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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.

 

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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.

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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!

 

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Please Pray–March 11, 2014

There are basically two areas that I’d like to suggest for prayer today.

Spring Forward Campaign

First regards our ministry partnerships. As missionaries serving with Pioneer Bible Translators, we compose a budget each year which is reviewed by mission leadership and either approved or not approved by our board of directors. It’s an interactive process that usually sees the initial budget tweaked and streamlined. Faithful stewardship of resources is one of our core values and one reason we appreciate the ongoing accountability of the budgeting process and PBT’s commitment to an annual audit, membership in the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, etc.

spring forward campaign week 1 graphic

Currently, we have pledges that cover about 1/3 of our approved budget. Before we can leave for Papua New Guinea, we must be at or near 100% of our approved budget–so as not to get to Papua New Guinea underfunded, which has many, many negative results. In response to a strong conviction that God wants us on the field in 2014, we began the Spring Forward Campaign, an effort organized to increase our monthly pledges from 1/3 of budgeted needs to 2/3 of budgeted needs within the space of two months. We are asking God to provide the next 1/3 of our budgeted needs by May. Is God calling you to join the prayer and provision team? Click here to drop us a note or click here to visit the donate page.

Somau Garia Translation Committee

One of the major tasks that we had in the early days of our association with the Somau Garia people was training local Somau Garia speakers, most with little formal education, to do the work of Bible translation. Our team is a great picture of the way in which God uses people with all kinds of gifts and talents, in community, to accomplish His purposes. I bring formal training (like translation principles, exegetical skills, etc.) to the table. My Somau Garia brothers bring facility with the language, insiders’ knowledge of the culture, its history, and a great capacity for learning to the table. Each of the people we’ve worked with over the years has given sacrificially to see the translation of the New Testament into their heart language have even the slightest chance to become reality.

Todd and the SG men

Todd with Somau Garia Translators

Pray for God to protect each of these men from the deadly attacks of the enemy. They are threats to the diabolical kingdom and are generating threats to his grip on these people. Pray that their hearts will remain steadfast, that their energy will remain strong, that they will not give way to temptation or to despair as they draft. Pray that God will call them out and empower them for the ministry that He has prepared beforehand for them to walk in.

Thank you for interceding on our behalf. We are grateful for the prayer and provision team that God is assembling to insure that there will be a strong church among the Somau Garia people–whom He made for His glory!

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Day 36: Do You Have a Minute?

Knock. Knock. Knock. Do you have a minute? I know you are busy, I just have a few things to share with you. I’ll keep it short.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

I’d like you to hear the voice of the Somau Garia translation team, represented in the comments of Ezekiel, the leader of the Somau Garia team in an interview I did with him in September 2013.

 

 

The first thing that you will notice is that many of you listening will not understand what he is saying to you. He is speaking the trade language of Papua New Guinea, Tok Pisin. Allow me to interpret for you:

I am Ezekiel, the leader of this Somau Garia translation program. I say “thank you” and express my happiness to our supporters, those who help us with resources in some small way, I say “thank you”. The invitation remains to those who may have a desire to support the Somau Garia program by supporting our supervisor [Todd Owen] and his family to return to work [with us]. The work of support that you do is important. I exalt the name of Father God and say “thank you.” I am Ezekiel Panawa making this talk.

Ezekiel is being very Melanesian in his greeting and plea, that is to say, he is downplaying the hugeness of the situation by being very indirect. He is amplifying the message by whispering.

This man took me under his tutelage in the late 1990’s when we first lived with the Somau Garia people and has been a good advisor and brother to me ever since. He has known hardship over the years and has given much of himself to see the Word of God become available in the heart language of his people.

Join Today!
I’d like to challenge you in two ways. First, if you are not part of our prayer team, click here to drop us an email to either sign up to join the team or to find out more about what that means. Second, if you are not currently financially contributing to Pioneer Bible Translators towards sending my family and I back to Papua New Guinea to work alongside men like Ezekiel, Stanley, Sirion, Wai, Kenny, et. al., in order to complete the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, I ask that you prayerfully consider joining the provision team. To do so you may click here to visit our donate page.

Along with Ezekiel, I thank everyone who has been involved in praying for and/or financially supporting this ministry.

Blessings!

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Day 33: The Birth of Hope

simeon holding Jesus

Simeon was an old man, holding out on death by holding onto a promise that was made to him by none other than God himself. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, ministering and watching. The Holy Spirit was on him and the Kingdom of God was at hand as he took the baby in his arms,

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to you word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

Anointed and prophesying, Simeon gazed into the realm beyond time and space, seeing in Jesus’ face the eternal. At once he saw baby and salvation. In those baby blue eyes he saw light and revelation for peoples living at odds with God. Raising the child in his hands he saw the glory of Israel. For all eyes to see, there was the child whose coming was prepared in the sight of all peoples: even eastern star gazers and scroll readers, looking for the One born King of the Jews.

Tears soak my beard. This Son is my savior, my king, my light, my hope. This hope was revealed to Gentiles, too–my ancestors were Welsh-Irish, not Jewish. What life would I have had if Jesus’ father hadn’t swept him away to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous wrath? Had Jesus not offered himself in my place, I would have suffered the horror of eternal separation from God.

Wet beard, bleary eyes, full heart, I, like Simeon, can hold this child before you and proclaim that salvation and revelation and light and glory has come!

