but more in a minute.)  What was more important, was that they helped introduce us slowly week by week into more of the culture of PNG and the trade language Tok Pisin (a pidginized form of English).

Not only did we learn to speak with the local Papuans, we spent time with some of the families that lived around the center.  We were assigned to one family and we were to visit them once a week and begin developing a relationship with them and learn how the average Papuan lived.  We built fires to cook our food, hiked the jungle trails, and constantly worked at language learning.

The big “test” for all of us at this orientation course was to go live in a village with local people for five weeks.  We lived in thatched roof houses just like they did, built fires to cook on, and lived and worked right alongside of the people.  This was definitely a huge challenge, but after preparing for nine weeks at the center, we felt ready to live just like the Papuans.

Now back to Coke.  I knew what a big thing it was for Jill to have to give up Coke for the 3 1/2 months.  Right in the middle of our village living experience we were going to have our “midway visit and evaluation” by the center directors, which just happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary.

So I had prearranged with the directors to spring a surprise on Jill.  We had a very nice visit with them when they came to our village.  We showed them around.  They talked with the people to see how we were doing.  We had our interview with them.  And then we all relaxed when they said we were doing fine.  Then just before the main director got back in his car, he said to Jill that he had a surprise for her in the car, via my request.  She went over and lo and behold, he pulled out an ICE COLD COKE!!  (I got triple stars in her books for that anniversary surprise.)

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Well, if I haven’t been able to get the main point across yet through my stories, here it is: to be able to enter into a cross-cultural environment and have the most effective ministry possible among the people, you really need to have a good orientation period into the local language and culture.  That is not to say that someone cannot minister to people of another culture without any training.

But to really be effective in reaching the people, we need to learn to “live where they live and walk where they walk”.  And how much better it is if we are carefully trained and eased into that environment.  I pray this article will be of help and encouragement to new and aspiring young missionaries.

Young Missionary Couple Start In East Africa

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The Importance Of Orientation On The Mission Field

Entering into an overseas missionary assignment is not as easy as just getting on a plane and moving into a cross-cultural setting and beginning to minister to the people there.  I suppose you could try doing that.  And I know there have been others that have done this, and perhaps have even done well.  But that is probably the exception, not the rule.

You see, there are so many cultural and linguistic barriers that separate us from other people, that one must carefully get trained and equipped to overcome these barriers before effective ministry can really begin to happen.  Below is an except of a newsletter from a young missionary couple who moved to East Africa back in 2010.  Take a look at what they said, being so newly arrived to Africa, and then read about some of our experiences after that.

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 “This month has flown by. We realized it has now been six months since we arrived here in East Africa. It definitely does not seem that long. Looking back, we can see how we have changed, grown and adapted to our new environment. We can also see the incredible amount of blessings God has showered on us. Here’s just a few of the big ones.

Our language learning time was such a blessing. We made many friends and learned so much about the people and culture. A fantastic house became available and the timing was so perfect that we were able to move into it right after language school. We survived our village living and were able to take away so many insights from that experience. And now, we are working full time and things are going well.”

“Another blessing has been our health. We have not had any sicknesses lately which helps us greatly in accomplishing our work. God has also blessed us in the area of friends. He must have known how much we needed good friends to hang out with and relate to while being in such a different culture, because he gave us an amazing team. It has been so wonderful getting to know them and I really feel like we have made some special bonds.

We are also building relationships with a few nationals. It is slow going because of the language barrier but it is most rewarding to be able to connect on common ground. I pray that God is working through us and our slowly improving Swahili to touch their lives.

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 From even just this short report, it is clear that this couple got off to a good start.  They talk about making good friends with others quickly, and how they developed relationships with the national people there.  It is vital that these things happen in order to be effective in Christian ministry, drawing strength from one’s colleagues, as well as building a common ground of friendship with the local people, using the local language as the bridge into their lives.

Unfortunately, things did not go as well for our family when we went over to East Africa in 2006-07.  There are a number of reasons which all added up against us at that time which I don’t need to go into right here.  But probably the greatest of all the mistakes we made, if we can call it that, was that we did not take the time to be properly oriented into the life, culture and language of that country.

