Adventure On My Way To Papua New Guinea

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PNG, Here I Come!

So….  The taxi came right on time and I got to the airport by about 8:40.  I went to the self-help machine and everything seemed to be going smoothly, my passport scanned nicely, and I got my Boarding Pass and luggage tag printed out.  Then I looked at the Boarding Pass and it said that boarding would start at 4:20 p.m  YIKES!!!  Did I get my information mixed up??

So I quickly went over to the ticket counter and got the attention of an Agent.  I asked, “What happened to my ticket?  I sure hope this printed wrong!”

“Oh,” he says.  “Yes, there is a mechanical problem with the plane and it will be about 6 hours before we get a replacement plane flown in.”  YIKES AGAIN!!

So as calmly as I could, although my bass voice may have been closer to soprano… 🙂  I explained that I had five flights to catch over the next 65 hours and I really couldn’t afford to get bumped off schedule on the first flight.

“Oh,” he says.  “Well, there is a plane going to Los Angeles right now.  In fact, if I hurry up here, I have two minutes to get you rebooked before we get locked out and I can’t process any more passengers.”

    

So I said, “Oh, ok.  Sounds good.  Can you do that?”  (Meanwhile, prayers are fervently going up to the One who is really in charge.)

So there we were, trying to beat the clock and not get locked out.  And without even breaking a sweat, and smiling the whole time, he did it.  I was in the system.  Of course there was no time to ask for wheelchair assistance.  And so off we went at a trot, the agent with a limp (he looked about 65 years old) pushing the cart to get me through Customs, and me hobbling/bouncing along on my two arm crutches.

The Agent was not able to go any further than the last security scan station, so I hoisted my laptop strap up over one shoulder, and my carry-on duffle strap over the other shoulder.  And you can guess where the Gate was for my plane.  Yup, it was number 25, the very last one on the concourse wing.  🙂  I got there, checked in to make sure I was still in the system, confirmed that, sat down in a nearby wheelchair, and off we went to get me boarded on the plane.

And so started my first leg of my three day journey to Papua New Guinea.

    

It was kind of unfortunate that we didn’t have another 60 seconds at the check-in counter at Calgary, as I might have been able to ask Air Canada to tag my big suitcase all the way to Brisbane.  But I figured that God would help get me and all my luggage from Terminal 2 to Terminal 7 in Los Angeles.  No problem!  After all, He got me on to that ready-to-fly plane in Calgary.

Now the young man who was my wheelchair attendant at LA was not so positively inclined as I was.  Actually, he had trouble figuring out how to push me with one hand and pull my suitcase with the other hand.  We managed to go down, up and out of the Terminal without too much difficulty.  And guess what vehicle was just pulling up to the curb as we got out the door.  Yup!  It was the Handi-Van Shuttle bus.  I knew they have some here in LA, but you usually have to wait about 20 minutes.  But it was not this day!  😀

And off I went around the horseshoe airport and over to Terminal 7.  The woman driver was so helpful.  She even turned off the vehicle, and helped me get my luggage all the way in to the ticket counter area.  But she felt bad that I was there so early (being 12 Noon) and my next flight to Sydney wasn’t until 10 p.m.  She told me I’d have to wait in this chair for a few hours until they could help check me in.

But by now, I’m thinking, “Hey, this day is going pretty good.  I think I’ll see if I can be blessed again with a nice surprise.”

So I walked over to a nearby United Agent and asked when early check in would begin.  “Well,” she said, “you can start checking in 10 hours before flight time.”  So guess what time it is?  Yup!  It’s 12:10, and I can go check in now.  Yippee!!  🙂

    

Checking in went real smooth.  I got my suitcase tagged all the way to Brisbane, via Sydney.  He then told me to go take a seat and a wheel chair person would come for me at some point.  So I figured, “I’ve got some time until they come.  I think I’ll have a little Yoghurt.”  And guess what?  By the time I had found the yoghurt, my spoon, and sat down, I looked up and “Presto” there was the wheelchair person.  Gulp, gulp, gulp.  That is definitely the fastest I’ve ever eaten yoghurt, and not regretted it later.  😉

And zooommm!!  We were through Security and on to the other side.  She asked me what my gate number was, but it didn’t even have it printed on the Boarding Pass, because I was so early and there was no way to know what gate the plane might actually arrive at.  But that’s okay.  I told the woman that I wanted to go sit in the “United Club Lounge” where it is comfortable, you can do email, and often get food and snacks there.

