The woman ahead of me on the trail looked like she was walking along slowly and easily, her almost empty string bag bouncing gently against her back but somehow as I tried to keep up with her, the pace didn’t seem very slow to me. The path was all uphill and the slippery tree roots that frequently criss-crossed it caused me to stumble. I breathed heavily during the unrelenting workout and sweat ran in rivulets down my face. “It’s like I have a waterfall on top of my head!”, I thought to myself and wished I had brought a cloth to wipe my face. Thankfully, the morning jungle air was cool and refreshing, if somewhat humid. Usually on these hikes, like Bob in the movie What About Bob, I tell myself, “Baby steps. Baby steps up the trail.” But on many parts of the trail, baby steps weren’t an option as I was forced to take giant steps to reach the next foothold. Occasionally, my Simbari friend would glance back to see if I was okay or pause on the trail to let me catch my breath. While I attempted to bring my breathing under control, I was careful to stand very still because if I shifted my weight, she took it as a signal that we should continue on.
And what was the reason for this intense stair-stepping workout, you might ask? A phone call. I was going on a 2 ½ hour uphill climb in order to make a phone call! How far did you walk to make your last phone call? A 2 ½ hour hike up the mountain is the closest place for the Simbaris to be able to get a cell phone signal from here. They make this hike nearly every Saturday in order to talk to their friends and relatives in town. On Saturdays the cell phone rate is cheaper and so their money goes farther. I was making the hike in order to hang out with my friends and also to call one of the Simbari believers, Raymond, who is currently living in the capitol city and teaching God’s Word to some of his relatives there. The distance I had to walk in order to make this phone call made me very thankful for my internet connection that allows me to talk to my friends and family at home via skype. That’s a hike that I don’t want to be making too often!
News From Town
Raymond went to the capitol city, Port Moresby, in order to try enrolling his kids in school there but also to teach the first phase of the chronological Bible teaching to a small group of his friends and relatives. He has been concerned about their spiritual condition for a long time and he decided that this was a good time to go and teach them. He has been teaching them for about 3 months now and when I talked to him on the phone yesterday, he said he had finished teaching about Jesus and his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane as well as his trial by the Jewish leaders of the synagogue. That means that he will soon be teaching about Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins and his burial and resurrection. Please pray for open hearts to hear the gospel message and that those listening would trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Gwandambi Returns Home
Thank you for praying for Gwandambi. He flew home to the tribe a few weeks ago and he was told by the doctors to return to the hospital in town around October of next year for further surgery. I’m still very concerned for him. We have not been able to find out many details about the treatment that he received at the hospital in town which would help us to follow up on it here in the tribe. He still cannot walk and has a long road to recovery. My co-worker, Shari Ogg, has been working with him along with his parents on some physical therapy exercises for both of his legs which have atrophied from lack of movement. His parents brought him to church this week for the first time since he’s been back and in order to get him there, they pulled him along in my little red wagon. Please continue to pray for Gwandambi’s recovery and that he would be able to walk again.
I went to visit Rison and his son, Gwandambi, at the local hospital this week. In spite of the trial that my Simbari friends have been going through, they remain cheerful. Little Gwandambi always has a smile for me and never complains although he must be in pain and his life has changed so drastically from the active, tribal lifestyle that he is accustomed to. Living at the local hospital must seem much like a prison to them. Rison is rarely able to leave the room which they share with 7 other patients and their caretakers. He rarely receives visitors. There is no TV to watch and no books to read. There is very little, in fact, to alleviate the hours of boredom and waiting.
Gwandambi still has a long way to go before he returns to his previous active lifestyle. The infection in his femur weakened the bone to such an extent that while he was lying in bed, it broke. He was then put in traction (traction over here involves a bag of stones hung over the end of the bed) and is now in a cast. In spite of his fragility, he may soon be released from the hospital to return home to the tribe but he has been asked to return around the same time next year for further surgery on his leg. In the meantime, he will be hobbling around on crutches and hopefully, not breaking any more bones! Please continue to pray for healing for Gwandambi’s leg.
