God Directs the Feet of a Missionary

1 Comment

James and Lisa serve in West Africa as missionaries with Pioneer Bible Translators. In a newsletter written April 16, 2011, James shares an exciting story about how they have experienced God at work in West Africa. He writes:

I’d been feeling for some time that God wanted me to go visit a certain town a few hours north of us. I knew there are people there who don’t like what we do, and to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to meeting them. Also, I thought a certain thing needed to happen before I went, and as it hadn’t happened I felt OKAY waiting.

Meanwhile, I’d been wanting to get back up to the town where we prayed for all the mute people a couple of months ago. I wanted to get some Scripture up there and was pretty sure they’d let me sell some in their weekly market.

So yesterday, Thursday, Lisa, [our daughter] Laura, and I went to sell. Normally, selling 40 or 50 pieces of Scripture at a market is considered a pretty good day, but this was the first time we’d done it on our own and for some reason I packed several times that much.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Things are a little different here. You have to ask official permission to do things like this. I decided to start at the top, by stopping at the regional capital and asking the governor. He’s not usually there, but he was this time. He was OKAY with us going, but informed us the weekly market in the town to which we were heading wasn’t on Thursdays. It was on Sundays. How embarrassing. I’d gotten the market days mixed up!

So there I was, way up there with a carload of Scripture and no market! I asked him if there was a town in his jurisdiction that held their market on Thursday. It turns out the only one was – you guessed it – in the town I’d been putting off visiting. So off we went, now in a new direction, on what you might call a “cold call.” We’d never been there and didn’t know anybody there. But we had that excited-but-slightly-creeped-out feeling that God was putting something together in which we were about to play a part, and we were trying hard to convince ourselves that we felt good about it.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We found the road and picked up a hitchhiker on his way to the market. When we got there he took us to the local leaders, as we needed their permission too. But things didn’t go really well at first. They wanted to see what we would be selling before they gave permission, and even afterward they didn’t seem very enthusiastic and I wasn’t sure they were going to let us sell.

Then one of the leaders who’d been quiet spoke up. Six years ago while working in another town, he’d met a white guy who carried books from town to town. He asked if I knew him. Of course I did! It was my trekking partner! That changed everything. Because of his testimony regarding the character of my friend, they let us sell.

There were probably two thousand people at this market, and I think every one of them came by to watch us set up and find out why we were there. Often in markets like this people are so afraid of what others might think that only the very bravest will approach our table. But not this time. As soon as we explained that we’d brought books of God translated into their language, things got crazy. We were surrounded by a crowd of people four to five deep the whole time we were there!

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We sold so much Scripture so fast we literally couldn’t keep track of it. With our still feeble language skills, we couldn’t have given the explanations, answered the questions, and done the transactions quickly enough to keep up, but no problem. God took care of that. Three older men came by (one was even in uniform!) and did crowd control for us, strategically positioning themselves around the table.

Before long they too were selling for us, carefully making sure we witnessed each sale, and telling people what the different books were. It was all we could do to keep the money off the table and scripture on it…. As we drove out of town, I saw a man reading some Scripture he’d just bought to six or seven others.

On the way home we tried to figure out how much we’d sold. Our best estimation was that we’d sold between 350 and 400 books! (I’ll bring more next time.) We got home just as our friends here were gathering for our mid-week prayer meeting. What a treat it was to report what God had done: how He’d used my fumbling of dates to get us up there in the first place; how He’d arranged to have the governor turn us in a different direction en route; how He’d arranged to have someone at the leaders’ meeting who knew my friend; how He’d sent the three older guys to help us; and most of all, how He put hundreds of pieces of Scripture in the hands of people for the very first time, and all of it in their own language.

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

After an amazing story like this, what can we say except “Praise God.”