“Oh,” she says, “but you’re not a First Class passenger.  I don’t think they’ll let you in.”  And I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m on a roll here.  Let’s go ask them and find out.”

So we went over to the Lounge and I asked if I could buy a Day Pass, and he said, “Sure! Come right on in.”  Yippee!!

And so began my journey back to PNG where we learn to expect the unexpected.  But isn’t that where God shows up the best?  Especially for those who trust in Him.

    

The Lord Will Get Me To Papua New Guinea

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We Make Plans – God Has Different Plans

I felt so sure that once I got on the plane in Calgary, that everything would go smoothly until I reached my destination of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Who would have guessed that a) the flight crew were late coming in from Vancouver to start up our plane; b) that a snow storm would happen the moment we sat down in the plane (which meant a delay of de-icing), and c) more unusual (actually weird) was the fact that the flight attendants could not agree for 45 minutes whether there were 81 or 82 passengers on the plane (that delayed us at least 45 minutes)

So… I missed my connection to the Qantas long flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Australia.  Suddenly I was faced with making rapid changes and new arrangements to get new flights and some lodgings booked in both Brisbane and Cairns down under.  I have to admit that I let the situation get the best of me for a while as I complained, and then worried about how this would all get worked out.  I took my eyes off of Jesus for a short while, and I found fear and anxiety replaced my normal peace of God in my heart.

There are a number of things that I have realized, now that I have time to reflect on all that happened.  I hope I can express well in words what I want to pass on to others of how we who are Christians can better handle difficult situations that can confront us in life.  Let’s look then at how I did react, and how I could have reacted to the situation.

Takeoff

When I first booked all my flights, to get me from Canada to Papua New Guinea, one of my first concerns was to try to save money.  Now there is nothing wrong with being wise stewards of our money.  Jesus gave many teachings and illustrations on this topic.  But I added some pride and self-reliance along with my sense of “frugality”.

It is true that my health has been much better in the past six months, and this in part led me to think that I could do the 30 hour trip from Calgary to Port Moresby, PNG in one long day of traveling.  I realize now that I was kind of proud of myself that I was going to do the long haul on my new found strength, and had not really asked the Lord about the wisdom of this.

And then, as we sat and waited and waited on the plane in Calgary, ready for take-off, I found I got more and more anxious about the possibility of missing my next plane.  “All my efforts of my planning and scheduling will get ruined,” I thought.  We did make it to Los Angeles, but with all the effort of people getting me my wheelchair assistance from one terminal to the other, I arrived 15 minutes after they closed the check-in desk, even though the plane had not left yet.

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So it was when I finally recognized that I was trying so hard to make my plans and solve this crisis in my own strength that I gave the situation over to the Lord.  And then things actually did start to fall into place. I was going to be okay from LA to Brisbane as Qantas just switched my ticket to the next night.  And I was able to book my Australia to PNG flights with air miles, so that I paid only 1/10th of what a new ticket would cost.  And with Jill’s help, I was able to get bookings as two nice hotels in Brisbane and then Cairns.

The neatest part was that some good friends from a very long time ago heard about my situation and they emailed me to let me know they could pick me up at the airport in Brisbane and take care of me for a few hours until I could check in at the hotel.  That was very special, seeing as I might have had to wait four hours in the hotel lobby until I got a room.

Better yet, we spent those few hours together sharing wonderful stories of how God has taken care of us all over the years.  And we shared testimonies of how God has worked through us all to bless other people.  What a special time of sharing that was for me, and for them too they told me.

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So now a few questions.  Did God create the crisis as a penalty for my independence from Him?  I don’t accept that one as that makes God to be a God who punishes people if they step out of line just a little bit.  Did Satan and his forces of evil send this “attack” against me?  No, I doubt it.  But he certainly could be behind me taking my eyes off of Jesus.

