Mubami Pre-Allocation Trip, Day 2

*This is the second of a seven-part series about our pre-allocation trip to the Mubami people of Western Province, Papua New Guinea. The purpose of our trip was to discern God’s will regarding us potentially starting a new Bible translation project in the Mubami language, which currently has no Scripture.

Day 2, February 28, 2018

This morning we sat around on the porch of the church building and chatted with people as they came by. We got to meet various church leaders and church members and Pastor Max busied himself most of the day trying to arrange a ride for us to Sogae via one of the logging trucks going through the area.

Sitting on the porch of Saloma Local Church

After an early lunch (more rice and tuna), we went to visit Waliho, a very hot 1.5km walk from the church we were staying at in Kamusi. While Waliho is just as close to Kamusi as Saloma or any other part of Kamusi it is technically a separate village that relocated to be closer to Kamusi from its original location further down the Guavi River. Waliho relocated closer to Kamusi so that the people could get jobs with the logging company. Since it’s one of the only employers in the area, many of the Mubami people are employed by the logging company in Kamusi.

Walking to Waliho

It seemed to me that we were not as well received in Waliho as we had been at Saloma/Kamusi. There was only one man in the village when we arrived—the rest were in the bush working. There was something in the body language and conversation that left me with the impression that there was some underlying cultural tension that I wasn’t understanding. Then again, it’s equally likely—if not more so!—that I simply misread the situation. Cross-cultural body language is, after all, a tough read! The people told us that the men of the village would be back later that afternoon, so we told them we’d come back then.

Traditional carved canoe at Waliho village

We made our walk back towards the church and stopped at a trade store to buy an umbrella. I used to feel silly walking around with an umbrella when it was sunny and not raining, but after walking a while in the hot, tropical sun, you get over such matters of pride quickly! I was surprised by the variety of items available at the trade store. There was a boat motor, a couple bicycles, some cheap plastic toys, a few small solar panels, umbrellas, some clothes, and a variety of basic foodstuffs, among other items. It was a far cry from Wal-Mart and most of the items appeared to be relatively poor quality, but if you were in a pinch, they might suffice for a little while.

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When we got back to the church at Saloma, we sat around for a little while chatting with people. There seemed to be a constant stream of visitors, curious to see who the visitors to their area were. There was a heavy rain in the afternoon, so we waited for it to pass and then made our trip back to Waliho to see if we could catch the men who would have returned from the bush by then. Unfortunately, we found that the men had indeed returned from the bush to the village, but then had departed again. We don’t know whether they intended to give us a “cold shoulder” or if perhaps they just had a lot of work to do that day. But, since you never know what people’s intentions are, it’s always best to assume well unless you know otherwise. The women and children were more than happy to see us, though, so we shared with them why we had come and took some pictures.

Waliho village

On our way back, we stopped by another neighborhood in Kamusi which has a second ECPNG church. Several houses surround the church and most of the people living in this area have relocated here to Kamusi from Ugu village, the southernmost Mubami[i] village. The church is called “Kamusi Urban,” somewhat of a misnomer if you ask me because, despite the relative development in Kamusi from the logging camp, it’s still a far cry from “urban.” We were told that Kamusi Local Church (aka, Saloma Rural Church) had been planted as a branch of Kamusi Urban for the express purpose of reaching Mubami speakers. The logging company has brought in a large influx of workers from all over the country, so the church services at Kamusi Urban are led in English or Tok Pisin, the languages of wider communication in PNG, and the pastor is a non-Mubami speaking Gogodala man. But, since most of the Mubami don’t know these languages, they were not being well served in these services. So, a group of the Mubami—with the blessing and help of Kamusi Urban—planted a sister church in Saloma to minister to Mubami speakers.

