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Please Pray: December 17, 2013

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It has been a full week since last posting in Please Pray. Yesterday, our oldest daughter, Abigail, turned 16 years old. (How is this possible?) Also yesterday Angela, Josie, and I got up early and drove to Tampa to pick up Samuel, who rode down from Missouri with a friend for Christmas break. For the first time in several months all of our kids slept under one roof (their mother was very happy). And as I read our prayer requests from December 10, I understand my restlessness in the middle of the night last night, and the things that God brought to mind in those quiet hours of early morning.

During this season (40 Days to Getting the Word Out, concluding on New Year’s Eve, 2013) we have been asking you to pray for many, many things. Our idea was to recruit 40 new monthly financial partners, 40 new prayer partners, and 40 one-time donors to help provide for one time expenses. The results have been lackluster, but not without merit.

First, we have seen several new prayer partners join the team. This is important and foundational to transformational ministry. We have added a few financial partners, which is also encouraging. One of the profoundly impactful results, though, stems from prayers offered in response to the requests given last Tuesday, December 10.

  • Ask God for victory over the deceiver who desires only to kill, steal, and destroy.
  • Ask God to empower and thoroughly equip us spiritually to stand in the evil day and to overcome the enemy by our testimony and by the blood of Jesus.
  • Ask God to give us wisdom and boldness to invest ourselves in activities and strategies that will accomplish God’s purposes for this ministry.


This week our heavenly Father has dealt very graciously with us in answering these prayers. At the foundational level, the diabolical kingdom has sought to remove us from the battle by means of deception, discouragement, and diversion from the goal at hand. We have experienced a lot of victory these week on all fronts, being equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand against the onslaught. We also believe that God has given us wisdom on next steps and strategies to accomplishing completion of this phase of ministry and getting on the field again. Please continue to pray.

As you pray:

  • Ask God to grant wisdom and clarity in planning the next steps.
  • Ask God to grant influence and voice in telling the story and inspiring others to highly impact an entire people.
  • Ask God to continue to stand us up in the evil day and to prevail.
  • Ask God to protect our Somau Garia co-workers from harm, both physically and spiritually.
  • Thank God for gracious gifts of wisdom and energy.
  • Thank God for allowing our family to be together again for a time.
  • Thank God for providing new prayer partners this week.
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Days 24 & 25: What Would You Risk to Find the Lost?

Lately I’ve been asking myself a simple, foundational question: “What does the New Testament say about what Jesus considers to be important?” Perhaps it could be stated differently: “What would Jesus risk (give) his life for?”

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing . . . I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15: 3-7, ESV

Allow me to restate this in the most plain terms possible: “Jesus is willing to risk me to find the one lost sheep.” Let that sink in for a moment. Any of us who have been lost and found, who walk in the Way according to the Truth filled with the Life, belong soundly in the company of the ninety-nine.  The parable does not say that He leads the sheep to safe keeping, to a sheep pen where there is protection, food, and warmth. Jesus says that the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the open country and goes to find the one. He risks at least some of the many to save the one.

The emphasis of Jesus’ parable is not on the leaving of the ninety-nine as much as it is firmly on the joy of finding the lost one. Even so, He risks the danger of leaving the ninety-nine in open country to rescue the one who is in immanent danger. The lost one is enormously important to Him.

If I align my heart with His, then I, too, must be willing to risk all to rescue the lost one from danger.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35, ESV

What would I risk to find the lost? What would you risk?

Looking ahead I have to consider Jesus’ words and count the cost. I have to daily be willing to risk the personal safety, agenda, and happiness of me and mine in order to complete the search-and-rescue mission Jesus has sent me on.

Our specific mission is to Papua New Guinea, to the Somau Garia people, to translate the New Testament into their heart language. Many Somau Garia will not know Him until they are able to come to know Him in the language that speaks to their heart.

Many of you have a call to these people, too, though it not be to physically be there, working alongside them in the day to day grind. Many of you have a call to risk yourselves in prayer, in providing resources to insure that each and every Somau Garia speaker has opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. What would you risk to find the lost?

