Friday, September 5, 2014

Communication Breakdown

Recently I was able to finish going through the first round of comprehension checks of 1 Corinthians chapters 1-10. My friend, Keteng was my 'victim' for the two and a half day task. Usually a sleepy fellow, who suffers from emphysema, he maintained his excitement through all this as he saw these parts of God's word speaking (mostly) clearly in his language for the first time ever.

What we have right now definitely has areas that need fixing. It's because of this process of comprehension checking that we are able to hone in on areas that are ambiguous, incomprehensible, or otherwise just leaves them wondering what in the world the author was trying to say.

Comprehension checks like this are an indispensible step in the translation process when we're striving to translate meaningfully.

For example, when reading 1 Corinthians 9:8-14 just one time, if the text is clear in the Mibu language, I expect that the hearer will be able to relate back to me the gist of what Paul is saying. They should be able to tell me that Paul is continuing to show that he and Barnabas certainly have the right to the church's support, though they choose not to exercise that right. Within that context then, I expect the hearer to be able to tell me how Paul talked about God's word, how he quoted the Law and why, and what he says about those who work in the temple and at the altar and why, and also what Paul mentions about the Lord Jesus and what he commanded his disciples. They should be able to tell me how Paul moves through all this and how he uses it in his flow of thought.

It's much like how, after you or I listen to someone, be it a friend, or a speaker, or anyone, communicating something to us, we don't have to go home and listen to it again and again, or put lots of study into it in order to grasp what was said. No, in fact, you can test your comprehension of what they said simply by whether or not you are able to repeat the gist of what was said. Perhaps someone makes a really challenging point to you and you go home and relate that point to your spouse. You can do that after hearing it just one time because the message was clear to you. It happened using all the tendencies and patterns of your own language. It only took one time to grasp what was said and be able to communicate it in your own words.

In the same way, we strive to translate God's word clearly so that when people hear it read, even just once, it means what the original author intended it to mean. It's not too infrequent here in Mibu that I see someone take a portion of scripture home 'in their heart' after only hearing read once, share the gist of it with their family, mull it over, and then come back even a week or more later and ask specific questions about what that text means for them practically. This is without having it in print yet, but just having heard it read one time. I see this happen even with texts that many of us find difficult because our mostly literal translations may not be communicating clearly.

So back to that section in chapter 9 that I mentioned… Keteng was not understanding what Paul was arguing here. He wasn't getting that Paul was showing that he does indeed have rights to receive support, or that he had lots of evidences to point to in order to prove it. Something is definitely not happening with this text here. While I could point to any one part of the text and show how all the words and grammar are there that should be there, true to the original, none of that matters because it's not understood. It's not saying what it was meant to say. The result when Keteng tries to put the pieces together (because God made us to expect and look for meaning even when it's not clear) is that he forces a meaning out of the text that is quite different than what was intended. Or he takes little pieces of chunks of the text and makes them meaningful individually, but not as a whole. You haven't ever had that problem with a text of the bible have you? ;-o

For me as a translator, when I see that all those hard hours of work haven't resulted in a clear translation yet, it brings up many hard emotions. Visions of crumpled paper, burning waste baskets, and back to the ole whiteboard splash through my head. Yet I'm thanking God that we're able to see how to make his word clearer here in Mibu so that the people here can know him and worship him because he's made himself available to them through the revelation of his word. I'm thanking him for a method to note and track where problems are happening and to be able pinpoint what needs to change so that it says what it is supposed to say. And I'm extremely thankful for a translation helper (my friend Sesi) who I will work with on Monday to fix this and other portions, who has the wisdom and insight to be able to re-work something said in his language to make it clear.

As for you, I hope this gives you a peek into one aspect of what God has us doing here so that you can pray more effectively for this huge translation task.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Connected in Mibu

We're super excited to have been able to get our VSAT system in to Mibu and installed and up and running now! This means that we should have a regular internet connection through which to keep our systems up to date, communicate more regularly and reliably, and the many other benefits that come with internet access!

