Fear’s Funeral Dirge

“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

Revelation 1:17-18, NLT

What is your experience like when you sit down with a hot drink and an open Bible? Why do you go there? What do you hope to draw out of the word?

Sometimes I come to the Scriptures hungry and needy and melancholy and desperate. I have waited too long and now I come, realizing that I am not enough. Ever. I come wondering if my lingering delay has damaged intimacy with Him. I come realizing that the depth of my own dysfunction clouds my thinking and incites fears that need not persist.

Pushing my fears aside and choosing to believe the Truth, I open my Bible, and then . . .

There is a tremor in my spirit. All my longings are concentrated into a single moment and I am confronted with holiness. I am in the presence of the Ancient of Days, the One Now Living, and the One Who Is to Come. There is no other like Him.

In His presence, I am completely exposed for who I really am. There can be no pretense. It is risky to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the God Who Sees Me. I must come to Him honestly, candidly—nothing to hide—ready to admit all, confess all, release all. He is the Lord. I am His servant. It must be so, for I am a missionary who lives from day to day in a country not my own, living and working in someone else’s culture and language, trying desperately to make it possible for them to come to the Scriptures and experience God through the word in their heart language.

Yet sometimes fear sings fortissimo. I need it to sing fortepiano. I need my spirit to not be overcome by the volume and painful pitch of fear in a situation, but to immediately quiet it to little more than a whisper in the background. Fear sings its loudest dirge when death is at hand, like in the days following my oldest brother’s death a few months ago. A mere fifty-six years old, he died in the night, sitting in his favorite chair, alone, of a heart attack. I am not much younger . . .

The Scriptures teach me much about life after death, but the experience of death remains a mystery. Before I moved to Papua New Guinea I had images of this beautiful land fixed in my mind. There was something magical about the imagined New Guinea. But the imaginary New Guinea lacked the intense heat and suffocating humidity, the pungent smells, the sounds of a thousand tongues and the complex relationships that must be cultivated in order for Jesus to be known here. It was but a dream. Even though I had talked often with others who had long lived here, the experience was still not my own.

Some of the images used in this composite are courtesy of

I talk with Jesus about death. I must. He’s been through it and this is what he says to me about it: “Don’t be afraid! I died, but I am alive—forevermore!” That tremor returns to my spirit. I am in the presence of Someone so holy and powerful that death itself has no hold on Him. I am overwhelmed with awe. But He’s not finished: “I hold the keys to death and the grave.”

Courage, dear friend. Courage! When the deceiver threatens your very life, take courage in the fact that death has no sting and the enemy of our souls is not in charge. Jesus alone holds the keys. You were made that you might shake the foundations of hell by shattering the deceptions and empty threats of a defeated enemy. Let the only tremor you feel in your spirit be in response to the holiness and overwhelming power of the Risen One.


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.





Prayer Update–April 22, 2014

Prayer Update Website Default Photo

There is so much to sort out in the mind, heart, and spirit when considering the resurrection of Jesus. Without it our faith is futile. Without it we have no hope. Without it we are to be pitied above all men. There are other aspects of His resurrection that are less discussed generally. Try this one on for size:

for God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control. (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)

In the resurrection of Jesus:

  • we have been given the Spirit
  • we have been empowered
  • we have been equipped to love
  • we are able to control ourselves–living beyond our passions


If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful. (2 Timothy 2:11-13, ESV)

What must we fear if we have died with him? We have victory over death through Jesus Christ: the sting of death is removed and is not the bitter pill it once was. We are no longer obligated to slavishly obey every whim of our bodies–whether that be lust or gluttony or laziness or gossip or fear or arrogance . . . We are free!

Why share these thoughts in a prayer update?

When I write the words “Pray With Us” I’m inviting you into an activity that marks you as dangerous to entities in heavenly places. The oft quoted passage is appropriate here:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God . . .  (Ephesians 6:12-13, ESV)

Believer, you must understand that Jesus has made a spectacle of these spiritual forces when He walked out of the grave. He rules at the right hand of Almighty God, riding the white horse to victory, treading out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God. We are sent forth in the name, authority, and majesty of Jesus Christ not to kill and destroy and subdue, but to conquer evil in love, purity, and spiritual power.

When you pray in alignment with the Father’s heart, you are wrestling against echelons of evil, arrayed in the whole armor of God, marching to victory.

We together must pray, must call upon the name of the Lord, must leap into the fray in the name of Jesus Christ the Risen One and shake the gates of hell in Jesus’ name!

As you pray,

  • Thank God for imbuing us with the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and death in Jesus’ name.
  • Thank God for His compassion and longsuffering patience with the nations; that He has provided a means for them to come into relationship with Him.
  • Thank God for calling us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Pray specifically for Bible translation efforts in Papua New Guinea:

  • Pray that there will be unity across ethnic boundaries–that Christians of different people groups will work together in Jesus’ name and for his glory.
  • Pray that expatriate missionaries will exercise great wisdom and discernment in serving both Jesus and the peoples of Papua New Guinea–that God’s word will be made accessible to all.
  • Pray that the Father will protect and provide for the teams that are intensely involved in the Bible translation ministry.

Mount your white horses, take up the weapons of your warfare, and fearlessly bring the battle right to the gates of hell!


Prayer Update–April 15, 2014

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.”