Rescue the Perishing!
Please consider partnering with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending our family out  on a search and rescue mission to the lost ones among the Somau Garia. You can partner in prayer by clicking here. Your prayers are vital to success in this God-given, high impact mission. You can partner in financial provision by clicking here, which will take you to our donate page.

Please join us in the battle to shake the gates of hell in this generation!

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Day 23: Entering into Rest

Have you ever read these well known words from Hebrews 4:12-13?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and 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.

Because these verses are plucked from their context, the fuller impact of what they are saying is lost. The prior discussion is about . . . rest of all things. The writer speaks of those who do not enter rest and those who do. Two conditions are specifically mentioned which characterize those who do not enter God’s rest: disobedience springing from disbelief. The writer exhorts the reader to make every effort to enter His rest.

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

The writer indicates that those who did not enter into God’s rest saw the works, the miracles that He did in the wilderness and yet they longed to return to Egypt where, though their labor was heavy, there were leeks and onions in every pot. They trusted in their Egyptian slave masters more than they trusted in the Almighty, who had delivered them from the Egyptian army, who had fed them manna and quail, who had given them water from a rock. His tabernacle was in the midst of this people. They could physically see his presence and discern his leading. There was no ambiguity and yet the did not believe He would deliver them to the place of Promise. They hardened their hearts against Him and they fell in the wilderness. They did not enter the Promised Land, though their children did. They did not enter into the promised rest.

We walk in the wilderness today. Though we have the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures in our heart language, and perhaps the most advanced technology of any time or place, we are tempted to follow the world system to a falsely promised land of security and peace. We hear these promises at every turn. Yet, as believers, our inheritance, our security, our protector, our deliverer is not in Washington D.C., 10 Downing Street, the Kremlin, or Beijing. Our Deliverer calls us forth with Word and Spirit.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

What was it the Psalmist sang?

I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.The sun will not strike you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

Oh, that Israel would have sang this song in the desert. Their disbelief did not allow them. What was it that sprouted such disbelief?

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hence we come to verses twelve and thirteen. The writer rightly points out that striving to enter rest is inextricably linked to allowing the word of God to do spiritual surgery in your life, by the Spirit, so that when our hearts will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The word of God roots out the deepest, most deceitfully hidden sin in our lives and exposes it. If we are not deceived by sin, by the word we are able to recognize it for what it is and to confess, repent, and lay it all down at the feet of him who is Lord of our hearts. Sin has no opportunity to harden if the Spirit of God and the word of God are continually tenderizing our hearts.

The importance of God’s word in faith and life, even in the ability to enter God’s rest, cannot be denied. Is it not vitally important, then, to insure that those lacking the word of God in their heart language gain access to it?

Grant Access to the Word!
You can be part of the process of granting access to the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea. Firstly, you can join a team of praying believers, crying out to God to provide his word to these people. To do so, click here to drop us an email letting us know of your desire to do so. Secondly, you can add financial resource to your prayers, enabling Pioneer Bible Translators to send us out to Papua New Guinea to finish translating the remaining twenty-six books of the New Testament. To join the provision team either on a regular basis or with a one-time, year-end gift, click here.

Thank you for reading and thank you for contributing to the process of granting access to the most vital resource in history of a people: the Word of God.

 

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Day 22: Grace and Truth

We bought a GMC Suburban for a few reasons: winter driving (ours is 4 x 4) and 8 seats plus cargo room to boot. Missionaries drive a lot of miles while in the U.S. and face a lot of different kinds of road conditions. Parents, what do you do on long road trips (sometimes spending days or weeks at a time traveling)? Playing the “silent” game only lasts for so long. The license plate game becomes the billboard game becomes “I Spy” . . .  Focus on the Family did our family a favor when they started producing the Focus on the Family Radio Theater series on compact disc. Utilizing professional actors, they dramatized beloved stories like Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. One of my favorites of all, though, was their excellent interpretation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

The story, which takes place in early 19th century France, involves the tenuous relationship between Jean Valjean and police Inspector Javert. Valjean was a man given a 19-year sentence of hard labor for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread to stave off hunger. The story opens with Valjean, having been released on parole, being offered shelter by a Catholic priest. He receives the hospitality by stealing the priest’s silver and fleeing. He is caught by the police and returned to the priest. The priest disappears into a room and brings two expensive silver candle stick holders. Giving them to Valjean, along with the silver, he asks only one thing: “Take the silver and use it to become an honest man.” Broken, Valjean vows, “Another story must begin . . .” Slipping away into the night (and away from the police), he takes on a new identity and becomes not only an honest man, but one who lives a life of radical grace and generosity.

