With PNG teammates who are motivated and capable of making great progress in Bible translation, the last thing we want is for us expat members of the team to be the obstacles that impede their way forward. But that is exactly what is in danger of happening. This is felt most keenly in my dual role as team leader and translation advisor, especially as we incorporated new opportunities and met several unforeseen obstacles this last year. But these stresses have not only affected me, they have had a significant effect on my wife and five children, and on the other members of our team as they have all been burdened with the relentless urgency to fulfill our plans.
Due to roads in disrepair and great difficulties in arranging transportation, on one five-week trip to the village in January/February, I spent fifteen days on the road trying to get to and from the translation workshop. Then in March, I left my family for 22 days to go to another translation workshop but only managed to get to the village for 8 days due to similar transportation problems. My work was slowed, and this also slowed down others who were waiting for my contributions. So we are now dialoguing with our leaders and with partners in the region and at JAARS about a land transportation solution.
The road has not been the only transportation obstacle. When the Aitape West Translation Project started twelve years ago, there were four airstrips in the area that were relatively close to our training center in the bush that we might have used. These days, only one is ever open, and for most of 2012, there were none. This meant a lot of phone calls and face-to-face meetings to see about the possibility of the grass getting cut and the airstrip opening up. The Kodiak airplane doesn’t need a long landing strip, but it does need the grass on the strip to be cut so the pilot can see dogs, pigs, and small children close to the landing area and still land safely.
When the airstrip didn’t open, we have been very grateful for the possibility of flying by helicopter. That helicopter pilot has been our best friend on several occasions this year. But this solution has also meant more work for me in an already full schedule to arrange the logistics of it all. It is also a much more expensive option that tugs at a tight budget.