Ugu village resettlement in Kamusi
Kamusi Urban Church

I found that encouraging for a couple reasons. First, it clearly demonstrates the need for a Mubami translation. If the Mubami people had enough trouble understanding basic announcements and sermons in English and Tok Pisin, how much more difficult would it be for them to read Scripture in these languages? Second, it demonstrated to me clearly that they understood that spiritual matters simply can’t be communicated well in a second language. Anyone who has ever tried to preach or share the gospel in a second language knows this struggle well. Abstract concepts like “grace,” “salvation,” “faith,” and even “love” are difficult to translate on the fly and they are always interpreted through a cultural lens. Language includes much more than simply letters and definitions, there’s a whole host of cultural information that is implied or assumed as well. The Mubami understand that and are willing to do what is necessary to make sure their people understand God’s Word as best they can. Unfortunately, that ability is seriously hampered by their lack of a Mubami Bible.

[i] Actually, the people from Ugu are quite insistent that their name is not “Mubami” but “Dausami.” They argue that “Mubami” was a name given by Australian colonial workers to their people and is derived from the name of the bones they traditionally wore in their noses. Everyone else that we met (not from Ugu village) insisted that “Mubami” was the original name and “Dausami” was the name given by Australian colonials to the people and is derived from their traditional dreadlocks which they called dauso. In either case, the Mubami now have neither nosebones nor dreadlocks and everyone seemed to agree that they speak the same language, with some minor dialectical differences. This will be an interesting sociolinguistic puzzle for us to explore over the years!

 

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Learning Obedience through Suffering

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭5:8-9, 14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is one of those passages in the Bible that is deceptively complex. I’ve read this passage before, but I think I have often missed some of the crucial truths buried within this passage. First of all, let’s take a closer look at some crucial parts of this passage.First of all, notice that the writer of Hebrews is talking about Jesus–the perfect, sinless God-man who always obeyed his Father. Second, allow me to highlight some important words in this passage:

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect…”

Some important and puzzling questions arise from these words. Wasn’t Jesus already obedient to the Father? How can someone who is perfect and omniscient learn obedience? Doesn’t that imply that he was not sufficiently obedient at one point in time? How can someone who never sinned be made perfect? How could Jesus be more perfect than he already was? Does this mean that he lacked some aspect of perfection?

I think the key lies in the type of perfection and obedience that is being described here. Of course, Jesus was in one sense already perfect and obedient. He never sinned, even in his youth, and he never disobeyed the Father. But I don’t think the author is primarily talking about sin here–he is talking about the perfection of faith. To be sure, sinlessness and perfect faith are related very closely, but they’re not the same.

Sin is, to put it simply, doing something God forbids. But faith is taking an action or attitude that is rooted in a trust or belief that God will do what he says.  We see this in the definition of faith provided by the writer of Hebrews himself:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We see in this definition that belief is a crucial part of faith, but we also know from James that “Faith without works is dead.”  Furthermore, when we read on in the examples of faith provided by the author of the letter to the Hebrews we can see that all of his examples are people who demonstrated their belief with an action or attitude:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph…

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents…

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin…

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land…
[These people] through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:1, 17, 21, 23-25, 27-29, 33-38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Notice that all of these examples of faith use action verbs (I.e., “offered, blessed, crossed, etc.”).  Faith is not merely belief, it is belief that results in action.  Jesus, while he was sinless, had to learn obedience and be made perfect just as we do because the perfection the author is talking about is perfection of faith.  Jesus’ faith was perfected through suffering.  He suffered as a homeless man trying to find food and shelter.  He suffered the rejection and persecution of the religious and political leaders of his time.  He suffered constant temptation by Satan, and no doubt, the temptations that accompany the lifestyle of a single man.  He suffered rejection and disbelief by his family and close friends.  He suffered the stresses of ministry and constant relocation.  He suffered the frustration of having to wait to begin his ministry until he was 3o.  He suffered knowing that many of his followers were only there for the miracles and free bread.  He suffered the weight of the knowledge of what was to come on the cross.  If ever a man on earth knew suffering, it was Jesus.  Isaiah describes the Messiah as “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV)

When Jesus began his ministry, he was perfectly sinless.  But he had not yet reached perfection of his faith.  That may sound strange, but perfect faith only comes through trials (See James 1:2-4 below).  Furthermore, Hebrews 5:14 seems to indicate that these trials (or “opportunities to practice discernment”) will be constant.  Why?  Because faith, unlike belief, requires action to be made complete.  For example, you can’t really say that you have faith that God will provide for your finances if you’ve never had to choose between being obedient to God in your finances (I.e., tithing) and paying your bills.  If there is no action accompanying the belief, then it’s just a hypothetical belief at best, or dead faith at worst.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?…So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

‭‭James‬ ‭2:14, 17, 26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There is a significant lesson for us to learn in Hebrews 5.