As I sat and visited with Rison and Gwandambi, I also had a chance to interact with their roommates. As I circled the small room and took their pictures, I listened to each one of their stories. One boy, Mark, and his father, Lawrence, had been there for a total of 10 months. I tried to imagine how it must be to live in this small room for so long, sharing a single bed. Lawrence told me that Mark had had both malaria and tuberculosis simultaneously which was not treated quickly and the sickness then went into his bones. Doctors had to remove a bone in his back and replace it with one of his rib bones. They tell me that he was in a body cast from the waist up for 3 months and he also had surgery on his leg. As I was visiting them, Lawrence asked some leading questions and I was able to take some time to share about how he could have a personal relationship with God. Others in the ward listened closely and Rison has also taken time to answer Lawrence’s questions. Please pray for Lawrence and Mark and the others in room 1 of the children’s ward, that they would find healing not only for their physical needs but also for their spiritual needs.
- Pray for me as I start making plans for a one year home assignment starting on May 31st! I’m excited about reconnecting with my friends, family, and financial supporters. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen some of you!
- Pray for my Dad as the doctors continue to monitor his thyroid hormone levels since his thyroid surgery. He’s been tired a lot so pray that he will soon bounce back to be the energetic, hard-working father that I know and love.
- Pray that we would continue to make head-way on the Simbari Bible translation project. I will have more on that in a later update. We are currently working on 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation.
I know that I just wrote you an email but really, some stories are just too good to keep to oneself! Yesterday when my translation helpers came to work with me, I asked them how they were doing. Ellen said, “We’re doing fine but yesterday a big heavy (problem or burden) came up with the believers.” “Uh,oh”, I thought. “Did the believers argue or fight amongst themselves?” I said to Ellen, “Tell me what happened”, and she related this story to me.
A group of the believers were headed out to one of their gardens in order to collect pandanus nuts, a delicious nut that is only in season at certain times of the year. In order to get to the garden, they had to cross a pole bridge over the river. Our rivers here are not the kind that you swim in except in certain safe locations. The river is full of waterfalls and huge boulders and the current is swift and dangerous. On this day not only was the river high, but the bridge was over a place where two boulders were close together, constricting the water and making the current extra powerful there. As they were crossing, some of the men observed that it was difficult for those carrying burdens to cross without anything to hold on to so they got some poles in order to construct a handrail. As they were working, Pita was holding onto one of the poles and the current was so strong that it jerked on the pole and threw Pita into the water, pulling him down into a pool below. At first, some of the believers didn’t see him fall but those who did cried out. They waited to see him surface but although Pita, a very strong man, struggled and struggled, the force of the water plunging down kept him pinned to the bottom. He tried to surface three times and each time the current pulled him back down. He said it was like being wrapped in a wet blanket. The believers, seeing that he wasn’t surfacing, began weeping and crying out to God. “Oh God, please help him!” Pita’s strength was gone. He said that he managed to get his hands above the water to wave and say good-bye to his family and friends. He thought, “I’m going to die but that’s okay. I am ready.” Those on the banks of the river saw him wave and in grief, one man wanted to jump in to try and save him but the rest held him back in order to prevent an additional death. Then they all say that something amazing happened. God unexplainably brought Pita to the edge of the river. He says, “I was like a butterfly and I flew out of the water.” As the believers fished him out of the water, they were weeping and praising God. They had believed that Pita was dead but now he was alive. One man said that Pita was like Jonah in the belly of the whale but God rescued him. That night they couldn’t sleep. They ate together and thanked God and sang songs. Some of the believers slept next to Pita that night because they said that the incident was playing over and over in their minds like a video and they just wanted to be close to Pita and to thank God that he is alive.
Pita’s near death experience reminds me of how dear the Simbari people have become to me. As Ellen related the story to me, I, too, was crying and praising God for His mercy in sparing Pita’s life. Later, when I saw him, I shook his hand and said, “Oh, Pita, I heard the story about how God saved you out of the water and I’m really thanking God about it.” Pita smiled but he had tears in his eyes. Pita’s experience also reminds me of how we were before God reached down to save us. We were under the power of sin, a weight that would crush and condemn us. All of our own efforts to free ourselves of sin’s punishment, which is death, were fruitless. But then God, through His son, Jesus Christ, reached down to earth and through faith in Him, we were miraculously saved from the death that we deserved. It was like we had died but then God raised us to new life in Him. What other reason do we need to praise His holy name!
