Archive for ‘faith’

January 1, 2015

How beautiful are feet that bring good news…

by bzephyr

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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.

Prayer

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.

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March 22, 2014

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

by mendibpng

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(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.

However…
-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.
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(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.
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(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).
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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 8, 2013

Influencing for Good: Mentoring Missionary Kids

by mendibpng

flower

“How do you know God is real?” I asked my [future] brother in law when I was about thirteen years old. I distinctly remembering him saying something like, “just look around you at creation. Do you think all of this could have happened on its own?” We looked around at the sea, drinking in the tropical paradise: Dalat School, in Penang, Malaysia, which was my home five of the six years of my high school years. [I explain a little more here about my background.] What he said totally made sense to me! He and my older sister impacted me significantly when I was at the beginnings of making my parent’s faith my own and trying to figure out who I was. There were others: teachers, dorm parents, pastors and visiting speakers who I have distinct memories of saying that thing that I needed and who helped me make life decisions (like where I would go for college, etc.) These people devoted their life and ministry to caring for missionary kids and I’m really thankful for them

Seeing people influence my missionary kid children for good is a high value for me because I had this benefit myself. I have relished visits from our son’s teacher, who loves to talk theology. I love seeing her joke around with him and enjoy his unique way of thinking. There are other times, like when he comes home from community groups with a theological question for us where my heart swells up in thankfulness.  I love it that Ben and I are not in this parenting journey alone. I love it that there are people who care enough to speak words that my kids will remember the rest of their lives. I love it that we have ‘family’ relationships here that extend beyond blood relatives. And I’m thankful for all of those people in the past who helped me on my journey and those who are here for my kids now!

March 6, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: bread making and being impatient

by mendibpng

noah

So last week I made English Muffins for the first time. Correction: second time. The first time I didn’t read all the directions (to grill on top of the stove rather than bake in the oven!) and so they turned out to resemble regular bread rolls. They were fine and we still ate them…but if I had taken the time to read all the directions they might have turned out better! This week a friend of mine sent me her English Muffin recipe and I decided to follow it by the book, except to multiply it by 3 because we consume so much food in a day. The muffins turned out good but I did wonder later, if I had let the dough rise the 2nd time, and if I had started them on lower heat (thus taking longer time to cook) would they have been even better? In general, I think my bread would always turn out better if I let the sponge (yeast, water, sugar) go a little longer, let the dough rise longer or leave it in the oven longer. I am in such a hurry to get to the next step!

My bread baking is really a reflection of my personality. I can be impulsive and quick to act without thinking, particularly when life seems overwhelming to me. There are too many things to accomplish in a day and my brain frequently feels like a ping pong table! In recent years and months, I’ve tried to take some lessons from others who take time to think about things before doing them. I’m not saying that I expect myself to be perfect but I do like to keep making progress in character issues, and this is one of my ‘biggies’. I love James 1:19 (New Living Translation)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

So for today, I’m praying for the grace to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Interestingly, when I do slow down enough to listen I find that there’s more opportunity to let God into my conversations. I’ve just gotta get out of the way.

January 8, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: self pity or gratitude?

by mendibpng

frangipani

I’ve been struggling with some kind of flu since Christmas day. Because it hit me so severely, we cancelled our family holiday and we never had Christmas dinner until Friday of this week. I spent the next week basically in bed while my family fended for themselves. I’ve slowly started getting better; however, if I have a really good day (like yesterday) then I am tempted to do too much and end up with exhaustion, sinus pain, etc. Three other frustrations hit me this morning on top of feeling sick and tired and I wanted to just sit in my room behind a closed door and shirk my responsibilities. (ie looking after the twins, taking down Christmas decorations, cleaning the house, getting ready to leave for the village…) After he washed the mountain of dishes that I had already planned to do, Ben came in and reminded me of James 1 where we are supposed to consider it joy when we face troubles of any kind. I had quoted the same verse to Ben just a few days ago in the midst of a major computer failure while he was trying to get translation done. (SHOOT!)  Even though I know that my small ‘troubles’ of today are minuscule compared to people I am constantly in prayer for, I wanted to have my moment of self pity and frankly I wanted to stay in my room and avoid one person that I would need to confront this morning. Have I mentioned I hate conflict and disharmony? I would rather stuff all negative feelings as far down as they can go, thankyouverymuch!