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It had been planned from the beginning for us to attend language school to learn Swahili and learn about the culture of East Africa, just like this young couple mentioned above.  We had three choices of where we could do this: two locations were many hours distant from where our mission office was in a large town, or at a language school just outside that town.

We chose the school near our office, partly because we did not want to uproot our family with two teen sons again in a short period of time.  But also because we knew our office was very short handed at that time and we had come specifically to help relieve the workload and leadership responsibilities.  It had been a long time since the leaders had been back home in America and we came to carry the load while they took a break.

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What ended up happening then, is that we drastically cut short our language and culture learning.  I ended up having the most training with just one month at the language school and one month of informal tutoring.  I got to the point that I could greet people, and I knew enough Swahili to pay our guards who watched over our house and yard, but not a whole lot more.

That had great impact negatively on our ability to build relationships with the African people to whom we had come to minister.  We attended a Swahili church, but understood little and had great difficulty being able to worship God, not knowing what was being spoken.  We ended up falling back on speaking English, which limited who we could speak with.

We do know that God used us to help out our East Africa Branch at that time.  But the stress of language and culture barriers were more than we could handle at that time, and our ministry to nationals was minimal for sure.  So if anyone is reading this who wants to minister to people in a cross-cultural setting, please take the time to learn as much language as possible first.  Then see how God can bless you in that new environment, and use you to be a blessing to the people there.

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Jesus Can Do Much With Little

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John 6:1 – 13

6 1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

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This event occurred just after the half way point of Jesus’ ministry.  Previously, we saw Jesus was getting into more and more trouble with the Jewish authorities.  But many of the people were still amazed at the miracles He performed and followed after Him to hear Him teach.  This was the height of Jesus’ popularity with the crowds.

Jesus and His disciples had been actively ministering to people and then went across the Sea of Galilee to get a short reprieve.  But the crowds find out where He is going and hurry around the lake to meet them on the other side.

Considering how tired Jesus and the disciples must have been, it is quite amazing that Jesus immediately began to heal the sick and to teach the crowds again about the Kingdom of God.  Once more, Jesus modelled for us true servanthood by giving of Himself, even when He sought out some peace and quiet.  The needs of people always came first for Jesus.

    

As we see the story unfold, the day is nearly over and the people are still there seeking to be blessed by Jesus.  After giving so much of Himself, He decided that He needed to help feed them an evening meal too and miraculously multiplied a small boy’s meal to feed the thousands.  It’s a wonderful story about Jesus’ compassion for the people, and His divine power to multiply the food, but I believe there is much more we can take away from this story.

One of the things that captures my attention is that this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.  We know that Jesus performed many miracles in His 3 ½ years of ministry.  John only recounts a few of them in his book, and usually for an important theological reason.  So why would John pick this one, and what makes it so important that it is found in all four Gospels?

    

There are three things that I think are worth mentioning that we can learn important truths from.  First of all, as John tells us here, this event took place near the time that was the special celebration of the Passover.  Why would he point that out?  Well, at the very next Passover, Jesus would offer up His life on the cross, and by that means, offer spiritual life to all who would believe in Him.

Jesus then is to be seen as the Source of Life.  In just a few more verses (starting at verse 25) Jesus will teach one of His greatest lessons, that He is the “Bread of Life”.  By multiplying the bread for the people here, Jesus showed that He can grant sustenance for our physical bodies.  But very quickly, we will learn that He is the One who grants us sustenance for our spiritual lives.

    

The second lesson I see is that Jesus begins to show us that He wants to work through His disciples to minister to the world.  First Jesus challenges His disciples to see how they might find the solution to feed the crowds.  Then, as we read all the accounts of this miracle, we see that Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, and then they gave the pieces to the people.  Beginning then, and up until now, Jesus wants to work through His people, namely you and me, to bless the world.