Easter is a time for celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The Simbaris often like to celebrate this holiday by acting out a drama and this year was no different, except for the participation of the Simbari children. This morning as we entered the church, we were told that instead of calling out the numbers of songs to sing like we usually do, we were to call out the names of the children who were standing at the front. As their name was called, each child turned around to reveal a number on their back which was the number of the song that we were going to sing. All of the songs were about Jesus and what He has done for us so in this way, the children “taught” us about Jesus.
After we finished singing, the believers acted out a drama. It started with Adam and Eve in the garden exclaiming over the wonderful things that God had created for them. Then Adam told Eve that there was just one door that they were not supposed to open. For awhile Eve was absorbed with all of the wonderful things in her garden but then she stood before the door and wondered what was behind the door and why God had said that they shouldn’t open it. Her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the door and immediately a group of children crowded into the room. Each one was wearing a bark cape and carried a digging stick (for working in the garden) and a burden on their backs. These represented the cares of this life and the weight of sin. Some of them acted as if they were sick and dying. Adam and Eve lamented over the children and the things that they had brought in through the door. Then Jesus came and said, “Here, I have come to take away your burdens” and he took the burdens away from the children and they welcomed Him by singing and throwing flowers. It reminded me of when the people of Jesus’ time welcomed him when he entered Jerusalem by shouting “Hosanna” and waving palm branches. Soon afterwards, he sacrificed himself on the cross for their sins.
When the drama was finished, there was a time of Bible teaching, prayer, and then we shared communion together. It was so uplifting to see the Simbari believers all working together and using their creativity and talents to worship the Lord. Recently, we have been missing some of our Simbari brothers and sisters who have traveled out to town to find work and numbers have been fewer as we’ve met together on Sundays. However, last week some of them returned after being gone for several months so this time of worshipping the Lord together was an encouragement to all of us. I trust that you also were encouraged as you celebrated “Jesus, who is our life”!
I just love to hear the translation helpers visiting on my porch about what God is teaching them as they work together with us on translating the Bible into the Simbari language. One day as they were visiting, one of them shared about a difficult decision that he has had to make recently. For a long time he has been concerned about the education of his children and that of the other children in the area. For various reasons, the current elementary school teachers have not been consistent in their teaching schedule. The result is that the children are often not in school and are not learning the basics that they need to know. This man is himself well educated and well respected by others so he put in a request to the elementary education authorities to receive training to become a local school teacher. The problem is that in order to receive this training, he would have to leave the tribe and the Bible translation work to go to school in town and he could be gone for 6 months or more.
While he was waiting for an answer for his request to become a teacher, he and his wife prayed about the situation. They were faced with having to choose between two good things: the education of their children and translating God’s Word into the Simbari language. As they prayed about it, they just didn’t feel a peace about leaving the Bible translation work, even temporarily, and so although he got the news that he was accepted for teacher training, he sent word back to those in charge that they could find someone else to fill the position. A short time later he was greatly encouraged as he read this verse while working on the translation of 1 Timothy.
“Physical training is good but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8
There were many other verses in 1 Timothy that also spoke to his heart and he said these verses just seemed to confirm to him that he had made the right decision. Even though teaching school would be a good thing, his teaching responsibilities would give him less time for working on Bible translation and he just wants to make sure that the work that he does for God is a priority in his life. Perhaps God will open up the door again later for him to receive teacher training and be a blessing to the Simbari children. For now, he feels that God has given him the job of helping to finish the translation of the Simbari New Testament and he feels the urgency of that task now more than ever. What a gift these men are to us as we work together to bring God’s Word to the Simbari people!
I’m always excited when the Simbari believers present a new song in church that they have written in their own language but this time I was more excited than usual because they wrote about something that they’d never put in a song before…God’s grace. In Simbari “God’s grace” is translated as “God’s wonderful gift”. Previously, Jethro had taken a trip and been away from his family and from the fellowship of most of the other Simbari believers for about 6 months. While he was away, he tried to keep his relationship with God alive and fresh by reading the Simbari scripture portions and Bible lessons that he took with him. There was a drought where he was living but he said that God’s Word was like food to him and it satisfied him. During his time away, he also wrote a song about all that God has given to him. It goes like this…
Nemi Gooti tool yiuwi’nokai tonyu sokwollovi’mwojanekubweyokaikono. (2x)
Yiuwi’nokai toga nenoloo to’no wuudogawanoo.
Jisasollu nekullo’mwojo’mo anekullabeyo.
