Church Leaders United Together in Papua New Guinea

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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

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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.

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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.

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The Power Of Life Changing Scriptures

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Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (NIV)

[Editor’s Note: The Bible is powerful in touching and transforming lives. One example of this truth is found in the account given by William Butler, a longtime missionary with Pioneer Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea.]

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It had been a long week. Every day from early in the morning until late afternoon, and sometimes into the evenings, we’d been checking the translation of Mark’s Gospel into the Waran language. We wanted to see if the translation accurately and clearly transmitted God’s message.

One of the faithful members of the checking committee was Mindo. An older man and former village representative in the local government council, he was well-respected in the community. His knowledge of the language was immense and we welcomed him as a valuable part of the committee.

However, the week was difficult for Mindo. He wasn’t accustomed to sitting for such long periods of time. The constant mental strain of listening and evaluating every phrase was exhausting. Occasionally, Mindo nodded off in the heat of the afternoon. How much of the message of Christ’s words could be getting through to him?

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Then we came to Chapter 14 which details the arrest and subsequent mistreatment of Jesus. As the account of the arrest was read, Mindo perked up. As Jesus was led before the Council and liars came in to give testimony against Him, Mindo lowered his head and kept his eyes on the floor, a Waran posture which demonstrates embarrassment and shame.

When verse 65 was read, Mindo began to vocalize his feelings. Following each new humiliation heaped on Jesus, Mindo quietly responded with, “Oh, sorry, sorry.” With each report, his head sunk lower and his eyes bored more deeply into the floor.

The Council spit on Jesus and hit Him with their fists.
“Oh, sorry.”

The guards slapped Him.
“Oh, sorry, sorry.”

Peter denied Him.
“Oh, sorry.”

The crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“Oh, sorry, sorry.”

The soldiers slammed a crown of thorns on His head and mocked Him.
“Oh, sorry.”

They led Him away and crucified him.
“Oh, sorry, sorry.”

As the story was read in his heart language, Mindo had a deeply emotional and powerful experience vividly reliving the last hours of Christ’s life in his mind. He felt the shame and humiliation Jesus suffered. He felt his own personal shame because he realized that Jesus endured each of these things for him. He saw, as he had never seen before, Jesus, Son of God, Savior.

May everyone who reads or hears the Word as it goes forth in Waran be as personally and emotionally affected as Mindo. Then the Christ of history will become the Living Christ with power to challenge and change lives.

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Thank God for His powerful, life-changing Scripture.

Thank God for the impact Mark 14 had on Mindo as he heard it read in his language.

Pray that the Waran people will soon have the entire New Testament in their language and that it will penetrate and transform their lives as they worship Jesus and serve Him as their Savior and Lord.

Pray that God’s Word will have a life-changing impact on more and more people in the 58 language groups where Pioneer Bible Translators now serves.

Pray for a fresh hunger and thirst to daily feed your soul on God’s written message to you. Thank Him for those who have enabled you to have the Bible in your language.

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In just a few weeks, we will be celebrating Easter once again.  This is the time we rejoice that Jesus conquered death and was resurrected from the grave.  But let us never forget the terrible suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf.  To deal with the problem of sin which separated Mankind from God, Jesus had to die on the cross, carrying all of our sins with Him.  He was put to death to finally eliminate the cause of our spiritual death and separation from God.

When we slow down the details of Jesus’ trials and the suffering and pain He endured, even before He went on the cross, is really quite gruesome.  But that is a picture of what sin has done to all of us.  One by one, the sinful actions we had done would inflict another lash of Satan’s attack on our souls and reap the punishment of God’s holy wrath.

But Jesus took our place and took that punishment for sin that ought to have been ours.  When we realize the full impact of this, I believe that we too, just like Mindo, would hang our heads in shame at what our sinful actions had done to Jesus, the very Son of God.

But praise be to God, Jesus was able to bear our sins, nail them to the cross, and rise victorious over sin, Satan and death.  And for us who believe in Jesus, we too will exerience this same kind of resurrection to a new life with God forever.  Hallelujah!

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Jesus Is Always In Control

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Jesus’ First Miracle in Cana

John 2:1 – 12

2 1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

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9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

This event in the life of Jesus is well known by both Christians and some non-Christians.  If a general survey were to be done, and people were asked, “What was the first miracle that Jesus performed?” many people would say, “Wasn’t that when Jesus turned water into wine?”  And they would be right.  But I’m not sure that many people catch the importance of what happened that day.

