Networking & Praying For God’s Word in Southeast Asia

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[Editor’s Note:  It is exciting for me to be able to share with you about a couple who are colleagues with me in Pioneer Bible Translators.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, for many years they helped to impact a people group close to where my heart is, the Island of New Guinea.  Now God is using them to impact the lives of millions of people in a large region of Southeast Asia.  How exciting!

What makes this especially meaningful for me is that I have the privilege to work along side with this couple in their new work.  Once the Scriptures have been drafted and checked through a couple of times (for comprehension and exegetical accuracy), then the team sends me the language files electronically and I do the final consultant check on their Bible translation work.

In the past two years, I have had a hand in checking parts of or the whole of Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Matthew and just recently Philippians.  The work is progressing well and it is hoped that the New Testament will be published for this regional language in 2013.  Come along with me as we learn more of what this couple is doing to promote the advancement and distribution of God’s Word to Southeast Asia.]

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Phil and Gale came to Pioneer Bible Translators with 29 years experience with another Bible translation organization. They worked with a language group of 2,000 people in the rainforest of Papua, and didn’t need much in the way of networking skills. Work proceeded smoothly once a few government and church officials were aware they were translating the New Testament.

Now they are working in a vastly different situation, translating the Bible into a national language with a potential audience of over 200 million people. The work is no longer just faithfully translating each verse; it is about knowing the right people, and what partnerships can be set up with various Christian organizations.

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The people who make decisions are in the cities, but the people who need the translations are mostly in rural areas. Rural language groups won’t have a chance to hear God’s Word if we don’t succeed in advancing our projects in the cities. Phil travels often by taxi, giving out local translations of Scripture to every driver. He rode with 51 drivers on his last trip; only one was a Christian.

He visited the managers of a Christian radio network and discussed sending out our books as free gifts from their stations. He is scheduled to meet with a producer of a free satellite TV network that has viewers in cities and rural areas all over the area. He met with a Bible class that is part of a huge mega-church in the capital, and he will soon be visiting seminary students who will distribute our Gospel of John on their mission trips.

There are approximately 400 languages in South Asia that need a Bible translation. After Phil’s presentation at one seminary, 10 students made the commitment to pray about becoming Bible translators for 10 of these languages. It is amazing to see God work out the details! Pioneer Bible Translators has an enormous task ahead of us. We must complete our translation work and get God’s Word in the hands of these people.

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Prayer Requests

  • Pray local supporters would be found to publish local translations of the New Testament and find channels for distribution to rural areas.
  • Pray that Phil will successfully navigate unfamiliar cultural expectations as he speaks with important people.
  • Pray that God will provide a means whereby nationals can be trained and equipped to translate for many needs. There are many who would volunteer to become translators, but cannot see past practical reasons.
  • Please pray that churches in the area would feel called to support Bible translation, and that training centers would be established in the area.
  • John 4:23 – Pray that many from among the Bible-less peoples will become true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

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[Editor’s Note: For almost two years I have been writing articles about my work and the larger work of Pioneer Bible Translators in the world.  I have asked my readers from time to time to pray about some important issues and current events.  This is the first time that I would like to suggest to my audience that they consider taking the next step after praying for Phil and Gale and their translation work and to consider the possibility of helping them with a financial gift to see this work accomplished.  I end this article with a quote from Phil, and a link to where you could become a financial partner.]

Southeast Asia Plain Translation
“This island nation in Southeast Asia has a Bible, but the translation is old and very hard to understand. Our team is creating an easy to understand translation that will be life-transforming for millions in this area. These books of the New Testament will offer Living Water to a thirsty land. Click to donate. Choose ‘Projects’ and ‘Southeast Asia Plain Translation’ from the drop-down menus.”

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Our God Is In Control Of Everything

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[Editor’s Note: My friend who wrote this following article works with Pioneer Bible Translators in a sensitive area in Southeast Asia.  We need to uphold him and other Christians in prayer as they seek to get God’s Word out to the people in their mother-tongue languages.]