Since getting sick, I’ve been so intent on keeping my family of eight fed and keeping things going (and if you are reading this and I haven’t answered an email please accept this as an apology!) I ignored the prodding from the Holy Spirit to write a post about what I’m thankful for. I’ve been so absorbed in my health (or lack of it!) that it’s really hard for me to actually think of anything I’m thankful for. So here it goes….

  1. Stability. I am thankful for my home and the stability it provides my family when we are in transition going to and from our village for translation workshops.
  2. Flowers. I am thankful for the previous owners of this house, who nurtured amazing flowers, creating an Aloha Path in front of the house. There are roses, several varieties of orchids and many other kinds of plants that I don’t know the name of! All I have to do is walk out my door to drink in their beauty.
  3. My kids. Having five of my own kids and an intern living with us means that my world is full of kids from the crack of dawn until late at night. I am never lonely!
  4. New team members. A few months ago, God spoke to me through the story in Exodus 18:13-22, where Jethro told Moses (please forgive my loose paraphrase) “what the heck are you thinking?? You can’t do this alone. You’ll burn out!” We tried to do too much with few personnel and began asking God to send help. Our team went from us, the Nystroms (working remotely), Beth, and Jessie to adding three more couples and another single, at least for the short term! It spoke volumes to me that God heard our cry for help and came through for us and for the 20,000 people of the Aitape West, who desperately need to hear the gospel through God’s Word in their own language(s).
  5. Aviation. We have been able to get in and out of our village fairly easily the last few times because of the provision of the helicopter!
  6. Ben. I have a husband who loves me and isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong. He listens to me without trying to ‘fix’ my issues and tries to understand me. He values my perspective as his equal. Six months ago he ordered things to come on a ship which make our kitchen so much easier to navigate. (Incidentally, this means he’s happier to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up!)
  7. Shared purpose. Ben and I are both sold out for why we are here in Papua New Guinea. Early on, I asked God to make it clear to me that He wanted me to come to Papua New Guinea. He DID. And no matter how hard things get over here or how much I miss my family, I know I am supposed to be here. I’ve never once felt like Ben dragged me over to live out his dream. Never. And there’s nothing quite like sharing work that we both believe in.
  8. Health. If I am going to be honest here, my affliction is really just a blip in the whole scheme of life. I haven’t ever had a terminal illness or ongoing sickness, although being sick for weeks and weeks does give me a greater compassion for those who are struggling with these things.
  9. Safe friends. It has taken me a long time to get to the place where my closest friends are the ones I feel the safest with. I love the verse from Proverbs 13:20“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”  Added to the friends I have here, in the fall I joined an email bible study including three women (two I’ve never met in person) who are navigating a lot of the same areas I deal with: ministry, motherhood and faith. There is no pressure to pull off an in depth study each week (we do it when we can) and I am encouraged by the things these women have written.
  10. Partners. The churches, individuals and families who pray for us and support us financially share a big part of our lives and ministry here. Almost every day we have an email asking us what our current prayer requests are, and this is an encouragement that we are not forgotten back in our home country. We are also grateful for those who are sacrificially giving to our ministry so that we can do our work here.
August 7, 2012

“Rejoice! I will say it again: rejoice!”

by mendibpng

Ben planned to leave yesterday in order to do face to face invites for the Aitape Baibel Conference that we wrote about in our last post. He learned from others that this is the best way to make sure that people hear about the event. We have been praying about this event and planning for it for over a year now.

