Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Newsletter

Photograph courtesy of Philip Greenspun
Despite this gray-shaded day of rain and wind, where the trees smear down my windowpane until the world is pieced together like stained glass, spring is coming. April showers bring May flowers, the old rhyme predicts—a forecast that in Minnesota is only reliable if you’re willing to overlook that the flowers might still receive a dusting of snow. Nevertheless, the early purple flair of crocuses at the feet of my mailbox has come and gone, and now the hostas and day-lilies engage valiantly in a double-pronged battle against both moles and deer. The trees are faintly glazed with green, and I watch as earthworms stretch out across my driveway, their narrow escape from drowning made even more perilous by the winter-hungry robin.

The fever of spring cleaning is catching: this morning, my friend and I scoured through our church with sleeves rolled up, armed with sponges, extension cords, and an extra supply of toilet paper. As I scrubbed down the full-length glass doors in the foyer entrance, I was reminded of a quote by an Indonesian believer when she heard the Word of God in her own language.

“It was as though we had washed years of grime off a window and could suddenly see the beautiful landscape outside for the first time.”

The barrier of language needs more than Windex—Bible translation is only made possible by the grace of our Lord and through your teamwork and partnership. Thank you for being a part of this spiritual “spring cleaning!”

I sent out my May newsletter today. If you didn’t get a copy and would like one, please send me an email at

Friday, April 29, 2011

Majority Votes and Monarchy

Queen Elizabeth II looking on with the rest of the world at the royal couple.

The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate (now Catherine—I approve of the name change :D ) Middleton has drawn worldwide attention, with millions of people carving out a good seat—whether by camping for days along the route to Westminster Abbey or simply clicking on the minute-by-minute updates provided by countless websites. Papua New Guinea was not exempt from the festivities; as a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Queen Elizabeth II is the chief of state, and thus her representatives, the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea Michael Ogio and his wife, were dignitaries at the wedding.

Officially, Papua New Guinea’s government is actually a “constitutional parliamentary democracy,” with universal suffrage over age 18. I find the governmental structure to be a fascinating mixture of direct vote and appointments. In this case, the governor-general, whose role is mainly ceremonial, is appointed by the chief of state (the current British monarch), but acting in agreement by the nomination of Parliament. The prime minister, who holds executive power, is usually the leader of the majority party or majority coalition in the Parliament and is appointed into his position by the governor-general; currently, Sir Michael Somare has served as prime minister since August 2002, and works alongside his cabinet (called the National Executive Council) to administer his office.

The unicameral National Parliament holds 109 seats currently (allows up to 126), with members elected by popular vote from 19 provinces and the district of the capital city of Port Moresby to serve up to five-year terms (the next elections will be in June 2012). Papua New Guinea also has a Judicial Branch with several levels, culminating in the Supreme Court serving as the highest independent authority.

This morning, the world tuned in with their iPhones and webcams to watch gold-spangled uniforms surround fairytale open carriages, a colorful mix of modernity and tradition—and a condition that continues dramatically in Papua New Guinea’s own government.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Friday that's Good

While speaking at churches and to groups has definitely been a major highlight these past months, I have also found it brings its own challenges, especially when it comes to spiritually feeding myself. Instead of being able to lean back and soak up the worship service, I often find myself setting up or tearing down tables, holding whispered conferences with sound techs, sorting through my notes and props, and trying to remember which name went with which face in the crowd of smiling people. More often than not, I find the sermon notes getting tossed into the bottom of my literature bag, and the final praise song becomes my prayer of thanksgiving that I made it through the morning. Add sickness on top of this (I now officially have bronchitus), and let's just say that I've been a little less than focused on Easter season this year. 

Earlier this week, after walking away from my church's worship committee meeting where we discussed the past month of services (all of which I had missed due to speaking), I began complaining. "I feel like I missed Lent, Lord!" I whined. "When will I have a chance to reflect on your death, prepare myself for Easter?"

The Lord, in His wisdom, didn't answer me then, and instead saw fit to give me three hours in the car this morning as I drove to and from a delightful speaking engagement. Three hours to reflect. To sing praise songs at the top of my scratchy, coughing lungs. To remind myself about Easter and the reason why I'm here at all.

The following story was shared with me by a friend, and I wanted to pass it on to you. It's Friday, and it's Good. Why? Because it is finished.