It was quite a saga getting the thing in here! It had to be shipped from Australia by boat, flown in by helicopter on a rack specially made for the large dish, and installed with very few instructions available. Thankfully the crew at Speedcast were super helpful in getting us up and running.

We're thanking God for this tool which we hope will allow us to be more effective in our ministries!

Little piece of worthless trivia: What does VSAT stand for? It's an acronym for Very Small Aperture Terminal... What?! Where's the satellite in 'sat'?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Catching Up

Wow! Has it really been six weeks since our last update? One word describes how that makes me feel... 'slacker'. Though really, we've not been slacking, but have been busy busy busy!

I continue, and am now on the very tail end of what's proven to be the most difficult section of translation yet in my career as a translator, 1 Corinthians chapters 8-10. The pressure is high to get past this and keep things moving forward. I think we've got it now and only have about 15 verses left to fine tune with Sesi, my translation helper. We're hoping to get that done on Monday! After that, we can start checking it with people to be sure it's being understood right. Then only five more chapters to go to get this long difficult letter translated.

Meanwhile, ever changing logistics here, regarding flights and getting the things we need, has kept us on our toes. It seems we've written enough emails to fill a book, and we've sat at the radio for so much time trying to get those emails and their replies that if you put all that time together, it could have been a nice little vacation for us... though it wasn't!

We've also been working through some struggles the church leaders have been going through recently, where a good number of them seem discouraged or otherwise disinterested in serving. I've been meeting and talking with them some more about the importance and the preciousness of God's church and of the huge blessing and of our Lord giving us each gifts and roles that fit those gifts, roles that help the church grow and remain unified and adhered to the truth. It's a big deal to just throw that away as if it is of little value. We're seeing many encouraged again which we're thankful for. Once again, it highlights the huge need for ongoing discipleship here in Mibu. And again, we're reminded of just how impossible this task is, in our own strength. Many times people speak of us missionaries as though we've got all these issues figured out; master strategists of some sort, special people. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every time these issues come up, it's hugely frightening for us because WE don't really have a solution! But we know God has us here, and we know that he takes pleasure in working through us to build his kingdom. Our utter inability serves to drive us to him in desperation, and that's where we actually see things progress despite our inability and/or ignorance. Praise God for his faithfulness to sustain and empower!

In my discussions with those who serve in the church here, we've been focusing on the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So often, the Holy Spirit just becomes this vague theological fact with no real relevance to us. Yet the Holy Spirit is seen as the key player in the working out of the life of the church. We need to remember, and have faith, that God's Spirit in us is not just a fact to know about, but is a huge, miraculous gift, enabling us to be, as Christ's Body, what he intends us to be! We hope to see increased sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit and a desire to be used by him each moment in our lives.

Being reminded again of the need for more help, we're super anxious to have our co-workers, the Walkers returning here at the end of August! We're praising God that they've seen their finances up to nearly where it needs to be for their home church to 'release' them to the field. Last report shows their finances are only about 5% away from where they need to be! Keep on praying for this need!

Many blessings from us in Mibu! We'll try to be more regular here in our ministry updates!

Friday, June 20, 2014

General update from Mibu

Here in Mibu we continue to plug along with translation and church development efforts. We're encouraged to see how God continues to work here in the hearts and lives of the Mibu people.

Shannon and the kids recently finished out the school year. Rather than take a 'summer break' and have the kids sit in boredom we are actually trying to continue with certain school subjects each day, some where they need catching up and others that will just be good to get a bit ahead in. It keeps things regimented and scheduled and purposeful for the kids and not only helps out with their continuing growth in education but with maintaining family bliss :)

We're starting to ramp things up in preparation for our co-workers, the Walker's, return in September. Lots of logistics being worked out to get the needed tools and supplies in here to renovate their house and make it more functional for them as a family. We find ourselves much busier than we anticipated just trying to work out the logistics! Our email system has been unreliable and intermittent, adding to the difficulty of trying to work all these things out. We're getting really excited though to have the Walkers back to help with the workload here. We're also looking forward to the team coming from Sun Valley Community Church who are planning to come help with the renovations.

