Archive for February, 2014

February 25, 2014

Lean on me…

by mendibpng

IMG_0006

The other day, my closest Papua New Guinean friend presented me with this bilum: a string bag traditionally used to carry food, babies and other cargo. Bilums are given in bride price exchanges, when new babies come, or to honor a visitor. They are highly valuable, often the most expensive item being sold at our local market. This isn’t just any bag: it represents a depth of friendship between my friend and me. She took pains to find colors I like, which I know is her way of acknowledging/caring about my value for beautifully made things.

When bilums are made, it’s often a group effort. One mama will work on it for a bit, then someone else will take a turn, and so on. It can take weeks, even months to finish one depending on the size of the bag and intricate weave of the design. This bilum is different from ones I have seen before; in this case, my friend learned a new pattern, which makes it even more special to me.

I have been wanting to write about this cultural gift because every time I see my new bilum, I think about the community we have. Each layer of woven thread represents the people in our lives who support us. A team all around the world prays for us and supports us from afar. We have colleagues here on the ground who provide practical services in order for us to do our job (like teachers, pilots, administrators, etc.). There’s also our small group, teammates and close friends who support us emotionally as well. On top of that, godly Papua New Guineans hold us up in prayer and give us valuable cultural advice. If I were going to take this metaphor even further, I would say that Ben’s thread weaves itself in and out of all of these relationships (with me) since every part of our lives is so closely connected on our team, in our family and in our relationships.

I’m not going to lie and say that all the relationships we have are easy. In fact, it’s rarely the case that we would go through a week without some kind of relational/cultural stress. It makes sense that this is the case, as we interact with people for every aspect of our work and life. On top of that, we battle spiritual forces daily since our primary task is to see God’s word translated and used in the Aitape West region of Papua New Guinea…I see often the attacks striking straight at our relationships. However, the act of learning how to love people in community has really caused us to dig deep into God’s unending well of wisdom. I can think of so many instances (even one from yesterday!) where we are desperate to do the right thing but have no idea how it will be perceived culturally….all of our human wisdom and studies are not enough to shed light on the situation. I think I can safely say that Ben and I as a team aren’t the same people we were when we arrived here twelve years ago, bright eyed and full of expectations and hope for our ministry together. We’re definitely more realistic (I hope not too cynical!) but more aware of our need for God’s presence in our lives in every small and big moment. This draws me back to my original thoughts on community: as we walk through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ (Psalm 23) with our loved ones, they are also doing the same for us, and that is a deep, rich place to be. This journey we are on (I love the ‘journey’ imagery!) is all about what we can accomplish together.

I will end with a quote from my favorite spiritual writer:

Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world. (“The Only Necessary Thing,” by Henri Nouwen, p. 124)

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February 16, 2014

A world where norm will no more be

by bzephyr

Robertson Norman
The lines below were penned after I received the news a bit more than a week ago that my great uncle Norm had left this earth after 88 years and gone to be with Jesus. He and my dear Aunt Doris had recently celebrated 65 years of marriage. At nearly 6’6″ Uncle Norm was the biggest man I had ever seen when I first met him as a small boy. Even more than his sheer size, the stories my father told of him pioneering in the Pacific Northwest made him larger than life to me. With his big “Cat” bulldozer and his crew of men and logging trucks, he would contract work from the forest service, and the adventures that he had as they pioneered new roads and slipped down rugged mountain slopes are the stuff that hero tales are made of.

Yet more than all that, Uncle Norm represents to me the strength of character and firm faith of one who was confident that he served the King and Creator of the majestic world surrounding him. And he also served his family, community, and fellow man with the same kindness of Another who had stooped so low to care for a world in need to lead them to a higher place and a better Home. My family and I have benefited from Uncle Norm and Aunt Doris’s daily prayers on our behalf. I wish that I’d have had the chance to live closer to him and experience life with my Uncle Norm more intimately. I know that Norm provided a certain exceptional quality of life that is joy and peace and strength to those who lived within the shade of his shelter, anything but the norm in this present world with dark valleys and with devils filled. But Uncle Norm and I share in the confident hope of an abundant adventure of the new and glorious creation of our Savior, whose life and light will have no end for those who trust in him.

A world where norm will no more be

…a giant tree’s been felled this morn
this norm, i hardly knew
and though half a world away i too am shaken
and long that i could go
home,

where my dad grew roots
with other boughs of family line,
had nearly split apart,
yet for this sapling and my seed
the Wind has carried far
and we know not our mountain land
that beckons in my blood.
it’s kin is dear to them who are so very close to me
but i mourn the loss i can not now find,
this giant of a man.

…a servant of creation’s King
this norm, i hardly knew
is summoned forth to hear “well done”
while i, in service yet, remain in this world
history,

where relations whom i wish i’d known
impressed their hands like works of art for all to see
deep in the planet’s soil
engineered behind the scenes
not only earth’s terrains,
fine landscapes brushed on hearts and souls
in a little place that calls to me,
a dale, with those to whom i’d flee,
a town where faithful home was made,
a world where norm will no more be.

