Archive for ‘Bible translation’

January 11, 2016

Reflecting the glory of God

by bzephyr


Next week, we head to our remote village in Papua New Guinea in preparation for our next Bible translation workshop. This time, our teammate John will be joining us from the States, and we will conduct final consultant checking of Titus and Philemon for the 10 language teams we work with.


These are relatively small language groups, each between about 400 and 5000 speakers. Yet each one represents yet another community for whom God has done marvelous things to redeem a people for himself — people redeemed from unavoidable selfish and unkind actions, redeemed from false belief, redeemed from fear, from death, from terrifying spirits, people redeemed from the devil — those who will surround the throne of Jesus and give him great glory from every nation, tribe, people, and language.


These are pictures from the recent singsing at our project’s building dedication. Look at these faces, and see people who were made to reflect the glory of God in Christ.


From Titus 1:2…

I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (NLT)


















January 10, 2015

I was burning out… (part 1)

by bzephyr


In June we ended our last 4-year term in Papua New Guinea in the agony of burnout. I felt a lot like this pickup truck that we came across one day with its rear bumper hung up on one edge of this narrow creek and it’s front end pressed into the opposite bank. The back wheels were spinning in the air, well, in the water really. It was working hard, going nowhere, and they were burning out the transmission.

After 6 months away, we want to go back for more. But not more of the same. In this and the next post: the circumstances in which I was burning out. In an upcoming post: learning to burn bright without burning out.

Too many hats

During our last two years in PNG, I felt more and more overwhelmed by the many hats I wore in our 10-language Bible translation project…

  • Translation trainer/advisor
  • Translation consultant
  • Language development specialist
  • Team leader
  • Budget and reporting administrator
  • Transportation facilitator
  • Purchasing and shipping coordinator
  • Building and maintenance supervisor
  • IT support technician
  • Community relations spokesperson
  • Crisis manager

Whenever we left the village and stayed at our national training center, I wore those same hats in a different location, but added a few more…

  • Translation & NT Greek instructor
  • Translation software troubleshooting assistant
  • Branch policy and strategy contributor

Too little too late

As time went on, I thought I was getting better at managing a myriad of tasks. I did start learning to say ‘no’ and to have better boundaries. And there were many people inside and outside our team who took various parts of the load. But it was all too little too late for what I had already done to myself, and the heavy load that I had placed on my own shoulders came at a cost to my health and to my family.

On many occasions we talked about change and we tried to make improvements to how we planned and how we responded to the overwhelming needs around us, but these intentions were like brief blips on the screen that are gone as soon as they appear.

A year is not too much for the most important thing

By June we were ready for a real furlough, and not one where our work triples because we keep doing our overseas work while adding all the speaking engagements and taking on a study program at the same time. We needed a year of intentional evaluation of our circumstances, retraining of our minds, and revitalization of our spirits. Our hope is that it will be hard to forget a year of redefining who we are and the patterns we follow. It will be hard to forget a year of being remade. It will be hard to forget a year of intentional focus on reestablishing who we are and whose will we’re called to serve.

You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:14-15 (HCSB)

January 1, 2015

How beautiful are feet that bring good news…

by bzephyr


Please see the link at the bottom of this post in order to fit these feet with the good news of peace and send them back to Papua New Guinea.

Walking with Jesus in the New Year

You may remember that we finished our last 4-year term in Papua New Guinea very burned out. We had been trying to do too many jobs in our own strength. Yes, we were doing the Lord’s work, but we allowed the overwhelming needs that surrounded us to overwhelm us. We need to keep our focus on what is truly important: to walk daily with Jesus and follow him in his strength and wisdom for each endeavor.

This year of furlough has been extremely valuable in terms of refocusing our eyes on Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. At the counsel of our sending church’s missions pastor, we are learning to use the words ‘focused’ and ‘intentional’ more consistently. For me, this has meant that I have been learning a lot about myself so that I can be very intentional about focusing my ministry efforts on those things that I am called to do, specifically in the areas of training local Bible translators and checking their translations. For all the other needs that we face in PNG, we are looking for others to come alongside us and partner with us in doing those things. In so doing, I desire to walk daily with Jesus and not lose sight of the God I am serving each day.

Another way that we have shifted our perspective is that we are no longer saying that we don’t know if and when we will go back to Papua New Guinea. Instead, we are hoping that with the Lord’s help, the body of Christ will send us back in June in time for our children to start the new school year over there in July.

