Archive for March, 2014

March 22, 2014

Aitape West Spiritual Retreat: Let me tell you what God did for us…

by mendibpng

(above) The first ever Aitape West Translation team spiritual retreat for our translators and their wives.

There are many thoughts to process and I’m sure we’ll be hearing all kinds of feedback from our team in the next few weeks, but here’s my first attempt at writing about a spiritual retreat we held in Wewak for our translators and their wives.

The Aitape West team labored faithfully these past years: translating Ruth, Jonah, Genesis 1-10, Luke, Acts, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. During this time, several new members joined the work; however, a great number of the men who we met in January of 2003 are still with us today. They have become a close group: praying with each other when a ‘hevi’ (problem) comes up and encouraging each other to follow a godly road instead of doing what might come naturally in their culture (For example, it’s very common to seek revenge for things here, but we’ve seen time and time again that our friends are choosing not to repay evil for evil.) Every morning during a translation workshop, the team gathers for a time of singing and devotions.

As we have gotten to know our PNG teammates, we have “stap baksait” (stood behind them) in prayer whenever they have asked us. We have felt their pain, when they faced sickness, death of children or other family members, threats (to their homes being burned or to their very lives) have been falsely accused, have had to maintain peace within their clans due to tribal fighting over land issues, etc. Ben and I have grieved over injustices that have happened to our friends. Even though our translators face these kinds of issues frequently, (some have encountered these kinds of traumatic events this week, even!) they have chosen to remain faithful and be involved in the ministry of Bible translation. It’s within this context that Ben and I felt that a spiritual retreat for the translators and their wives would be really good.

Three years ago we began planning to hold this spiritual retreat BUT we had no space in our budget for something like this. At the time it seemed like it was a long way off and nearly impossible. Ben felt strongly that our team needed to be in a place like Wewak, away from the hardships that bombard our friends all the time.

-travel is extremely expensive
-food and accommodation are also costly
-most of the families have very small children as well as older ones (20 under the age of 3, who couldn’t be left behind)
-traveling in town would be difficult with so many people

Here’s what God did for us: the funding came through donations from one of our churches and from other teammates’ churches. Also, our project agreed to provide some funding. The center managers agreed to allow these families to come with their small children, and they made sure everyone had a bed. I was told that this was by far the biggest group they have housed here. As far as getting around town, a man who owns a large flatbed truck allowed us to hire it several times for outings to the beach and to town.
pastor Ben teaching sm
Most importantly, God provided a Papua New Guinean speaker, Pastor Ben Aringana (pictured below during a teaching session) and his wife Miriam, who went above and beyond our hopes in terms of teaching. Pastor Ben taught on topics such as: ‘Translator is a workman of God,’ ‘Parenting,’ ‘Christian Marriage,’ and other topics. To have a respected Papua New Guinean pastor and church leader and his wife teach this week spoke powerfully to our translators and their wives. For instance, if my husband Ben or our teammate Matthew had stood up and said “I have never beaten my wife,” it would not have had the same impact as it did when Pastor Ben said it, as a Papua New Guinean who intentionally acts counter culturally to things that are not Biblical. We heard from our teammates over and over that they were grateful for the teaching especially because the theological truths Pastor Ben and his wife Miriam taught made a huge impact. One translator told Ben afterwards that he wished he had been able to hear this kind of teaching when he was a newly married man and father. Some of the women told me that they didn’t really understand what their husbands did as translators before, and that they now know that they too (the mamas) are a part of the Bible translation team.
Ps Ben sm
(above) Pastor Ben
If you read my post from last week, you will know that Ben and I arrived here very exhausted from the previous week’s events. I asked our small group to pray that God would fill us up to overflowing with love for our translators and their wives, where humanly this seemed impossible. God did that, and more, in our hearts. As soon as the trucks rolled in, I felt joy that I haven’t felt in months over seeing our friends again and meeting new ones (I hadn’t met some of the women before, although I have known their husbands for 13 years!). Having a chance to share meals and sit down with them this week outside of our sometimes rather stressful village existence made it possible for us to fellowship on a deeper level, perhaps more so than ever for me, at least. Ben gets to interact with the translators a lot, whereas it’s not culturally appropriate for me to do so unless he is present. Also, several couples approached us in the evenings to pray over hardships they face back home, and this felt like a rare opportunity for us to serve together.
teaching sm
(above) Ben and I had the unexpected blessing of sharing in the ‘gutpela kai kai’ (good food) of the teaching this week. Both of us felt encouraged and challenged in our marriage, parenting and ministry, too.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m swelling with thankfulness as I think back on everyone who made this week happen: Beth, Missy, Matthew and Rachel who joined in making beds, washing dishes, organizing food, giving devotionals, and helping in so many ways. Our support team and small groups back at Ukarumpa and even the pilot (who is also in our small group) who prayed for us when we landed in Wewak. Then there were the Wewak center managers who initially allowed this to happen (and for our friend Deb, who filled in for the Managers on her own).
prayer sm
All glory goes to God. He filled us up with wonderful spiritual food and fellowship this week. If God lays it on your heart, please be praying for the men and women of the Aitape West Translation Project, as they have received God’s Word this week. May it take hold and bear fruit in their lives, and may they be salt and light in their communities.

