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Get Your Prayer Guide Here

Prayer is a vital activity in advancing the Kingdom of God. Christians are called upon to be constant in praying for enemies, for governments, for authorities, for fellow believers, for open doors, for boldness, etc. Christians are called upon to be devoted to prayer.

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Even with all the Bible passages that direct us to pray, many of us struggle knowing how to pray enemies or governments or fellow believers or, as in our case, missionaries. Not knowing how to pray often kills motivation to try. Don’t give up! One helpful means of discovering how to pray is to use a prayer guide. Click here or on the image to download a prayer guide to assist you in praying for the people involved in the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament.

 

Thank you for joining us in making the scripture accessible to the Somau Garia people!

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The Long Awaited Update

Uria Mopo Road Repair-2I have a confession to make. It has been months since I’ve posted here. OK, so you already knew that. Whew! I’m glad we got that out of the way!

I last posted a few weeks after we arrived in Papua New Guinea. Our initial weeks here were spent in the provincial capital, and then we transitioned to Uria Village, where we live most of the time.

One challenge of living in Uria Village is that, while there is a cell tower nearby, its data transfer rate is very slow. Most of the time it is impossible to upload blog posts to shakethegates.org. I’m currently looking for an elegant solution to allow me to upload from Uria.

We invite you to pray with us regarding a possible solution to the challenge. The current tower is owned by a company called Digicel. While they provide excellent service in the urban centers, their rural service apparently hasn’t been upgraded since the original towers were installed in 2008. Digicel’s competitor, BeMobile (partly owned by Vodafone) is erecting two new towers, one to the north of us, the other to the south. I’m guessing that the BeMobile towers have upgraded equipment (3G or 4G LTE). If so, it is likely that we will be able to get data speeds fast enough to keep up with the website and social media. Please pray that we will be able to get increased access while in the village.

Pictured above is a portion of the track we hike on into Uria Village. Fortunately for us, there is a lot of work being done to improve physical access to our area. It is likely that by the end of rainy season (toward the North American summer), we will be able to drive into and out of Uria–something that we’ve not been able to do for a very long time. Pray that increased physical access will be a blessing and not a curse. Much is changing in Papua New Guinea, much of which is being used for evil.

Finally, we invite you to pray with us as we launch a very busy 2016. Our part in shaking the gates of Hell involves translating the New Testament into the heart language of the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea, a people created for God’s glory. Among other things, we are conducting a translation workshop (beginning February 8), a preaching workshop (later in the year), and a spiritual retreat for Somau Garia translators. Pray that the Holy Spirit will stir the hearts and minds of the participants, bringing transformation and renewed passion for Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by shakethegates.org–and thanks for praying!

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Close the Gap

Uria Village, Madang, Papua New Guinea – Rainy Season, late 1990’s.  It was a season of tragedy. Among other things, the wife of one of our dear friends died in childbirth. The hike to the village where she was to be buried was three hours’ hike away, across a couple of ridgelines, and I (Todd) was sick with what I thought was malaria. Angela would stay home in Uria with the kids and I would attend the gathering.

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Storm clouds were gathering as I prepared to leave with my Somau Garia neighbors. I stared at the dark clouds and into the dark jungle and prayed. The bush treks around Uria are stony and slick, narrow and uneven. About an hour into the hike, I was feeling nauseated and dizzy and became disheartened by what I saw ahead.   Before me was huge gap in the path—six feet wide and a hundred feet deep. It was beginning to rain. I stopped in my tracks and considered what to do. It was either turn around and add hours to the journey or take a leap of faith, as it were, and keep going.

Angela and I are in the process of resourcing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament. We have been hiking this path for a few years now. We’ve just come around a corner and are staring at a gap in the path—just wide enough to be scary, just short enough to be doable.

Fortunately, we don’t travel alone. When I was hiking the path to the funeral, one of my friends leapt across ahead of me in order to “catch” me on the other side. In resourcing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, we need ministry partners who will either repair the path or leap across and “catch” us.