Last week, we pushed hard to finish projects that needed to be done before he left–some relating to the translation project and some for our family. One of these projects involved moving Ben’s office into our bedroom and his cubicle a short walk away.

However, on Sunday, the day before his trip, I leaned over to plug in my computer and felt my back go out. I have had this happen before–my back spasms for about a day and then freezes up for an unknown length of time. All of a sudden I became emotional because I knew this was going to incapacitate me for at least a few days. If you know me, you know that I don’t like to sit around doing nothing, particularly when there’s a village trip to plan for: buying food six weeks (done, but all over the dining room!) dehydrating fruit and veggies, homeschooling materials to go over with teachers and sorting out everybody’s clothes.

Ben spent literally days trying to organizing the three legs of the journey that he planned to take on Monday.

Through the course of the day, we realized that he wouldn’t be able to leave as planned. One of our bosses called later that afternoon about another issue, and Ben poured out the story to her. She advised him to consider staying home but left the decision up to him. When I woke up from a nap a little while later, Ben was already making plans to stay for four more days. He told me that he would trust God to bring the people to the workshop.

The first day that I couldn’t move, I thought “this isn’t my choice of the way this is supposed to happen.” And yet I KNEW that there would be some good from it. Only two days later, here are a couple of things I’ve already noticed God doing:

  • In the last three months, Ben has been involved in two workshops while he worked on notes for Acts and did Project manager reports and paperwork for typesetting.  He also took days off to do a ‘staycation’ with our family. This means that he hasn’t had much rest in many weeks. Maybe God wanted Ben to rest before the conference!
  • We have arranged time to meet with some people who might be interested in joining our multilanguage project. As the team leader, Ben needed to be at these meetings.
  • We found out that three churches have already committed to coming to the conference. Last week all of our translators began calling us on their cell phones because a tower went up in our region….they are also helping us get the word out! Talk about GREAT timing for a cell phone tower to go up, yes?
  • The last couple of days friends have encouraged us. Often when we leave for a village trip, we are depleted and discouraged…and sometimes we wonder if we can do the task ahead of us. We have had friends bring meals, stop by to talk and numerous encouraging emails and messages. We praise God for fellowship, both near and far!

I could go on but these are the main things that come to mind. Here are the verses that I’m holding onto today:

Philippians 4:4-8

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

May 21, 2012

Running into the arms of God….

by mendibpng

I just overheard Jacob loudly saying “I want mine daddy!” Sometimes he says it when his daddy is available and sometimes it’s when Ben is in the middle of consultant checking, so I have to distract him. I was thinking about God and how my desire for him dulls when I am busy. My daily tasks in the village often feel relentless: laundry, dishes, cooking, homeschooling, and often I fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Today is Sunday and I asked Ben if I could read my bible upstairs away from everybody else. He readily agreed and here are a few verses that jumped out at me. I often read from The Message because it gives me a fresh perspective on things I was born and raised on.

“I’ve already run for dear life straight into the arms of God” Psalm 11:1

“Keep me safe, O God, I’ve run for dear life to you. I say to GOD, “Be my Lord!” Without you, nothing makes sense.” Psalm 16:1

My heart cries for God the way Jacob cries for his daddy. I long for times when I can be quiet enough to hear from Him and get the nourishment I need to pour myself into the tasks I need to do. I don’t feel like I have a bunch of enemies seeking to kill me but sometimes I just need God to save me from myself…when I am tired or the twins have been cranky, I am more likely to respond in sin.

So God, let me run into Your arms today!

May 19, 2012

Are you worthy to suffer?

by bzephyr

A year ago at the Ukarumpa International School book parade, Josiah (right) with two of his best friends demonstrating our natural human desire to not be on the receiving end of suffering

We just finished consultant-checking the first 6 ½ chapters of Acts this morning in the Onnele languages of Goiniri, Wolwale and Romei-Barera, and in the Bauni languages of Pou and Barupu. With 28 chapters in Acts and two weeks left in our time together, we are well ahead of schedule.

