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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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The Time is Now . . .

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

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

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

Treasure . . .

Treasure . . .

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

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

spring forward campaign week 1 graphic

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

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

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Please Pray–28 February 2014

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Today is the last day of February. Our prayer, hope, and dream is to be back on the field in Papua New Guinea this year. Please pray with us today that God will open hearts, doors, windows, eyes, ears, networks, mailboxes–whatever it takes–to make that possible. Pray with us that we will be prepared for the opportunities ahead.

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Hope for the Hopeless

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4, ESV

Garia boy holds Book of Mark

The next generation of the Garia holding the Word of God in their hands.

While hope is found in many places, true and lasting hope is found in the Scriptures. What happens when someone doesn’t have access to the Scriptures in a language that they understand? Peter’s story (not Peter the apostle) is a somber reminder of the need for Bible translation. Enjoy a brief but important reminder of the value of access to the Scripture.

 

 

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Day 40: Blessings in the New Year

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year and blessings for 2014!

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Days 31 & 32: Pythons in the Path

Living in New Guinea has forever changed my walk.

Growing up, I suppose that the only time I really paid attention to how I (or anyone else) walked was when I was impressed with someone and wanted to imitate them. I remember in the early eighties when my brother returned from service in the Army. He had been taught to march properly, how to fight, how to be intimidating. He looked pretty spiffy in his dress uniform. I wanted him to teach me how to do push ups and PT and how to walk like a soldier. I even inherited a pair of his combat boots, which I wore to school. (This is the verbal equivalent of one of those old school pictures with over-sized glasses, acne, and big hair.)

He moved on and I grew up some. One summer I worked at the same factory as my Dad. At work Dad moved walked briskly, eyes ahead. No meandering. No loafing. It was different than at home, kind of inspiring. I packed a lunch like his, watched as he did his job; tried to be like him. He was a lot tougher than I. I lasted about a week and moved onto something really challenging: sacking groceries at a supermarket. Watching my Dad made its imprint all the same.

Then I was the Dad. I took my wife and two little boys to the second largest island in the world (next to Greenland). Gone were wide sidewalks and manicured paths through the woods I knew at state parks back home. We had arrived in the Land of the Unexpected. The paths here were steep, slick, narrow. Overgrowing them were vines, thorns, razor grass. Crawling over them were carpet pythons, scorpions, death adders, centipedes, tree pythons, and leaches. To walk these paths required a different gait, a different posture, fixing your eyes on your feet and the path, rather than the scenery all around. And that was only in the daytime.

When night fell, it was better just to not plan on walking away from central village areas. Occasionally it was necessary. In 2000, my friend Chris and I hiked throughout the length and breadth of two language areas, collecting word lists, writing observations, and trying to decide whether or not these folks were good candidates for placement of missionaries. What turned out to be the final day of the hike, we arose before sunrise and were hiking by six, eating and drinking on the trail. We were keen to get home that day and pushed hard, crossing three major mountain ridge lines and covering about 18 miles. In one day! (My one moment of glory.) We reached a village in the Somau Garia area about five in the afternoon, still needing to hike another three-and-a-half to four hours. Darkness fell.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

It’s hard to see snakes in the dark. Our Maglites put some light on the trail ahead. Better. We could now see movement in the brush. We could see wet, slippery spots in the trail. We could see the edges of the mountain. We could see the turn in the path. We could see all that we needed to see.

The Psalmist writes in 119:105:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The lamp of the Word is a needful thing in a darkened world. The dark is teeming with  creatures intent upon stopping us in our tracks.

As a believer, I have two great resources (among others) to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil. First, Jesus himself claimed (John 14:6):

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except by me.

His is an illuminated path, smooth and straight.

Second, I have the Word of God, as quoted above.

Many Somau Garia walk a darkened path, without God and without hope. Their resources are few to none. In their heart language, they have the Gospel According to Mark. Praise the Lord that this important piece of Scripture is available to them. Yet, it exists without the context that people depend so much upon to understand the whole counsel of Scripture. How will they overcome the darkness? How will they know the Way? How will they see ahead?

God has seen fit to send Angela and I back to Papua New Guinea to finish the task of translating at least the New Testament in the Somau Garia language. This is one sure way to provide at least the possibility that they might come into a life transforming relationship with the Father. I’d like to invite you to join with us in this great adventure.

Giving Light
If you’d like to join us in prayer for the transformation of the Somau Garia people, click here to drop me an email informing me of your commitment to pray along with us. If you’d like to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us out, click here to discover how you can donate to this vital work.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought or two. How has your walk been changed by the Word of God lighting your life? Do you allow the word to be a lamp for your feet and light for your path? How has the Word changed your walk?

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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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Please Pray — December 3, 2013

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By now you expect to see a photo, a story, a plea. I’m laying aside all these today in lieu of a call to prayer. Today is Day 12 of 40 days of asking God for 40 new monthly financial partners, 40 new special projects partners, and 40 prayer partners.

Rather than seeing scores of new prayer partners and financial partners, we’d say we’ve seen an increase in spiritual warfare 40 times greater than normal (how does one quantify this sort of thing?) we’ve seen the enemy attack at any and every weak spot we have and we’ve seen a hate-filled, bare-knuckles beating occur. It has been brutal. . . we can’t say that we’ve enjoyed any of it. Once upon a time we might have thought of finding the next boat to Tarsus (and away from Nineveh.)

The sheer intensity of attack is telling. We are on the road to something transformational, foundation shaking, and spiritually significant in heavenly places.