During the remainder of 2014, we are asking the Lord to close the gap between the current commitments that have been made toward resourcing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament and what is still needed.

Would you consider being one of those God is calling to close the gap?

If you are interested in joining the prayer and provision team click here to join the provision team or click here to email us with your name and email address to join the prayer team.

Thank you for prayerfully considering your part in making the Word of God available in the Somau Garia language.

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Lifestyle of the Unexpected

Two slender Melanesian men stand side by side, one holding a chicken. They wear traditional clothes, heads decorated with dog’s teeth and hibiscus blooms. They live on the side of a mountain in Papua New Guinea, speak a language few have ever heard of, and extend incredible hospitality, Melanesian-style, to those who come to visit. As with many other pictures like this one, it could be captioned: Papua New Guinea, Land of the Unexpected.

Stanley and Sominak Welcome Reeds
There is another picture. An American couple. Dressed modestly. Signs of wear showing around the corners of her eyes; snowy white beard covering his face. They are younger than they might look. A pig’s tusk necklace hangs about his neck.  A string bag graces her shoulder. Across the bottom of this photo we find these words: “Missionary: Lifestyle of the Unexpected.”

Seven years ago when we boarded the flight home to furlough, to endless church dinners, thousands of miles on the road, we had little intention of remaining in the U.S. beyond the months allotted for visiting churches and friends and taking care of the usual stuff–doctor visits, dentists offices, a few weeks for vacation, a little support raising. Then . . . the unexpected.

We did not return. We moved to Iowa and got involved in local church ministry for a few years. We moved to Florida and worked on the home-side of missions, providing administration for missionary care and crisis management. Month to month and year to year God, in his abounding love and plan for our lives continued to nudge us little by little to a little village nestled on the side of a mountain in New Guinea. Unexpected.

This month we’ve been rolling continually northward throughout the Midwest sharing the vision God has placed before us and pointing the saints toward Jesus’ majesty. At each stop we’ve met people who love Jesus and have showed our family tremendous hospitality and the vast generosity of hearts surrendered to Him. Yet, we have met much that was unexpected.

Unexpected: we met a man in a Florida church who was living in a tent in the woods, dreaming of helping others and asking about how to become a missionary.

Unexpected: a shade tree mechanic in Texas who, while not regularly attending church, took time to visit with us and to fix a problem on our very high-mileage SUV.

Unexpected: a joyous evening spent in an upstairs apartment singing and dancing to a familiar song, while cooking dinner with our son who is interning in youth ministry this summer.

Unexpected: seeing friends not seen in 23 years, sharing a meal, laughing about old times.

Unexpected: 3,500 miles in two weeks (it ain’t over yet).

Unexpected: Dodging EF4 tornadoes, floods, rain, and hail for 200 miles while trying to make it to our next overnight–and coming through it all with no damage, no injury, no death or dismemberment!

Unexpected: Praying for an October 2014 return to that little village on the mountainside in Papua New Guinea. Praying for the hopes and dreams of an entire people and an almighty God to be brought to fruition in finishing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament.

You, too, can join the adventure of “Lifestyle of the Unexpected” by praying with us day by day and by partnering with us financially. If you are interested in financial partnership, click here. If you’d like to become a prayer partner, please click here to drop us a note.

 

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Hope Amidst Chaos

God, from ancient times, has done unusual, unexpected, and sometimes unwelcome things in order to draw the attention of mankind to the fact that is is the one and only God and that He is at work in the affairs of mankind.

Isaiah 41:19 – 20 reads:

I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

Cypress is something that we have a lot of here in Florida. When Isaiah writes that God will set the fir and the cypress together in the wasteland, he is indicating that God is about to do something spectacular. Cypress is the quintessential tree of the vast swamps of Florida (OK, they call them hammocks down here, but that is for a different discussion). The cypress is the buttress-rooted tree that requires vast amounts of water to stay alive and grow–not something you find in the middle of the desert.

A blue heron among the cypress trees.

A blue heron among the cypress trees.