Javert acts only according to a sense of justice devoid of mercy. He is more a caricature than a character, considering Valjean’s 19-year sentence as appropriate for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread. He was completely blind to the transforming power of grace, believing that mercy perverts justice.

As much as the transformation of Valjean leaves a warm feeling in the heart, Inspector Javert leaves one feeling very cold. His character can be simplified into one word: “Yuck!”

Many cultures in the world operate by a system that would make Javert a very happy man. Somau Garia traditional culture is essentially a collection of taboos and rituals. Supernatural beings, including local, lesser deities, wild spirits, the recently dead, and other cavalier beings enslave these people in a system of laws and taboos that lead only to one reality: fear. Walking through the bush involves paying close attention to the taboos and spirits of that place. The slightest transgression must be corrected lest the spirits pour out inordinately harsh acts of wrath and punishment. Grace does not exist in this system. The system is characterized by a lot of guesswork and visits to the local shaman. Peace does not exist. Cavalier and contrary spirits can change the rules any time they like–without notification. In a word: “Yuck!”

Jean Valjean’s character is a beautiful picture of a man who experienced the power of two realities: grace and truth. The priest never indicated that Valjean was anything but a thief and a powerful, violent man. Yet, the priest knew that if Valjean were exposed to radical grace, God just might allow the old story to close, and allow a new story to begin. . .

John, perhaps said it best in John 1:17, “For the law was given through; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” A bit earlier in the passage, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.

True grace does not deny uncomfortable realities and doesn’t lead us to believe that we are not guilty. True grace looks our guilt in the eye and then deals with it–radically. Truth, the kind that brings us into intimate relationship with Christ, is revealed to us with clarity and detail in the Bible, which is best understood and obeyed when it is given in the language that speaks to our hearts.

The Somau Garia have had but a taste of the gospel in the language of their hearts–The Gospel of Mark, in circulation since Easter Sunday, 2007. Twenty-six books remain to be translated. Truth remains to be grafted into the hearts of the Somau Garia. The transforming power of the gospel is only a few short years away from being accessible.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Join Us!
Would you join with Pioneer Bible Translators, the Owen family, and the group of current ministry partners in getting the Word out to the Somau Garia people? Clicking here will connect you with us by email to get you signed up for the prayer team. Clicking here will take you to our Donate page, which will acquaint you with how to financially partner with PBT in the transformational, high-impact ministry.

Thank you for your involvement!

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Day 21: The Pregnant Virgin, the Tabernacle and World Mission

Mary was troubled by Gabriel’s words. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” She couldn’t decide whether or not this was a welcome greeting. If she was troubled by these words, she would have been more troubled by the words to come, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” She was chewing on it. Perhaps after a moment, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary was clearly an obedient daughter of Abraham, yielded to the Lord and yet she was given some information by a supernatural being that was at once troubling and puzzling. Her worldview, her character, her sense of morality all railed against the idea that she would become pregnant–she was unmarried and would never willingly cross that line. Yet, her obedient and loving heart toward Elohim would not allow her to dismiss this message outright, so she asked the question. The answer was tender and gracious: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.”

This response ministered to Mary’s heart on many levels. The imagery of the response would have brought to Mary’s mind the imagery of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” Exodus 40:34-38, ESV.

The cloud was overshadowing Mary’s life on the outside, the fire of his glory within her womb. The imagery reinforced to Mary: “The Lord is with you in holiness, in glory, in power, and in leading.” Shortly thereafter Gabriel revealed another comforting fact: “Your old cousin Elizabeth, though she’s been barren her whole life, is pregnant in her old age. Nothing is impossible with God.

This passage seems to dispel a number of misunderstandings about taking the gospel across cultural boundaries:

Myth #1: A person will always interpret God through the lens of their own worldview.