  • Praise God for how He worked in ways far beyond what James and Lisa thought or imagined.
  • Praise God for how He got a reluctant missionary to the very place where He had prepared the people to eagerly receive portions of Scripture in their language. Pray that much spiritual fruit will result in the lives of all those who are now reading the truth of God’s Word for the first time.
  • Pray for God to abundantly bless this family in their continued ministry for Him. Pray for Him to protect them from burnout as the stresses of living in such a remote area are many.
  • Pray for all PBT missionaries to be open and obedient to God’s leading, even when it seems a little scary to do so.
Advertisements

1987 – A Pivotal Year

5 Comments

Who Am I?  Part 10

For those who have been following me in this series which gives a rough outline of my major life events, we come now to a pivotal year for both Jill and me.  It was 1987, we had been married for three years, and both of us had completed our studies for our vocations.  Jill received her Nursing Diploma, and I had finished my Master of Divinity Degree.  You can read about these things here.

After a number of years of education, some short-term mission experiences, some practicum work for Jill and some minor ministry experiences for me, we felt like we were ready to go out and make a difference in the world.  While still in school, Jill attended a hospital recruitment meeting and things fell into place, and the next thing you know we were packing a U-Haul to head to Texas.  In addition to this, Jill announced with excitement, “WE’RE PREGNANT!”

Now I must admit that I was more stunned than excited at this announcement.  But as the weeks and months crept along, I began to really warm up to the idea of being a father.  There were a few little snags in our paper work to cross into the States, which caused us to delay and stay with my folks for over a month.  So by the time we finally started out with our U-Haul, there was definitely 2 1/2 people ready for the adventure that lie ahead.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We arrived in Port Arthur, Texas where Jill would work at a charity hospital (which the recruiter had promoted as a great place to work just off of the Gulf of Mexico).  He neglected to tell us that most of the bay area around Port Arthur was filled with oil refineries which blocked the view of the Gulf and blackened the port and town area around them.

But we were young, and it was an adventure in many ways for us.  And one of the first adventures for us was to find a church to fellowship with.  Having just graduated from a Christian and Missionary Alliance seminary, we looked for one of these in the area, but the closest C&MA church was 50 miles away in Baytown.  This wasn’t too bad, as it gave us time to talk and be together on the drive to and from Baytown each Sunday.

As a result of these visits we made regularly to this church, something very interesting happened.  I was approached one day by the pastor of the Baytown church and asked if I would be interested in helping to start a new church in Beaumont, the large city next to Port Arthur.  I accepted the offer as I saw this as a way to serve God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The excitement of this new ministry opportunity was almost immediately crushed as Jill and I experienced the most bitter of all events, the death of our child.  Jill was 29 weeks pregnant in October of 1987.  There was no warning and no indication of anything wrong.  One day our baby was alive and kicking hard, and then the next day there was no movement.

We couldn’t believe anything bad had happened, until finally after waiting anxiously for a doctor’s report, they informed us that the child had in fact died in the womb.  Because Jill was so far along, it was necessary to have her induced to deliver our daughter.  When it was over, we held our little Deborah in our arms.  She was over a foot long and almost looked like she was sleeping, except that she wasn’t breathing.

The doctors have never to this day explained to us what happened.  It was an inter-uterine death, but no cause could be found.  That day in October was the blackest day of our entire lives, and it continued to cast a shadow and have a negative effect upon us for many years after.  One wise person said to us, “The intensity of the pain will never really go away, just the frequency of it.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There is no doubt that we were in pain because of this event.  For many days there was a sense of emptiness in our apartment.  Jill took a few days off to recover physically.  The hospital and the doctors were so gracious to cancel our medical bills, so we were not hurt financially.  But the emotional and spiritual impact of this tragedy was very huge.

The church people in Baytown were so good to us.  Some of them visited us, or sent us flowers and cards.  The pastor visited us quite a few times.  And with his support and encouragement, we still went ahead and tried to lay down the foundation for a new church plant in Beaumont.  I think us moving from our apartment in Port Arthur to Beaumont was good for us.  But even after a year of hard work, this church plant also did not get birthed and it was closed down when we came back to Canada.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Of all the different aspects of this major life crisis for us, there is one memory that stands out the most.  Jill and I had gone to the cemetery where we had buried Deborah.  We knelt down by the unmarked cross and held hands and gently cried together.  Then we sang a song together to reaffirm our faith and hope in God.