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One of the greatest things about working in a new field is that you get to see God open doors and solve problems firsthand. Sometimes we get a glimpse into the intricate ways that He “makes your ways straight” long before we even knew we would need His help.

For the past couple of years, we have been trying to start a translation project with a tribe that my parents and grandparents worked among in the last century. Let’s call them the Bimble tribe for now. They live in the North-eastern part of South Asia and have no translation in their own language, but they are very eager to have one.

Last time I visited, we were able to convince the churches in the area to listen to us and consider giving us permission to do translation work in the Bimble language. So now I left to go see all the Bodies in the area and collect their decision to allow us to work or not. When I arrived and contacted the Church of God (Anderson) elders, they were delighted that I had returned to their area and came to visit me the same day with papers granting me permission and promising help in anyway possible from their Body. It seems they had been waiting for me return for quite a while.

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I was travelling with a friend of my father and bolstered by this wonderful news, we went to meet the head of the CNI Body in town. It was a good thing we did. He was leaving town for a meeting and would not be back till the end of the week. He regretted that he would not be able to type up the permission letter but told me to make one and he would sign it. At which point, I went from being worried to being delighted.

It is always nice to be able to make people say exactly what you want them to but I made sure he saw my draft before I left that night. He also asked me to redo his letterhead while I was at it and promised to sign it as soon as he got back.  The only scary part was that he planned to return the night before I had to fly out and any delay would ruin this plan.

And sure enough, the Adversary was up to his tricks and the next morning there was a bandh. This is a forced political closure of all roads and businesses, like a strike of everything, and was started by the opposition parties and some rebel groups. Needless to say, I was a little worried. The bandh lasted right up until my last full day in town so there was very little I could do except pray that the people I needed to see would be able to return to town and would have time for me to see them.

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On that last day, we rushed to see the head of the Presbyterian Body since they are the largest in the area and we had to have their acceptance in order to succeed. We did this putting our faith in God because due to the bandh we had not been able to make an appointment or anything like that.

When we arrived, there was no one around. The leaders were all in a meeting of the council that runs the Presbyterian Body. We decided to wait anyway, praying that God would give us an opportunity to meet the leaders. After a long time, we became a bit discouraged and decided to see if there was anyone else there at all.

We walked into the only other office with people and met the vice-head of the Body. He listened to what we had to say and was sceptical at first but soon his attitude changed. He became enthusiastic about our plans to translate the Word into Bimble. He became so interested that he decided that he would take us to the Head of the Body and make sure we got an appointment with both him and the chairman of the Council.

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When they arrived, we went in and were introduced to the chairman and to the Head of the Presbyterian Body. However things started to do downhill from there. The Head changed his mind and objected. He told us that there is no need to do a translation in Bimble and that they could not give us permission. But, as seems to be the case whenever things get out of hand, the Tetragrammaton (LORD God) intervened.

The Chairman remembered that my father’s friend had performed his sister’s wedding (full blown weddings are a bit rare and are very grand, so doing one is considered an honour) and he started listening very carefully. Eventually, when we explained our idea of doing an oral translation he decided that it might be a good idea. And within seconds, the Head of the Presbyterian Body followed suit. We got our permission verbally and they even promised to support us if any of their people had questions.

That same night the Head of the CNI was able to sneak into town on the last bus and we were able to get to his house even though there was a lockdown on the streets to stop people from rioting. It helps that we were driving an ambulance. 🙂 He signed the paper and offered his personal support. It just goes to show that no matter what happens — strikes, bandhs, riots, or lockdowns— The Tetragrammaton is really the one in charge of everything.

Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary

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God And My Muscle Disease – Part 2

In the last article, I wrote out some of the history of this family inherited genetic disease called MELAS 3243, which falls under the general heading of being a Mitochondrial Myopathy.  In simple terms, this means that the mitochondria (the energy production part within all of our cells) do not function properly for me.  My muscles produce limited amounts of energy each day, so I constantly battle with fatigue which can happen quite fast, depending on the level of activity I am engaged in.  Along with this, I battle constant pain which increases with activity and when I fatigue.