If Jesus, the God-incarnate Messiah, was required to undergo trials of such severity and frequency in order to achieve the perfection of faith necessary to be obedient in the mission that the Father gave him, how much more trials are required for sinners such as you and I!

So many times when we undergo trials, we’re surprised by it.  Oftentimes it seems like pointless pain and suffering.  But for the believer, there is no such thing as pointless suffering!  All suffering, in the life of a believer, is designed by God to bring us in conformity to the image of his Son.  So, whatever suffering you may be enduring right now, know that God is with you in the midst of it and there’s a purpose behind it all.

Let these words of scripture sink into your heart as you meditate on what God is doing in your life:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. 

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans‬ ‭8:16-39‬ ‭ESV

What verses or passages from scripture give you comfort when you’re suffering?  Share them with us in the comments below!

In Awe of His Grace!


For the past few months, we have prayed and prayed that God would help us to reach our goals and make the move to GIAL in July. But, as of June, we seemed to be a very long ways from that goal. While we originally felt like God was leading us to GIAL in July, the numbers simply weren’t adding up, and so we felt God had effectively shut that door.  This, in turn, left me a bit discouraged at the prospect of having to delay our training another six months, especially since balancing my job with my ministry and family had become increasingly difficult and was placing a lot of strain on our family. It seemed as if we were battling an unseen force that simply did not want us moving forward in our ministry!

But God’s timing is immaculate. About the time that I was struggling with all of this, I read a book that just so happened to discuss spiritual warfare (And the Word Came With Power, by Joanne Shetler). Then, our men’s ministry began a study on spiritual warfare called “The Invisible War.” Then our pastor began a sermon series on spiritual warfare! I’ve learned not to believe in coincidences, especially when they happen in rapid succession and in multiples. So, I realized that clearly God was trying to teach me an important lesson about spiritual warfare.

One night in men’s ministry, we briefly discussed a passage from Daniel 10, where Daniel has a vision of an angel after having fasted for 21 days. (“Coincidentally,” I did a 21 day fast modeled after Daniel’s fast in this passage earlier this year, which is the only fast I have ever done of that type and duration.)   In Daniel’s vision, the angel gives the reason for his delayed response, which gives a telling insight into the nature of spiritual warfare and answered prayers:

“Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia…”

Daniel 10:12-13 (ESV)

What I could not see in the midst of my struggles was that “from the first day that [I] set [my] heart to understand and humbled [myself] before [my] God, [my] words [had] been heard.” God had already answered my prayers. Perhaps he even dispatched an angel or two on my behalf!  Only heaven knows, but clearly there is a biblical precedent for such an idea. Whether God’s messengers were battling demons in the past couple months in order to bring about the next step in our ministry or not, I can’t be certain. But, I think that would explain a lot of the things that have been going on in our lives recently. Regardless, God has answered our prayers.

On Sunday, July 12, a generous ministry partner made a sizeable donation to our Wycliffe ministry. What they did not know was that their gift was exactly the difference between what we needed for our first semester of tuition, fees, and books at GIAL and what we had saved! The very next morning (Monday), I received an email from the Admissions department at GIAL, offering me a $1,200 scholarship if I would begin classes next week (July 22)! Jennifer and I were blown away. Could God really be moving things so that we could go to GIAL in July, like we had prayed? We prayed about it, thought about it, and consulted some of our partners for advice and prayers.  While we had enough money for our first semester, we wouldn’t have any for the second semester. Plus, we were only at 49% of our ministry budget, and we needed to be at 80% to afford our living expenses. On top of that, the fully furnished home we had reserved was rented out, and wouldn’t be available until December 21. There were other concerns we had, but those were the big ones. When we went to sleep that night, we were still very unsure about where God was leading us.