Was I supposed to learn something from the situation?  Very probably.  Or at least I would hope I learn from each situation in life.  I do know that God promises us peace in the midst of storms.  (And I was forgetting that.)  And He promises to bring good out of every situation.  (That came true as I spent a wonderful day with dear Christian friends in Brisbane that would not have happened if this crisis had not happened.)

There is more I could say, but this gives you an idea of how my last couple of days have gone.  More importantly, it tells you that I am doing okay and God is taking care of me and the various details of rearranging my trip to PNG.  As Scriptures says, I made plans, but God had better plans.

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Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 2

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Our First Week in France – Pt. 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traveling & Jet Lag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Careful At First

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

A few days later:

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

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

Tune in next week for Part 3.

Heaven Is Our True Home – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 5

Do you know what amazes me?  What I find real astounding is just how attached most of us are to the things of this life.  We slave and work hard to earn money.  Some people inherit it, others cheat, lie and steal to get money.  And what do they do with it?  They buy more and more stuff that is bigger and “better” than our old stuff.  Or we use our money to pamper ourselves and make “improvements” to our bodies, in hopes that we might live just a little longer.

Seeing the danger of money, some Christians inaccurately quote the Bible and say, “Money is the root of all evil.”  Actually, it is not the object (money) that is the problem, it is the love of it and pursuit of what it can do that is the problem.  Look at how it is actually quoted in 1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

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We need to ask ourselves why we allow ourselves to get caught up in the “deceitfulness of wealth” (Mark 4:13).  For many of us, it is not our intention to get caught up in the things of this world.  But as this parable of Jesus states in Mark 4, many people hear the Word of God and would gladly follow its teachings, but the good things of this life and the worries about protecting our possessions that go along with it choke out the possibility of spiritual fruitfulness in our lives.

Max Lucado speaks to this issue in chapter 3 of his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  It really is easy for many of us who live in the affluent culture of North America to get wooed into thinking that “this life is a good life” as we are able to surround ourselves with our comfortable materialism.  Lucado says that we can get to the point of actually believing that this life is the “real life”.  That is why we can be so shocked when reality does puncture our bubble.  Listen to Lucado from pp 58 – 59:

But then the flies come out.  People die, earthquakes rumble, and nations rage.  Families collapse, and children die of hunger.  Dictators snort and treat people like, well, like pigs.  And this world stinks.

And we have a choice.  We can pretend this life is all God intended.  Or …  We can come to our senses.  We can follow the example of the prodigal son.  “I will set out and go back to my father” (Luke 15:18.

Perhaps part of the problem for us today is that there is so much to choose from these days.  Our supermarkets abound in food choices, our closets are overflowing with clothes, there are hundreds of interesting places that we can choose from to go have our vacation, and if we don’t do it this year, we will just wait and do it next year.

This world is a beautiful world, no doubt about it.  But we must not get so enamoured by the things in this life that we forget that we are just passing through this life and are being prepared for our eternal life that still lies ahead of us.  We must not lose sight of where we are truly meant to be as we look around at the pretty things in this life.  Lucado paints the picture well in an airplane analogy on page 59:

 Suppose this announcement were heard: “Ladies and gentlemen, this flight is your final destination.  We will never land.  Your home is this plane, so enjoy the journey.”

Passengers would become mutineers. We’d take over the cockpit and seek a landing strip.  We wouldn’t settle for such an idea.  The journey is not the destination.

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I think Jill and I get reminded of this frequently as we move back and forth between Canada, the US and Papua New Guinea in our ministry work for God.  We do have a condo, or should I say a mortgage, back in Canada.  But every year, we are packing our bags up again to travel across the world to do our Bible translation work in PNG.

When we get overseas, we will try to set up our home there for the couple months that we are there.  But it is so obvious that this is just a temporary residence and not really our own home.  The silverware drawer got moved again.  The pictures, if there are any, are not ours.  We have trouble finding a matching sheet set for the bed.

And yet, we keep on coming back over here.  Not for what we can get out of it, or the fact that PNG is a tropical paradise on earth.  But rather, we are trying to make a difference in people’s lives with the translated Word of God.  Because there awaits an eternal home for all of us, and we want to share that Good News with the people here.