But while we were there, another woman came and knelt down by her child’s little cross.  Then she broke out into wailing and threw herself on to the ground and wept in great torment at the loss of her child.  Jill and I quietly left that woman to her grief, but we could leave the cemetery with the song still in our heart.  The song says:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Prayers For Translation Checking

Leave a comment

It is mid-February and we are in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.  In the first two weeks of being here, I have been able to finish the consultant checking of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians in the T. language.  One verse that really created a strong image in our minds of how as Christians we are joined with Christ and together with each other is Ephesians 4:16.

Part of my work as a consultant is to look at the language’s translation to see if it is both accurate to the Greek, but still communicates well in the vernacular language.  See what you think about part of this verse that was prepared for me from the T. village language text back into a reverse English text:

“And we are his skin/body hand parts foot parts.  He causes us, and we all reflexive reflexive [individually] stick to him, and are joined together like with ligaments/tendons and are one skin/body.   And he causes us, and we stick to each other and love each other.”

Isn’t it wonderful that God’s Word can speak powerfully to any people group in the language of their heart?  What a joy to see the Bible come alive to these people of Papua New Guinea.

But not only are these books now checked, portions of them will be used very soon. Here is what the missionaries who work with the T. language wrote in their recent update:

Praise that all the men finished the consultant checking…In addition, just this past weekend I finished writing the scripture use course on unity (a course the T.  people have requested). The beauty of it is that there are so many Scriptures from Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians in this course. In these courses, if we do not have a particular verse translated yet, I use the Melanesian Pidgin Bible (a PNG trade language).

God’s timing is perfect in having those three books ready and available in Tay to be used in such a practical way (and though I’d like to say we are that organized, we did not plan the prep of the unity course and the completion of those books to coincide ;-)…that was totally a God thing!). The unity course will take place during our visit to the village in March.

The next checking session for me will be from Feb. 17-28, when I will work with the missionary and the men from the W. language.  Our goal is to finish checking chapters 21 – 28 of the Gospel of Matthew.  On the last trip here to PNG, I had worked with the W. language team, but due to some illnesses on the team, and some deaths of people in the village, we had to cut short our checking sessions.

Please pray that we will be able to complete the book this time.  We have 8 days to do the eight chapters. One of the men who is coming has not been well, so pray for complete healing for him. The missionary’s health has also been challenged for the past few months, so pray for him as well. And as is always our request, pray for the translation to be accurate, to communicate well in the language, and to be natural in terms of how the people use their own language.

Thank you for your prayers. I am doing pretty well. Certainly the weather of the PNG Highlands agrees with my body more than the frigid cold temperatures back in Canada.  But when I tell people that I function better in warmer climates, often I get the response, “I think that’s true of most people”.  : )  At least my pain levels are lower and more tolerable. Please also continue praying for a clear mind and additional strength for the coming days of checking.

Looking ahead, on March 1st we will fly to Madang and have a few days break before I will start my third consultant checking session. This time it will be with a missionary woman and her team of the A. language. Pray that the men will be able to get into Madang as at this point there are difficulties with their transportation from bush to town.

And for all who have prayed for my wife Jill, she arrived safely here to join me 12 days ago.  She has done some language data work during her time here with me.  And as always, she is a great help and partner to me.  Having her with me is a joy, and she is able to help with so many little things around the house that I am unable to do, especially when I am doing these translation sessions.

Thank you for your continued partnership with us as we work among the peoples of Papua New Guinea.

As His Servants,

Norm & Jill Weatherhead

“Get Dirty for God!”

6 Comments

Teen Missions International

This is the symbol that changed my life.  As you can see on top, they have a great logo: Training Tomorrow’s Missionary Today. This ministry, Teen Missions International , has literally trained and sent thousands of teenagers around the world to do missionary work.  It was the belief of the early founders of TMI, such as Bob & Bernie Bland, Gayle “Widder” Will, and Bob & Betty Lane, along with others, that it was not necessary for young people to finish college before God could use them in His Kingdom Work.