This can be quite challenging at times and can greatly affect me at the most inconvenient times.  I recall the time when we went as a family to the church’s Christmas Eve service.  I had been moderately active during the day (getting presents wrapped), and there was certainly more excitement in the air as our family of five engaged in our annual fun time of cooking sugar cookies and decorated them with different food-colored icing .  I had my nap, then we drove slowly through neighborhoods to see the Christmas light decorations and ended up at our church for the 11 p.m. service.

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The service was beautiful with some Christmas carol singing, a short message, and then a time of silent reflection on the birth of Christ.  Now a strange-funny kind of thing about my disease.  It doesn’t just affect my muscles, but an emotional moment (whether bad or good) can also drain my energy.  So when it was time to leave, a family member had to push me uphill to get out of the auditorium.  I started to go slowly across the foyer on my arm crutches thinking I could make it to the car outside.

But then a friend stopped me to say hello and wish me a Merry Christmas.  Well, what little energy I had left was used up in that short 5-minute visit.  Suddenly my friend asked me, “Do you need to sit down?”  She saw me going white and starting to wobble.  I nodded yes and she ran and got a chair behind me just as I collapsed into the chair.  Thankfully I have never yet actually fallen, but there have been some close calls as I can deplete my energy so quickly, sometimes within as short as 15 minutes.

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Now consider what I have just written, and then consider what God has been able to do through me in these past three years.  During these three years that I have now lived with this disease, God allowed me the privilege to travel five times over to Papua New Guinea to be able to continue doing Bible translation checking.  And each trip we’ve taken, we extend it a little longer, to see how my body will do.  I went from four or five-week trips to a seven week trip, and this past Feb/March it was a nine week trip.

Admittedly, it is very hard on me to travel half way around the world.  But God has set up a great routine for me.  I fly to Los Angeles and take a day room at a Sheraton hotel to sleep 4-5 hours before going back to the airport to catch the midnight flight to Brisbane, Australia.  In Brisbane, I taxi to a family run motel and the couple know me so well, they take me straight to the handicapped room.  They have a small kitchen behind the office and when I wake up later, they cook a home-made meal for me.  Then in Port Moresby, PNG, I stay in a mission guesthouse who also have great staff who take care of my every need.  And throughout every airport, I get fantastic wheelchair assistance.  Thank you God!!!

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Now three exciting things have happened recently.  This last January I helped lead a week-long orientation class for our mission on a college campus in California.  Going from -40 C (also 40 below zero in F.) to a balmy +10 C (+50 F.) prompted me to ask my US mission colleague if he thought there might be any work for me to do if I was to say, come down to the Dallas office area during the cooler Fall and early Winter time.  One week later, I got a call telling me that at least two departments were fighting over me and asking how soon I could come to Dallas.  (I have my ticket and will be leaving Aug. 9 until Christmas to help with training and mentoring new missionary recruits for our mission.)

Secondly, at the end of this last trip to PNG, I told the Directors that the trip was very successful as I was able to finish checking 5 New Testament books for 3 different language groups.  So now we are lining up at least three, maybe four projects for me to check during the Jan-April period.  This will allow me to get completely out of Canada’s winter months, which is wonderful, considering that the colder it is, the more pain I am in, but the more hot and humid it is, the less pain and muscle cramping I experience.

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But then a third ministry option was offered to me as well.  We have a team of nationals in a Southeast Asia country, plus a veteran missionary who lives in the States for most of the year, all of whom are very computer savvy, and are able to send all their files and notes electronically to me so that I can check them while living remotely anywhere in North America.  I was told that when we finish checking and then publish the NT in this common speech (Plain Text) trade language, we will have the potential to impact the lives of over 200 million people with a text that they can read and understand in their hearts.

