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Light from Broken Lamps

My friend, Lim, came sauntering up to the house one afternoon carrying an old kerosene lantern. He often stopped by to chat in the late afternoon. “Brother Todd, could you help me fix my lantern?”

Of all the skills I had to acquire to thrive in a jungle village, fixing leaky kerosene lamps wasn’t one. Like most Westerners, I’d probably just go buy another rather than fix it. They are relatively cheap. On the other hand, I might learn something. I suspected that he knew how to fix it, just didn’t have the stuff.

“Sure, Lim. What’s the problem?” “It’s leaking right here (he said as he pointed to the seam along the base.” “Any idea how to sort it out? I painted it last time.” The verb “paint” is about as ambiguous in the trade language as it is in English. We can speak of painting something with oil, paint, or even medicine when speaking of treating a wound. I was trying to figure out what he was getting at. We walked into my little workshop and started looking around. He picked up a can of paint: oil-based paint that becomes gummy when it dries. Clever. I never would have that of that one.

Outside in the breeze we started brushing paint around the bottom of Lim’s oil lamp. He grinned at me. I suppose he’d had similar experiences when trying to teach his children lessons that seem so straightforward to an adult. We set the lamp aside to dry and took up the real work of the day, talking about what was going on around the village, in Lim’s life, and eternity.

I’ve often thought of Lim’s leaky lamp since then. When you only make a few hundred dollars a year, kerosene is an expensive commodity. How sad and stressful it is to watch it drip down the side of your lamp and spill onto the ground, especially with such an easy, if unorthodox, fix.

Missionaries, especially in the kinds of remote areas where many Bible translators work, can be isolated for months at a time. Spiritual nurture is rarely external. Maintenance of the inner life can be costly and precious. Stress mounts: sometimes cultural; sometimes emotional; sometimes interpersonal; as often as not physical (sickness). Whatever the cause, the lamp of life tends to spring leaks and the precious flow of Oil drips out the bottom instead of feeding the flame.

The servant of Jesus must pay attention to the condition of the vessel. Where are there leaks? How large? Can I plug them or do I need help? Where can I find help? The servant’s life must be filled with the life-giving flow on a regular basis, lest the light dwindle to mere shadow.

Following are a few Bible verses that may help fan the flame and give the servant an advantage.


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.” –Psalm 121:1-2, ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer 0f faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”–James 4:13-16, ESV

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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.

storm clouds gathering

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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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 21

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 21

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .” –Matthew 28:18-20

On Jesus’ authority alone we are given marching orders—a commission to go and make followers for Jesus from all nations. On one side are senders sending out the ones who go. It takes both senders and goers for this commission to be fulfilled. Ask God to break through the barrier of resourcing. He has called many to send and many will not. He has called many to go and many will not. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. The harvest is plentiful! But the workers are few!

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 20

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 20

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in from of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'” –Revelation 7:9-10

The Somau Garia people are a people with a unique culture and language and purpose given them by God for his glory. Ask God to break through the barrier of hardened hearts to bring a remnant of this people into that great throng gathered before the throne in heaven.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 19

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 19

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” –Ephesians 4:1

Missionaries are called to a very different life than most people. The pressures and ongoing stress can push the missionary to the limit. Yet, we are exhorted to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and longsuffering in love. Ask God to break through the barrier of weakness that would allow us to live less than to our calling. Ask God to intercede in our hearts, minds, and bodies in such a way as to reflect the glory and majesty of Jesus from fragile and broken vessels.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 18

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 18

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” –Ephesians 6:10-12

The ten years we were living in Papua New Guinea were pocked with the craters and scars of intense spiritual battle. Ask God to strengthen us against the evil day, to give us wisdom and insight into how to employ the armor of God, to grant us victory over the darkness that looms on the horizon.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 17

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 17

“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now God has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” –2 Corinthians 5:2-5

Ask God to break through the barrier of hopelessness. Somau Garia culture reflects a fatalism and uncertainty about life after the grave. Ask God to show them, by his Spirit, life both now and forevermore.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 16

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 16

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” –Revelation 21:4

Burned into our souls is the sound of mothers wailing over dead infants or young fathers destroyed by disease or violence. Fear, anger, and ritual bubble up from a fountain of grief. Ask God to break through the barrier of mourning and pain to show his gentleness, mercy, and power over death to these people made in the image of God for his glory. Ask God to fill Somau GAria hearts with the hope of redemption, with the dream of heaven, with the reality of the Comforter imbuing them with life.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 15

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 15

“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” –Colossians 4:3

It is God who opens doors that no man can shut (Revelation 3:8) and it is right and good to ask him to open the door for the message of the mystery of Christ. The Somau Garia people are a passionate and influential people. If the door stood open for Jesus to come into their hearts and dine with them (those who would open the door to him), thanksgiving would ring out and the gospel would spread in every direction across northern New Guinea. Ask God to open the door for our message, that Jesus’ name will be held in high esteem all across New Guinea.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 14

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 14

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” –2 Thessalonians 3:2-3

Violence takes many forms—people hurting other people, earthquakes shaking the ground, traffic accidents, etc. The Somau Garia people have known many tragedies due to violence either visited upon them or that they have visited on others. Ask God to break through the barrier of violence that creates an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in many Somau Garia speakers. Ask God to grant his peace and forgiveness to those who would harm others.