On that day in question, it may appear that Jesus is just caught up in the middle of the story, and then when his hand is forced, Jesus performed a great “parlour trick” as some might say, and the party went on.  But as I look at all of the participants in this story, it seems to me that while many of them think they are in control of the situation, in fact, it is only Jesus who is truly in control.  Let me explain.

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First of all, you have the bridegroom, and this ought to be his day.  After all, he is the one who just got married and he would have been the one to invite all the guests.  It would appear that Jesus’ mother was an invited guest.  But did the bridegroom invite Jesus and his disciples?  Or was that arranged by his mother, who was probably a close friend of the family.  Jesus seems somehow to be “tacked on” to the guest list.

Then you have the Master of the Feast, whose job it was to make sure that everything went smoothly at the banquet feast after the wedding.  Everything was going so well, until the water which had been turned into excellent wine showed up.  He became upset with the bridegroom for apparently hiding the best wine until the end instead of offering it first to his guests.

And then there is Jesus’ mother.  We have to wonder a bit about her motives in all this.  Scripture says that from the day Jesus was born, Mary treasured in her heart all the prophetic messages that had been spoken about her son.  She knew that Jesus was meant for greatness.  But was it right for her to push Jesus forward at the wedding to show his hand of power in front of all her friends?

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In spite of all the people who were trying to take charge that day, Jesus remained calm.  I believe He knew all along what He would do.  His words to His mother may appear strange, “My hour has not yet come,” when He turns right around and performed the miracle.  I think this was a chastisement to His mother to remind her that Jesus’ ministry was to be of His own choosing, as directed by God.

Now notice the other two participant groups mentioned in the story.  When the servants offered the water turned into wine to the Master of the Feast, they knew full well that they had put water in the large jugs.  They had just witnessed about 150 gallons of water miraculously turn into wine.  When they went home later, don’t you think that they would have shared this story with others?

And Jesus’ disciples were there too.  They may not have been with Jesus very long by this point, perhaps only a few weeks or months.  But they knew enough about Jesus that when He performed His miracle, they were ready to put their full trust and belief in Him that He was the promised Messiah sent by God (even if they didn’t understand all the implications of that yet.)

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So who was really in control on that day?  It wasn’t the bridegroom, the Master of the Feast, or Jesus’ mother.  Jesus was in control of everything that was happening.  And He was laying the foundation in the lives of ordinary people (the banquet servants and His disciples) to demonstrate that his powerful actions more than matched His powerful words, such as, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.”  (See Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15)

And so I ask those who are reading this article: Are you still trying to be “in control” of all of your life?  Consider Jesus, who is the true and loving Master, and let Him be in control of your life and see what amazing things He just might have planned for you that you never would have dreamed of.

Filling The Gap For God

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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God Looks for Those Who Will Intercede

One of the areas that I believe is least understood by Christians is the partnership that God has called us to with Himself in the area of prayer. God, in His wisdom and sovereign power, has chosen to accomplish His will on this planet through the prayers of His people. God has decided not to arbitrarily move in and out of situations on earth, even though He is able to do just that.

Instead, He waits on His people to pray and then pours out His power in response to those prayers.

Ezekiel 22:30 is a passage of Scripture that illustrates this principle of how the Lord works. “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” God uses the illustration of a walled city to demonstrate His commitment to prayer.

The walls protect a city from enemy attack. But through neglect (sin), the walls can begin to crumble and a gap or opening in the wall can create a dangerous situation where the enemy can come in. God said of Israel in Ezekiel’s day, that they had allowed such a situation to develop. It was going to result in the destruction of the land, unless someone stood before the Lord in the gap on behalf of the land. This is a clear picture of God’s desire for us to engage in intercessory prayer.

What is absolutely heartbreaking is that God Himself was looking for an intercessor. He was looking for someone who would stand before Him in prayer on behalf of Israel so that He would not have to destroy her because of sin and rebellion. God’s desire is made clear here. He did not want to destroy Israel. He was waiting for an intercessor so He wouldn’t have to. God had chosen to reserve His power to save the nation of Israel for those who prayed. But no intercessor was to be found. Israel was defeated by the Babylonians and her people were in exile for 70 years.