1 Peter 2:4-5, NLT


Not long after we set out to return to Papua New Guinea to finish translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, I sat down and ran through a little exercise . I wrote vision, mission, and strategy statements. I’ve written many over the years, whether starting a new ministry and taking one in a new direction. My Primary Strategy statement is actually my Primary Strategy word: prayer. We do lots of activity in relation to obeying the call to return to PNG, but our primary strategy is solely prayer.

Your Place in this Strategy

This puts those of you who choose to pray with us in an honored and challenging position then, doesn’t it? You’re faithfulness in prayer is a foundation stone of this ministry. Jesus himself lives forever to intercede for us and He rightly holds the place of the chief and only cornerstone. Since prayer is the central, the only strategy that has any lasting value, our participation in it is absolutely vital.


It seems then that this foundational activity is all the more effective if our prayer is focused, aligned with God’s purposes for it, established upon the chief cornerstone–Jesus. Prayer begins with assigning worth to God for his character and his deeds. It proceeds to a heartfelt gratitude to Him and flows into intercession and petition.

As you pray:

  • Thank God for faithfully pruning, cleaning, and preparing his servants–that we all might be more fruitful.
  • Thank God for providing.
  • Thank God for putting people and events in motion that will culminate in the Somau Garia people having access to the Word of God in their heart language.
  • Ask God to open doors that cannot be closed.
  • Ask God to bring to fruition his purposes for this season of ministry and life.
  • Ask God to provide for getting back on the field and actively involved in translation.
  • Ask God to protect us from harm as we proceed toward the goal of our faith.
  • Ask God to protect, provide for, and ignite passion within the hearts of the people working on the Somau Garia translation.



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.


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!



Day 27: Treasure

Imagine being intimately connected to the most powerful people in your country–people who have the power to give you access to vast wealth, insider deals, government contracts, and protection in dangerous days. Imagine having untold millions at your disposal to put to use to make yourself even more wealthy. Then imagine 1,200 faces: hollow eyes, skin pale and bodies emaciated, pleading with those hollow eyes for mercy and rescue. You can either hoard the wealth and live for yourself or rescue 1,200 people from certain death. This was Oskar Schindler’s dilemma. If you are acquainted with the now famous story of Oskar Schindler (1982 novel Schindler’s Ark1993 movie, Schindler’s List), then you know that Schindler chose the lives of 1,200 Jews over his own life.

Schindler was known as a serial adulterer, an opportunist, a dedicated Nazi who was even a Nazi spy who was jailed in 1938 on charges of spying for the Nazi government; not exactly a paragon of moral uprightness. Yet he chose  to risk his own life to rescue the Jews who worked in his factories. Schindler’s use of treasure ceased to be conspicuous consumption and became conspicuous compassion.

American Christians face a similar dilemma, though I doubt we recognize it as such. We have vast resources and opportunities. We have been given much material wealth to steward and yet we all too often confuse stewardship with ownership. The propaganda organ of the world system, a.k.a. mass media, pushes us to spend and spend and spend on ourselves. Pressured, we flip out our little plastic gods and spend even more. After all, we deserve the best. We quickly become the object of statistics like those reported by

The average US household credit card debt stands at $15,279, the result of a small number of deeply indebted households forcing up the numbers. Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes  $7,128 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $15,279.

These examples should give the Christian pause for reflection. The Christian should consider:

  • The cumulative effect of continual exposure to the maniacal message given by the world system through mass media
  • The negative impact of being financially enslaved to indebtedness
  • The negative impact that both continual media exposure and enslavement to indebtedness have on our affection for God, his Kingdom, and his priorities for our treasure.

Consider a few passages that relate to these reflections:

  • Be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (1 Peter 4:7, NIV1984)
  • For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34)
  • You are not your own, you were bought at a price. . . (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

How does Schindler’s story or the average American credit card debt relate to missions or Bible translation? Every dollar spent or charged represents an opportunity to choose to be aligned with God’s priorities for our stewardship of resources or to be aligned with the world system’s priorities for our stewardship. James is clear, “Friendship with the world is enmity toward God.” Every time we make this world’s priorities our own by choosing alignment with it, we choose to befriend the world system. Every time we choose to allow God’s priorities to be my priorities for stewardship, we choose to befriend God.

Schindler stared into the eyes of 1,200 Jews and risked everything to rescue them from the gas chambers.

Treasure . . .

Treasure . . .

There are nights when I wake, having dreamed in another language, seeing 4,000 men, women, and children in peril. Without the word of God in their heart language, they face an uncertain eternity. Angela and I are haunted by this vision of a people without access to real treasure, God’s Word, marching into eternity unprepared. This vision is double-edged, though. We are drawn along by the Spirit of God to obedience and pushed along by the possibility of eternal damnation of friends, neighbors, loved ones.

However, we cannot do it alone. Unlike Schindler, we have not amassed vast wealth to spend to rescue them. God has provided the Church, His Body, to resource this rescue, this alignment with the Great Commission in translating the New Testament into the language of their hearts.

Join the Team!
Is God drawing you? To pray? Join the prayer team and stand in the gap for these who need the Bible in their heart language. To provide? Join Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us to the Somau Garia people to complete the translation of the New Testament that we began in 1997.

Grace and Peace, Friends.


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!


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.



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!


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!

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