Easter Sunday 2007 the Gospel According to Mark in the Somau Garia language (Xoiteupo Asinaku Kuna Makie Xayawoki) was dedicated to the Lord and distributed. This book has been in circulation for seven years. Our family has been away almost as long. The desert has come in those seven years.

A major player on the Somau Garia team became gravely ill a few years ago with a medical condition that left him weakened and virtually crippled. There was a resurgence of animistic practice among some of the villages. Satan unleashed his forces, lashing out at those who would be changed by the Word of God in the heart language.

Yet God delights in planting cypress in the desert. He is a good Father who listens to the prayers of his children and leads them in the way of blessing. Last year the very team member left weakened by crippling disease continued to work on drafting books of the New Testament in the hope of help from the mission community. He dropped by the Pioneer Bible Translators office in Madang and asked, “Did you see the Owen family when you were in the U.S.?” The response dripped with the oil of the Holy Spirit. “No. I don’t think that they will be back. But, go back to your village and pray and see what God will do.” This friend did that very thing.

God did something completely unexpected. About the same time, I set aside a day for prayer and reflection, not knowing anything of what was happening on the other side of the Pacific. I was finished with the day and packing up my things to go home when, as clear as day, God impressed upon my spirit, “It is time to return to PNG and finish what you started.”

It has been an arduous journey, yet God continues to work. The wheels are coming off of the bus of this world and yet God is still concerned with the poor and forgotten. He still loves and cares for those whom the world despises. Here in the middle of the tempest of 21st century life, God moves, God loves, God plants cypress trees in the desert.

What an opportunity lies before all of us.

Our prayer and our hope is to be on the field again by October 2014. God is working. God is raising up partners. God is answering prayers. He loves to surprise us, “that the people might see . . . that the hand of the Lord has done this . . .” Wow!

What an amazing joy there is in participating in what God is doing in this generation!

How Best to Partner:

  • We are in need of monthly ministry partners. You can click here to go to our Donate page to find instructions on how to get involved financially.
  • We are in need of special donations to cover expenses like airfare, set up costs, and the purchase of a four-wheel drive.
  • We are in need of intercessory prayer partners to take the needs of the Somau Garia people and our family before the throne of God. You can download a 31 day prayer guide by clicking here.

Please feel to drop us a note by clicking here with any questions, comments, etc. We’d love to get better acquainted.

 

 

 

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Incredible Opportunity!

Kakeri ipaki kanikina, “Tini sanawa sanawa xounari xokupa xuiapu Xoiteupo kuna meru utei kanika.”

These words carry profound meaning and deep impact to about 4,000 people on this planet. You see, these words are old, some of the last words that Jesus spoke on this earth. As He was getting ready to ascend into heaven, He took care of a few last but very important things. He uttered to his followers: “και ειπεν αυτοις, πορευθεντες εισ τον κοσμον απαντα κηρυξατε το ευαγγελιον παση τη κτισει.”

Do you feel the absurdity of trying to understand the Word of God when it is thrown at you in languages you do not speak or understand? Do these words communicate love and mercy? Judgment or call to repentance? Do they give you instructions on what to do in order to be a good servant of Jesus?

How about this?

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15, ESV.

This command is unambiguous when put simply in your heart language. There is no wiggle room here. It is uncomfortably direct for some. For others, it stands before us a door that Jesus himself has opened–and therefore no one can shut.

There are times when an open door is  inviting. The door is cracked, light pours in, a glimpse of blue or even slate gray appears, piquing our interest. Step to the door and look out onto . . . opportunity–incredible opportunity.

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Jesus invites you to step into the doorway and look out onto vast jungle covered mountains, creviced with deep valleys and spring-fed streams, foot paths, gardens, and a people plying a cash market trade between their cacao groves, coffee orchards, stands of vanilla and the road winding northwest to southeast to the major coastal ports of Madang and Lae. He invites you to interact with a people created for His glory; a people in need of a Savior and in need of His life-giving Word. Come, step through the door with us and help us laugh and cry with them, walk and work with them, and live life with them.