Worldview exercises a powerful influence on how we think and how we interpret that which is hard (or impossible) to explain. However, Mary, while considering the implications of her worldview, listened to the angelic message and evaluated it based upon God’s character and promise. In the end, she behaved counter to her culture/worldview in obedience to God.

Likewise, each of us or those to whom we go can choose to evaluate situations that are puzzling based not merely on reason alone, but also on the evidence of God’s character and promise. God’s character and promises are revealed in His Word. The crux of the problem for many peoples, especially those who do not have access to the Word in a language that speaks to their heart, is that this revelation remains largely concealed to them. They cannot take it in and so they are left to their presuppositions about life. The message from Gabriel to Mary was given in the context of an extensive familiarity with the Old Testament. What of these unreached peoples? Will they be able to step outside the worldview in lieu of revealed Truth?

Myth #2: God will only work through what we deem to be reasonable and respectable to accomplish his purposes.

How reasonable or respectable is it to expect an unmarried virgin to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah? Wouldn’t it have made more sense not to shame this favored, obedient daughter of Israel rather than expose her to the shame she endured as everyone assumed that her “angel” story was a fabrication designed to cover up out-of-wedlock fornication? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make his coming a little bit more culturally acceptable? Clearly God had something different in mind.

Wouldn’t it have been more reasonable, even respectable, to simply take a Somau Garia speaker from among them, either give him the gift of interpretation or send him off to school somewhere in America or Europe and return him to Papua New Guinea to translate the Scriptures? What sense does it make to send American, urban, bookish Christians to do this job? Clearly God had something different in mind.

Myth #3: Our service will be without trouble, our obedience easy and reasonable, his purpose in any particular situation clear.

Mary didn’t seem to react that Gabriel was there, but was troubled that he was there with a message from God for her. It made her uncomfortable and afraid. Her obedience exposed her to the shame, derision, and rejection as she faced sneers and gossip and even the possibility of stoning as Nazarene society assumed that she was wrongly pregnant out of wedlock.

Most of us find that Jesus’ later promise that that there would be trouble in this life to be true. Obedience usually costs us something. While his general purpose is clear, his specific purpose can be rather vague. This is no less true for those obeying the call to translate the Bible. It is also no less true for those Papua New Guineans who choose to work with us. They face troubles, rejection, and opposition on a regular basis.

I will close this post with Gabriel’s observation: “Nothing is impossible with God.”

God can and does break through our worldview, our reason, and our method to establish and fulfill his Kingdom purpose. He enables us to live outside of our experience to bring his plan to be. His purpose will not be thwarted. Aligned with his purpose, we can shake the gates of Hell!

Join the Team!

To Join the Prayer Team, click here.

To Join the Provision Team, click here.

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Day 20: Understanding the Unfamiliar

Sometimes our experience exceeds our ability to describe it. I remember sitting in the grass one afternoon in Uria Village, whiling away the hours talking with friends. There is a lot of curiosity towards our upbringing as we are obviously foreign to most Papua New Guineans. They were asking what winter was like. Uria Village sits 5 degrees 28 minutes south of the equator. It is situated on a small plateau on the side of a jungle covered mountain. It rains around 200 inches of rain during an average year, sometimes more. The temperature, depending upon wet or dry season varies from the mid to upper nineties during the day to the mid-to lower 70’s at night. The humidity hovers between 80% and 100%. In dry season the humidity can drop as low as 55% to 60%–which is when our skin starts cracking open and becoming chapped from the lack of moisture (seriously).  How does one explain an upper Midwest winter? 