I have a friend in Papua New Guinea named Ezekiel. He was already in his thirties when I came to know him and he’d been advocating for literacy, Bible translation and awareness since he was a school boy. He actively waits for the day when the word of God will be available in his heart language. “Active waiting” for Ezekiel means plodding day after day, drafting, translating, checking, sharing, preaching, teaching, leading: moving people toward the Bible and moving the Bible toward the people.

A few years back he became exceedingly ill and spent months in the hospital. Though weakened in body, his zest and gusto remain full strength. Though he fights constant pain he continues to work on translation, preparing for the day when we can revise, check, and publish the fruit of his labor.

Imagine the day when, like Simeon in the temple, Ezekiel will be able to hold up the New Testament with wonder in his eyes, and say,

“God’s word was prepared before the eyes of all the people. Within it you will find revelation, light, and glory. Within it you will find hope and consolation.”

You must pray with us that this day will come when our brother will be able to depart in peace, having accomplished the God’s grand purpose of his life.

Prayer and Provision Opportunities
Stay informed and inspired to pray for the Somau Garia translation team by clicking here. If you’d like to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us out to get our boots on the ground in Papua New Guinea and get moving forward on finishing translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, click here to visit our Donate page where you will find instructions on how to do so.

Blessings!

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Days 28 and 29: The Call, the Community, and the Crucible

William Carey, the "Father of Modern Missions"

William Carey, the “Father of Modern Missions”

Perhaps you’ve heard of a missionary named William Carey. He was a poor cobbler in 18th century England, married to an illiterate woman older than he. While he was not cobbling (making or repairing shoes), he studied the Bible, engaged in service, and thought deeply. He lived in a time when the idea of going overseas for any reason other than colonialism was considered mad. Yet the more he studied, the more he became convinced that taking the gospel to the lost was the central call of the New Testament church. And to Carey, it meant taking the gospel to the lost among the rest of the world, away from rural England.

He sailed for India in the waning years of the 18th century and would discover the high price to be paid for following the call. The community within which he moved in India opposed his work greatly–not just the Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims—but also the East India Trading Company who feared that his work would interfere with their profits. He moved to the interior to avoid being deported, into malarial areas where heat, fever, and sickness was as common as rain.

Over the years he established schools, translated the Bible into several languages, planted churches, wrote books, established a press, a mission, and taught Oriental languages at a university. He also lost three wives (his first went insane years prior to her death). He constantly endured sickness and opposition, watched his mission split and be rejected by his denominational mission board, and lost all of his manuscripts (including several Bible translations, polyglot dictionary (that he had authored), and books) in a warehouse fire while he was away from the mission station. Not surprisingly, his self-described spiritual gift was “plodding”.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

There are a group of Somau Garia men scattered throughout the foothills of the Finisterre Mountain foothills who face three furies in their lives: the call to translate the Scripture into their heart language, the alternate support and opposition of their community, and the crucible of spiritual, social, and physical pressure to cease and desist. One of the leaders spent an extended period in the hospital with tuberculosis in his bones–resulting in a somewhat debilitating physical condition that he now lives with constantly. He went from being a vigorous, energetic man to being comparatively frail. Yet he continues to draft, to ask for help in checking the translation; to keep it moving forward. When I talked with him in September, he said, “We need to hurry and get the translation done. Who knows how long either of us will live? We must finish.” Need I say more? The translators’ resolve to continue the work has caused societal discord as old ways and new clash.

Please pray. God is at work. Angela and I live morning, noon, and night with the call pressing in on our hearts. Our dreams are populated by visions of the Somau Garia celebrating the coming of the Word in their heart language. These visions meld with the vision painted in Revelation 7:9, filled with faces from every nation, tribe, people, and language gathered around the throne and in front of the Lamb, on their faces, worshiping. We are in the throng alongside our Somau Garia brothers and sisters.

Please pray. Pray that God will continue to build a supportive community around us, supporting and sending us to Papua New Guinea, in order that we might be with our friends daily, working diligently toward getting this work done as soon as possible. Please pray that the larger Somau Garia community will stand behind the translators, the literacy workers, the teachers, the families who give themselves to this work. Please ask God to catalyze the community to support these folks.

crucible

Please pray. Pray that as we endure the crucible, we can, like Carey, plod. Pray that as we endure spiritual opposition here and now, that our Father will empower us to overcome and stand in the evil day. Pray that as we get our boots on the ground in Papua New Guinea, we will withstand the pressure and squeeze of the crucible. Please pray for our Somau Garia co-workers, that they will be able to withstand the crucible, as well, to overcome the enormous pressure that they live and work under.

Prayerfully Consider Partnership
Please pray, asking God what part you might have in this call, this community, even this crucible. He does not ask his people to go without supplying the goers with senders. Anyone engaging in high impact ministry can expect diabolical opposition. It is a given. Pray that God might help you count the cost. If, in your prayers, you feel that God is asking you to join the prayer team, click here to drop us an email so that we can plug you into the prayer team. If you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators financially in sending us out, clicking here will send you to our donate page where you will find how PBT handles donations.

Thank you for prayerfully considering your part in this vital ministry.

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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 nerdwallet.com:

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.

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Day 23: Entering into Rest

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

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

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

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

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

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

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

What was it the Psalmist sang?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Day 22: Grace and Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

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

Thank you for your involvement!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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