And so TMI was born in 1970, and within a couple of years, the first team of a few leaders and about 15-20 teenagers went down to Mexico for a summer and did a construction project to help the local missionaries and nationals living there.  And God blessed Teen Missions so much, that by the time I went on my first summer mission with TMI, they were sending out about 50 teams made of up usually 5 leaders and up to 30 teenagers to places of ministry all over the world.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It was 1979 when I decided to go on a Teen Missions team.  I was only 18 at the time, and I wanted to go on a construction team to Brazil.  (You can read about how my faith grew even before I started the trip in the article “God Will Supply.“)  As much as the logo mentioned above caught my attention, i.e. “Hey, I’m a teenager and yet I can still go do mission work,” it was their other more famous motto that sold me on wanting to be involved.

The motto was, and still is, “Get Dirty For God“.  And every teen who went on a team received at least one T-shirt with this motto printed on it and would wear it proudly.  Now whether a person who saw this was just curious or possibly offended by this saying, one thing for sure, it caught everyone’s attention.

My understanding was that this motto had two mains ideas within it.  First, it was saying that there is work for God to be done, and we all must roll up our sleeves and pitch in and get the work done.  And then secondly, the isolated locations and the hard work involved in most of the projects resulted in each and everyone getting dirty from head to toe.  And as budding and growing Christians, we did not mind “getting dirty for God”, as we saw churches, orphanages, airstrips, etc. been built and lives changed through the evangelistic outreach which TMI also promoted on all of its teams.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I need to back up though and tell you more about the beginning of each summer mission experience.  And after you read this part of the story, then you will understand even more how appropriate is their motto, “Get Dirty For God.”  Each teenager and leader must first go down to the swamplands of the Florida Everglades and make it through the two week Boot Camp orientation training.

Everyone lived in little two-men pup tents in their team designated area of the swampland.  That wasn’t too bad….until it rained and soaked everything and everyone.  (I actually saw one tent that had been set up on a 4′ x 8′ plywood board float part way though the Boot Camp.)  Revile was announced with a bugle over the loud speaker and you immediately got up and got ready to run the obstacle course.

There were the tires to jump through (the plagues of Egypt), a mountain of tires to climb (Mt. Sinai), go over a small end of a little lake on a rope netting (crossing the Red Sea), climb straight up and down a rope net that was about 30 feet off the ground (Jacob’s Ladder), swing across a moat, into which many fell in (the Slough of Despond), and other bizarre challenges.  The most daunting one was the last one, climbing over the “Walls of Despair”.  They were 12 feet high and you had to just use your bodies to get your entire team over the wall.  It was to help teach “teamwork”.


We found that the Obstacle Course developed team building, team bonding, and trust, as well as got out of shape teenagers back into shape.  There were of course many other courses given during these two weeks.  We learned how to have a Quiet Time with God, and were taught great spiritual truths by fantastic youth speakers and preachers.

The other main things that we learned were specific skills related to the work we would do for the other mission once we got to the field.  These included classes like steel tying (to make the reinforcement bars hold a shape until concrete was poured over them).  There was also wood-building classes, cement class, and other ones that gave the basic understanding of how to do construction.

Probably the most exciting part of Boot Camp was the evening rallies.  After we had cleaned up for the day, all the teams and leaders, plus staff members and visiting family would gather under the giant circus big top tent.  We were able a few times to pack almost 2,000 people in that tent, 1,500 of them being teenagers who were jumping up and down with joy as they worshiped God, and counted down the days until their team would leave and go fly to their country where they would work.

I’ll never forget those wonderful days when I was a kid and worked hard, and “got dirty for God”.  I had the privilege to do this four times: Brazil-Amazon guest house construction in ’79, Honduras-Country hospital wing extension in ’80, Dominican Republic-church building project in ’84, and Mexico-Christian camp expansion project in ’85.

What can I say to God except, “Thank You”.  Yes, thank you God for granting me these experiences and in each experience I found myself growing more in my faith and in the depth of my understanding of who God is.  Those commissioning services that sent us out from the Big Top Tents in Florida truly sent us with the power of God’s Spirit so that we were able to do some great Kingdom work in all different corners of the world.