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So here is what I am trying to say: for some of us like Jill and me, we will never be able to settle down and “make a home”, while others do have the means to make themselves a very comfortable home.  But for all of us, this should not be our ultimate goal in life, for there is a heavenly home awaiting all who are God’s children.  Let’s not forget: Heaven is our True Home.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

My Wife: My Best Friend

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He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD.
Proverbs 18:22

This is going to be a great week. I am going to go on a holiday with my best friend, my wife. Jill and I have been married now for 27 years. In all these years, I can only remember having 2 one-week holidays alone together with her. Many months ago, we gave in to a good telemarketer and bought one of those fancy resort hotel packages. That, plus using some air miles, will allow us to take this one-week holiday of fun.

This does not mean that Jill and I have not had many great adventures together. And I suppose the word ‘holiday’ can be defined in different ways by different people. In our years together, Jill and I have traveled to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Britain, Papua New Guinea, Australia, East Africa, the main 48 continental states of the US, and every province of Canada except Newfoundland.

In almost all of these cases though, our travel experiences to and through these many countries have been necessary moves due to my schooling or our jobs or the missionary work that we have done either with Teen Missions or Pioneer Bible Translators. So we have definitely seen a lot of the world, but it has mostly been rushing to get from point A to point B.

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Although we have faced many challenges and difficulties over all these years, and the constant traveling seems to move us back to square one again financially, I have few regrets about all that we have done. The stories about how Jill and I met and then years later became married will have to wait until a future article, but there are a few interesting things that I would like to highlight here now.

As any normal guy, I had some experiences of dating other girls when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. Some relationships I took quite seriously, and some were just for fun. But like the proverb quoted above, I felt that finding a good woman to be my wife and partner in ministry was something to be very careful and sure about. Being born in 1960, my famous saying regarding marriage was, “24 in ’84 and not before.”

And I almost made it. Jill and I did get married in 1984. But due to a number of factors, we got married on my grandmother’s birthday of May 11th, instead of waiting until November when my birthday was. Actually, I seem to recall that we talked mostly about being married in the summer. What I do remember clearly is that when I proposed to Jill, I told her that I would probably never be rich monetarily, but besides my love for her I could give her two things: my name and lots of adventure.

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And considering what little I could promise to Jill, it does say a lot about her by the very fact that she did say yes when I asked her to marry me. We had actually known each other for three years by that time. Jill had even lived at my parents’ home on and off over those three years, and because of the many late night conversations that we had, especially about missionary work, we had grown to become good friends before we dated and then became married.

And it has been like that for all these years. We have always been each other’s best friend, traveling together, talking together, and just doing things together. It seems like we have always been there for each other, and that is why being apart from each other these few months while I am in Dallas helping PBT is not as easy as we are making it look. It reminds me of a cute story about an elderly man whose wife had just passed away.

The elderly man was taking a road test to validate his driver’s license for another year. At the end of the test, the instructor reluctantly failed the man and said to him, “You did very well on most of the road test, but every time you had to turn left at an intersection you failed to look to the right to see if there was any traffic coming.” The elderly man replied to the instructor, “That’s because for over 60 years my wife would say to me, ‘All clear on the right dear.’ ”

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That is kind of how it is for Jill and me. We have now both been married for longer then we were ever single. It is just so comfortable and natural for us to want to talk to each other every day. And so I am very thankful for our modern technology like e-mail and Skype which allows us to be in touch with each other so much.

But there is a deeper level at which we connect. We pray for each other. And this is not just the basic mealtime prayer of “Dear God: please bless Jill and Eric and Glen and our friends and our church, and thank you for the food. Amen.” For me, and I’m sure for Jill too, we value our relationship with God and our relationship with each other much more than this superficial religious prayer.

No, when I pray, I really put some thought into what Jill is doing that day and that week (and I also do this for our boys).  I believe that God is a very loving and personal God, and so I talk to Him about all the things that are most important to me.  Like my family.  Like my wife.  I believe that God really does want the very best for those whom I love.  And so do I.  And why wouldn’t I.  Jill is not only my wife, she is also my very best friend.

God’s Work Goes Forward

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Working Hard For God….And Loving It!

