Posts tagged ‘culture’

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 3, 2016

Singsing for a remote building dedication

by bzephyr

The new classroom (center) and dorm (right) in the morning sun


A few years ago, our ten-language Bible translation project in Papua New Guinea started to outgrow our current facilities. We needed more classroom space, more dorm rooms, more staff housing, and a new generator. Before we returned to the States for our home assignment last year, I had worked with teammates, architects, and funding partners to plan for the construction of four new buildings. Most of the build happened during the year that we were away.

AWTP managers

Missy and Emil managed the whole building project while we were home in the States


When we returned to PNG, our local colleagues had decided that we needed to do the culturally appropriate thing and host a building dedication. Traditionally, people in this part of the country cannot use a new house or building until they have hosted various groups to come sing and dance on the buildings and officially open them up. Sometimes the dancing is so energetic that it seems to serve the purpose of testing the strength of the new building.

For this opening, our village partners decided that the real purpose of this event was to dedicate these buildings to God and to his continued work through this language development project. So they invited one local singsing group to sing and dance, and various local church and community leaders were also invited to join in dedicating the new buildings to God. It was a day full of decorating the buildings, singing, dancing, speeches, prayers, cutting the tape, cooking, eating, and enjoying sweet fellowship together.

The pictures that follow are just a glimpse at all the beautiful art and joyful activities of the day…



Fastening bilas (decorations)



Adding color – the new and the old



Hold still



Women folk of the local translation advisor



Children getting all decked out



Almost ready to begin the festivities



Many speeches



Cutting the tape



Exploring the new buildings



All dressed up and ready to dance



Singsing Tumleo – a song learned by grandparents from a neighboring language



Watching the singsing from the decorated new verandah


Taking a breather before the next verse

Taking a breather before the next verse



The next generation with PNG flag colors



A headdress to match her afro



Learning from the grandparents



The littlest dancer



Too much excitement for this little super man



Someday, he’ll join the fun


Cooking kaukau

Keeping the fire going



Cooking fish



Waving the flies off


Distributing bread rolls

Distributing bread rolls



Waiting patiently to eat



Time to rest and story



Leading the singsing with a flare


September 10, 2015

You are welcome here!

by mendibpng

I have spent three days pondering this quote,

Hospitality is rooted in the word hospital, which comes from two Greek words meaning “loving the stranger.” It evolved to mean “house for strangers” and later came to be known as a place of healing. Eventually, hospitality meant connecting with strangers in such a way that healing took place. Therefore, when we show openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe, the relationship becomes a place of healing. As we welcome people just as they are and invited them to join us just as we are, it becomes a sacred event reflecting what Jesus did for us–providing us with a healing relationship.

–Cross-Cultural Servanthood, by Duane Elmer

I readily admit that it takes a great deal of courage at times for me to be open and welcoming to strangers. A few years ago, a friend of mine taught cross cultural principles to our Papua New Guinean staff here. The thing that stuck with me from that training was simple. “Smile,” they said, “and shake hands with us. You can even hug us!” (The Highlands culture tends to be much more affectionate than I had originally thought.) So, I started to intentionally smile when we passed people on the road, walk into the store or hardware center, and also to the people we buy veggies from at the market. Here in PNG, walking past people without looking at them communicates that we are busy and that the person we are passing isn’t important. (One person said “I feel like a dog or a pig if you don’t smile at me,” which to me conveyed, “I feel devalued as a person.”) I am not saying that smiling is appropriate in every culture everywhere, this is just something I’ve been conscious of here in PNG because I heard that it communicated value to my neighbors.
2010-10-13 Final Checking (12)

I know, I know, this sounds really simplistic. Aren’t I here to share and live out the gospel? If I am, as Elmer says above, “showing openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe,” then isn’t Jesus present there? I really don’t have to go out of my way to search for people to be friendly to since I live in a community full of people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds. If you look at me, you’d likely think, “oh she’s an American.” However, if you start talking to me, you might realize that I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and I am really quite odd/strange/unique. I might find something incredibly funny that other Americans wouldn’t, or I might not catch onto a joke that most people would normally get. It is rare for me to come across anyone who has lived where I lived and had the same experiences as me. It is more common for me to delve into friendships here with people who have had completely different experiences. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to be from the same cultural background to share an intimacy with Jesus. He links us together through love. As a student of culture and personality styles, I’m learning how to show love (appropriately) in relationships. In doing so, I feel like I’m holding a small piece of the colors and depths of beauty that I will be seeing more of in heaven.

May 26, 2013

Renovation Days 19 to 20

by bzephyr

On days 19 and 20 of the Aitape West Translation Project’s urgent renovation, we saw the kwila hardwood floors being installed…


The translators also returned from their communities where they had been village checking 1 & 2 Timothy, and they consulted with the literacy teams about the progress they had been making on their dictionaries…


I continued to work on cleaning up the last computers still effected by viruses…


Jacob continued to get lessons in carpentry…


Hey, there weren’t doorways there before!