Lim Auwi and Todd Owen talk as they walk to a village meeting.

Lim Auwi and Todd Owen talk as they walk to a village meeting.

During April and May we are praying that God will greatly increase the provision of resources needed to place my family and I back in this incarnational ministry, living and loving through life lived out before the eyes of a watching people. Bible translation by nature is incarnational, it is transformational, it is multi-generational.

Won’t you join us in this great venture? Want to know more? If you’d like to hear our story and why this is so very important, click here. If you’d like to step into the doorway and get involved, click here to learn how. If you’d like to start a conversation about partnership in ministry looks like, email me by clicking here.

Before us stands a door that Jesus has opened and no one can shut. Come on in!

 

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The Time is Now . . .

When I (Todd) was in Papua New Guinea last September, I spent time with people for whom God has given me a deep love, connection, and calling. He has inscribed them on the pages of my heart in a spiritual ink that will not fade with time and cannot be erased by the distractions or worries of life. As often as I’ve been tempted to turn away from this calling, God brings them to me in dreams, in reading, in off-hand comments made by people who are unwittingly used by God to remind me of this people made before time for God’s glory.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

When I am weary and fearful, God calls me to strength and courage and continually draws me to the place of remembrance. I cannot escape it. He calls me to a mountainside in Papua New Guinea and he floods this theater of the mind with faces etched by the tropical sun, voices of children and grandmothers calling after them, with the musty smell of the jungle in rainy season, with the course feel of calloused hands hardened by day after day of back-breaking labor. He reminds me of the high stakes of this calling by bringing visions of shamans making sacrifice for the recently dead, of faces covered in hot tears streaming down their chins, fear-ridden wailing as another young person has given way to tuberculosis or murder or any number of tragedies. Oh God, do not delay . . . allow us to be with them soon . . .

Treasure . . .

Treasure . . .

Angela and I feel that the Holy Spirit has kicked it up a notch in returning us to Papua New Guinea to finish the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament. The urgency we feel is almost painful and we are noticing that every week we are having more dreams, more tears, more internal pressure to get there this year. The time is definitely now. There is no mistaking it.

We’ve prayed. We’ve talked strategy. We’re looking to God to move mountains to make this happen. In response to all this, we’re prayerfully laying an opportunity before you. We’re calling it the Spring Forward campaign and here’s the idea. We are at about 1/3 of the monthly pledges we need for Pioneer Bible Translators to allow us to return to Papua New Guinea. We are asking God to increase those pledges within the space of the next two months to 2/3 of monthly pledges needed to land us on the field. Here’s how you can participate in this campaign.

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First, talk to God about it. Ask Him what He would like you to do to make the completion of the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament possible. Second, if He leads you to join the provision team, visit the “Donate” page by clicking here and decide which kind of donation you’d like to set up. Third, drop us a line to let us know of your intention to support Pioneer Bible Translators so that we can add you to our email updates, prayer updates, etc.

Thank you for prayerfully considering God’s desires for your involvement in this ministry of getting the word made available to the Somau Garia people in their heart language.

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Day 40: Blessings in the New Year

This post concludes 40 days of awareness, calls to prayer, and encouragement to get personally involved in transformational ministry with the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea.

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2013 closes with these very real needs unfulfilled, yet with an overwhelming sense of anticipation, wonder, and confidence that God’s desires for these people to be supplied with His word in their heart language, our call to return to Papua New Guinea, and His glory to be shown will be fulfilled.

To those of you who have participated in this ministry through your prayers, financial gifts to PBT, or with notes of encouragement (or all of the above) I say, “thank you”.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace.

Happy New Year and blessings for 2014!

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Day 37: Following Jesus into Rest

Of all the mistakes I’ve made in ministry, I believe one of the most damaging is that of not being purposeful about rest. Rest is far more than a lack of activity, just as peace is far more than a lack of apparent conflict.

