On Saturday I signed off with a jaunty "See you Monday!" And on Monday I experienced an incident of forgetion and completely forgot to write to my blog! Ah well, as my friend Doyle says all the time, "I'm new here myself."....
So it occurs to me that "Those Who Came In Late", (to quote from the Phantom), might appreciate a bit more info about why Clare and I are living and working in Papua New Guinea, when we could be living and working in the US or the UK where we could be making money and living "the good life". So why would we choose instead to leave our comfy lifestyles in our home countries and go to a place far, far away from our families and friends, far, far away from the nearest McDonald's, the nearest movie theatre, the nearest take away pizza? Why would we go to a young country like PNG, where the culture is very different from our own, which is still deciding how much emphasis to put on infrastrucure like roads and bridges, and which is still sorting out how to fund things we might take for granted in other countries, like an empowered police force?
It's easy really. It's all about the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We believe that it is as relevant today as it was when it was written. And we want anyone who desires to do so to be able to read and study God's Word in his own language.
Imagine recieving an important message--a message containing information that could change your life, but unfortunately written in a language that you couldn't read or understand. How frustrating would that be? Obviously most people would take that message and begin looking for somebody to help them translate it. This is what Wycliffe Bible Translators does. Wycliffe is not a church planting organisation, nor do members of Wycliffe go around trying to cram anything down anybody's throat. Rather, Wycliffe makes its resources available to translate the Bible for language groups that have expressed an interest in having the Word of God in their own language.
Today's photo is of a group of Angaatha men (edit--I mispelled this language name--it should have been Angaataha, but could also have been Langimar, Angataha, Angaatiya, Angaatiha--AK) who have just recieved the New Testament in their own language. Members of Wycliffe Bible Translators lived among them for many years, learning their language and culture, helping the Angaathas come up with an alphabet that suited the particular needs of their langauge, teaching the Angaathas to read and write in their own langauge, testing their own understanding of the language by translating various health booklets with the help of Angaatha co-translators, test translating various short stories from the Bible and on and on, over hundreds of steps finally culminating in a complete New Testament that can be read and understood by anybody who speaks Angaatha! It's an amazing thing to see people reading God's Word in their own language for the first time--many times they are already familiar with various passages in Melanesian Pidgin or in simple English, but it's not unusual to see people overcome with emotion when they see for the first time that God truly speaks their own heart langauge.
So where do we fit into this picture? Well, imagine that you are Joe Translator and you are working in a little village deep in the bush. Imagine that although there are dirt roads and trails in your immediate area, there are no roads connecting your area to any other part of the country and that the only way that you can get in and out of the area is by small plane. It just so happens that the nearest airstrip is 30 km away, but through the generosity of one of your financial partners back home, you have a small ATV that you use to get around on. You are very thankful for this ATV--what used to be a 2 day hike to the next village is now reduced to a couple of hours of riding time, and when one of your national co-translators is sick and needs to get to the nearest clinic or aid post, you can give him a ride. On the way home, you can pick up supplies of food and fuel at a little tradestore. All in all, the ATV has made your life so much easier and your time is now spent so much more efficiently. It used to be that you would hike 2 days to another village to work with some local translators only to find that they were called away unexpectedly and no one knows when they will be back, so you ended up with 4 days of hiking for nothing. Now, with the ATV, you spend a couple of hours riding to the other village and if nobody is there to work with you, you can ride back home and try again tomorrow.
Now imagine that your super-duper, ultra handy-dandy ATV broke down. Now what? You're not a mechanic, in fact you don't know the first thing about engines. Nobody in the village knows anything about them either. The nearest local mechanic is hundreds of km away and you're not sure that you trust him after he burned up your new generator last year. What do you do? Is this the end?
This is where I step in to the story. When Joe Translator's motorcycle, ATV, generator or other small engine powered equipment breaks down, I'm here to fix it for him. I'm also here to help advise him on what to buy when he needs a new one--which products are long lasting and repairable, which ones are easy to break and impossible to find parts for. If Joe's ATV is too much of a hassle to fit on the plane when it breaks down, he can choose instead to fly me out to his place to work on it in situ. Right now, I am personally responsible for the maintennce and repair needs of around 100 motorcycles and ATV's and any number of chainsaws, lawnmowers, generators, pumps, etc. The skills I have are very much in demand here, where there are very few local mechanics.
Joe Translator doesn't spend all of his time in the village. Several times a year he comes out of the bush to the Wycliffe translation centre at Ukarumpa. He may spend a couple of months at a time there, doing whatever translation work he can't do in the village. While he is in Ukarumpa, his kids go to school at the Ukarumpa International School--this is where Clare works. She started out teaching on the primary campus, but her most recent job there was as the vice principal, a position that she handled very well and seemed to enjoy. Now that she is pregnant, she will stop teaching for a while, but eventually she will probably start working there again.
So that's basically what it's all about. :)