And finally, what should be obvious, is that Jesus can do much with little.  The boy’s lunch was so small for such a large crowd.  But it was offered in faith, and Jesus turned it around to make it into a feast for all.  By extension, what do you have, even if you consider it to be to small, to offer to Jesus.  Scripture tells us to offer God our time (moments of each day), our talents (the natural gifts He gave to us), and our treasure (our financial resources) to Him.  He will bless and multiply what we give Him and use it to bless others.  Amen?  Amen!!!

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

My Life Testimony – Pt. 7

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 7

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 seventh and final article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about how God has helped me through spiritually to continue serving Him in spite of the muscle disease which showed up in 2008.  My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q12: The muscle disease seems to be your next big challenge out of the blue. It is simply amazing that you keep going on despite the hindrance. How do you focus on the work when the pain comes?

[Editor’s Note: The following section is a continuation of Question 12 from “My Life Testimony – Pt. 6”]

I must mention one other very important way in which God has helped me through the past year and a half.  In the summer of 2010, the time when our PNG Director became sick and died, God used Jill to help me deal with my own pain and suffering.  The husband of our Director was quite an avid blog writer, and he found that he could deal with the sudden death of his wife through his blog writing.  Jill could see that I was still floundering in my emotional and spiritual state at that time, so she suggested that I also try to write from my heart about what was happening in my life.  That is how “The Listening Post” began.

If you go back to the very first articles, you can see how I was trying to deal with my disease, and part of that was trying to use humor to cover over my pain.  But God convicted me of that, and very quickly I realized that I had much to be thankful for in my life and that it would be much better to talk about what God had done in and through me over the years, than to complain about my illness.  This thought was further reinforced by my mother who had been asking me for years to “tell my story” about all my mission experiences.

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Within a couple months of “writing my story” down in my blog site, I saw that many people were starting to read my articles and I was hearing from quite a few people of how blessed they were after reading my articles.  Most of my days are spent sitting in my recliner chair with my legs up to manage the pain, and I had no idea that God was calling me to use my time at home while I sat in front of my computer to be a ministry outreach to other people on the other end of the Internet.  Jill has given this a name and says that God has blessed me with an “Armchair Ministry”.

I can say in all honesty that this blog writing has been as much a blessing to me as it has been to my audience.  In 2009 and 2010, my eyes were on myself and the misery I felt from daily pain and barely having any life outside my home.  Now I look forward to every article I write as God reminds me of His faithfulness over the years, and continues to teach me new truths from His Word.  I can hardly wait to get back to the computer to share another article with my audience.  My life is no longer consumed by focusing in on my pain; it has expanded to see God and His goodness and His glory.

Q14: Finally, could you share with our readers, the invaluable joy of following Jesus and the great rewarding feeling that helped you triumph over all your life’s trial?

In Revelation 7:9-10 it says, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 

There is no greater blessing than seeing the faces of people here in PNG (or anywhere) really light up with joy and reverence as they hear the Word of God spoken in their mother tongue language.  We have heard many times the people say, “Before, God only spoke the White Man’s language; now God is speaking my language.”  And the message of God ignites a fire of faith in the hearts of these people. 

It will be my joy one day up in Heaven to have people coming to me from all these language groups that I have worked with and say to me, “Because you gave of your life and helped to bring God’s Word to us in our language, we too have come to believe in Jesus and we stand around the Throne of Glory as brothers and sisters in the faith, singing praises to our God.”

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This completes the articles on the interview that I had from the magazine “Guideposts”.  It was an honor to be chosen by one of the editors of that magazine.  What I have not mentioned is that it was for the Korean office that I was interviewed.  The article about my life and work as a Bible translator, and as someone who depends on God for strength each day to be able to do this work went out across Korea in over 10,000 copies of the magazine.  My prayer is that all I have shared will bring glory to God in Korea, and around the world wherever these blog articles are being read.  May God bless you richly.