March 11, 2014

The Difficulty of Living in the Moment

by mendibpng

This week has flown by, with multiple things taking our attention: our son Josiah is in the high school play, the translation office solar system had a huge problem, the airstrip was closed due to the grass not being cut, and we are simultaneously packing for a village stay plus taking care of furlough details for June. On top of that, all of us are in some stage of transition…and some of us are feeling it more than others.

It turns out sleeping can be difficult with so many thoughts and ideas racing around my head. I’ve experienced the ‘stiff upper lip’ (keep going) stage, the meltdown stage, and now the numb stage where there’s still quite a few things to do but a lot of the urgent stuff is done. I sent several pieces of cargo off to our aviation department, and I have my lists of the few things that need to be packed up Sunday night or Monday morning, like toothbrushes and beloved blankies/stuffed animals. I personally struggle with coping with transition a lot more in recent months than I ever have before in my life…I suspect this has to do with being at the end of a long field term and feeling stretched in so many ways, or maybe I’m just getting old?! At any rate, I’m just feeling weary and moving my family towards a big transition is not My Favorite Thing.

The great thing about walking through a rough week is that the blessings end up being very meaningful.

1 A colleague in the U.S. literally spent hours (often in the wee hours of the morning for him while it’s daytime here!) talking with Ben about the solar system crisis. Others here on the ground have also given him input.

2. Noah and Ellie independently created their own costumes for the Annual Book Parade at their school with no help from me or their daddy (We would have helped if they wanted it, but they wanted to do it themselves.) We just showed up and took pictures! They also packed their own clothes and backpacks, as well as helping the twins with theirs.

3. We had four evenings out to see our Josiah’s performance in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ We never tired of seeing him and his brilliant co-actors in the play!
algie 1

4. We learned this week that we have furlough housing as soon as we land in Wheaton in July. This means that we won’t have to find a temporary place to live first: a huge blessing for a family of seven about to face a huge transition. On top of that, we have a furlough car booked as well!

5. We added a wall and a couple of doors to our covered driveway, making space for our bikes and other bulky things, which were making it impossible for us to walk through our storage room. Now that the big stuff is out of the way, it’s going to be so much easier to organize everything when we pack up before leaving for a year! Last Saturday Ben and the kids painted it, and it makes us both really happy to see it completed every time we walk by it.

6. One of our children who struggled in a subject area received 100% on a test. The grade itself is inconsequential to me, but the fact that the emotional stress of that subject has reduced is a big blessing. The exceptional teachers teachers and administrators at our school here take great care in their jobs, a fact which is often highlighted by stories our kids tell us when they get home each day.

7. Ben found out on Thursday that they cut the grass on the airstrip for the first time in many months, making it possible for our team to land there (we have many flights going in and out during our village stay!) We have encountered this issue a great many times over the last 12 years, and this is nothing short of miracle!

8. We have five days in our regional town of Wewak as a family to relax a little bit before our translators and their wives arrive. (They are coming to Wewak for our first-ever spiritual retreat!)

9. A friend on home leave wrote me recently with good news. I’m rejoicing with her from afar!

10. My five kids remind me to stay ‘in the moment’…once in a while, I’m on the verge of a meltdown when one of them makes me laugh…just look at this face!

11. I couldn’t resist adding this last one in: this is the view we had flying over the Aiyura Valley yesterday. The thick clouds looked like huge snow drifts, with the mountains peeking up over the top of them! I find that noticing beauty in God’s creation is a huge help in times of transition.

I’ll end with a quote from my favorite transitions writer, William Bridges
“It is ironic to realize that one of the gifts I have received from getting old is the ability to be in the moment. I’ve been trying to learn to do that for the past thirty-five years, but it has been only with the natural slowing down of my mind with the losses I’ve been through that I am starting to find the present moment sufficient in itself. Loss has given me that gift, not by “teaching” me that moments are limited and precious. (That would be learning it the conceptual way.) And the writers I used to read, who urged the same shift in awareness, couldn’t “teach” me that either. It is something that came only with time and with the natural sorting process that goes on after loss. As the mud swirls around in the watery pan, the gold-flakes settle of their own weight. Time doesn’t fly–it swirls, and the moments settle from their own gravity. Without serious loss, the water isn’t agitated enough for that to happen.” (The Way of Transition, p. 206)

I haven’t arrived yet at the same level of contentment that Bridges talks about, but I feel myself moving more and more towards this awareness. I love the metaphor he uses of the gold-flakes swirling about. That’s exactly where I’m at with finding joy in the small and big things this week.

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