The Somau Garia are known in anthropological circles as a textbook example of cargo cult. In the 1940’s they witnessed the edges of the Japanese occupation of New Guinea. Fighters and bombers buzzed overhead, the Japanese forces placed anti-aircraft batteries on some of the neighboring mountain tops to shoot down Allied air power. They saw tanks and jeeps and aircraft and it made little to no sense to most. In the 1950’s a powerful leader named Yali gathered a following by spreading a myth about two brothers, one white and one black, who had a disagreement. According to the myth, the white brother left and went to Australia where he learned the magic necessary to produce things like cars and other manufactured goods. The black brother stayed behind in New Guinea where he preserved the traditional ways. According to the myth, the white brother will someday return, bringing the secret ritual needed to magically produce the cargo (manufactured goods). Yali claimed that the prophecy had been fulfilled and that the coming of cars, aircraft, tractors, trade goods (like machetes, shovels, steel cooking pots, stoves, etc.) were the evidence. Yali, among others, had seen things that he did not understand and came up with an explanation based on his culture and experience. His cult became so disruptive to local society that Australian administration officials flew Yali to Australia and had him tour an automotive factory. Rather than being convinced of his error, he came back to New Guinea more convinced than ever of his cargo ideas.

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The cargo myth remains to this day with many Somau Garia-speaking people. The people holding to this myth seek to gain access to manufactured goods through use of ritual; what we in the West would call magic. They consider access to manufactured goods as evidence of spiritual superiority and advantage. They consider Christianity as a means to discover the secret to the cargo. Not all Somau Garia people hold to this notion, but many influential Somau Garia people do.

There is no single, simple way to correct this error. It is a multi-faceted problem. However, the first step is to offer Truth. Truth, as revealed in the Scriptures, offers a hope that transcends possessions, position, health, etc. Truth, as found in the Scriptures, has the best chance of being integrated into life if it exists in the language that speaks to the heart. The Holy Spirit will use the Scripture to convict, to correct, to rebuke, and bring those folks to repentance.

Of all sins, we Western Christians surely understand the destructive lie that goods will give us what we need for peace and happiness. Though we know that they never will, we still fall prey to the false hope that they might.

Get the Word Out!
Would you like to bring Truth to the Somau Garia people? There are two primary ways you can do so. First, you can click here to join the prayer team, interceding for the needs of our ministry and of the Somau Garia people. This is a vital ministry that cannot be ignored. Second, you can click here to add financial support to your prayers, either as a monthly partner or with a one-time gift to help offset expenses incurred in getting to Papua New Guinea and getting moving again. Without your financial support, Pioneer Bible Translators cannot send us to Papua New Guinea to engage in this vital ministry.

Thank you for prayerfully considering partnership with us.

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Days 18 & 19: Oneness

When we first started traveling to Papua New Guinea, friends and family could wait at the gate with you while you waited for your flight. I miss that. We would be leaving for three years at a time and we appreciated the ability to linger with loved ones just a little longer.

I’ll never forget the day in 2000 when we were at our gate. There were the expected tears, hugs, and goodbyes. My dad, a quiet man who didn’t talk much about what he was feeling, walked up to me and grabbed me around the neck. He leaned in close and said quietly in my ear, “I love you, Son.” Those were the last words I would ever hear from him. He died while we were on the field, expecting us to bring him home not one new grandbaby, but two. I needed those words. I still do.

John 17 takes us inside an intimate moment that Jesus had with his Father as he prepared to depart the earth by the rough road of crucifixion. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” On his heart was oneness, unity. It was a tender moment of Jesus crying out for all those who would follow him.

I believe that his prayers been answered in some unexpected ways. The Somau Garia people, with whom we worked for ten years, highly value oneness in their culture–to the degree that they safeguard it with taboos, laws, village courts, etc. For example, adultery is an offense that must be dealt with publicly, with recompense, in village court. Broken relationships, to some degree, are restored through societal mechanisms and pressures. Land rights and boundaries are closely guarded as they represent life and the ability to care for one’s family. Each kind of offence in their society has an appropriate means of restoring societal conciliation or oneness.

This value, this inner pressure extends to the spirit realm and much of the more esoteric culture is meant to restore oneness between offended spirits and the people who offend. In Somau Garia society the recently dead are still part of daily life for some time before they pass into the land where the long dead dwell. Hence, much is done to keep the recently dead, the local deities, and other supernatural beings appeased and of one purpose with the people (rather than being at odds–dangerously so–with the people).