Tuesday morning we received a lot of feedback from our partners. Some encouraged us to “Go for it!” while others advised caution. Their advice was extremely helpful, but definitely served to illustrate the conundrum we were in. Around noon on Tuesday, we had found a possible housing solution, but it wasn’t great, and we had also discovered that childcare would be expensive. Fearing that this would place an even greater strain on our already greatly stretched budget, we were about to decide that we would just stay in Arkansas. And then the phone rang. It was the GIAL Housing department calling to inform us that a generous homeowner had just called in his home for rent while he was in China for a year. It was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with a garage and a yard. Best of all, he wanted some Wycliffe missionaries to stay in it RENT FREE and just pay utilities!!! We were completely blown away. The drastic reduction in our expenses meant that we could afford to live off of about 60% of our budget while we were at GIAL! Just that day, one new partner had joined, and another increased their giving, putting us at 53%, well within range of what we would need and be able to raise in the next couple months. Plus, that meant that we would soon have a surplus, which we could save for our second semester tuition and our other launching expenses! Jennifer and I knew that we couldn’t say “no” to that, so we accepted and began making arrangements to move to Dallas in less than a week.

I sit here tonight having finished one day of packing, with only three more days to finish packing for the move to Dallas, completely flabbergasted at God’s provision. Why he would care for little old me is completely beyond my understanding. I’ve been humbled to the point of tears several times today. Today, a friend from church came and folded and stuffed our paper newsletters for us, Jennifer’s mom and aunt helped us pack, another church friend gave us $200 for moving expenses and took our newsletters to be stamped and delivered, and the men’s ministry at church prayed over me.

I am in awe of God’s grace. I don’t deserve this kind of lavish grace! I’m just a sinner! Who am I that God should bless me like this!?!? I’m nobody! I feel like Isaiah in chapter six when he was confronted with God’s glory: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” I’m so humbled by his grace.

Why would we give our lives to serve as missionaries in the jungles of Papua New Guinea? It’s not just because there are lost people out there.  There are lost people here, too.  It’s not because we’re adventurous–we’re not, really. It’s because this is the kind of God we serve, and we want our lives to show that he’s worth it!   He’s the kind of God who lavishes grace on “such a wretch as I.” And once you’ve met Jesus, there’s just nothing worth living for but him. He has saved me, given me a hope and a future, given me a purpose in life, forgiven my unforgivable sins, and adopted me as a son into his family, granting me an inheritance that is beyond comprehension! And just like Isaiah, the only response I can give to his grace is: “Here am I, Lord, send me!”
***Update: Since writing this post last night, we found out that I have been granted an additional $500 scholarship, and another new monthly partner just joined out team!  God is good.

Why not just teach them English?

A translation project takes a long time, and a lot of effort.  Many times the languages we work in have no written form, so part of our job may involve transcribing their oral language into written form, developing an appropriate alphabet, and teaching them how to read and write in their own language.  All of this happens alongside the many years of work required to translate the Bible verse by verse into that language.  So, naturally, the question arises: “Why not just teach them English (or another majority language)?”

Reason #1: A second language is not your heart language
At a Good Friday service in 1980, Leonard Bolioki stepped to the front of the church he attended in Cameroon and began to read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Before, this passage from John’s Gospel had always been read in French, the trade language of Cameroon, but this time the priest had asked Leonard to read it from the newly translated passage in the local language, Yambetta.

As he read, he became aware of a growing stillness; then some of the older women began to weep. At the end of the service they rushed up to Leonard and asked, “Where did you find this story? We have never heard anything like it before! We didn’t know there was someone who loved us so much that he was willing to suffer and die like that… to be crucified on a cross to save us!”

Leonard pulled out his French New Testament and showed them that the story was in the Bible. “We listen to this Passion Story every year during Holy Week,” he told them, but they insisted that they’d never heard it before. That instance, Leonard says, is what motivated him to translate the Scriptures into the only language his people could really understand—Yambetta!