In order for us to go back, we need to be well supported in prayer. We also need to receive 100% of our required ministry budget.


We will be communicating prayer requests and praise reports in these four ways in the future…

  1. Facebook – for most urgent or up-to-the-minute requests and reports. These are very short and irregular and sent simply as needed or when there are fun or interesting things to share.
  2. Email updates – for brief and regular communication, our ideal is to send these out about once a week, and to communicate more visually through a single picture and short explanation.
  3. This blog – for digging a little deeper into a variety of topics that effect our family and ministry life as often as time and inspiration allow.
  4. Printed newsletters – for reviewing larger spans of time in our family and ministry, sent less frequently in this digital age.

Monthly Ministry Budget

We are currently at 66% of our approved monthly ministry budget. Our support has been low like this for about a year now. Some of our partners have gone to be with the Lord. Some have faced financial hardship and needed to stop or reduce their regular giving. The cost of living has also increased significantly in Papua New Guinea. During our last 4-year term, it was estimated that inflation increased our costs by 25%. Wycliffe requires us to be receiving 100% of this budget before we are approved to go back to Papua New Guinea. It’s easy to give online here at our personal Wycliffe ministry page.

On that page, you will also find an option to sign up for regular updates and commit to prayer. Please consider these ways of partnering with us for the Gospel in the new year.

In a future post, we’ll tell you about specific one-time needs that we also need to meet in order to return to Papua New Guinea.

January 14, 2014

2013 in review

by mendibpng


Our intern Luke Elliott  (pictured above, with Noah, Joe and Ellie) spent nine months living with us last year.

January: We had planned to go to the village and do a ‘walkabout;’ however, Ben and I became too sick to travel. Once the virus had finished, it took weeks before the fatigue left us. We had to cancel the trip and Ben worked from home. Our teammates Luke and Laura still went to the village to do language learning.

February-March: Ben worked from home in Ukarumpa. This entailed managing the project (reporting, etc), doing advisor checks on 1&2 Timothy as well as dealing with personnel issues long distance over the phone or via skype. I supported him as the team leader by checking in with teammates regularly and hosting team meals and meetings.
Dictionary Workshop participants identify nouns and verbs in their own languages.

April-May: We attended our bi-annual branch conference. During this month, we went to the village for a follow-up Dictionary Workshop and a translation revision for 1 &2 Timothy. We also began renovation on a staff housing building. Wayambo supervised the construction of most of our other buildings in our project previously, and came out to do this one. The house he renovated into a three bedroom house plus the downstairs apartment was split into two separate living spaces with their own bathrooms!
Jacob “helps” Wayambo.

June-July: Ben and our teammate John consultant checked 1 and 2 Timothy in seven languages (three first, then four the next week) which was the first time they have attempted to do so many languages at once. The translators and language consultants told us over and over how Paul’s words impacted their lives—it was the first time they had translated preaching, rather than narratives in Luke and Acts. A video team from Wycliffe U.S. come during this time to get footage of the project.
August-September: We all appreciated the stability time for the whole family while Ben worked from his cubicle in Ukarumpa. Meanwhile, we supported our team long distance as Luke and Laura did linguistic analysis, Jerry recorded Acts in Arop and Beth, Missy and Cindy went to all of the people groups in our project to do Scripture Use and Literacy activities. In September, Ben and I took the twins to Cairns to see a pediatric dentist, since both of them had some deep cavities that required the skills of a pediatric dentist.

Josiah helped lead worship at church numerous times throughout the year. He also plays in a Soul Purpose (youth) band and accompanies the Sunday school kids each week.
Jacob and Jenny Beth still talk about seeing kangaroos in Australia!

October-November: Seven of our translators/literacy workers came to Ukarumpa for a Discover Your Language course. Ben mentored the Rombar Onnele group which allowed him time to do some more in depth study of the language, which essentially will help them make the translation more accurate.
Language Discovery Course 05 crop
(photo credit: Phil King) Ben coaching the Onnele men during the Discover Your Language course.