You know that expression, “There is no rest for the weary”.  Well, since I still have a couple of days left here in Papua New Guinea, the Branch Language Director and I determined that we should capitalize on this limited time we have together.  So she showed me some new ways to use my computer tools to advance my abilities to do consulting work on Bible translations.

Up until now, I have been doing a lot of my preparation work and my translation checking in a rather slow and difficult method.  I would have three different computer applications running at the same time and I would have to go back and forth between each program to do the following things:

  • know what the Greek text said,
  • study what the words and phrases in the verse at hand meant,
  • find other verses in the Bible that use the same or similar key terms and phrases,
  • read commentaries and translation notes and handbooks
  • discover various ways in which the truth of Scripture can be expressed in different languages
  • analyze the translation of the language text that I am to do consulting on
  • prepare notes and comments to help in the checking and revising of the text

That certainly is a lot of work in itself, but to have to constantly change which program I need to look at, well, it is not only tiring, but I can find myself getting lost and asking myself, “Now what was it I was going to check?”  I desperately needed a new way to get myself organized and to boost the power of the main programs I really should be using to assist the translation of Scriptures into multiple languages.

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So what a God send it has been to have these few extra days to learn more about the one program that I was starting to use, which is called Paratext.  In this program, I can have a large number of windows showing that are very useful to me and are linked to each other.  So on the new assignment I have just been asked to look at, I can have the following items running in Paratext:

  • the original Greek or Hebrew text of the Bible
  • an interlinear Greek/English or Hebrew/English text
  • a window of windows letting me view from four to eight other English Bible versions
  • the vernacular text of the translation we are checking
  • a vernacular text back-translated into English for me to follow the translation
  • an interlinear vernacular/English suggested analyzed text
  • a Greek/English/Vernacular consistency comparison chart
  • and a Greek lexicon (dictionary)

That is a lot of information packed within one program window.  And it looks like this:

So after I got a feel for the power of this program, the language director gave me an assignment to see if I could figure out how to use all this to help in my translation checking work.  She told me to find the Key Word for ‘Lord’ in Acts and Ephesians for this language that I had never seen before.  She wanted me to see if the text had a standard translation form, and to examine if all occurrences of the word were translated in a consistent manner.

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The Greek for ‘Lord’ is “kurios” and after just a few clicks, I had found that this word is used 133 times in the two books.  By looking at the suggested analyzed text, I saw that this Greek word is usually translated as “Tuhan”.  Then I used the Key Term consistency check and I found that there were 22 places that I did not find “Tuhan” in the vernacular text.

Looking at each of these 22 places, I saw that sometimes ‘Lord’ was used of earthly masters, or were a title of respect.  It would be like saying, “Sir”.  This narrowed things down and I found that in only 12 places was there a possible concern as to whether they had translated this Greek word well or not.  And I was able to do all this in less than 2 hours.

WOW!!!  I now know some good ways to check key biblical terms and phrases from the Greek and cross-check a language I’ve never seen before.  And it was so quick.  It is like the difference between having a dial-up internet connection versus a high-speed DSL or satellite connection.  THIS IS SOOOO COOL!!!!

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So let’s see, I just finished on Friday an 8 month project of checking 5 books of the New Testament that included working with three different languages here.  And now I am possibly going to be set up to check parts of three other language projects over the next year, one of which will be in another  country of the world and be done by internet Skypeing and email note transfer.

So between completing the last major assignment and now sort of starting this new assignment, I got, hmmm…..one day off.  LOL.  But that’s okay.  Working on languages for me is like giving candy to a kid.  I can hardly wait to really sink my teeth into this next assignment.

But back to reality here.  I do need to get packed up as I leave tomorrow and start my long 4 day trip to return from Papua New Guinea back to Canada.  This has been a great two months here in PNG.  And I want to thank everyone who has been praying for me and Jill.  God’s Word is going forward in many local languages here, and I am glad that we are able to play a part in seeing that this work is being done.

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“Get Dirty for God!”

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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.

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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.

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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

Trouble Around the Bend

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Hard Road Journey – Part 3

In Chapter One of Mark Atteberry’s book, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“, he briefly touches upon the idea that there may be a reason for the terrible spot that you find yourself in now.  But even if there was an answer to the question of “Why am I in this mess?”, the more important question to answer is, “How do I get through this situation?”