Along those lines, we are happy to announce that the Mibu team now has a satellite internet system on the way! The last couple years have made it painfully obvious just how necessary having our own internet access has become for things such as email, voice, and other communications, computer and software updates, finances, and many other matters of business. So we're excited to have finally taken the leap here. It'll be a few months before it is shipped and installed and up and working. We hope it's a tool that will save us a great deal of time in many areas and allow us to focus on being more effective in our service here!

A couple days ago, I (Geoff) had an unexpected overnight on an airstrip not too far away. We had supplies being flown in for ourselves and for the Walkers which required a fair bit of management on the ground. I needed to go up to the airstrip where the helicopter was to rendezvous with a plane bringing our stuff. Things went late and all three of us, the helicopter pilot, the plane pilot and myself got fogged in about 2pm and had to wait and watch the weather the rest of the afternoon, and were eventually consigned to stay the night there. We were thankful for a willing and friendly host who fed us and gave us a warm place to sleep for the night. This left Shannon and all four kids alone in Mibu for the day to handle the supplies that had come in. Again, we were thankful that one of Shannon's good friends here in the village offered to help sort things out with her in my absence. All this simply to show that little unexpected things like this happen as we serve here. It can be interesting and challenging.

One of our friends out in town posted this video of the helicopter landing in Mibu. Gives a little aerial perspective for those who may wonder where we live and what it looks like. Just follow this link to watch


Friday, May 16, 2014

Man on a Mission

Recently we were really touched and encouraged by one of the believers here who seems to have been paying attention to the leading of God's Spirit in his life.

Skyler hurt her wrist quite badly climbing a tree the other day. We weren't sure if something was sprained, broken, or what. Obviously these kinds of concerns are compounded by the fact that we have no medical facility or doctor here in Mibu. One concern is whether or not we need to fly out to town to see the doctor, which is very cost prohibitive and reserved only for emergencies if we can. So during one of the church meetings, when people were sharing praise and prayer points, we asked that people pray for Skyler and for us as a family while we try to figure this injury out.

The next morning, I was sitting in my office getting ready to work on translation when a friend of mine, Manggape, came in, apologized for interrupting and asked if I had time to pray with him. Actually, it was the other way around. He came up to pray specifically for Skyler. He told me that he's been doing this for people here (and other places too) who need prayer. Wow! I was touched by the thoughtfulness and sincerity.

But I was even more touched to listen to his humble prayer. He had no notion of rubbing a lucky rabbit's foot, as it were, but was simply expressing his (and our) total dependency on the Lord for all in our lives, including illness and injury. I wish I had recorded his prayer to transcribe for you because it really was faithful and moving. The prayer was built on the worshipful acknowledgement that God always was and always will be, and that he is the creator/owner of everything including us. The way Manggape asked Jesus for his help was such a humble reminder of our total dependence on him! "God, we don't have medicine and doctors here and so we depend on you for even these little things like when we get sick and hurt."

Manggape is one of those who has heard the direction God is leading him and he's definitely fit into his calling as he's responded in faith. It was very encouraging to us to be the recipients of his service in this way.

By the way, Skyler's wrist seems to be on the mend, though slowly. We have it in a splint right now. It's looking like we shouldn't have to go out to town to see the doctor. Thank you Lord, for both Manggape and for your healing touch!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Strengthening and Encouraging

Early this morning, before even the first rays of sunlight shown, a large contingency from the Mibu church departed for a week long 'patrol' of all the outreach churches where they hope to strengthen and also to be strengthened. They were hoping to spend time in each area with the believers and leaders there to worship together and help firm up certain areas of ministry and their focus.

