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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 9

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 9

 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” –1 John 4:18

The long history of false gods and bodange to shamanic religion has created a fatalistic fear in Somau Garia (and many other Melanesian) culture. There is an ever-present fear of reprisal for breaking taboos. Examples of reprisal: being waylaid and consumed by demon monsters en route to the place of the dead, sudden death while sleeping, sickness, or ruined crops. Ask God to break through the barrier of fear to establish the reality of his love for the Somau Garia people.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 8

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“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions . . .” –Galatians 5:19-20

All mankind has at one time lived in the flesh. Where idolatry (e.g, bush god) worship is present, a priesthood of those gods’ devotees is also present. Among our closest neighbors lived five shamans (people who use ritual to manipulate the non-physical realm)–some claiming to do good, some evil. Ask God to break through the barrier of sorcery and the bondage it creates in peoples’ lives. Ask God to set the Somau Garia free of bondage, freeing them by the Truth of the Word.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 7

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“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God . . .” –1 Thessalonians 1:9

Somau Garia culture is populated by numerous “bush gods” who hold many devotees to this day. Fear reigns supreme in many peoples’ lives. Ask God to break through barriers of old bondanges and allegiances to false gods. Pray that through coming into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus, fear will flee and our friends will walk in freedom and joy.

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Breaking Through the Barriers–Day 6

Breaking Through the Barriers Graphic Day 6

“The word of God is living and active . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”–Hebrews 4:12

Garia Mark for Web

The Gospel According to Mark (see above) has been available in the Somau Garia language since 2007. Ask God to break through the ignorance of his word, his character, his power, his salvation by means of this slender little book. Ask God to break through the barriers of illiteracy  and inaccessibility to his word that these precious men, women, and children might know Him who died for them.

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Hope Amidst Chaos

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

Isaiah 41:19 – 20 reads:

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

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

A blue heron among the cypress trees.

A blue heron among the cypress trees.

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

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

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

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

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

What an opportunity lies before all of us.

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

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

How Best to Partner:

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

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

 

 

 

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Please Pray–May 20, 2014

There is movement in heavenly places, as there has been for some time in regards to making the New Testament accessible to the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea. There has been more visible evidence of that movement in our lives lately. Momentum is building and things are starting to move forward at a healthy pace here. It is more important than ever that we bring prayer to bear on this season of ministry–as we ramp up to moving overseas.

Sunrise, first day of the week, Atlantic Ocean, Florida coast, rejoicing in the Lord.

Sunrise, first day of the week, Atlantic Ocean, Florida coast, rejoicing in the Lord.

  • Pray that God will continue to make us aware of churches or groups of people that He wants to join us in this historic opportunity to make the New Testament accessible to the Somau Gare people.
  • Pray that we will exercise wisdom and discernment in knowing how best to convey the blessing, opportunity, and benefit to the Kingdom of God in seeing this through.
  • Pray that there will be no hindrance to getting on the field this year.
  • Thank God for allowing us to see the movement in the heavenly places and to be encouraged by it.
  • Thank God for moving in the hearts of men and women, in churches and families to provide for this vital need.
  • Thank God for showing us the full extent of his love in both the death of Jesus–and his resurrection.
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Please Pray–April 29, 2014

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Imagine being stranded on a desert island in the middle of the south seas. You find two crates ashore. One contains three years’ worth of MRE’s (Meal-Ready to Eat: self-heating, preserved complete meals). The other crate contains only Bibles.

You have nothing to do but make your hut, build a signal fire, and wait for a rescue. You rip open an MRE, activate the little heater in it, and find some shade. You’ve never read the Bible before, though you’ve heard of it. You figure that it is good to simply start reading what appears to be the main text. Page 1. “In the beginning . . .”

The story grips you and you hang with it day after day, sipping coconuts, reading the Old Testament. Malachi ends the section marked “Old Testament.”

Do you think you’d have any idea that 1) the Lord would send a rescuer to his people? 2) that the rescuer would not be a political rescuer, but one who would rescue people from death itself? 3) that this rescuer would restore the relationship clearly broken between Adam and all his descendents and Jehovah?

If not, then check out this verse recorded by the prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  – Isaiah 25:7-8, ESV

The imagery used here reveals generosity, compassion, commitment, and ability to right our wrongs and restore to perfection what was broken by our sin and rebellion. He even goes so far as to get involved personally–swallowing up death. Death! What smothers all of mankind our Father is able to remove! Hallelujah! Furthermore, He has spoken to us by His Word and His Word is final. Death is removed, its sting no longer potent.

How fitting that God should turn our eyes to this passage in relation to missional prayer. In the Old Testament, God promised to swallow death up and wipe away every tear. Amen! In the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of that promise in Jesus, the Final Word. Notice:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. –Revelation 21:3-4, ESV

Please pray with us with this aspect of God’s character firmly in our spirits.

  • Ask God to open the eyes of the Somau Garia speakers who do not know him to the reality that He alone can take away their fear of death and the realm of the dead that so many fear.
  • Ask God to open the doors for the completion of the translation of the New Testament in the Somau Garia language. The Gospel According to Mark is in use, the rest of the NT remains to be translated.
  • Ask God to provide for our return to PNG in His time, in His power, for His purpose.
  • Thank God for people who are hard at work drafting and preparing further books for translation.
  • Thank God for mission partners who currently support this ministry.
  • Praise God for his compassion, for using his power to reconcile, heal, comfort, and establish his followers with life.

Many thanks to those of you who are moving with us into the trenches, standing in the gap, making intercession for a people whom God loves and desires to redeem.

Blessings!

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Prayer Update–April 22, 2014

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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

Furthermore,

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!

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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

Strategy

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.

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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.