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