It is this second question which Atteberry now deals with in all the remaining chapters of his book.  He gives what he calls “Strategies”, or you could call them road maps, to help you and I get through these difficult times.  So if we put aside the “Why” question, then we can focus on “How do we get through this?”  But before we look at Chapter Two’s strategy, Atteberry offers us a strong caution which I think we should heed.

It is an unfortunate truth that the very time when we need to make good decisions, we often make bad choices.  When people, the circumstances of life, or wrong things we do come and hit us and knock us down, we are in pain and we reach out for whatever we think will give us comfort or relief from that pain.  And many times, what we think will help us will in the end actually harm us.

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At this point, we need to ask ourselves why we would choose things that we know are bad or wrong for us.  I believe Atteberry has got it right when he says we have an enemy, Satan, who sees us in our pain and brokenness and disguises lies as truth, and makes sin look attractive.  Regarding Satan, Atteberry writes:

He recognizes that people in pain will often grope for anything that hold the promise of relief, even if it’s temporary.  (pg. 17)

So how do we not make our situation even worse than it already is?  It’s not enough to say to ourselves, “Stop making bad choices and do what is right.”  There has to be something that is bigger than ourselves to help us to consciously and consistently choose to do what is right.  And so Atteberry challenges us in this chapter to “Commit to Strict Obedience.”

What does he mean by this?  I believe that we all do have something, or should I say Someone, to whom we ought to give our full allegiance.  It is God, and His Word contained within the pages of the Bible that will guide us in the path of right living and right choices. And it is when we commit to Him that we will find our path becomes straight and will guard our feet from slipping.

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This brings to mind for me an experience that could have literally cost me my life.  I mentioned in an earlier post (Impacting Others for Jesus) how I went down to South America while being part of the Canadian Navy.  When we got to Peru, I asked the Captain for a 3-day leave to visit a missionary couple that lived in the mountain city of Cuzco whom our church supported.

Amazingly he granted me my request and so I flew up to visit them.  While there, they suggested I take the train to go visit the world-famous ruins of Machu Picchu and I jumped at the opportunity.  The train ride was fantastic as we made our way from valley to valley through lush tropical mountainous terrain.  Then we took the local shuttle buses up the steep mountainside road which included 13 hairpin curves to get to the actual site of the ruins.

I wasn’t part of a tour group, so I used a tourist guidebook to help me traverse the ruins and find out all about its history.  What a fabulous day I had climbing in and around the old Incan city.  By mid-afternoon I was pretty much done, but then the guidebook told about taking the razor-thin trail from Machu Picchu to its sister peak called Huayna Picchu.  You can see in the picture below how steep the sides of the mountains are and how narrow the trail is between them.

The guidebook said that it was a difficult climb, but worth the effort.  I would have called the climb “dangerous”, but the view from the top was truly spectacular.  Then I realized that I would have to hurry to get the last shuttle.  Now the guidebook said, “Be careful on the trail, especially on corners.”  But I was more concerned about the time than my safety.  And at one corner of the descent, I was going a little fast so I put my foot down on the bush at the corner to slow me….but I discovered too late that the bush grew sideways out of the side of the mountain.

Suddenly I went out into empty space…..and landed on a flat ledge about 14 feet below.  I leaned over and looked at the river which was more than a 1,000 feet below.  In my foolishness, I did not listen to the words of caution in the guidebook.  And that mistake just about cost me my life.  I went more cautiously after that and did catch the last shuttle.

So what did I learn from that day?  And what am I still trying to learn today?  It is important to listen to the words of the Guidebook.  And as Christians, we have a special guidebook, the Bible.  If we will commit to listening to the message of God’s Word, then we are much more likely to find a straight path out of our current distress.  Will you commit along with me to being more obedient listeners to God’s Word?  I believe this is how we can lessen the pain and the struggle of our journey in life.

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Impacting Others for Jesus

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Part 1 click here.

Part 2 click here.

Part 4 click here.

Who am I?  Part 3

The man was beet red in the face and shook his fist near my face when he yelled at me, “You Bible Thumper!”  But then he backed off and calmed down when he saw that he was not going to get a reaction out of me.  And then he said the most interesting thing.  He said, “I’ve seen Bible Thumpers and Holy Rollers in my day, but you….you’re different!”  And then he just shook his head and walked away.