Even though these people knew French, French was not the language that spoke to their hearts.  It’s true that over time, and with great effort, you can learn a foreign language enough to communicate.  But, when it comes to the truths of the Bible, these must resonate on a deeper level than merely a head knowledge–the Scripture must penetrate to the heart.  That can only be accomplished in their native language, their “heart language.”

Reason #2: Language is tied to identity

Reason #3: God loves people of ALL languages

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (‭Revelation‬ ‭7‬:‭9-10‬ ESV)

The Bible tells us that there will be believers from “all languages” and “all peoples,” and commands us to make disciples of “all nations,” not just those in the majority.

Scripture is replete with examples of how God meets us where we are and communicates to us in the language and culture we understand best.  No human language or culture is supreme, and there is no human language or culture God cannot communicate in.  God gave his Word to the Hebrews in Hebrew, to Arameans in Aramaic, to the Greeks in Greek, and to all who were present at Pentecost in their own language.  If it’s a good enough strategy for God, it’ll work for us!

Food for Thought…

There was once an island, on which the people had a Bible, but it was in a language that only the educated people could understand. Then a man came and translated the Bible into the local language. The government at this time permitted the Bible, but only in their original translation. As soon as the Bible was available in the local language, the leaders feared what this would do to their power over the people. They declared this new translation illegal and burned every Bible and killed every translator, every printer, every user of the Bible that they could find. But God was with our Brothers and Sisters on that island, and He changed the hearts of the government. Finally, after many generations, the Bible was now not only available, but also legal.

“For God louede so the world, that he gaf his ‘oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge liif.”

This was John 3:16 in the first translation of the Bible in the local language on the island called…England.*

Brothers and Sisters, you and I are living proof of the impact of God’s word in our heart language, English.  We have been blessed to have God’s Word in our heart language for over 600 years since the first translation by John Wycliffe, and over 400 years since the translation of the King James Version.  What a blessing that our ancestors weren’t satisfied to merely teach us Latin!

 

 

*I am indebted to Tiffany Archer, a fellow Wycliffe member whom we met at Equip, for this illustration.

2014: God’s faithfulness on display

Well, another year has gone by!  And since so much has happened, we’d like to give you a recap of how God has been working in our lives in the past year and what we expect God will be doing in the year to come.

It’s crazy to think that just a year ago we were in Dallas at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics for a Wycliffe recruiting event called “Taste Of Translation And Linguistics” (aka–TOTAL It Up).

TOTAL It Up! January 2014, Dallas, TX

We had suspected that God might be calling us into service with Wycliffe, but we honestly didn’t know that much about the organization and we had a thousand questions!  Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to hear testimonies from many different Wycliffe missionaries, learn a little about translation and linguistics, and learn about how Wycliffe functions as an organization.  Each day our conviction grew that this was where God was calling us to serve.  By the end of the week, we had no doubts.  We drove home from Dallas as firmly convinced that God was calling us to serve with Wycliffe as we were that we were breathing!  God had finally revealed the next step of his plan for our lives, and we were ecstatic with joy!

But there were still a lot of unknowns.  I had felt that God was leading us to join Wycliffe and attend training before the end of the year.  But, before we could apply to Wycliffe we had some debt to pay off.  I was a contractor, and we were barely surviving the winter on my earnings.  How could we ever expect to pay off the thousands that we owed in such a short period of time?  And, where in the world did God want us to serve?  Were we really qualified to do the task God was calling us for?  How do we tell our family that we’re leaving?  My mind was swirling with questions about the unknown as we made our drive back to Arkansas.  But, I knew without doubt that if God had called us to this ministry, he would provide the means.

But things got worse before they got better, and our faith and resolve were tested severely.  The next 2-3 months that followed were, financially speaking, the worst of our lives.  The winter got worse, nobody seemed interested in home improvement projects, and what few jobs I did get were delayed by the bitter cold, snow, and ice.  It was the coldest, wettest winter that I can recall in my lifetime.  We fell behind on our bills, and paying off debt seemed like a fantasy.  So, we prayed…a lot!