A Sacrifice that Commands Attention
Adapted by Borghy Holm from an excerpt from In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore (Chapter 16: Broken Bodies).

How could villagers in a Papua New Guinean rain forest grasp what it meant to “flog” someone? As our Folopa translation team was gathered one day, we became mired in a passage in Mark 10 where Jesus predicted what was about to happen to Him.

“…the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him, and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34, NIV).

We were stuck, I didn’t have a word for “flog.” What do you call it,” I asked, “if someone hits another, say an enemy, with something like a rope?”

That drew a blank. Apparently hitting someone with a rope was nothing that sounded familiar to them. But it was about to happen to Jesus and it was part of the passage, so I cast about for other ways to describe it.  My eyes fell on a piece of rattan vine left over from tying the thatch on the roof. It was lying on the old woodstove. The vine was about three feet long and as thick as my little finger. I picked it up, and instructed the men to imagine the vine was a piece of rope and the woodstove was the back of Jesus. Then with all my might I started beating the iron stovetop.

Immediately Owarap Ali – his eyes wild and his nostril flaring – shouted out: “That’s not hitting with a rope, that’s fokoso sirapo!”  He was indignant, staring up at me from his place on the floor.

Fokoso sirapo.  I wrote the words down. “Tell me more about it,” I said. But when I looked up, they were all just staring at me. It was as if it had taken them right back to the old days of revenge and bloodshed.  “Wait a minute,” someone said. “Do you mean they did that to Jesus?  But here it just said they were going to do it. Did they really do it to Him?”

Quiet fell on the room as I answered, “Yes.” Finally Eleke Whi Ali said, “We used to do that. But we only did it to our enemies, and then just before we were going to kill them.”  Yes,” I said, “that is coming, too.”

They hung their heads. In the corners, the large shell earrings of the old men swung back and forth in stunned sadness. The memory of fokoso sirapo “floggings” was too fresh in their minds. They were seeing a deeper vision of the awful cruelty – the enormity of it all- than I had ever understood. And that this would happen to Jesus…someone they had grown to respect and like.  He was a Man who would put little children on His lap, who would reach out and heal those in need. These men knew what torturing and flogging were all about . That this Jesus would come to suffer like this was too much to take in.

We had to stop work for the morning. They couldn’t go on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One of those days...

Today ended up being one of those days where I want to crawl into the recesses of the couch with a sappy movie and a carton full of ice cream and a dog on my lap and forget about adjectives like perseverance and initiative. It was one of those days where my plate-spinning skills failed, and the dishware crashed about me in a glorious clatter, and instead of resolutely picking them up and fixing things with superglue… I just wanted to ignore the disaster and disappear. It was one of those days where deadlines and responsibilities loomed like the infamous California Redwoods and stress was induced by both tackling the to-do list and taking a break. It was one of those days where at the conclusion, it seems like nothing was accomplished and I’d rather forget that it existed at all.

In short, we’ve all had those days.

And as I was sitting here, moping, and feeling like I was plodding with the Israelites on the 9th lap around the city of Jericho, I wondered if Joshua ever felt like sitting down.

Not because he lacked the faith that Yahweh would do something or because he didn’t believe they could actually make it. I wonder if he wanted to sit down because he had a stone in his shoe, and his foot was bruised. If his legs were getting tired. If the spear he was carrying was growing heavy, and he was craving a drink of water to wash the dust from his mouth kicked up by thousands of sandals. I wonder if he was mentally checking off where the supplies were being organized and if he needed Eli to recount the figs, perhaps scribbling notes on parchment since he was forbidden to speak of all those things that needed to happen later. I wonder if he tried to prepare his response for the inevitable future work of the Lord, without knowing when or how it would happen.

I wonder if he wanted to sit down.

Not because he didn’t believe that God wouldn’t take care of him, or that his own strength was insufficient and he needed to “let go, and let God” as those sterilized platitudes proclaim. But rather, because those were the tasks entrusted to him by the Lord, and today, he was tired.

We all have those days, support-raising missionaries and Israelite leaders included, where it’s not the big tasks that overwhelm us (rather, when those occur, we brace up against them and do what needs to be done). It’s the little things, the sand that grinds into our shoes and cracks the skin, that makes us weary.

And yet, they kept marching those seven extra laps that last day, because ultimately Joshua knew that being obedient to the Lord’s commands was the only way for such a small, slave nation to successfully enter the Promised Land.