–Adapted from the article Partnering with God in Prayer by Dave Butts.

Posted 15 Nov 2011

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I’ve heard this phrase used many times, that we need people to “stand in the gap”.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that the people who used this phrase always understood what the phrase meant.  But to be honest, I know there have been times when I have not applied this Scripture properly in my life either.

The idea presented to me when I was younger was that there are people who are lost and God is ready to pronounce His judgment upon those who are sinners, and so He is calling out for Christian workers to “stand in the gap” between Himself and those who are lost.  We are to pray for them and seek to evangelize them so that they might turn to God before judgment comes.

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But it is not the unbelieving heathen that we need to be praying for.  Rather we are to pray for God’s own people who have lost the way of the Truth, and especially for those who have been called as leaders of God’s people.  It is bad enough when those who are God’s children start to engage in ungodly practices, but imagine how much worse it is when it is the leaders of God’s people who go astray and teach others to do so too.

Look at the first words of the four verses leading up to Ezekiel 22:30.  Verse 26, “Her priests have done violence to my Law…”; verse 27, “Her princes within her are like wolves…”; verse 28, “Her prophets have smeared whitewash…”; verse 29, “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery…”  No wonder God was going to bring punishment down upon the whole nation.

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But what Dave Butts reminds us above, is that God is looking for truly godly people to care passionately about God’s people and to make a difference through intercessory prayer.  What I see God doing here is asking for someone from within the nation to pray for the nation.

Now if I contextualize this message for today, I take it to mean that if we find ourselves in a church or some other Christian setting and we see moral and spiritual drift and decay going on around us, then we are called first and foremost to pray on their behalf.  To intercede on their behalf.

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But what do you think the tendency is for people to do today?  If things aren’t right, or even if it comes down to preference which can be defined as “I don’t like this church”, then the tendency is to go “church hopping”  (or should I say “church shopping”) until that person finds the church that they happen to like at that moment.

So what am I trying to say here?  Basically this: we need to honestly evaluate the spiritual health of the group we are a part of.  And if we find Scripturally that they may be lacking, then we have an important mandate given to us by God, namely to get on our knees and to seek God and to intercede on their behalf.  What an important ministry God has given us to do.  To “fill the gap” wherever He may have placed us.

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Remembering The Works of God

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What Are You Remembering?

Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people—where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them… Isaiah 63:11

“Recalled” is a powerful word. Especially in this situation, the recollection of what God had done in the past led to a revival among the Lord’s people. It is so easy to forget the amazing works of God. That’s never more true than when we get caught up in our own desires and ways. Forging ahead in our self-centeredness and sin, we forget all God has done in the past. So it was with the nation of Judah in Isaiah’s day.

Now, however, God stepped in to punish their sin. Disaster ruled the day. The presence of God seemed far away. Sin didn’t seem so fun. Bit by bit, they began to remember that things used to be different. There was a time when God had led them through the godly leadership of Moses. There was a time when the Holy Spirit was present and made a real difference in their lives as individuals and as a nation.

Remembering past moves of God can be powerful. It can stir us to repentance and longing for a renewed sense of the presence of God. What are you remembering today?

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Father, thank You for the gift of memory, and for stories that have been passed down through the generations about the ways You have moved in the midst of Your people. Thank You for stories of revival from the Great Awakening in the United States and beyond. Lord, would You use those stories to stir within our hearts a desire for similar awakenings? Help us, Lord, to remind each other of Your work in days past, and of our great need today. May we recall those things that You would have us meditate on and pray over.

–adapted from HeartCry for Revival devotional 2011 by David Butts, author of Asleep in the Land of Nod (Thirty Days of Prayer Toward Awakening the Church)

The devotional thought above comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

Posted: 16 July 2011

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I must agree with my friend, David Butts.  It is so easy to get all wrapped up in the events and the affairs of our daily lives that we forget about God.  It seems to me that the older I am getting, the more complicated my life has become, and the more distant God seems to be from me at times.  But of course, the real truth is that God has not moved away from me, as much as I have moved away from God.