November-December: Ben went Arop for a translation workshop, while the kids and I stayed in Ukarumpa. He took new computers for the translators and spent most of the time trouble shooting how to connect them to the online and local servers (which store data for our translations) It turned out to be a difficult task but he came home having left them all up and running, praise God! This was probably one of the most challenging times of the year, since many of the appliances in our house died (while Ben was gone) Praise God that the shipping office and the Wycliffe buyer in Cairns helped us replace most of them before Christmas!
At Christmas we had our hilarious moments…
but also our more serious ones, when we shared our Jesse Tree (advent) readings together.

December: Ben arrived home safely and hiked out to a friend’s village the next week. He ended up getting very ill on Christmas day but since we had a low-key holiday planned, he was able to stay in bed for well over a week.

In summary: I am sure you are able to read between the lines and see that it has been a very busy, very fruitful year work-wise. Now, we look to the next five months here in Papua New Guinea and pray that we will be able to balance work and family life as we also pack and prepare for furlough starting in June.

November 27, 2013

Desperately Needed New Computers…

by mendibpng

(above) Sissano translator Kenny (in the blue hat) using one of the old computers during consultant checking with his two village consultants last July. Ben tells me that every time they would click on something on the screen, they would have to wait 5 or more minutes for the cursor to be ready to move on!

Rarely am I ever motivated to write about computers….until now. Our project computers have served us well for the past 3+ years but earlier last year began to show signs of being worn down due to age and the hot and humid climate of our village. One by one they started malfunctioning: the keyboards, hard drives, and other things. We have a small graveyard of broken computers in our house, having come back to us with word that they were not repairable.

Last year our project funders agreed to purchase new computers, which Ben and computer specialists here spent time testing and researching. Their goal was to find the best computers for the cost, which would also be able to utilize power well (since we use solar power during the day and generator at night.) After they had agreed on the best computers for our needs, Ben spent more time looking into the cost of getting them here, which was going to be very expensive. He found out in April that a team coming from the U.S. could bring them in their luggage saving the project a lot of money. The man who packed them figured out how to get them all into three suitcases, and he had no trouble in customs bringing them in. Knowing everything that could go wrong in traveling here, we were amazed and thankful that they arrived safely!

On Monday, Ben carefully packed each computer into a Pelican Case (think airtight and water proof, which is much needed for traveling over the dirt roads) and as he did, I prayed that he and the computers would get to their destination safely and that none would go missing on the way. Yesterday around 2 pm, he called to tell me he had made it to the village in record time, and everything was safe in its place. Again, knowing all the things that could go wrong when traveling, I marveled at how swiftly everything arrived safely in the village! As I type this, I am shaking my head because I often expect things to go wrong here…so it feels like nothing short of a miracle that they came all the way from the U.S. with no problems at all.

If you think of it, please pray for Ben this week as he sets up all of the computers. One of our computer support personnel set up an ‘Alpha’ computer before Ben left. This computer is the one Ben will use to reimage the others (meaning, all of them will look exactly like it if things go well.) Ultimately, it would be wonderful for the translators to be able to use their new computers this week. Praise God with us for technology that allows us to do Bible translation in 10 language groups in our remote village!!!

July 21, 2013

A village consultant’s walkabout…

by mendibpng


Last week Ben and teammate John finished checking 1 and 2 Timothy in nine languages. They found the translations to be really good and also found areas to make them better, with the help of local language consultants and mother tongue translators.


After the last day of translation, Ben asked if anyone wanted to ‘story’ with me about their experiences from the workshop. It turns out nearly all of the local language consultants wanted to debrief. One man came over to me to talk, and introduced himself as Salvator (pictured above with me). I said to him, “Brother, I’ve seen your face before… oh! You came to our Writing Songs Workshop!” He nodded and replied, “Yes, that was the first time I came. Now I’ve come to work with the translators.” When we first met years ago, he impressed me as a gifted songwriter and as someone who loved worship. Everybody sang well into the night after our final feast when we finished making song books in each language. Even those who didn’t speak his language joined in with the songs Salvator had just written. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile on his face.

Salvator (above, in the pink striped shirt) led the group in worship during a graduation ceremony for the TEE (Theological Education by Extension) students last week in Arop.

When asked about his role in the consultant workshop, Salvator explained, “This work makes us really glad. I have been doing mission work a long time. The faith and belief of all of my people must grow. This work of working together, it’s the work of a true Christian family. These books of 1 and 2 Timothy make me want to help all the younger men to do this work.”

