*This is the last 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 7, March 5, 2018
This morning, we got a visit from John, an elder in the church at Sipoi. Sipoi is another village that is located very close to Sogae (as is Tiomi, where Rex lives). Sipoi, like Waliho, is not an ECPNG village but belongs to the other denomination in the area. Since this denomination worships on Saturday, they had not been present for our announcement on Sunday, but the word had gotten around to them that we were coming to start a Bible translation project. This man had approached Phil yesterday afternoon stating that he had concerns that he wanted to voice to us, so Phil had warned me ahead of time to expect him.
John cut straight to the point and stated that he and his church wanted us to start translating in the Old Testament and translate it entirely before moving on to the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. He was concerned that his people would not be able to understand the NT without the context of the OT. His concerns were totally valid—this is a VERY common problem within PNG, and frankly, even in the US. Still, it was a culturally and denominationally challenging conversation. On the one hand, I see tremendous value in the Old Testament. Two-thirds of the Bible is contained in the OT, the OT contains the necessary cultural, spiritual, and redemptive-historical context for understanding the New Testament. “Why did Jesus come to earth?” “Who is Jesus and who is God?” “Where did creation come from?” “What is sin and why is there sin?” “Who are the Jews and why do they feature so prominently in the NT?” “What do I need to be saved from?” These are just a few of the questions that you have to be able to answer if you want to understand the NT, and their answers are primarily contained within the OT. Far too many gospel presentations just skip right over the OT and straight to the NT, leaving the unchurched listener wondering what in the world the evangelist is even talking about!
I also wanted to affirm that the Bible doesn’t belong to any denomination. The Bible is not Baptist, Methodist, ECPNG, SDA, or Lutheran. Because of that, I think there’s value in including any denomination that’s willing to cooperate and work together for the Gospel.
On the other hand, my limited knowledge of these two denominations’ theological distinctives gave me concern as to how harmoniously these two denominations will be able to work together. I also know that, because of the length and complexity of the OT, translating it entirely before translating the NT would delay getting to the Gospels for many years—an unacceptable compromise, in my opinion.
Ultimately, however, such decisions aren’t mine to make, anyhow. It was a tough line to walk, but I explained that the choice of which books to translate and in what order to translate them is not ultimately up to me but is the decision of the Mubami translation committee. Of course, we provide guidance on which books are easier to translate and which ones are better left for a time when the translators are more experienced, but ultimately it’s the decision of the committee. I was able to affirm his concern that understanding the New Testament is difficult outside of its Old Testament context, but at the same time, translating the Old Testament is a VERY long process. I also assured him that my aim is ultimately to help them translate the whole Bible, Lord willing, and that my preference would be to see each village and denomination represented on the translation committee.
John seemed satisfied with that answer and especially pleased that he and his church would get some say in these decisions. Still, these types of disagreements derail and delay translations all the time, so I’m concerned for the unity of the translation in the long run when these tough decisions must be made. We can only hope and pray that the same Spirit moving in their hearts and creating a hunger for God’s Word will unify them in their efforts to bring it to pass.
Satisfied that his concerns had been heard, John and his family went back to Sipoi, about a 10-15 minute walk from Tiomi and we ate breakfast.
One of the ladies in Tiomi brought her pet lorikeet by for us to see. It was such a beautiful bird! Once again, I found myself staring at something I’d only ever seen in movies or zoos. They perched it up on Jennifer’s shoulder and we played with it for a bit.
Today we had planned to get a ride back to Kamusi via the logging roads. Adau’s wife, Domai, stayed behind in Kamusi because she’s too old for the kind of travel we’re doing, so we needed to get Adau back to his wife. Tomorrow (Tuesday), our plan was to take Pastor Max’s boat down the Guavi River to Bibisa, then cut across to Diwami. Then, we would go back to Kamusi and catch our plane back to Ukarumpa on Thursday.
Unfortunately, this morning we had to abruptly change our plans. Yesterday we noticed a small infection on Jennifer’s legs, but by this morning the infection has significantly spread. Small infections can become big infections quite quickly in the hot and humid tropics, especially when you’re bathing in river water! We had brought a small first aid kit with us but didn’t have any oral antibiotics or medications for serious illnesses, so we began to be concerned that this infection could become very serious, very quickly.
So, after a few SAT phone calls to our colleagues in Ukarumpa and the input of the medical staff, we made the call to end our trip early and return to Ukarumpa so Jennifer could see a doctor. There was a flight coming back from Port Moresby that would pick us up in about 2.5 hours. Given that it was a 1.5 hour canoe ride to Sasereme, that meant we had to hurry!
We hurriedly packed up our stuff, explained the situation to everyone, and apologized for having to so abruptly change our plans. Having seen how serious a sepsis infection can be during Jennifer’s medevac to Cairns last year, we simply couldn’t take any chances. Fortunately, our purpose for coming had been accomplished, so while we wouldn’t get to visit Diwami or go back to Kamusi we had completed our main objectives and could return home with confidence that our trip had been worthwhile.
We took a few pictures with the folks in Tiomi and hopped back into the canoe to head to Sasereme.
God blessed us with a motor that worked just fine and enough fuel to get back to Sasereme, so we were pulling up to the airstrip just as our plane was coming in for landing. We said goodbye to Rex and the others who had accompanied us to Sasereme and boarded our plane back to Ukarumpa.
We were sad to have to leave early, but relieved that we had been able to get Jennifer the medical attention she needed. And, as an added bonus, we were looking forward to seeing our kids again especially since today was Josiah’s 5th birthday! We had hated that we would be missing his birthday and we seriously contemplated rescheduling the trip for a later date. But, arranging a trip like this takes weeks or even months of planning, and after a year of delays and failed attempts to make this trip, we just didn’t feel like we could delay the trip any longer. The trip was too risky and there were too many unknowns for us to feel comfortable bringing our kids along. So, we had decided to celebrate his birthday before we left and leave our kids with some friends at Ukarumpa. So, even though we were having to cut our trip short, we would get to see our son on his fifth birthday. Even in a less than ideal circumstance, God had provided a blessing.
Jennifer got to see the doctors at Ukarumpa before the office closed and started a course of antibiotics. The doctors told us that with medication, her infections would heal up within a few days, but they were very glad we had brought her back before it had gotten worse. After finishing up at the doctor’s office, we went home to two very happy and energetic little boys and a enjoyed a non-sago dinner with some friends.