The second thing that I agree with is that it is good to remember.  In fact, as we get older, our lives get replayed more and more in our minds and in our conversations.  We often say, “Do you remember….”  Our lives are like a super long highway.  It stretches from a dim past (our infancy) to a distant future (when our life will reach an end) and it contains innumerable check points or posts that mark interesting and significant events.  The closer we are to the end of our road, the more memory signposts that have been erected.

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Many of these signposts mark events that we have accomplished or experienced by ourselves.  Such as the day we hit a home run in our neighborhood ball game, or when we graduated from high school, or we experienced our first kiss, or had an employer say they were proud of our work.  But there are also many signposts that have been planted in our lives by the very hand of God Himself.

My life was spared when I didn’t drown as an infant, or when I landed on a flat spot after falling off a mountain cliff, and when I was held up at knife point by a mugger.  And God spoke to me through a song at a Youth Conference and began melting my heart.  He smiled on me and filled me with His Spirit when I was baptized.  And he empowered me to fight off the demon within a prostitute who stood in my way, and used me to cast out an evil spirit from someone who was demon-possessed.

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As I remember these kinds of incredible experiences, I do realize that many of these events took place while I was much younger, in my teens up through age 30ish.  Now I am over 50, and I feel more tired and worn out some days, and it is not just because of my muscle disease.  Life simply seems to wear us all down.

And yet, I think we should try to resist this.  Has God changed?  No, of course not.  It is said of Jesus, who is just as much God as the Father is, that He does not change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  (Hebrews 13:8).  Therefore, we should expect that the God who impressed us with His holiness, amazed us with His acts of power, and infused us with such joy and His overwhelming love when we were young ought to still be able to do that in us today when we are much older.

And for the most part, I think I am still in that same space.  I love to think back and remember what it was like stepping out in faith and going for the first times as a young missionary to different countries of the world.  I will soon be 51, and to be honest, I still get excited when I tell people that I am about to head out on another mission trip somewhere.  I’m getting older in body, but am still that small child who in faith has trusted God so many times to take care of me.  I now extend that to be me and my family.  And you know what?  I am sure that I won’t be disappointed.

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For My Tears, Jesus Died

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One of the categories I am going to use on my blog that I am excited about is going to be called “I Remember”. There will be lots of things I can share under this category – funny things, sad moments, unusual events that occurred.  Above all though, there is one thing that I want to remember well, and share with any who will read this blog.  Namely, to remember the many times that God has been good to me, and the times that He has been close to me.  And even as I thought of this new category, it caused me to remember the very first time that God was really “real” to me.

I was attending my first youth conference in Northern Alberta.  It was in October of 1972, and I was only 11 years old.  I was thrilled to be out on the highway on my own so to speak.  (Actually we traveled as a Youth Group and filled a big yellow school bus.)  I thought it was so neat to go on a weekend trip where over 500 young people would gather to have fun.

Now this conference was sponsored by our churches of Western Canada and some northwestern States.  I knew there would be Christian “stuff” happening as part of the weekend.  But I was just going to have a good time.  And that’s exactly what I did, not caring much about anyone or anything until the evening banquet on Saturday.  I hadn’t listened to any of the preaching or teaching up till this point, but God found a way to still reach this stubborn heart of mine.

It was a song.  But not just any song.  The lights in the auditorium went down, only candles on each table gave out a little light, and then the girl stepped up to the microphone and sang her special solo.  I will always remember what happened next.  Something broke within me and my stubborn heart which refused to hear God’s strong voice began to melt as I heard His voice in the beautiful quietness of that song.  And I silently wept as God spoke to me through that song.   The song that night was “For Those Tears I Died”.

I still know those words today, and they still speak the same message to me.  I was a sinner, and yet Jesus died for me.  I tried to ignore Him, but He was there, inviting me to drink deeply of his love and saving grace.  I knew for the first time that Jesus was real, and as I wept tears of repentance for my ignorance and rebellion against God, I heard the message – that for my tears He died.

“Saviour, I give you my heart and my soul.                                                                                                        I know that without you, I’d never be whole.                                                                                                Saviour, you’ve opened all the right doors.                                                                                                    And I thank you, and praise you, from earth’s humble shores,                                                                  Take me I’m yours.”

“And Jesus said, ‘Come to the water, stand by my side.                                                                                  I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied.                                                                                                    I felt every teardrop, when in darkness you cried.                                                                                       And I strove to remind you, that for those tears I died.’ ”