“I know that writing down the Tok Ples is something I find hard but these translators of ours are doing this big work. I need to support them and help them make the words come up clear. I myself can see that God’s talk in Tok Pisin, it doesn’t sit down well. Our belief hasn’t grown yet. My people will understand and grow when they hear [God’s talk] in their own language because they will understand the meaning. There’s a lot of talk in Timothy that we read in the morning. The part where Paul tells Timothy about the strength God gives you and I, where we need to receive the Holy Spirit. We need to do God’s work. The Good News must go. You and I, all the old people shouldn’t hide the Holy Spirit. Now we need to let the Spirit grow and come out and do work. We have been here a short time, we’re on new ground (the Kingdom of Heaven) we need to encourage the younger men and women and help them make their walkabout.”

“It’s like this: if I try to cross the water myself, a crocodile might come and eat me. But if all of us cross together, the crocodile won’t get me. It’s just the same with our work: if we work together, the work won’t be too much. It’ll be altogether good, and we won’t fall down. We will receive strength from each other and then go on.”

After we talked, I thanked him for helping the translators with this big work and we both smiled as he shook my hand.

I don’t know about you, but hearing Salvator talk made me want to love God more… in my world of mundane tasks and brief encounters with people who come to my door, I want to live the gospel. Even though Ben and I came to help give these people God’s Word, sometimes my heart and mind are wrapped around other things. I love being reminded how valuable it is to work together, and to “encourage the younger men and women and help them make their walkabout,” as he pointed out. So, tonight I pray for Salvator, and others, who are invested in their people getting God’s Word in their own language.

May 9, 2013

Renovation Days 5 to 7

by bzephyr

With translations, dictionaries and scripture use training going ahead in nine languages, we are so thankful for our growing number of staff. And work on the urgent renovation continued despite some big rains. We were thankful for the rain, because we had already emptied one of our two water tanks in order to start construction. The second tank was nearly half empty. So the kids had a good excuse to get outside and collect water by any other means, although baths were needed after this got muddier…


I failed to get pictures of the renovation on days 5 and 6 because I was busy with the Dictionary Workshop…


The translators stayed around for 3 days after their workshop to help work together with the literacy team as they met for the second time to work on their dictionaries…


By the end of day 7, much more had been accomplished on the renovation. It was decided to widen the two rooms by another foot and a half based on the length of the 4×4 bearers that we had acquired. But this also meant that we would be short on flooring, so we would need to get our hands on a few more pieces before the project could be completed.


You can also see above that Wayambo did figure out how to make enough cement for new circular tank stand pads. This was a really nice surprise since we’ve had two other tanks break after sinking into the soft ground. Although we were short on gravel, there were several hardened cement bags lying around, and once broken up, that was able to substitute for the needed gravel. Wayambo’s always good for creative solutions.

And let’s take a closer look at how the new bathroom is coming along…


And looking from the inside out…IMG_2222cropsmall

It was time to rest after another hard day’s work. And look at that wall ready to go up…


April 30, 2013

On translating 1 and 2 Timothy….”this truth came straight to my stomach”

by mendibpng

During the past three translation workshops, the men have been drafting, checking and revising 1 and 2 Timothy. This is the first set of pastoral epistles that they have translated. What I heard over and over from the translators was how Paul’s words to Timothy grabbed their hearts when they began to translate it into their own languages. I wish I could convey the excitement that went around the room as the men told me how translating these epistles have encouraged them. Verses like:

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:15 NIV)


The advice that Paul gives Timothy is to stand strong and do this work. This letter he wrote to Timothy but it feels like he wrote it to me. If I want to be a leader, I need to be good in the eyes of others. I must be a good teacher, a good example. If I’m a teacher who doesn’t live right, then people won’t support me [in my translation work]. But my community will support me if I am a good example and a good leader.  This truth came straight to my stomach. When Paul advised Timothy, Paul advised me. (Jack, Barupu translator, pictured above)


Acts and Luke were the first books we translated. They are full of good stories. But now, there were some things we weren’t clear about and now we’re benefiting from the teaching of 1Timothy. There’s a lot of good advice in this book. It’s a good thing because I want to be a good leader. People have picked me to be a leader, and I want to keep the good challenge in this true talk. (Clement, Pou translator, pictured above)

March 18, 2013

What Does Ben Do??