Yasuwa’wino sugumaluko tonyuno, yasuwa’wino sugumaluko tonyuno
Gooti nenoloo to’no wuudogawanoo.
Dowe Gooti nenoloo to’no wuudogawanoo.
Our God made and prepared everything for us. (2x)
All the time we will continually just thank Him.
He gave us Jesus in order to save us.
About the grace, about the grace
we will just continually thank God.
We will just continually thank our Daddy.
When Jethro returned from his trip, he taught this song to his family and on Christmas Sunday, they all got up and sang it for us. What a blessing to know that God was looking after Jethro while he was away and that he has returned home with praise in his heart for God’s wonderful gifts. To use Jethro’s words, “They are too many to count!”
I hope you, too, are enjoying the many “graces” that God has poured out on us today.
In church on Sundays the Simbari believers have been going through the book of Ephesians. They are nearing the end of the book now and last week they started studying the armor of God in chapter 6. We looked at a picture of a Roman soldier as various pieces of the armor were described… the helmet, the short sword for close combat, the spear, the body armor, the shield, and the shoes that had spikes on them to help them to stand firm. Every piece of clothing or equipment had its purpose. The Roman soldiers were true examples of superiority in combat. We are also in a spiritual battle and God has equipped us with everything we need to fight our Enemy. It is we ourselves who sometimes go to battle without our helmet or sword or shield. Are we wounded and battered soldiers barely able to stand? Or are we soldiers who are standing strong in the power that God gives us? I want to be a strong soldier but I fear that I often fall short. Some of the believers shared about their own spiritual battles and I could certainly identify with them in their struggles. Please continue to pray for the Simbari church that they would put the truths that they are learning from Ephesians into practice.
“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:78, 79
I love these words of Zachariah as he prophecies about his son’s ministry and the coming of the Messiah. There is such anticipation in the words, “the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us”! Zachariah knew that something or Someone great was coming! I hope you have some of that anticipation for Christmas this year and for what God is doing in your life and in the lives of people around the world. I’m so glad that I live in a time when Jesus has already come and I can know Him personally!
My co-workers, the Oggs, and I don’t have any Christmas parties to attend or Christmas plays to go to or Christmas shopping to do but we do know how to celebrate Christmas and have been enjoying our usual round of Christmas activities here in the tribe. Ogg’s tradition is to decorate gingerbread houses and it’s always a fun time to test our creativity. Oggs also have a Christmas anniversary and the kids and I turned my house into the Olive Garden restaurant this year complete with an Olive Garden menu. The dessert was a masterpiece called Black Tie Mousse Cake. I have a sweet memory (no pun intended) of going out to lunch at the Olive Garden with Mom and sharing a Black Tie Mousse Cake so I enjoyed getting the recipe online and making it. It has four delectable layers; chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, custard, and chocolate topping. Now if I ever order one at the Olive Garden, I can really appreciate all of the work that goes into making it!
I hope that you make some sweet memories this Christmas!
I love my job! I returned home last week after 3 weeks of traveling to various locations in PNG. First, I visited the Dom tribe where the missionaries are sorting out some difficulties with their alphabet. I spent some years in the Dom tribe when I was here as a teenager with my parents so it was kind of like going home and spending time with family. I enjoyed meeting some of the believers in the church there. I also hiked to a beautiful waterfall except I didn’t know that I was going to see a beautiful waterfall so I didn’t take my camera. I guess that just means that I shall have to return so I can get that missing picture!
After a week in Dom, I went to the Wahgi tribe where the missionaries are just starting to teach their first literacy class. I was able to meet their students and give some input into the classes. It was great to spend time with these two missionary families and I so enjoyed their children who were all eager to be noticed by “the visitor”. Pray for the Wahgi people and for the missionary team as they will soon begin evangelistic teaching there.
After leaving Wahgi, I then headed to our yearly missionary conference. After being in the tribe for 5 months I was more than ready to catch up with all of my missionary co-workers again. My favorite part of the conference is hearing their stories about what God is doing in their area of PNG. We also have 3 new missionary couples that have arrived in the last few months so I enjoyed meeting them and hearing their testimonies. I came away from the conference exhausted from late nights and fun activities but definitely encouraged.