Equip24BannerLrg
Wycliffe Equip Training Class, October 2014, Orlando, TX

God answered.  Through my quiet time and during sermons at church, my attention was directed over and over to stories such as Abraham’s call in Genesis 12.  Abraham, or “Abram” as he was called at the time, was told to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” and was assured that he would be tremendously blessed.  But, before he received the promised blessings, Abraham had to take action.  Without knowing all the details–without knowing even what “land” he was supposed to go to!–Abraham had to first pack up and start walking.  I realized that God was calling me to take the first step in faith.  Knowing that our high rent was partly to blame for our financial difficulties, Jennifer and I knew that moving to a more affordable house was one of the first steps.  When our lease was up in April, we moved to a smaller, much more affordable home in Jacksonville and had a big moving sale.  God blessed us immensely, and within three months of that move, we had paid off several thousand dollars worth of debt, sold our truck, and applied to Wycliffe!  Though we had begun to think it impossible, God arranged everything so that we could complete our training in October as we had originally hoped, and even begin developing our team of ministry partners by the end of the year.

As we look forward to the year to come, there’s a lot more change coming!  We hope to have fully established our team of ministry partners by May so that we can move in June to Dallas to begin our linguistic training.  Throughout the past year, God has showed us over and over that he will guide our steps when we rely upon him and step out in faith where he leads.  He always provides.

To all of our readers, family, friends, and ministry partners–THANK YOU!  You are an encouragement to us and we pray that God will bless you, just as he has blessed us through you.

Just for fun–Here’s the year in review of our blog!

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 760 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people…Where did they come from? 14 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Canada & Russia were not far behind…

Click here to see the complete report.

Something worth giving your life for

In the last few weeks, I have been surprised to find that there are actually quite a few people out there who are as crazy as we are.  I’m growing quite accustomed to puzzled looks when I tell people that we’re missionaries and plan to move to the jungles of Papua New Guinea.  I’m getting used to people describing our ministry as a “mission trip,” as if we will only be gone for a couple weeks, and I usually just laugh it off when someone incredulously replies, “You’re going to be gone how long?!?!
But in the past few weeks, there have been a couple of responses that have surprised me.  After speaking briefly with one lady, I was shocked to hear her reply: “I know you’re not supposed to envy, but I can’t help but wish I could go back to my 20’s and do what you’re doing!  Another man I spoke with lamented how he’d always wanted to go into missions, but was unable to do so because his wife had left him and remarried, and the mission agency he was interested in wouldn’t accept divorcees.
Not long ago, a group of people were getting a tour of the Wycliffe JAARS center for aviation in Waxhaw, North Carolina. The host showed a film and told how the Bible translators were entering a new language group every nine days and publishing a New Testament every 17 days. She told stories of how the translated Word of God had power to transform lives, and in many places was transforming whole communities.
At the end of her presentation she asked if there were any questions. An old gentleman stood up in the back of the room. His eyes were brimming with tears. It took him a moment to compose himself so he could speak.
“Yes, I have a question,” he said, “What do you do when you are 85 years old and for the first time learn about something worth giving your life to?”

As a young Wycliffe member, I’ve had to ponder my response to situations like these.  My heart breaks for the old man who finds himself nearing the end of his life only to realize his life has been wasted in vain pursuits.  And for the lady who regretfully wishes she had followed a different path in life.  And for the man who finds himself thrust into a position where he is disqualified for the ministry he longs for.  What can you say?