Hebrews chapter 4 associates rest with a tender heart which is obedient to the Word of God. That tender, obedient heart is responsive to the voice of God in faith:

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:6-13, ESV

Lack of purposeful rest drives me certain directions I dare not go–if I am wise. Lack of purposeful rest points me down the path of disobedience, cauterizing my heart making it scarred, hardened, and senseless. Lack of purposeful rest all to often is driven by a dysfunctional narcissism, a desire to be at the center of things, of somehow having the satisfaction of having accomplished something according to my work. Just as Eve was deceived when the serpent contradicted to clear words of God regarding eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so too many of us are deceived by the notion that we will be “successful” in the Kingdom if we just work a little harder, put in more hours, get involved in everything, never let anything go by the wayside, never let it be said that we weren’t there.

I must strive to rest a godly rest–walking by faith, hearing and responding to his voice, remaining tender and obedient, resting from my work so that His work can be made complete in me. I must follow the example of Jesus.

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We frequently read of Jesus that he “went to a lonely place to pray” or “he took his disciples aside to rest.” He was purposeful about getting away, having uninterrupted seasons of prayer, of communing with His Father. He chose to rest when he could have been using that time to heal the sick, teach the ignorant, or proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven.

Part of our rest, friends, is that quiet worship where we voluntarily open ourselves to God and allow His word to penetrate, rearrange, and heal. We must be in His word and we must be in a receptive spiritual posture to find rest. All else is a frenetic chasing after the wind, trying to prove something to ourselves or others. All else hardens our hearts, tempting us to place our faith in ourselves and our work rather than in our heavenly Father.

Notice the role the Word of God has in providing genuine, life-transforming rest? I believe that part of the call has given Angela and me to return to Papua New Guinea is to be a catalyst for the heart transformation of many Somau Garia speaking people. Without the Word in their heart language, the possibility of that dwindles. Bible translation aids transformation.

Provide Rest for the Weary
Would you pray with us that I and Angela will learn to rest purposefully and properly? Would you pray with us that we will rest well with a view toward serving well that many Somau Garia will be transformed by the life-giving Word of God? Will you add provision to those prayers and partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us out to Papua New Guinea to finish what was started? Click here to join us in praying. Click here to partner with us in providing for the needs of this ministry.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace.

Blessings!

 

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Day 36: Do You Have a Minute?

Knock. Knock. Knock. Do you have a minute? I know you are busy, I just have a few things to share with you. I’ll keep it short.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

I’d like you to hear the voice of the Somau Garia translation team, represented in the comments of Ezekiel, the leader of the Somau Garia team in an interview I did with him in September 2013.

 

 

The first thing that you will notice is that many of you listening will not understand what he is saying to you. He is speaking the trade language of Papua New Guinea, Tok Pisin. Allow me to interpret for you:

I am Ezekiel, the leader of this Somau Garia translation program. I say “thank you” and express my happiness to our supporters, those who help us with resources in some small way, I say “thank you”. The invitation remains to those who may have a desire to support the Somau Garia program by supporting our supervisor [Todd Owen] and his family to return to work [with us]. The work of support that you do is important. I exalt the name of Father God and say “thank you.” I am Ezekiel Panawa making this talk.

Ezekiel is being very Melanesian in his greeting and plea, that is to say, he is downplaying the hugeness of the situation by being very indirect. He is amplifying the message by whispering.

This man took me under his tutelage in the late 1990’s when we first lived with the Somau Garia people and has been a good advisor and brother to me ever since. He has known hardship over the years and has given much of himself to see the Word of God become available in the heart language of his people.

Join Today!
I’d like to challenge you in two ways. First, if you are not part of our prayer team, click here to drop us an email to either sign up to join the team or to find out more about what that means. Second, if you are not currently financially contributing to Pioneer Bible Translators towards sending my family and I back to Papua New Guinea to work alongside men like Ezekiel, Stanley, Sirion, Wai, Kenny, et. al., in order to complete the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, I ask that you prayerfully consider joining the provision team. To do so you may click here to visit our donate page.

Along with Ezekiel, I thank everyone who has been involved in praying for and/or financially supporting this ministry.

Blessings!