Please pray for us as we endure the challenge before us:

  • Pray that God will cause us to stand in the evil day.
  • Pray that God will give us spiritual wisdom, understanding, and discernment to know how best to overcome in this season of opposition.
  • Pray that God will indeed raise up 40 new mature and wise prayer partners to stand with us in the gap.
  • Pray that He will grant us victory in this intense spiritual battle that is being waged.
  • Thank God for mercies extended already.
  • Thank God for giving us the power to plod through intense opposition.
  • Thank God for what He is already putting together to get us from here to there.
Prayers and Provision
Of course, if you’d like to join the team of intercessors partnering with us in this spiritual battle, click here to drop us an email letting us know of your desire to join the team. If you’d like to add dollars to your prayers and invest in foundation-shaking ministry, click here to visit our Donate page.

Thanks for praying!!!

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Day 9: Finding Rest in the Daily Toil

The notion that a rooster crows when the sun comes up is largely rubbish. All the roosters I’ve ever shared real estate with are early risers that take some perverse pleasure in crowing at 3 a.m. under my house (which is on poles). The more I became accustomed to living in Uria Village, though, I realized that the insomniatic chicken was really awakened by some of our village neighbors, up and around, stirring the fire, making an early breakfast for their children, some of whom might walk two or three hours to school (and back again at the end of the day). When their kids would head off to school, they would head out for their mountainside gardens, which also might be a few hours’ walk away. The Somau Garia are mostly subsistence farmers and they must work or they will not eat. Period.

There is another toil that my friends labor under. Though I will write in more depth about it in coming posts, I will say here that my friends labor under the weight of a worldview that keeps them bound to appeasing ancestral spirits, animistic rituals, and consensus in society. This labor is exhausting to the soul and only adds to the heaviness of life. It adds a fatalism and desperation that cannot be removed short of divine intervention.

Jesus spoke to this kind of toil: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

Aruamu Child Sleeping in a Meeting

How can any of us come to Jesus for rest without having access to his word in a language that makes sense to us, that speaks to our hearts? How can we begin to know or love or follow him if we cannot know objective truth as it is proclaimed in the Scriptures? Pray for the Somau Garia translation committee and for the Owen family, too, that God will see fit to bring us all together around the task of Bible translation–that we might, together in Christ, finish the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament. Pray for divine intervention for all of us involved in this process. Pray for the Owen family, involved in building a prayer and provision team to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending them out to get the job done. Pray for rest for all of our souls. We are in desperate need of Jesus’ yoke, touch, and power. Pray . . .

Join the Prayer and Provision Team!
During the remainder of 2013, we are asking God for 40 new provision team members to financially partner with us monthly, for 40 provision team members to contribute to special projects, and for 40 new prayer team members to join us. For those of you feeling called to join the provision team, click here to visit the Donate page. For those feeling called to join the prayer team, click here to drop us an email letting us of your commitment.

Rest well, today. Allow the Lord to wash over you and to heal and restore you. May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you peace.

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Day 7: Giving Thanks in Trial and Tribulation

It is impossible to know at any given moment how our trials are affecting either us or those who surround us as witnesses of God’s handiwork in our lives. During the first several months that we lived in Uria Village back in 1997, things started going haywire. I had gone from being in the best shape of my adult life to almost no ability to function. I slept 12 to 16 hours a day, was sick all the time, and couldn’t think straight. Angela was pregnant with our daughter, having to care for two little boys (3 years and 18 months, respectively) as well as me. Her heart began to sink under the weight of it all.

Garia Crowd compressed

240 of our closest neighbors were watching the drama unfold. As my health deteriorated and Angela’s soul began to anguish, our friends reached out to us. One evening, one of our closest friends warned us not to worry if we heard unusual noises near the house the next morning. As dawn broke we heard the sound of scores of shuffling feet and the murmurs of dozens of people. Every once in a while we’d hear the words “Papa God” (Father God) or “Bikpela” (Lord) float on the surface of the prayers. Around and around our house they marched, praying, asking God to intervene in our troubles. God had used our trials and tribulation to draw these people to prayer, to desperation for Him to do something extraordinary, to call upon Him for help. In reflection, we are very thankful that the Father would use our difficulties to grow the faith of those to whom we went. In the wake of those prayers came a diagnosis for me (hypothyroidism) and relief for Angela. During all the doctor visits, it was strongly suggested by the doctors that we give birth to our daughter in Australia. We went away for a few months and recovered, enjoyed the holidays, and welcomed our daughter into our family.

two men praying

I’ve been wondering lately whether or not the season we are in is not also meant for the good of others. Even as some of the Somau Garia people responded to a call to pray for us in our most desperate hour, I think God is calling believers to encircle the challenge and trial of building a prayer and provision team, to come alongside in those days when resources are short and needs are big, when our energy is spent and more must take place before we can return to Papua New Guinea. I think God is calling believers to encircle the Somau Garia people in prayer, prayer for God’s protection and provision of the people who have both waited and worked for a few decades now toward the goal of getting the New Testament into their heart language. I think that God is calling believers to encircle the whole team that a history altering transformation might take place among the Somau Garia people, that their gifts and energies might be poured out so that Jesus’ name might be known across all of northern New Guinea, perhaps far beyond the borders of PNG to the uttermost parts.

Join us!
I’m praying that as you read this you might be cut to the quick and decide to join the team. If you’d like to join the provision team, click here to see how your donations can get the Word out to the Somau Garia people. If you’d like to join the prayer team, click here to drop us an email letting us know of your desire to pray with us through this great adventure.

Happy Thanksgiving!