Areas that they plan on discussing cover things like bible teaching, translation, literacy, family, and women's ministry, and also the leadership and oversight of these areas.

Also, inspired by the generosity of other national churches such as Dinangat and Inapang, who have sent gifts with the Mibus in the past, they are bringing a sizable gift to be given to one of the villages to help them toward costs associated with getting their literacy program up and running again. Another awesome benefit of the Mibu Literacy Store (which you've read about in previous updates) coupled with the work of the Holy Spirit in these folks!

We would ask you to pray for all these meetings that are to happen over the next week, ending next Tuesday or Wednesday. Pray for the spirit of unity to be strengthened by these times together, and that the church's vision and purpose will be all the clearer as God's word continues to spread and take roots. We're thrilled to see the church here taking the initiative with these meetings, which arose out of a sensed need of more connectedness and support among the groups of believers here.

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We depend on God working through you, our sending church back home, to be able to live and serve the church here in Mibu, continuing to be a part of seeing them grow through to maturity through ongoing translation efforts, leadership development and personal discipleship. Through your prayers and regular generous financial gifts, we've all been blessed to see a church here not just born in Mibu, but to begin to grow into a mature indigenous church. There is still a lot of work to be done and so we would ask that if you've not yet taken the opportunity to be a part of the Mibu Ministry with your finances that you would consider it now. We're currently about $1600 per month short of what is recommended to serve the church in Mibu most effectively. Your regular monthly gift could go a long way toward meeting this need. Please follow the link below to see the several easy, tax deductible ways to give and be a part of the effort here to grow the Mibu church.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Growing Leaders

You may remember not too long ago that we asked for your prayers for an upcoming leadership study here in Mibu. We're excited to report that it went very well! Thank you for praying!

First off, there were far more people than I had planned on! I planned for 15 or less. 26 showed up! Then a few casual observers couldn't help participating too, bringing the numbers up to over 30! I only bought 20 books!!! That's OK. If there's one thing we're used to having to do here, it's being flexible.

We were so pleased to see that leaders from every outreach village saw this as important enough to travel all the way here (some even with their families) and camp out for the two weeks planned for the study! Wow! It's a rare time when we can get this many of the area church leaders together in the same place at the same time! How awesome to be able to spend time with all of them together!

Once I saw how the numbers were growing I was quite nervous. As I said, I had only planned for a small group. The format was intended to be very casual to promote more personal discussion and not so much standing up and teaching at people. I wasn't sure how that was going to work out with so many folks. But thank God the discussions went well! We were reading through a book on leadership that one of my expat friends here recently wrote in Pidgin English. We went through and discussed the various points being made about being a good leader and about living the life of faith. I was so so pleased to see everyone's hearts challenged with areas they need to grow in! There were even several teachers with whom I've had discussions in the past regarding behavior and attitudes that are hurting their ability to lead (and with whom other believers have approached regarding the same) who openly confessed these areas and talked about how they might see victory in overcoming them! WOW! In fact, I noted that every major concern I've had for various individuals was recognized by them. Each one, at one point or another talked about how they struggled in this or that area.

One day, we hope that we can be finished handing over the responsibility of the church here to the leaders here in Mibu. We're always moving closer to this goal. On the whole, we are seeing God at work in our leaders. Our hope is that this recent time together and the various topics of leadership and personal growth we covered would take them another step toward readiness to serve in whatever capacity God has for them. Yesterday (Friday) was the last day we met and everyone voiced how encouraged and challenged they were by this study.

While it was a real pleasure to take time out for this leadership study, I'm excited to get back into gear with moving the 1 Corinthians translation forward again.

Your part in this kind of training and discipleship through both your prayers and regular monthly financial support is very much appreciated! Thank you! You're helping to mature the church in Mibu! Keep on praying for these leaders here! If you haven't yet taken the chance to be a part of the Mibu Ministry through regular monthly giving you can follow this link to learn about several easy ways to start. http://www.ntm.org/give/1089