Now I kind of doubt that many people could guess where this little stand-off took place.  I was 17 at the time, and I was in the bunk areas of the HMCS Saskatchewan, a destroyer in the Canadian Navy.  Previously, from age 13-16, I had been a part of the Sea Cadets, which entailed going down to the navy base in Calgary each Wednesday night, and then had the option of going to navy boot camps on Vancouver Island each summer.

Those were great years, as I proudly wore the uniform, marched in a number of important parades as part of the Cadet Navy Band, and got to spend summers on the west coast of Canada while I was still young.  Then, when I heard that a person could join the Reserve Forces as long as they turned 17 by the end of the year, I immediately joined up in March of 1977, eight months before I turned 17 in November.

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Much of the Reserves was like the Cadets, except that now I was in an adult world.  I worked hard that Spring and qualified for summer boot camp training again on Vancouver Island.  After surviving Boot Camp, I opted to stay out there, and worked in the naval dockyards for the rest of the summer.  Then the big moment came at the end of August.

An officer came up to me and asked if I would like to join the crew of a destroyer and be a part of a fleet maneuvers exercise for ten weeks.  We would sail from Victoria, British Columbia all the way down the west coast of the Americas making stops in San Diego, Manzanillo (Mexico), Panama City, Guayaquil (Ecuador), Lima (Peru), the Galapagos Islands, and Long Beach (Calif.)  So I phoned home to Calgary and said to my parents, “I’m heading to Peru with the Navy, but I’ll be back for Christmas.”  And they said, “Okay, see you then.”  : )

So at age 16, I sailed the ocean blue and saw the world, or at least a part of it.  And I loved almost every minute of it.  I’d been in Cadets, and then Reserves, for almost four years and now I was finally sailing on a large ship bound for adventure.  (Funny thing is, when I got back to Calgary, I quit the Navy, because all I really wanted was a chance to go out to sea, and I did that.  Then it was time to pursue my calling into missions.)

Back to my experience on the ship.  It was hard work, but I felt alive.  And spiritually, I felt like I could connect with God out on the ocean in a way that I couldn’t back home.  Which is kind of funny because of the 200 crew members or so, I only knew of three Christians.  One was the chaplain, one was a low ranking sailor at the other end of the ship whom I didn’t see much, and the third was the XO (Executive Officer, second in command.)

So spending time with God was pretty much a solitary journey for me.  When off duty, I would often sit near the stern and sing hymns and songs to myself.  When in port, I would go alone to try to find a church in the area.  And when I woke up each day, I would sit on the edge of my bunk and pull out my Bible and read from it for a while to give me some good things to think about during the day.

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What I didn’t do was to tell people I was a Christian.  I didn’t have to.  It didn’t take too many mornings before someone noticed me reading my Bible, and then everyone knew I was a Christian.  And that is when all the jokes, and ridicules began.  And of course I was always given the dirtiest job assignment to do.  I was even almost pulled into a prostitute house twice, but God saved me in those moments.  And for the most part, I never raised my voice or spoke back at these men.

Now I’m not saying I was a pushover or a pansy.  When I was mistreated, ridiculed or given dirty jobs, I would stand there and look them in the eyes for a minute or two to let them know I was a man inside who could stand his ground, but then I would turn away and go with a smile or a tune on my lips and go about doing my job.

And that’s what led this other man to confront me on the day we docked back in Victoria.  He had called me so many names, and tried to get me to drink, to smoke, to swear, to lay with a woman, but he had not succeeded.  And he had not broken my spirit.  And through all this, I rarely ever said a word.

And this was more than he could take.  He loved to argue with those “Bible Thumpers”, and he loved to mimic and ridicule those “Holy Rollers”.  But he didn’t know what to do or what to make of this quiet, yet strong, devoted Christian young man.  I realized then, when he said, “You’re different!” that it was a compliment.  Not to me, but to Jesus who was living in and through me.  I saw that by not saying a word, I had the opportunity to impact someone for Jesus.