Simbari Believers Conference
Speaking of conferences, last weekend believers from several different tribes came to our village for a time of teaching, fellowship, and encouragement. Some of them were able to fly here by plane but most of them hiked. For some it was a full two days on the trail. There were around 150-200 people in attendance. It was the first time that the Simbari believers had hosted a conference like this. They were in charge of food and lodging while believers from the Aziana tribe handled the program schedule and Bible teaching. It was great to see friendships being formed and their joy as they worshipped the Lord together.
On Monday people started leaving to hike to their various locations and the plane arrived to shuttle some people to their villages. When the plane returned after dropping off one plane load, to my surprise an old man stepped out. I had met him on a previous trip to the Aziana tribe. His name is Tikaiyo. The Simbari believers also know him from previous conferences and he said that he had come to stay awhile in order to teach and encourage them. When he stepped off the plane, I remember thinking, “What if he should die here?” Later I heard what he had told the believers. “It’s okay if I die here. It would be like dying at home because you all are like my children.” That just shows how warmly he feels towards them.
The believers here have a lot of respect for Tikaiyo. For one thing, we figure that he is probably in his 70′s and he can read! That’s pretty amazing to our people since most of the old people here don’t read. The people here are also fascinated by the stories that he tells. Apparently, years ago when the Australians were still governing New Guinea, he worked for the “kiaps”. Those were the representatives of the government who used to patrol the various regions of PNG. Life was a lot different back then and there aren’t a lot of people around who can tell about it. The Simbari believers are happy to have him here visiting for awhile and I think he will be a big encouragement to them.
Click here to see what my co-workers wrote about our translation check in August. http://blogs.ntm.org/david_ogg/
It’s summer time in the US of A but here on the equator, it is winter. This time of the year in Simbari is the worst time for flying in and out of the tribe and that was proven this month. We’ve had more rain and fog (which the people here call “snow”) and mud this month than we’ve had in quite a few years. This is also the time in which a team from my co-workers’ church planned to come and visit us, doing some work and spending time with the Simbari people. The day of their flight dawned but the rain and fog that had already been a part of our lives for weeks continued to rule the day and there was no window of opportunity for the plane to come in. The next day dawned and we prayed for a break in the weather. Still nothing. On the third day there were some breaks in the clouds and the plane landed safely with the first load of passengers and left to pick up the second load. As we kept a close eye on the clouds and gave weather reports on the radio, we wondered, would the second plane make it in? An hour later we heard the sound of the plane as it flew overhead looking for a hole in the clouds. Just as the pilot was about to give up and return to town, he found a hole. I saw the plane briefly behind the clouds, then it disappeared. The clouds were quickly descending, making the airstrip approach more and more difficult. Suddenly the plane appeared from among the clouds again, banked steeply, and dove towards the airstrip making a safe landing. By this time, both us and the Simbari people were cheering, both at the pilot’s skill and also joy that the church team had finally arrived. After the rollercoaster ride, I think the passengers were glad to be on the ground again, too. I praise the Lord for the excellent missionary pilots that He has brought here to New Guinea.
During the week that the team was here, the rain and fog continued. Some of the work that was planned for them to do was out of the question like working on the airstrip and outdoor painting but they certainly didn’t shrink from hard work. I had plumbing that needed to be fixed and that involved digging ditches outside but they didn’t hesitate. In spite of the rain, two of the team members dug right in (no pun intended) getting very muddy in the process! The team also built shelves and a fold down table in my guestroom in order to make a more convenient area for me to work on sewing and crafts, one of my favorite things to do in the evenings.
Summer is a time for graduations and 2 weeks ago we also had a graduation. Twelve students graduated from the Simbari literacy program that took place in two different villages. All of these people are believers who want to be able to read God’s Word for themselves. The literacy certificates represent a lot of work for them as they attend morning classes daily for at least 7 months. It’s exciting to see more Simbari adults becoming literate in their own language and growing in their walk with God.
Prayer Requests v Praise the Lord for the work that the team was able to accomplish while they were here as well as the encouragement they were to us missionaries and to the Simbari believers. We didn’t have good weather but at least they were able to get in and out of here and that’s the important thing! v After many years of receiving my e-mails via radio modem, I now have access to the internet! I praise the Lord for this provision and for the ability to be able to be in closer contact with my family as well as solve many problems caused by a lack of internet access. v Pray for me as I work on checking the book of 1 Corinthians. I will also be starting to train some teenage boys to help me in the checking process. v Pray for me to remain encouraged during this dreary time of fog and rain.
Thanks for your prayers. Lori