…a big ol’ rig has slipped down new road
this norm, i hardly knew
and too, though in another world, my view is cleared
to use whatever Master’s “cat” might cut new bush
highway,

where humps and roadblocks bar the way
and trail’s end is yet uncharted
by brothers, sisters too, in fellowship,
heirs who share our Pioneer’s faith
on paths to home or distant shores,
blazed with blood and sweat and prayer,
roads revealing old and New, tracks to reunite.
earthly routes both smooth and worn, dirt and stone,
will not endure like narrow Way that we must seek,
converging on that golden Street.

such norm of life that some have known
through highways, history and house
has come and gone, though we’re not surely left alone.
a taller Tree has toppled death and new creation grows,
uniting every clan on earth to serve their King,
alive again, and bound for our true Home…

printersornament1

The verses above are a poetic duet that I wrote with some help from a fellow pilgrim of the faith after reading this other poetic duet moments after I heard the news that my Uncle Norm had waved goodbye to this earth. Thanks Hasty for your thoughtful input on stanzas four and six.
February 8, 2014

Half a world away, I too am shaken

by bzephyr

…a giant Tree’s been felled this morn
this norm, i hardly knew

IMG_9579crop780though half a world away i too am shaken
and long that i could go

Home,
where my dad grew roots
with other boughs of family line
had nearly split apart,
yet for this sapling and my seed
the wind has carried far
and we know not our mountain land
that beckons in my blood.
it’s Kin is dear to them who are so very close to me
but i grieve the Loss i can not now find,
this Giant of a Man.

*****

Sometimes the pain of separation and loss are felt more acutely than others. This is one of those times. The verses above are the first part of a poetic duet that I started writing yesterday with a stranger as we reflect on the new loss that I awoke to yesterday within my own life and family. This has caused me to pause and consider the future in light of a deep past that has mostly escaped my experience. More to come…

February 2, 2014

Light shining in the darkness

by bzephyr

The Gospel of Luke was translated and published in the Malol and Sissano languages for the first time in June 2011.

For those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9.2b)

Since then Luke has been recorded on audio, distributed on solar and hand-crank Scripture audio players, and used to begin training local church leaders how to incorporate the translated Word of God into family and church life.

Now they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed. (Isaiah 6.10b)

Beth introducing Scripture audio players to Malol church leaders in September 2013

Beth introducing Scripture audio players to Malol church leaders in September 2013

This year, the Jesus Picture Story DVDs were created with Malol and Sissano audio tracks, and it’s ready to be projected almost every other night in all the Malol and Sissano communities for the next 37 days. Two days ago, our teammate Beth left the town of Wewak with seven newly arrived YWAM team members in the back of a pickup truck for the long trip over rivers and muddy roads in order to start this ministry in Malol country.

Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them… I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. (Isaiah 42.10,16b)

These eight people along with the Malol and Sissano translators and literacy teachers will make up the teams who are taking the light of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for the first time on screen and with the translated Words of God into these dark places.

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42.6-7)

Left to right: Caleb, Ben K., Effy (leader), Ben H., Natalie, Courtney, Stephen (leader)

Left to right: Caleb, Ben K., Effy (leader), Ben H., Natalie, Courtney, Stephen (leader)

The plan was to start driving at the crack of dawn and arrive by truck at the first Malol village in the early or mid afternoon. They would meet Malol literacy teachers John and Benedict if the road was impassable, and a team of local volunteers would then help them trek through the mud to the first overnight. Little did they know that the Malol translators, Philip and Petrus, had decided to leave the translation workshop for the weekend and surprise them for their first of 10 two-day programs in the Malol language area.

Left to right: Benedict, John, Philip, Petrus

Left to right: Benedict, John, Philip, Petrus

Teammate Missy, also decided to make the trek with Philip and Petrus and help the team through their first experience of bathing in the sago swamps, locating pit toilets, setting up mosquito nets, and possibly doing this all in the dark. Why are they going through all this trouble? To provide hope to those who rely more on the light of their torches than on the light of the Lord. Consider…

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50.10b-11)

Left to right: John and Philip listening to Luke on audio while Benedict and Missy demonstrate how to read along

Left to right: John and Philip listening to Luke on audio while Benedict and Missy read along

Here’s how that first day panned out…

  • 6:00 a.m. – Beth and the YWAM team depart Wewak by truck to Malol country
  • 12:01 p.m. – Beth texts “We are at Yakamul 3. A car is stuck in the road. We wait til they get it out. Lots of flooded rivers. Will text when we get to Aitape.”
  • 12:35 p.m. – Missy, Philip and Petrus depart translation workshop in Arop village by foot to Malol country
  • 1:37 p.m. – Beth texts, “We are in Aitape. We are heading straight to Malol. We will text as soon as we get there and find the network there.”
  • 2:30 p.m. – Beth texts, “We are at the Yalingi River now. It is flooded. We will wait to cross and then will find John. We may have to walk to Malol because of the river.”
  • 5:37 p.m. – Missy texts, “Made it to Malol. Will try to send message later.”
  • 9:28 p.m. – Missy texts, “Hi Ben, wow it’s a long way. Minus the 30 min canoe we walked almost constantly for 4.5 hours. My legs are tired but I’m doing fine. Everyone is here, beds set up, almost all washed, ready to eat and sleep. Hope the rest of ya day went well. Missy.”
  • Next day – Petrus texts that Beth and the YWAM team had arrived in Malol really late in the evening, and they were welcomed at that time. Now they will rest and start the program on Monday.

Next day – Ben texts Missy: “Was Beth totally surprised to show up after dark and see you?”

Missy: “No, she wasn’t because Philip couldn’t help himself and he had to tell John, who told her. But she was soooooooo happy!”

Isn’t that the way it is with good news? It’s so good, you can’t wait to tell someone. Even at the risk of spoiling the surprise, you just can’t hold it in. You’ve just got to tell somebody.

Will you pray with us that as this team shows the story of Jesus’  life, death and resurrection and as the people hear it in their own language that they will be sooooooo happy to hear and see the light? And that they too will feel compelled to go out and tell others?

Also, Philip and Petrus will accompany Missy back to the translation workshop within the next few days so that they can continue to be a part of the ongoing translation work with 9 other language teams as they draft Titus and Philemon together into their own languages.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. (Isaiah 60.20)

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