Eating together is one way to signal a restoration of unity

Eating together is one way to signal a restoration of unity

Herein lies great opportunity for the Word of God to enter this culture with power. The gospel is about God taking the initiative to reconcile the world to himself. Jesus prayed that all those who would follow him in ages to come would be one in heart. He prayed that in doing so we would be one with him. The opportunity here is to introduce the meme into Somau Garia culture that the Creator God himself is not distant, but intimately involved in daily life (rather than those daily duties being left to lesser deities) and that He has not only been offended, but has provided the means to bring unity once again. Access to the Word of God is essential to validate this notion to these folks, that they might respond to Him willingly, repenting of their sins, accepting the gift of grace, being washed, dying with Jesus and being raised to new life in Him. What an opportunity!

What an Opportunity!
Would you like to be part of the team that makes the most of this opportunity? You can click here to join the prayer team, praying for our family and for the Somau Garia who do and will believe on Jesus. You can click here to put financial partnership with your prayers to enable Pioneer Bible Translators to send us back to Papua New Guinea to finish what we started all those years ago.

Keep the prayers going up! If you know of friends or church who you think might be interested in being involved in our ministry, click here to write us. Thanks!

 

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Please Pray: December 10, 2013

December 3 we asked for special prayer, noting that the level of spiritual warfare had greatly increased since beginning this 40 day season. This week we ask that you continue to pray with increased fervor. We are indeed beginning to experience some relief from the intense onslaught, though admittedly it feels as though it might be the deep breath before the plunge into deeper water. Please pray.

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As you pray:

  • Ask God for victory over the deceiver who desires only to kill, steal, and destroy.
  • Ask God to empower and thoroughly equip us spiritually to stand in the evil day and to overcome the enemy by our testimony and by the blood of Jesus.
  • Ask God to give us wisdom and boldness to invest ourselves in activities and strategies that will accomplish God’s purposes for this ministry.
  • Ask God to provide for the needs of our ministry, that we might be able to leave for Papua New Guinea in July 2014.
  • Thank God for his mercy and kindness to us in providing a $100 per month ministry partner this week.
  • Thank God for providing new prayer partners this week.
  • Thank God for carrying us through trial and tribulation and bringing us safely thus far.

Thank you, friends, for your ongoing prayers.

 

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Day 17: Worship and the Meaning of Life

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I remember one Sunday morning that was at once confusing and altogether clear. The garamut (a drum made by taking a log, laying it on its side, carving a resonance chamber out of the middle, firing it (to help preserve it), and ritually carving it in the shape of a totem) had already been sounded the third time, indicating that it was time for our church meeting to start. While waiting for attendees to file in, my elderly neighbor approached dressed only in a malo, a sort of g-string fashioned from pounded tree fibers, with a flap hanging in front for modesty. Malos are traditional clothing that men usually only wear during feast times or special celebrations. He was dressed in full regalia. Confused, I asked the question, “Why the malo this morning?” His response was that he was wearing this attire to honor his ancestors–to honor and keep their ways.

His belief system, his worship of local deities and their underlying demands, drove him to forcefully remind his fellow Somau Garia of the ongoing interaction of the recently dead, the need for appeasement of them, and the overwhelming caution not to accept Jesus Christ, lest they offend the local gods.

Our worship defines the parameters of our action, the extent of our risk, the flavor of our character. The extent to which we worship, who we worship, even why we worship will cause us to live, as the Steve Camp song says, “dangerously in the hands of God”, allowing others to think us crazy, allowing others to reject and despise and even attack us. Shaking the gates of hell is risky business in a word devoted to everything but God. There in Uria Village that day, I was reminded that we were ministering in hostile territory, that there were some folks there that felt threatened by the Gospel and that they were willing to risk derision and danger to preserve the object of their worship.

The big question that people of every generation asks is “Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?” What and how we worship reveals our understanding of ultimate meaning. Sometimes folks say that they worship something (God is a good example) yet their behavior says otherwise. This is a folk belief. Watch how a person expends their energy, notice the things they talk much about , watch how they treat others and how they use resources and a picture of their true belief will emerge.

My friend wearing the very uncomfortable attire that Sunday morning believed in the power of the spirits of the place and of the recently dead to the extent that he took an enormous risk to win back the hearts of those who were going over to Jesus. Even though he attended church often, his real belief was based upon traditional tribal religion.