We often joke around with Wayambo and tell him that he is a man who wrecks buildings and puts holes in them where they didn’t exist. But we really wanted these holes. The new room will access the old toilet and shower rooms. And there will also be an optional doorway connecting these two flats…


The hardwood floors were also installed upstairs…


And from the opposite angle…


Window frames were installed…


Arop translation advisor, Emil Ninkure, helped teach some of the dictionary lessons…


With the translators and literacy team working together, we had more people than ever at this workshop…


May 7, 2013

Renovation Day 1

by bzephyr

Our Bible translation team has been blessed to have several new team members join our ranks in the past few months. This is great because we’ve been realizing in recent years that we need more staff to keep so many things running smoothly in the areas of translation, literacy, church partnership, linguistics, and scripture use training for eleven languages.

But the larger team means that we have an urgent need for more staff quarters. This month we have 47 beds filled as we host overlapping translation and dictionary workshops. In June, we’ll have several more people joining us as we consultant check 1 & 2 Timothy and start recording Acts.

I’ve been quite absent recently from social media and blogging, but the current renovation is so fun to watch and manage, that I’ll try to post some pictures here as I find time between plumbing jobs, computer crashes, and dictionary lessons.

We are so thankful that several partners came through with emergency funding for this urgent need in the past several weeks. Just in time, too! Our carpenter, Wayambo, arrived here in the village on April 25. Here are pictures from his first day on the job.


To save money, the plan is to build two rooms underneath the existing roof of this building where the water tanks are located. The original thought was to fix another broken water tank and pump water from one to the other before moving the first tank so we wouldn’t lose any valuable water. However, the other tank proved once again to be too difficult to fix. So we resorted to emptying the first tank into the ditch. But not before informing our neighbors that good clean water was available.


Our neighbors’ children quickly formed a queue to collect water for their families for the next few days. We were glad our water didn’t go to waste, but now we’re praying for rain! One empty tank usually means that we need to start more stringent rationing of this precious resource.


The first most difficult decision was where to move the water tanks. We have other building plans in the works, so we’re limited as to where they will fit on our plot of ground. Above, you can see the ground that was leveled for the new placements.

The other problem with where to put the tanks is where to direct the overflow of water after heavy rains. This new spot is far from two available ditches. The plan will be to run 100mm pipe underneath the house, which stands on small posts and has just enough clearance to fit the pipe and direct the water to the ditch on the opposite side of the house.

Unfortunately, acquiring gravel is quite difficult for us now, so we were planning to simply put the tanks on the ground, a dangerous proposition since this was the cause of our other tanks breaking. But we’ll attach flexible pipe to the outlets so that sinking tanks will not cause immovable pipes to put pressure on the tanks as we have learned the hard way. But stay tuned, because Wayambo has proven to be resourceful with this kind of problem in the past.

Another job for day number one was to start repairing our old broken ladders. Are they beyond repair?



And the first day is also the day to adjust the table that holds the chop saw and start on those first cuts…


Wayambo is wearing the cap, and he’s getting assistance from our neighbor friends in Arop. Thankfully, we’re starting to get to the bottom of the major problems we were having with our generators for the previous two weeks, so we can still use a good tool like this one.

December 31, 2012

The good #1: Rebooting our collaborative approach

by bzephyr

A reboot of our Bible translation project in August means that some language groups will now WAIT to receive God’s Word. Waiting is good? My Papua New Guinean teammates think this reboot is one of the best things that happened this year in the project based on our team’s evaluation of how things were going over the last few years.

As promised here, I’m summarizing some of the good and the bad from this last year, and what I’m doing now to put first things first and sharpen the ugly worn-out tools.


James, Jonathan, and Otto above are assembling the Christmas Story from Luke 1-2. These were printed with their local Onnele language and pidgin trade language in a parallel-column diglot format. This is the format that many pastors in the area believe is needed to enable them to effectively use their local language more in worship. This is because churches almost always include people who have married into the language group or traveled from neighboring language areas.

One of the key defining aspects of our multi-language translation project is that we highly value the collaboration that occurs with one another as we work on the same chapters at the same time. Nine languages worked together recently to produce those Christmas diglots. We have learned over the years, however, that this model is difficult to maintain when different language teams are able to proceed at different rates. This was especially true while we were completing the very lengthy books of Luke and Acts. One solution has been to allow the quicker teams to work on other things while their teammates catch up.

We can no longer allow the slowest teams to dictate the progress of all the others, especially if all teams do not show up to all workshops. It’s one thing to allow the quicker teams to work on something else while the teams with more difficult translation challenges catch up. It’s quite another thing, however, if some teams fall behind because they repeatedly miss out on some workshops. We have been looking to the completion of Luke-Acts this year as the appropriate time when we would need to “reboot” the project and initiate new patterns for working together.

With the start of 1 Timothy in August, therefore, we now expect language teams to have a third translator ready to stand in for another if one of the regular two translators have a good reason for not attending. Also, frequent absences may require that translation committees need to designate a new translator.