So what am I saying at the end of these two articles that started with my disease and end with looking at all the ministry work God is placing in front of me to do.  Well, let me summarize it all in two sentences.  In the last two years, I was operating as a part-time disabled Missionary.  But now, by the grace of God, I am going forward by faith to operate as a full-time Holy Spirit enabled Missionary.

Thank you Jesus!  It is only through Your grace that all of this has been made possible.       To You belongs all the glory.


God’s Assignment – Part 4

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Do Great Things For God

This past trip to Papua New Guinea (Jan. 27 – March 28) was a big leap of faith on our part.  The question on everyone’s mind was how I would manage on such a long trip overseas.  The good news is that I can honestly say this has been my most successful trip in the past three years.

My assignment was to do the consultant checking of translated Scripture books for three language projects:  finish checking the book of Matthew in the W. language, check three Pauline epistles in the T. language, and check the book of Hebrews in the A. language.  I was able to complete all three language projects, each ahead of schedule, so that five more books of Scripture are now ready for publication.  I am thankful to God for my role in being able to see this made possible.

Along with completing the assignment given to me, I attained the status of being a Full Translation Consultant.  From a health perspective, I was able to live and function better than I have done on any other trip.  Jill was a great help to me in many ways, and so were many of the Branch members over there.  Not only have I learned to pace myself and my body better, but the new pain medicine has helped to reduce the level of daily pain to a moderate more tolerable level and has reduced the number of bad spike days of pain.

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When we all saw how well this trip went, we went ahead and had a meeting with all the Directors of the PNG Branch, as well as with the Regional Area Director for Pioneer Bible Translators who happened to be in PNG at the time.  In the meeting, we discussed various ways I could serve the ministry of Bible translation, and the timing and length of our next visit to PNG.  We are looking at going back early in 2012 for 2-3 months to do more consultant checking work.  In addition to this, I was asked to consider being involved in a new program with a language project in Southeast Asia.

This project will be a new approach for PBT, but has tremendous potential.  The missionary who oversees the project lives about half the year in the States and then spends the other half of the year in Southeast Asia.  The national translators are located in a city that has a stable internet connection and stay in touch with the missionary through email attachments, language program file sharing and through Skype calls.

The idea that was presented to me is that I would become one of the primary translation consultants, and do all my work with the missionary and the team through long-distance internet connection.  In other words, I could work all year-long and live in any location globally to help do the consultant checking of this project.  This opportunity is very exciting, and I have agreed to become attached as a remote location translation consultant with respect to the Southeast Asia team.

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Looking back, it wasn’t that long ago that I thought I would not be able to continue such an active international involvement in mission work.  Looking ahead, it sure seems to us that the Lord is opening many doors for me to serve Him.  There are a lot of details to still be taken care of, but we are going forward with confidence that this is the direction the Lord is leading.

You may have noticed that the title for this article and the last one in this four-part series (click here to read) go together very well.  These words are a famous quote by William Carey who helped to launch the modern-day mission movement.  Putting them together, they are:

Expect great things from God; Do great things for God.

William Carey is one of my “heroes of the faith” and through his missionary and Bible translation efforts, much of India and surrounding countries were impacted by the Gospel.  Of course I am no William Carey, but I do hope to emulate his motto.  I put my trust in God that what we do for Him, checking Scripture translations one verse at a time, will have a long-lasting impact on the people of PNG, or wherever we may serve.

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And before I sign off on this article, let me say how grateful I am to all of you who read these blog stories.  Jill and I know that we do not go on our own into the mission field abroad.  We are part of a team, part of the greater body of Christ.  We go as your representatives, and you all come along with us in spirit to attempt to do these great things for God.

My prayer is that each of us would hear God’s voice and follow His leading to serve Him where we live, or wherever He may lead us.  We know that the victory is won in Jesus Christ.  But we also know that there is much to be done in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to the people groups of the earth.  Let us all by faith serve our God well until He calls us Home, or until the day that Jesus will return.