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

My Life Testimony – Pt. 6

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 6

Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now. In this sixth article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about the challenges that Jill and I have faced in light of the muscle disease which showed up in 2008.  My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q12: The muscle disease seems to be your next big challenge out of the blue. It is simply amazing that you keep going on despite the hindrance. Were you not tempted to take on a less challenging task in Canada? How do you focus on the work when the pain comes? How does your family cope and how do they help you with the task?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Beginning of Missionary Life

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One of our fellow PBT missionary couples wrote a in their monthly newsletter in 2010 a summary of the experiences they had during the first year that they were on the mission field in East Africa.  It is truly amazing all the things that they did.  Enjoy their story, and then I will write about a few things that I recall from our first year of living in Papua New Guinea.

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Reflecting on our first year on the field as full-time missionaries, I recall both triumph and trial but through both evidence of the hand of God at work in our lives. Here’s a snapshot of the last year:

We arrived on September 17th, went through basic orientation to life on the field, attended language school for 2 months, spent a month living in a village to further our culture and language acquisition, became involved in branch and community life, attended our first Branch meeting, participated in two consultations, took on responsibilities as exegetes and taught in the annual training all the while continuing in our language learning with the help of several tutors.

    

Those are the facts, these are the feelings we’ve experienced:

We have felt excitement over the distribution of Scripture portions, discouragement due to the complex and challenging task that we still face and feel inadequate for, and hope for the transformation of a culture. We have experienced several bouts of parasitic and bacterial dysentery, skin issues and other consequences of physically adapting to a new place and climate. We feel relief over being spared from malaria this first year.

We have felt a sense of accomplishment as we successfully communicate something in a second language! We have felt encouraged by our team-mates and national co-workers. We have ached over our longing to be with our families back in the States. We have rejoiced over babies being born to friends and colleagues and grieved over the loss of parents and even children.

    

We have felt like children having to learn all over again how to speak, act and live in our new culture. And we have felt grown up after successfully learning how to feed ourselves and set up our home and drive on the left side of the road! All this and more has been packed into a single year of our lives.

God has not only seen us through but given us all that we need mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be His witnesses. Our triumphs are ultimately His and the trials have served to deepen our dependence on Him. We are so grateful for the amazing support we have from the home front and the mercies of God which are new every day.

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For anyone who has not travelled outside of their own country, and I think especially for North Americans, it can be difficult to really appreciate all the challenges that missionaries face when they first leave their home country and culture and start their lives over within a new cultural context.  In those first hours and days, the missionary is bombarded with sights and sounds and oftentimes smells that can be very overwhelming.

Quite naturally, as missionaries prepare to go to the field, they will talk to those who will support them through their prayers and donations about the ministry work that they will do once they get there.  Pioneer Bible Translators helps to train and send linguists, church planters, administrators, and many other support workers to the field.  But we must never forget that these highly skilled people are still just ordinary people.  And we have experiences of joy and sorrow and fears just like anyone else.

    

It certainly was a big adjustment for me and my family as well when we first came to Papua New Guinea.  Jill and I had already had a number of other mission field experiences.  But when we came to PNG, we were also bringing our two young boys with us as well.  And just like any other parents, we worried for the safety and the health of our children as we settled into a small village in a remote part of the tropical forest of PNG.

I remember quite clearly during those early days how I would walk through part of the village and around the grass airstrip area holding on to the hands of my boys.  I would then carefully explain to them what the boundaries were of where they could go and where we did not want them to go. 

Those boundaries were pretty restrictive at first, since we had no idea yet of what to really expect.  But as we got to know the people and the area, and as we continued to experience God’s hand of protection and provision, we grew to love the people and the village where God had placed us.

    

The “missionary life” is not something that everyone is cut out to do.  But it is also not something that only those who are “spiritual giants” can do.  But leaving the safety of our own personal comfort zone to reach out to people who are hurting and don’t know Jesus yet is something that God calls all of His children to do.

You have probably heard about or seen the sign that hangs over the door on the inside of some churches, “Entering the Mission Field”.  The saying is cute, but it is also very true.  God calls all of us to be missionaries.  It won’t be easy for most of us.  Some of us may travel thousands of miles to respond to this challenge from God.  Some of us only need to step outside of our door.  In either case, God is faithful and He will help us to do all that He asks us to do.

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