Posts tagged ‘life’

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)


















May 27, 2013

Renovation Days 23 to 24

by bzephyr

In the last few days that Wayambo was in the village, we realized that there would still be several jobs to finish after he left. So he worked hard to complete some of the more technical jobs. He prepared everything to help the guys finish the small roof extension…


He hung doors…




And he worked late into the night to fit the new toilet waste pipe into the existing pipes…


Thank you, Wayambo for closing the door on this stage of the building renovation. This was the seventh time that Wayambo had made the trip to Arop to help us with building projects.


See you next time!


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May 26, 2013

Renovation Days 21 to 22

by bzephyr

On days 21 to 22 of the Aitape West Translation Project’s renovation, we saw door frames and window louvre frames installed…


The kitchenette in the flat was moved to accommodate access to the old toilet and shower rooms, the plywood walls were put up, and a new door installed…


And the old flat has access to the new bathroom…


Split blackpalm “limbum” was collected for siding…


Meanwhile, next door at the office, Onnele literacy teachers Rosalyn and Linda are enjoying the new things they’re learning about dictionary making…


The overflow pipes for the two tanks were creatively fitted, even though we didn’t have the right connections. Wayambo improvised with some tightly wound sheets of plastic…


The plywood walls and limbum siding starting going up…




The view from the developing new bathroom with its new door and plywood walls…


The siding needed to start above the first floor windows so that we could hang the downpipes in front of that space in the days ahead…


It was the last day for the translators and literacy team to be together. Tomorrow, the literacy team would head home and the translators would continue revising their translations of 1 & 2 Timothy. Today, the literacy team returned the favor and helped the translation teams read through these letters and made valuable suggestions…


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 16, 2013

Renovation Days 16 to 18

by bzephyr

On days 16 to 18 we saw the roof worked on, and the second water tank put into place. In this remote part of Papua New Guinea, we collect rain water off our roofs and store it in large water tanks to be used for showers, laundry, dishes, and drinking.

The second floor wall framing was completed, and also the roof extension…

Wayambo impressed me as he sat on the most precarious batten and fascia board, and then started bouncing up and down…


The inspector came by to check on the work…


The second water tank set in place…


And the tank was ready to be used…


And that very night, we got a really big rain that made both tanks half full from only half the roof.IMG_2804cropsmall

But in the Aitape West Translation Project we are completing this renovation as we build a bigger staff in order that we can supply the peoples of Papua New Guinea with God’s living water…

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  (Isaiah 55:10-12)

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:10)

May 11, 2013

Renovation Days 12 to 13

by bzephyr

With a bigger team and growing opportunities to facilitate Bible translation and language development, we needed an urgent renovation to an existing building in order to accommodate more people at our training center in the bush. By day 12 we were utilizing the water tank that had moved to its new location, so it was time to move the second water tank. And this meant we could start framing the room that would go in at ground level.


Once the bearers and floor joists were in place, it was time to start putting up the wall framing…


And once the ground floor walls were up, it was time to think about supporting the second floor. This is when Wayambo’s skills really started being appreciated. Building a two story addition onto an existing house is not as easy as it would have been to build a separate building. And this is especially true for this house, because they’ll have to do some creative jacking of the house in order to knock the existing posts out without compromising the integrity of the existing cantilevered structure.


At the end of day 12, this warped bearer was giving them real problems.


They couldn’t jack the existing house high enough to pound this bearer into place. So they’ll have to try again tomorrow after a good night’s rest…


The next day, they had success, and so it was time to take the old posts out…


More jacking and supporting…


Another day’s work…


And meanwhile, the literacy team continued to make progress on their dictionaries…




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May 10, 2013

Renovation Days 8 to 11

by bzephyr

In the Aitape West Translation Project, one of our main goals is the training of trainers so that Papua New Guineans are equipped to serve their own communities and also share their skills and experience in helping others from the various 831 languages in this country. So two years ago we realized that we had a need for additional staff to train our PNG colleagues from the 11 languages in this project. We are now seeing new teammates join the project.

Below, our new teammate Luke from the UK demonstrates some features of the computers that these literacy personnel are using as they work on their dictionaries.


The quick influx of new staff has also created an urgent need for additional facilities in our remote village training center.

By day 8 of our renovation project, Wayambo had started making some significant changes in the existing downstairs flat. He had moved the kitchen counter over about a meter in order to make space for a new hallway to the old toilet and shower rooms from the new flat being built outside this kitchen window. This existing flat will receive the new bathroom.


And the framing for that new hallway has started…


Wayambo started fitting the new shower tray…


And we saw a new ditch dug to direct the waste water from the new shower and hand basins…


And one of the jobs that I’m spending a lot of time on in this project: the plumbing. On day 11, it was once again Sunday, so time to rest. But we did allow our water pumps to work all day as we pumped water from the remaining existing water tank to the repositioned water tank. And before we turned the generator off for the night, we were able to start getting water out of the newly plumbed water tank. Tomorrow, we’ll move the second water tank so we can start building the two new rooms.


These days also marked the dictionary workshop being into full swing after the translators left to go home and check 1 & 2 Timothy with their communities. But they also marked the start of several days of cleaning viruses off our 22 project computers and our local network. Below, Beth (right) and Luke’s wife, Laura (left), help run the virus scans.


Everywhere we look these days, we see people working together to support the growing work and ministry of this Bible translation project. We are blessed!

January 6, 2013

The bad #1: Stuck in the mud

by bzephyr

With PNG teammates who are motivated and capable of making great progress in Bible translation, the last thing we want is for us expat members of the team to be the obstacles that impede their way forward. But that is exactly what is in danger of happening. This is felt most keenly in my dual role as team leader and translation advisor, especially as we incorporated new opportunities and met several unforeseen obstacles this last year. But these stresses have not only affected me, they have had a significant effect on my wife and five children, and on the other members of our team as they have all been burdened with the relentless urgency to fulfill our plans.


Due to roads in disrepair and great difficulties in arranging transportation, on one five-week trip to the village in January/February, I spent fifteen days on the road trying to get to and from the translation workshop. Then in March, I left my family for 22 days to go to another translation workshop but only managed to get to the village for 8 days due to similar transportation problems. My work was slowed, and this also slowed down others who were waiting for my contributions. So we are now dialoguing with our leaders and with partners in the region and at JAARS about a land transportation solution.

The road has not been the only transportation obstacle. When the Aitape West Translation Project started twelve years ago, there were four airstrips in the area that were relatively close to our training center in the bush that we might have used. These days, only one is ever open, and for most of 2012, there were none. This meant a lot of phone calls and face-to-face meetings to see about the possibility of the grass getting cut and the airstrip opening up. The Kodiak airplane doesn’t need a long landing strip, but it does need the grass on the strip to be cut so the pilot can see dogs, pigs, and small children close to the landing area and still land safely.

When the airstrip didn’t open, we have been very grateful for the possibility of flying by helicopter. That helicopter pilot has been our best friend on several occasions this year. But this solution has also meant more work for me in an already full schedule to arrange the logistics of it all. It is also a much more expensive option that tugs at a tight budget.

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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