It was a bit bumpy on the first day to get comfortable with the process of checking five languages simultaneously. By the second day, the vernacular language consultants from each language had a much better idea of the process and what was expected of them. And PNG consultant Aluis Simatab has been doing a fantastic job of doing what he normally does with one language among a group of five languages.

Because these languages have worked closely together in producing their translations, and because we have utilized consultant input early and often throughout the translation process, these factors make these final checking sessions doable in multiple languages. We have done this before in as many as three or four dialects from one language family, but this is the first time we have tried doing this final checking process with as many as five languages from two completely unrelated language families. To be honest, I was approaching this week with a fair bit of fear and trepidation. After the first few minutes of the second day of checking, however, my fears were set at ease. I has really been working well.

Because Aluis came down with a consistent cough a few days before we arrived in the village, he asked me to take the lead for the the last two half days. This experience will contribute to me becoming a full translation consultant myself. This will really be useful not only for the 10 languages currently involved in the Aitape West project, but also for other teams working among the 820+ languages of Papua New Guinea. It is difficult for many teams to find available consultants. We need more workers.

Aluis and I are both very impressed with the state of these translations. There are not a lot of changes needed. The hard work that has gone into drafting and revising the lengthy book of Acts over the last 3 ½ years is really shining through in these consultant checking sessions. It is so satisfying to see that the vernacular language consultants from each community are able to hear and read the translations and repeat back to us in the Tok Pisin trade language every detail that is supposed to be communicated in the verses.

Here is the most significant opportunity for improvement that we have found so far…

The three verses in Acts 5:40-42 make for a really surprising and inspiring conclusion to the story of Peter and the other apostles facing opposition for teaching about the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe.

v. 40 – The ruling Council has the apostles flogged (READ: with whips that have metal shards that rip the skin right off their backs). And they are commanded never again to speak in the name of Jesus.

v. 41 – The apostles leave the Council rejoicing that God counted them worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.

v. 42 – The apostles continue to teach that Jesus is the Messiah every day in the Temple and from house to house.

This is not normal behavior. Just reading those three verses makes me smile. Makes me laugh. It reminds me of Psalm 2 that the believers quoted in their prayer of Acts 4 the first time that Peter and John were released from jail and told not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name:

“The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord  and against his Messiah.” (Psalm 2:2 in Acts 4:26)

God’s response to this in Psalm 2 (not quoted in Acts 4) is this:

“But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them., terrifying them with his fierce fury.” (Psalm 2:4-5)

In the same way, when the apostles are ordered not to speak of Jesus any more, they go away rejoicing that God considered them fit to suffer for the name of Jesus. I’m sure the Lord in heaven must have been laughing along with his fit apostles as he guided them and strengthened them in this episode.

In our translations, the reason for the apostles’ joy was not understood clearly. It was difficult to convey the reason for their joy, and all of the vernacular language consultants thought the apostles were happy because they had been freed and allowed to go on their way. That would be too normal. But this verse is talking about joy that only the Holy Spirit can give. This verse is talking about the joy of suffering. The joy of being a living picture of Jesus, sharing in his purposeful pain. The joy of laughing in the face of persecution because you know that you serve the one who was raised from the dead and rules in heaven (Acts 5:30-31). The joy of saying,

“We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29; cf. 4:19)

When the translators and language consultants heard a clear explanation of this verse, they were also wide-eyed and laughing. They agreed that they needed to fix their translations so that the true meaning of this inspiring verse would come out clear.

How about you? Are you a picture of Jesus in the midst of suffering? Is God’s Spirit alive inside of you? Is your life directed by the authority of God rather than men? Are you worthy to experience shame and suffering for the honor and purposes of our risen King?

Lord, let your Spirit live and laugh in me.

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