After the Israelites had conquered most of the promised land under Joshua’s lead, Joshua began portioning out the land to the 12 tribes.  In Joshua chapter 14, Caleb comes to Joshua with a special request.  Caleb recounts the story of how, when he was forty years old, he had spied out the land under Moses’ lead and brought back a favorable report.  While the other spies bemoaned the impossibility of the task, Caleb confidently asserted, “God will be with us!  We can do this!”  Nevertheless, the Israelites fearfully and disobediently refused to obey God, and God cursed them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation, except Caleb and Joshua, died off.  Because of his obedience and faith, Moses promised a section of hill country to Caleb as his inheritance.  Now an old man, Caleb cashes in the promise:
“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Joshua 14:10-12
Whether or not Caleb could actually still bench press what he could when he was 40, his faith was every bit as strong.  He knew that God was the source of victory, not his own might, and that God could use an 85 year old man just as well as he could a 40 year old man.  Instead of looking back on the 45 years wasted wandering around in the desert, Caleb looked up at the fortified hill and said, “See that hill up there?  Let’s go take it for God.”
If you’re reading this, then you’re life is not over.  You may have regrets and you may wish you had spent your life differently.  But if you’re still breathing, then God has a purpose for your life.  Perhaps God will enable you to give more generously than you ever thought possible.  Perhaps he will lead you to be a prayer warrior like Joshua, whose prayer for the sun to stand still in Joshua 10 was granted!  Or, perhaps God will lead you to pack up your bags at the ripe old age of 85 and move overseas!  Regardless, when God reveals something worth giving your life for, then give your life for it.  Charge the hill for Jesus.

We’re back from Orlando!

So how was training?  Like drinking from a fire hydrant–more information than we could possibly process in two weeks, but incredibly refreshing!

These past two weeks were incredible!  There were 47 adult trainees (including the two of us), 16 children (including our little guy), and a host of staff.  I was blown away by how many different types of roles within Wycliffe were represented by our training class alone: pilots, mechanics, teachers, house parents, security personnel, accountants, administrators, recruiters, museum directors, artists, journalists, language surveyors, linguists/translators, IT and software developers, and more!  We had the opportunity to hear everyone’s testimony, and it is truly incredible to see how God worked through so many different people in so many different ways to bring us all to the same place.  It was such a perfect illustration of the body of Christ, with all its many members, working together to advance the Kingdom.

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Tim, Codi, and daughter Noah Gauci; Serving as house parents in PNG.

We were blessed to have the opportunity to connect with so many people with the same passion we have!  Tim and I hit it off immediately, and by the end of the week both our wives were rolling their eyes at us.  I had the opportunity to talk with Tim one night on the way to the grocery store and was inspired by his passion for reaching MK’s (missionary kids) for Jesus.

The Phillips; Serving in PNG as teachers.
The Phillips; Serving in PNG as teachers.

The Phillip’s have already served overseas for several years in Southeast Asia, and now they and their six kids will be serving in PNG.  Many people silently wonder, “How could they take their kids overseas?”  But these were perhaps the best behaved, most well-adjusted, godly children I have ever seen!  I can only hope that our children turn out that well.  Plus, Josiah loved them!

Josiah playing with the Cirre's and Phillip's kids.
Josiah playing with the Cirre‘s and Phillip’s kids.

We had the opportunity to take a much needed break on Saturday at the beach, just a 45 minute drive from the Wycliffe HQ.  Josiah wasn’t a big fan of the water or sand at first, but he warmed up to it after a while.  We haven’t had much opportunity to have family time lately, so this was a tremendous blessing, even if it was only for a few hours.Josiah's first time at the beach!

We also received some phenomenal training that will serve us well in the years to come.  We covered topics such as maintaining spiritual health in spite of a harsh/hostile environment, raising kids in another culture, public speaking skills, maintaining balance with ministry and family, record keeping, technology skills and usage, managing finances, and a whole host of additional topics!  We had the opportunity to hear story after story of life transformation brought about through Bible translation, and we left our training feeling both “Equip”-ed and inspired.  Hearing the testimonies of the other trainees and the testimonies of lives impacted by Bible translation reminded me why I signed up!  As Wycliffe’s founder, Cam Townsend, once said: “The greatest missionary in the world is the Bible in the mother tongue.” 

We are so excited to be a part of this ministry!  Our next stage of training is a one-year program in Dallas, TX.  In order to make the departure deadline for PNG that Wycliffe has set (September 2016), we need to begin our training in Dallas next July.  Please remember us in your prayers as we take these next steps!

Taking the Good News of Jesus "To the Ends of the Earth!"