Thursday, July 11, 2013

From Nothing to Everything: A Story of God's Provision

Mi no save. In Tok Pisin, it’s the equivalent of “I haven’t got a clue,” and it seemed to be our mantra for the New Ireland Sunday School Book Production workshop (remember this post?). We had just finished typesetting the Tigaak hymnbook, and now we were supposed to lead two weeks of workshop producing two Sunday School books following the life of Christ in the Tiang language.
But, we didn’t know a few things.

My colleague, Hanna and I didn’t know precisely where we’d hold the workshop or where we’d be living (which, in turn, meant we didn’t know exactly what sort of cargo to bring—stuff for a village? for a centre?). We didn’t know who would exactly be coming or how many would show up. We didn’t know if we’d have adequate power at the workshop site or if the accommodations would be acceptable or even if there would be enough water or toilet facilities. We didn’t know how we’d manage food or printing supplies. We didn’t even know precisely what our goals were for the workshop or what was even involved in a “Sunday School Book Production” schedule or what angle we’d need to approach it from based on the experience of the participants. We didn’t know if we could work together or live together happily, and we didn’t know which computer programs we were supposed to use or if we could successfully print using a duplo. We didn’t even really have a clue how we were supposed to kick-off the workshop in the first place. The fact was, we were probably better off counting what we did was likely a shorter list!

But, as it turned out, our lack of everything meant God’s provision in everything.

First there was the facility. Hanna and I stayed at the guesthouse in Kavieng, but we were able to use the literacy office in Ligga (6 km south)—which happened to have a tiny apartment as well as dorms available for the participants use, as well as brand new pit toilets for our use!

Then there was the power supply at Ligga. First there was nothing, and then through the networking of our director (and God), there was power (and it remained consistent and reliable the entire time, which was another miracle).

What a lovely classroom--with fans and blackboards!!

Next, there were the participants. Instead of only a few people (or reluctant people)...10 of the most dedicated Sunday School teachers and church leaders along with 4 trained national translators crowded into our tiny classroom, eager to begin the work (and informed us sadly that at least another 20 wanted to come, but there was no room for them in the dingy). All day, every day they bent over the task of translation and editing, determined to see the project through. They were an absolute blessing every step of the way.

The Tiang were an amazing group to work with!

Then there was the food. The participants raised their own money to pay for the dingy fare and food costs—but when they handed their tiny amount to us to go purchase the supplies, it was evident it would be nowhere near enough to feed 14 people for two weeks. But God cares for His people, and before we realized it, a local business owner had donated more than enough supplies for the entire workshop, well over eight times the original amount in our pockets!

And don’t forget the book-making supplies. As Hanna and I purchased the supplies needed for printing and producing the books, another local business owner graciously gave us a significant discount, and went to lengths to help us find everything we needed.

Our lack of knowledge and experience was another issue...but not a problem for God! Hanna and I took it hours (and sometimes minutes) at a time, and between the advisors that came along at just the right time (thank goodness for our digimodems and email!), our combined previous workshop experiences (which happened to complement each other perfectly), and a whole lot of prayer, we found that it wasn’t nearly as overwhelming and daunting as we first anticipated.

Here, Hanna is reviewing the Tiang alphabet
God was there with us in my weakness. Because Hanna only learned at the last minute of the workshop (another blessing; originally I was going to do it on my own!), she had to leave for another engagement at the end of the first week, leaving me to finish it off. Unfortunately, three days after she left, I woke up quite sick and unable to lead the workshop for several days. It was distressing to all of us, because our timetable was quite short. As one of the participants put it, “It looked like we were going to finish the first book, but then Catherine got sick, and I thought—we’re not going to finish the book! So I waited, and then the next day, Catherine was still sick, and I thought, we’re definitely not going to finish the book! But then, the third day, Catherine called and said she was well enough to work, and then I knew, we were going to finish the book.”

Finishing the book--part 1 of the Life of Jesus
I can only credit the strength of God that allowed me to crawl from bed and help them finish and print the first book of the life of Christ, mostly finish the second book (that one will hopefully be finished later this month), and give a short teacher training before they all had to return to their homes on Djaul Island on the Friday.

And finally, God was with me in my travel to get home to Ukarumpa! Only a few days before my flight was supposed to leave, things fell apart, and some scrambling by my friends and colleagues finally got me back to my house, two days and three airlines later!

And I’m going to run out of space to tell you about God’s provision in the vehicles, the computer programs, the tiny blessings of sunsets and chances to try new foods (like cooking fresh crab), the friendship with Hanna, and much more.

I praise God that when I don’t know things, He does, and He is the one who will ultimately bring His Word to the hands and hearts of Papua New Guineans. As one young woman, Shelley said, “Dispela em i bikpela wok bilong God. Em i no inap lus nating. Yumi mas givim glori na biknem long em!
“This is an important work of God. And thus, it will not be fruitless. You and I must give glory and praise to Him!”

Shelley was a talented editor.