We in the West struggle with the tension between folk religion and true religion as much as an animist. We follow a God who left heaven and put on flesh in order to become both the perfect high priest and the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We follow a God who loves humility and despises pride. God’s character, speech, and action all indicate self-sacrifice for the good of others. Yet, we in the West have been distracted by our super-culture, one which is based on pride, self-aggrandizement, and pursuit of more. Even the character of many of our churches falls very much in line with this folk belief that God rewards those who work harder, get smarter, and are physically healthier than the next person. We resist the concept of “living dangerously in the hands of God.” Our ability to focus on our own “achievements” causes us to lose focus on God derived meaning. I struggle with this tension as much as anyone.

However, I am not excused from surrendering to God’s true character and desire for me, recognizing it for what it is–selfless, self-sacrificing, and reconciliatory–that is, God reconciling the world back to himself. Therefore I am called to live abandoned to God, living dangerously in His hands, risking derision, danger, even death, if need be, to make Him known. I worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus was despised and rejected and killed and yet he lives. He is the object of my worship. That worship is the meaning of my life.

Live Dangerously in the Hands of God
I can worship Him in such a way because I have been given every chance to know his true character because He revealed himself to me (all of us) in his Word. I have access to his Word in my heart language. The Somau Garia do not. What would you do to help insure that they have the same opportunity that we have to know Him by his Word? Click here to join us in prayer, interceding as our High Priest does continually for these people. Click here to add finances to your prayers, contributing to Pioneer Bible Translator’s ability to send us to Papua New Guinea to get the job done.

Thank you for reading, for praying, for wrestling with the tension!

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Day 16: Burdens

I am the father of five children. I have walked alongside my wife through each those pregnancies, massaging her back, helping with chores, helping her get up off of those unbelievably low slung couches that seem to be in just about every living room I’ve ever sat in. I felt a deep compassion for the limitations that my wife endured while pregnant. Though I was there to care for and help her through the changes, she was carrying the heaviest burden that left nothing in her life untouched.

baby in a bilum

It was always astounding to watch Somau Garia women come and go from the village–leaving the village with a little laundry and a few pots, returning late in the day with quite a different burden. Often, a line of women could be seen traversing the soccer field with multiple layers of string-bags called bilum slung over their heads, filled to capacity. On the bottom, a full load of garden food. On top of that a load of fire wood. On top of that the cleaned cooking pots. On top of that laundered clothing. And on top and outside, a baby, swaying back and forth, rocked to sleep on the long walk home. All of them suspended from the woman’s forehead by the strap of the bilum.

The burdens most of us carry don’t show so much as these. The only signs of our burdens are a telling look of tiredness in the eyes, a slump of the shoulders and a defeated stride in our walk. Perhaps it shows in a sigh behind a closed door or a desperate prayer uttered in the middle of the night. In our times of desperation, defeat, and troubled hearts, we have a place to go to bring light into our darkness, strength to our sagging spirits, boldness to our eyes: the Word of God (and prayer, of course). Most of us have the Word of God in the language of our heart, in several versions, translated for different groups of people (like children, new readers, highly educated, literal, free . . .). We can pick up our Bible in the watches of the night and find truth to correct our false perceptions. We can pick up our Bibles and find hope. We can also find passages like Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” We can lay our burdens upon the One who carried our burdens, our sins, our troubles, our transgressions, our punishment. We can find rest from the burdens.

What of those who do not have the Word in their heart language? What do they do with those hidden burdens that are much harder to see? Where do they go in the watches of the night? At noonday? What do they do to find respite and refreshment? Can we help them?

Lift the Burden!
I strongly encourage you to make a difference in the future of an entire people in this regard. You can make a difference. You can shake the gates of Hell in doing so! First, you can pray. To pray with specificity and impact, I encourage you to join the prayer team. Click here to drop us an email letting us know of your intention to partner with us in prayer. You can add financial resources to your prayers by clicking here, which will take you to our Donate page. Your partnership with Pioneer Bible Translators will enable them to send us out to Papua New Guinea to directly intervene in this situation by translating the New Testament into the Somau Garia language.

Thank you for your prayers and support!