So we are now starting to follow a tighter schedule of translating shorter books and taking them all the way through to consultant checking and publishing each year. The new understanding is that if a language team misses a workshop, they will not be able to receive that short book this year. This may mean that some languages in the project will need to wait to receive that portion of God’s Word. But what we are already seeing is that teams are more motivated to attend or make arrangements for another to stand in their place if their absence absolutely cannot be avoided.

December 28, 2012

The good, the bad, and sharpening worn-out tools

by bzephyr

I recently submitted a quarterly report entitled “Partnership, ownership and a leadership wake up call.” I was the leader. I needed to wake up.


At the end of the report, I mentioned that it might have been called “The good, the bad, and the ugly” and I thanked our international partners for supporting us and praying for us through our successes and stresses. As the team leader for our multi-language translation project in Papua New Guinea, I reflected in this report not only on the Triumphs made over the last year but also on how our team is learning to adjust after many unforeseen difficulties had nearly spelled Disaster for me personally, my family, and other key team members.

In this and the next several posts, I will summarize the good and the bad from this past year and what we’re doing to get out the ugly. It’s part of what I’m doing to look critically at our past and make adjustments for the future.

The good

This has been an amazing year of progress in terms of church partnerships and local ownership, Scripture use, holistic language development, and leadership development. While continuing to get more Scriptures translated and out into the hands and ears of the people, we have also been developing key relationships with district-level church leaders and fostering local ownership of this ministry and its fruit. At the same time, we have been widening our language development activities, which will contribute to language vitality and the use of God’s Word. We have also facilitated many opportunities for growing leaders among our PNG colleagues as they look to their futures in reaching beyond their own languages and helping other language groups in this widening Bible translation movement.

The bad

In hindsight, we realize that we attempted to do more this last year with fewer people, and it has nearly killed some of us. I have been functioning as the team leader and looking after various other jobs as they come up while still performing my normal role as a translation advisor/trainer. I have pulled other members of our team along with me in a vicious cycle of living under the tyranny of the urgent. Several unexpected difficulties took us from urgent to crisis mode on several occasions. Our whole team has hardly had a break from one activity to another, and so we are looking to learn from our mistakes and plan better for the future.

The ugly

Computers can be a beautiful thing… if they work right. Otherwise, it can get quite ugly. My computer is now four-and-a-half years old. But often it’s not the machine’s fault. There’s also “user error.” I have sometimes spent 80% of my computer time simply waiting for it to respond, to reboot, to finish a task. So much for multitasking. I’ve known some of the issues for quite a while, but I also knew that implementing the solutions would mean a significant delay in the next urgent tasks before me. Oh! How I wish I had taken the time a year ago.

EliWallachTuco-cropIn the classic Clint Eastwood film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Tuco Ramirez (“The Ugly”) says, “There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend: those with a rope around the neck, and the people who have the job of doing the cutting.” Perhaps it’s that rescue mission–the desperate act of cutting the rope before the world around me dies–that has pulled me along in the never relenting pursuit of completing tasks without pausing enough to sharpen my tools. But even more critical than working with good tools is relying on the true Redeemer of the world. I must look to Him more desperately rather than feed my own messiah complex as I pretend to cut the noose from the necks around me.

On another occasion, Blondie (“The Good”) says, “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” I don’t think the pressure I feel is like that of someone holding a gun to my head. But it may be more on the level of another of Blondie’s quotes: “Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. We’re gonna have to earn it.” But all those desperate acts of cutting, digging, and earning our keep — it too easily crowds out a bigger perspective, a greater Will. And without that, there really would be nothing left to say ‘Hold on!’ to the heart and nerve and sinew that are nearly gone.

If my life was broken this year, I simply watched the things I gave it to for too long, ever stooping to build ’em up with worn-out tools. It was ugly. It was time to sharpen the saw.

Sharpening the ugly saw

Required reading for me as a young missionary candidate (along with many other more theologically-focused works) was Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Here are the seven habits…

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

As I think about the successes and failures of the past year, I can see that our Triumphs were partially due to following such habits as #1, #2, #4, and #5 above. Likewise in relation to these seven habits, I can see that we nearly met with Disaster because we failed to put first things first (#3), synergize with others (#6), and sharpen the saw (#7).rudyard-kipling-crop

Those are seven great principles. And I also found the Results-Based Management planning that we did this last year in our project to also be a valuable tool. If only those dreams and thoughts, however, are the things that become our aim, become our master, I’m afraid I’ll fail to treat Kipling’s two imposters just the same. Both Triumph and Disaster merely pose in the place of a greater Master.

There’s the King of kings to walk with, and there’s a greater common Touch that counts with all men. In the midst of all our critical evaluations, our organizational planning and strategizing, we must not fail to live life abundantly now on this earth as our spirits walk in step with the Spirit of the King of all things, allowing him to write his Story on us and through us to all those around.

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  –2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

In the next several posts, I will give more details about the good, the bad, and what I am doing now to put first things first and sharpen the worn-out tools.

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