And so I keep sending emails and making those phone calls because I know that partnership with others is the only way that I will get to Papua New Guinea and help bring the Bible to the people from 300 language groups who still wait there.

Four of the letters asking for translators to come and meet their need
The urgency of it makes my whole body just ache, especially when I see letters like these arrive at the linguistic center (the image is thanks to a fellow missions blogger, Joy), or hear the story of the people group who cleared a helicopter pad and planted a garden and built a house in eager anticipation… all of them earnestly begging for a translator to come and give them the Bible.

And they have to be turned down.

Why? There simply aren’t enough translators available to answer the need.

That’s why I keep marching.

But some days, I just want to sit down.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday feast

“Uh oh.”

I glanced up from the kitchen table where I was having breakfast. “What?”

My mom studied the crockpot. “It won’t fit.”

“What won’t?”

My dad crossed the kitchen to peer at the pot. “That’s a big ham.”

My mom tried rotating the meat, like one of those Tetris puzzles. “It was on sale, so, I naturally found the biggest ham… I didn’t think about the size of the crockpot.”

I could see the peak of the ham rising well over the rim, like a glacier in the Arctic. “Well, I guess we have no choice.” The scraping of a diamond knife sharpener echoed off the walls, as my dad began to hack off chunks of frozen meat, carving the dinner into a more manageable shape while dogs watched hopefully from their banishment outside the kitchen.

Despite the morning’s puzzle, I knew that by the time dinner would roll around and my grandparents arrive, the table would be stretched for guests, rolls would be steaming underneath napkins, and the glass tableware would be pulled from the hutch. The house would be straightened and vacuumed, and the refrigerator packed with chilling desserts and flower-crusted pitchers, until the aroma of juicy, honey-glazed ham would drift into every scrubbed corner.

It would be a feast.

George Cowan, the president emeritus of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, sat at my dinner table last October and regaled me with many stories of the early years in translation with Uncle Cam Townsend, Wycliffe’s founder. His words inspired me then, and I invite you to take a moment to hear what he has to say now.

Feast or Crumbs from Adam Boyd on Vimeo.

Palm Sunday dawns tomorrow, and in many parts of the US, will be welcomed with processions of little children, palm leaves waving, and joyous alleluias from the worship team. “As it is written” John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus rode a donkey’s colt into Jerusalem.

As it is written.

The Jews knew 2000 years ago, and stroked their beards under the noise of the crowds. We know it and shout it from our pulpits and dinner tables. As it is written—hallelejuah!


But for 350 million people the page remains blank, the words unwritten in their languages.

And they wait for their Palm Sunday feast.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Best Laid Plans of...Frogs?

The past week, I’ve been a frog.

I lost my voice on Saturday, and it didn’t return until this (Friday) morning. A week of turning a soprano into a creaky baritone wouldn’t be advantageous for most people, but it’s certainly not helpful for someone in the depths of support-raising, where talking to people isn’t merely inevitable. It’s like breathing. The hoarse croaking, was, of course, accompanied by a nasty cold, but life stops for no one. And neither does support-raising.

So, despite being bleary-eyed from coughing all night, Sunday morning I headed to my old college church, where I visited dear friends, pretended I was a college student again, and passed out prayer cards with the perkiness that comes from eating too many cough drops.

I don’t remember much else, until Monday night, when I attended a district conference for our church, where I again snacked on cough drops and hoped I didn’t look too drugged as I scraped out introductions to all the Higher Ups and Important Pastors that I met. “What do you do?” “I’m a linguist.” “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” “Linguist.” “I’m sorry…?”

Sign language translation began to look very amenable.

Tuesday, in my now-usual manner of coughing and sneezing and squeaking, I ran around for several hours chasing down appropriate signatures and donating vials of my blood for the various exams and tests to prove… what precisely? Oh yes. That I’m healthy enough for my entrance visa.  Oh the irony.

Wednesday morning, my voice has the low rasp of a black-and-white film star, but I again jump into the car, ready for a meeting with area pastors. Little did I know that I would need military-grade satellite imagery to weave me through the road maze of Coon Rapids. And so, I frantically roam the highway system, desperately watching for signs until I realize there are actually two roads numbered 10 and that can make a very big difference. Especially when I’m on the wrong one. Heading the wrong direction. Movie stars might think being late is attractive, but frog-voiced linguists who had hopes of professionalism find it disconcerting.