God Will Watch Over Me

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I have arrived safely here at the mission center here in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.  I would say the whole trip from Canada to PNG went very smoothly.  Except for the takeoff from LA to Brisbane.

The guy in the middle seat next to me was acting kind of strange I thought.  He came in and sat down quite a while after the young woman had come and sat down at the window seat.  He had pierced ears and wild tattoos running down his arm.  And then I thought he was trying “hit” on the woman.  It turned out that they were together.

So then while we were taxiing up to take off, suddenly he reached for the bag and threw up three times.  YUCK!!  And then he jumped up and went down the aisle to the bathroom while we were moving towards the runway.  Well…you should have heard the male flight attendant yell out, “YOU…GET BACK TO YOUR SEAT!!”  But they did help him at the bathroom.

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Then after we got to cruising altitude, the Captain came to our row.  He wanted to know if the man was okay.  He was not too bad at that point.  Then the Captain asked if he had felt sick before the flight started.  The man said he had felt poor for two days.

So then the Captain said to him in a very stern tone, “You’ve been sick for two days and came on MY plane?  It would not be very good if we have to divert and land in Hong Kong.  There would be a lot of very unhappy passengers.  And don’t you EVER get up and run down the aisle on a plane again when it is taxiing to take off.  Do you understand me?!!”

Well, just when I thought he was starting to look well, after this tongue lashing, the man looked a bit pale again and just said, “Yes Sir.”  Meanwhile, as the Captain was leaning over me to talk to this man, I was desperately trying to look away and appear invisible.  If I could have whistled nonchalantly and gotten away with it without getting a glare from the Captain, I would have.  Whew….what an awkward moment.

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I felt bad for the man.  And then it hit me.  What if he had some kind of “bug” and was contagious?  Could he pass on to me his illness?  And I would have to share his space for the next 13 hours!  So I sent up a prayer and asked God to protect me from any illness this man might have.  The last thing I would want would be to get to my PNG destination and then come down with some sickness.

And then it got me thinking.  I have a muscle disease that has weakened my entire body, and probably has weakened some of my natural immune system.  I think in many ways I have learned to live with my disease, and using mechanical aids like crutches and walkers, getting wheelchair assistance, and adapting my environment to help me to function and live more comfortably has become second nature.

But the idea of getting some secondary illness, one that could seriously jeopardize my health, is a thought that lurks in the back of my mind and occasionally surfaces.  It causes me to think about the death of my grandmother, and my sister.  Their situations were quite different from each other, but there is one thing that they do have in common.  It was a secondary cause to something else that killed them.

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In my grandmother’s case, she was generally healthy as far as I know for most of her life, and she didn’t die until she was 88.  In fact, she was very active in life, then as a retiree doing hundreds of hours as a Volunteer at the hospital, and then she was always going around her nursing home and cheering others up.  She always seemed to be on the move.

But then one day, she got a cut or a break in her skin that she didn’t take too seriously.  This small area got infected and became a skin sore.  In her usual way of not wanting to bother anyone, she didn’t tell anyone about it until it became a very bad sore.  By this time it was very infected and had gotten into her system.  The doctors tried to cure it with strong antibiotics, but it was too late.  She gave herself blood poisoning and died within a very short period after being admitted to the hospital.  It could have been avoided.

In my sister’s case, she had the same or very similar muscle disease that I have.  The main difference between her and me is that she had always been weak from the time she was a teenager, but thankfully for her, she did not suffer the intense pain that I have.  What led to my sister’s death was a reaction she had to some aloe juices that she mixed up from raw ingredients.

But in truth, it was her weakened body, and the fact that she had had a string of bronchial problems and a case of pneumonia in the winter, that combined with the allergic reaction that overwhelmed her body and she died at age 32 from congestive heart failure.

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So how does this all relate to me today?  I know that right now I have a serious muscle disease.  And unless God heals me, there is likely going to be a day that the weakness will be compounded by some other illness, or some organ that starts to fail.  The question is this:  will I live my life in fear of what may happen one day?  No, I refuse to do this.

I would much rather trust God that He is always in control of my life until the day He decides to take me Home.  I want to be like David who wrote these words:

The LORD will protect you from all danger; he will keep you safe.                                    He will protect you as you come and go, now and forever.

Psalm 121:7-8

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