Pictures Taken from TMI Official Website:  http://www.teenmissions.org

My Pain vs. Serving God

2 Comments

Recently, I had a friend of mine express concern over how much Tylenol I have been taking to be able to keep my daily level of pain under control.  I agreed that this is serious, and I outlined what I have been doing to keep my pain manageable.  Thanks be to God that we may have found another answer which we hope will help me.

Back in 2008 when the symptoms of this muscle disease became severe, I was taking around 3000 mg of Tylenol per day, but that was way above the toxic level.  So in 2009, I tried to keep it to 2600 mg by using T3 sometimes (lower Tylenol, but added codeine/caffeine) instead of always using extra strength Tylenol. This year I have tried to keep it to 2400 mg or lower if possible, and just live with more pain.  So none of these choices were still very good.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But this changed about two weeks ago.  Two months ago, I finally was able to enter into the Chronic Pain Clinic program offered here in Calgary.  I had been waiting for over a year and a half to get into this program.  One of my visits was with a doctor who quickly saw how much pain I was in and he had an idea he wanted to try with me.

Instead of taking oral pain killers, he was recommending to me that I try a medicinal patch which I would wear for a week before changing it for another one.  This patch would have a timed-release narcotic drug which would allow 5 micrograms per hour to be absorbed into my body.  Over a week, it would add up to be 5 grams of a drug called Buprenorphine, which is actually stronger than morphine.

When I went back to see the doctor two weeks ago, I told him that the patch did not do much to change my pain.  He actually was not surprised, and he told me that he was mainly wanting to see if I would have a reaction to the drug.  So I went up to 10 micrograms per hour two weeks ago, doubling the dosage of the drug.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The real test for this was the trip I just took to California, since most trips wear me down so much and as the fatigue increases, so does the pain.  I am happy to report that last week went very well, I was able to teach all my class sessions at the mission training class, and my pain was quite minimal, the best I can remember for a week of low pain since this all started almost 3 years ago.

Now for the first time, with this narcotic patch, I feel there is hope to significantly reduce the Tylenol, and at the same time reduce my daily pain.  So far, I have not really seen any side effect of the narcotic.  I do know that if I use it long-term, there is the possibility that I will become addicted to the drug.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

But here are the choices I see in front of me at this time:  1) Ingest high levels of Tylenol which will give me lower pain, more life activity, but there is a high chance of liver damage over time;  2) Ingest low levels of Tylenol which will result in higher pain, restricted life activities, but save the liver (hopefully); or 3) Use the narcotic patch which will reduce or maybe even eliminate my need for Tylenol, and which will give me minimal pain, more freedom for life activities, but possibly result in an addiction to the drug.

Given those three choices, I will choose number 3.  I believe God still has much for me to do, and it is hard to serve Him when I am battling daily pain that will severely restrict my activities in life.  Now there is still option number 4.  Namely, that God will heal me of this disease.  And of course I want that most of all.

So I do still pray for God to heal me, and I invite you to be praying daily for me for this too.  But until that day comes, I will not let this disease stop me from doing His work.  And the work that He continues to give me is to do Bible translation consultant checking.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

That is what I will be doing for two months (Jan. 27 – March 28) leaving in 2 1/2 weeks to go to Papua New Guinea.  Please pray that I will be prepared with my consultant notes by then.  Pray I will have the strength and stamina for such a long trip.  Pray that my pain will continue to be lower, and that the narcotics will not dull my mind as I need to be sharp in what I hear, what questions I ask, and what suggestions I give so they can have the best possible translation.

I want to thank my friend for asking about my health and showing concern over the drug regiment I was on for so long.  I felt that I needed to share all this with my larger audience of those who follow “The Listening Post” and I do ask that you keep me in your prayers.

In all things, I give myself and my service to God, in order that He would       receive the glory, and the Kingdom of God would advance here on earth.  May His will be done.

 

Newer Entries