That afternoon, I sat in Barnes and Noble, racing the finicky internet connection as I pecked out emails and sprayed water over the various fires that had somehow cropped up in the last four hours. Next it was out to Glencoe and an evening church service, where, soon after arriving, I realized that the demographic that was in my head was not the one sitting in the pews. And so, as I was clipping on the mike (“turn it up more; we can’t hear you!”), I found myself switching out video clips and re-arranging my stories, and diving into a blessed evening with forty 5th-8th graders.

The week continued in such a vein, as Thursday’s dessert night canceled due to the collision of several miscommunications and extenuating circumstances, and Friday’s dessert night altered from anyone’s original expectations. Various individual meetings that were supposed to come together this week dissolved, and emails and phone calls that needed replies didn’t receive them. Packing needs have piled into corners, and I only hope that important deadlines haven’t been buried on my neglected desk. Blog posts are half-written and thank you notes remain unaddressed. Sunday’s presentation hasn’t been compiled, and I realized I have forgotten some paperwork at one of my stops this week.

I admit, sometimes “overwhelming” is an understatement.

And then, as I sit here chronicling this week’s adventures, not sure whether I ought to laugh or just shake my head, an email drops into my inbox.

photo courtesy of
A new partner. From a place I’ve never been. With a name I don’t know. How this was sent to my email, is beyond my imagination.

I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9, when God says

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
   neither are your ways my ways,” 
            declares the LORD.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
   so are my ways higher than your ways 
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And I’m glad that it’s not up to frogs to run the world.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When I impersonate a matador

As you can probably tell from the lack of posting, life has been a bit chaotic recently, and some things have been pushed to the last minute. For some tasks, that’s not an issue, but for others it can have amusing results.

Such as mailing letters.

I even have a dedicated box filled with all sorts of notecards.
Mailing letters (thank you notes in particular) fills many hours of my week—and I do love it as much as I might grumble over what can seem like an endless task. It’s a chance to express my gratitude, to pray over people, to offer encouragement, to be humbled at their love. However, finding cost-effective thank you notes that aren’t too frilly or too sparkly or too pathetic is a task for a Private Eye, which means I scour stores and clip coupons and have become adept at peering into shelving crannies to find the last 10-pack on sale—envelopes included. If there was stock in the Wyoming Post Office, I would buy it, seeing as I must single-handedly contribute a high percentage to their mailings.

My view from my desk. In red is the infamous mailbox.

On my street, the mail is picked up anytime between noon and 6 pm, and so, the tension begins building for me about 11 am, when I realize that I haven’t stamped, addressed, or perhaps even finished my daily thank you notes. I sit at my desk, curling my handwriting over the card in grateful appreciation…and always throwing quick glances over my shoulder out my window (strategically positioned to see the streetside mailbox). There, done. I breathe in relief. Then panic as I watch my computer’s clock change. 1:14. Digital clocks give no warning of passing seconds.

I search through the hundreds of addresses—is it Ms. or Mrs.? My ear strains for the distinctive, high whine of the mail truck, and the speed at which I rifle through the drawer for that last book of stamps slowly increases into a frenetic pace. 1:15. Hurry, hurry!

I can almost hear the movie soundtrack, violins quivering in anticipation. Has it come yet? Will I make it?

Folding the letter, tucking it in, almost…NO! I see the perky little truck zip to my mail box, tuck the letters into the mouth, begin to drive…

I smash the stamp on the letter, flying down the stairs. Front door…No shoes…wait, still snow! Yes, shoes! Past sleeping dogs, now awake, blinking. Out the door, down the sidewalk—I can’t see the truck anymore!

As I tore down my driveway like one of those sprinters in high-stakes races, it occurred to me that this was a scene that belonged in a movie. Not at 1:16 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. That maybe I was over-reacting.

Funny how those thoughts only occur later, when you’re standing in the middle of the street, panting from the adrenaline high, strategizing interception routes as you realize the mail truck must circle the cul-de-sac and return down this same road.

There was only one mailbox left—one chance! The truck slowed and I sprinted, waving my fistful of letters like a postal matador, and dodging to the side as it braked next to me.

“Would you…” I gulped my breathing under control, trying nonchalantly to act like the idea just occurred to me, “please mail these?”

She grinned. I shrugged.

Just another day in the life of support-raising.