by mendibpng


Today as I looked over the stats of our joint blog, I realized that I end up writing a lot more than Ben has a chance to. It’s easy for me to quickly write something down about my daily doings and thinkings. So this is an attempt to explain what Ben is up to when we are not in the village. Here are [some of] the tasks he works day [and night] on:

  • Researching and implementing ongoing big projects like buying computers and solar equipment for our project.
  • Reporting to the funding partners back home who provide the funds for our project
  • Planning the calendar of workshops and travel for the entire year to submit to the funders.
  • Arranging travel for the majority of our team going to and from the village, often with the options of helicopter, plane and road trip.
  • Completing his translation consultant training (yeah!!)
  • Recruiting new teammates and supervising them through meetings and emails.
  • Dealing with ‘hevis’ (problems) that come up in our project. Last week he spent hours on the phone talking to community and project leaders about a big hevi.
  • Organizing building and vehicle projects for the whole team, which involves conversations with many experts: architects, mechanics, funding partners, etc.
  • Responding to requests for updates and filling in yearly evaluations for our churches in the U.S.
  • Skyping with the translators and helping them fix computer/translation software problems.
  • Talking to translators about their personal problems. This includes giving advice when asked for it, and praying for them.
  • Organizing typesetting (putting Acts into book form) and doing his share of the paperwork for that.
  • When he isn’t busy doing all of the things above, he works on translation, checking the Arop translation (currently Titus) and three Onnele translations (currently 1 & 2 Timothy).

If you look at the [above] list, it might be apparent that there is more than one person can do in a normal ‘working’ week. For the last two years, since Ben took over managing our project, this has been the case. We have at times teetered on the edge of burnout. We’re trying to address some of these issues, and the addition of new teammates promises to help with the workload as well…but in all honesty, this has been a rather difficult stretch in our career as missionaries. I could write a whole blog post on burnout but it’s a raw subject and frankly I don’t have anything ‘uplifting’ to say except that we are working on it. It feels like a roller coaster–we get to a good place and start a nice ride downhill where everybody is getting a good night’s sleep and taking weekends off….and then suddenly there’s a bunch of things due at once and we are back to going uphill again.  I suppose the one thing I can say is that we have to take responsibility for ourselves because we are the ones who have to choose to live in a healthy way. I am trying to navigate how best to support Ben with all of the tasks he is responsible for but also to be transparent about how our family is doing. In a couple of weeks, we will have 10 days as a family vacationing on our way to the village–I think this is a good start!

January 3, 2013

The good #2: Partnership, ownership and good fruit

by bzephyr

Another significant development this year comes on the heels of a trial edition of Luke being published last year and distributed to communities and church leaders. With the availability of this sizeable portion of God’s Word, we have been providing various opportunities for the people to interact with it.

This is the next in the series of posts on the good, the bad, and what I’m doing to sharpen worn-out tools from 2012. The good, #1 appeared here.


  • Copies of Luke continue to be available for sale in the communities and also at the Christian bookstore in Aitape.
  • Audio recordings of the Christmas and Easter story were also distributed.
  • Luke in its entirety was recorded, and our team is working with partners to edit it and prepare it for distribution on Sabers and AudiBibles.
  • Just before Easter, the Easter story from Luke 22-24 was published in a side-by-side vernacular and pidgin diglot format, and this has received very positive feedback from church leaders.
  • Just before Christmas, the Christmas story from Luke 1-2 was also distributed in a side-by-side vernacular and pidgin diglot.
  • Trial copies of 1 Timothy were drafted, and these are being revised before taking copies to the language communities for testing.

With the availability of these resources, we have been intentionally connecting not only with local church leaders when those portions were dedicated in 2011, but also with district church leaders. We have been visiting them regularly in town throughout the last year, especially as we prepared for the Aitape Baibel Conference in August. District church leaders from seven denominations were represented at that conference, and it is evident that they are enthusiastic to encourage the work that is already happening in the languages west of Aitape.

Since these district church leaders are themselves mostly from languages east and south of Aitape, they are even more excited about the possibility of extending this ministry in the years to come to the many other languages in the district which still have no Scriptures.

The most defining aspect of the Aitape West Translation Project is that we are not just producing a product but equipping people to carry on every aspect of this work in the future, not only in their own languages but also as they come alongside other language communities in the region and in the nation. Partnering with district churches will be key to facilitating the use of translated Scriptures in the local churches and also to the expanding Bible translation movement in the region.

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