Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tell me more!

Julie is on the left; photo by Gary Abbas
“Tell us more about what you believe.”

Julie, her spoon hovering over a pot of simmering vegetables, paused in the middle of dinner preparations and straightened. The boys’ voices carried easily from the other room, and as she listened, one of the young men avidly described his entrance into local cult worship in Milne Bay province. The other Maiwala boys prodded him to learn more, and as he shared, Julie began to pray. Lord, how can I reach these boys?

Once dinner was ready, Julie invited the boys to join her. “But first, before we eat, I want to tell you a story.” And as they listened, Julie wove into life the Biblical story of the escaping Israelite nation and their downfall with the golden calf. When she finished, the room was silent, and Julie, smiling a little, merely handed the boys their bowls and bid them eat.

Two weeks later, Julie heard that another group of boys had sought out their friend who was involved with the local cult to learn more, but he held up his hand. “I knew,” he admitted, “but I’ve decided to stop.” The other boys pressed him, but he shook his head and explained he had heard a story from the Bible about a golden calf. “The story is still in me; I can still remember [it]. When I go to do other things, I feel like God is speaking to me since I heard this story.”

He paused, then looked them straight in the eye, “I know that there are no other gods—just God himself.

Storytelling is a powerful method of sharing God’s truth, and Julie has seen this firsthand both in her home language of Maiwala, as well as serving as a trainer of Oral Bible Storytelling throughout the nation. Julie was one of my colleagues when I was a translation adviser at one of the courses last year. She uses her gifts to teach people how to tell vivid, life-changing Biblical stories in their own languages, which often paves the way for written Bible translation.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Now I can see it!

Check out the artist's website!
Norbert had never seen a painting like this one. It was his first visit to the Ukarumpa Meeting House and above the stage a giant painting stretched over the room. Painted by Chris DeJong in 2001, it was filled with angels and clouds and animals and people from around the world all focused on the very centre, where a Lamb stood before a scroll. It’s Revelation, he realized.

As he gazed at the Scripture, tears filled his eyes. His friends, Elden and Bea Sandy, who were sitting next to him, bent closer, “Why are you crying?” they asked. “What happened?”

Norbert shifted on the bench, then turned. “Before I came here, I had a vision in my early childhood about what God wanted me to do with my life, but I’d never seen it depicted before—until today. Now I can see it.”

Since 2010, Norbert has supported Bible translation by teaching computer skills to national translators, from basic typing to using specialized translation programs like Paratext. “We create a dialogue in the classroom,” Norbert explained, “So [students] can discuss not only problems they are having with their computers, but other things too.”

“Teaching is a call for me—ever since I was a little child I’ve wanted to follow the example of Jesus Christ as a teacher.” Norbert first studied computer science in seminary and later went back to school to study education to improve his teaching skills. “I’m always studying!” he laughed.

Although the classes are small, interest is high, and Norbert is optimistic about its continued growth. “I teach them how to use antivirus and protect their work. It’s very valuable for translating in the village—otherwise they can lose all their translation work if they get viruses.”
“I used to teach at other schools and universities,” Norbert explained, “It was the life I thought I wanted, but it wasn’t satisfying. But now, [by helping translators], this is where my excitement and my joy have been found: serving the Lord through computer science.”

I've had lots of fun visiting with Norbert and the students in his classes. Teaching computer skills is a huge demand here in PNG, and it's exciting to be able to pair it with discipleship and Bible translation!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Art of Dugouts

Only one dog on this canoe! photo by Rebekah Drew

I counted again. Yes, there were definitely seven dogs perched in the prow of the tiny canoe. We waved at the father and children as they glided past, seemingly unperturbed by the wagging, happily panting canines face first into the breeze. Apparently it was the Gulf Province version of hanging their heads out the car window....

Canoe-making in Gulf Province is not only a necessary skill for everyday transportation, but it’s also an art form, passed on from fathers to children. While I and my teammates were on a three-week survey of several languages in Gulf Province in August, we observed canoe-making in every village we visited—and some were quite prolific dugout shipbuilders! Enjoy!

photo by Susie Pederson

Thanks to a major flood only a few weeks earlier, many giant logs had been captured and floated to the villages for carving. Sometimes young men would gather dozens of logs together and float them on the tides to later sell. We saw one barge with a little sleeping shelter (and of course a dog) on top of the logs!

photo by Hanna Schulz

Some take the log up the side streams, away from major currents.

photo by Hanna Schulz

Here they are starting to shape the underside and sides (the cracks are patched with pieces of tin or wood).
photo by Hanna Schulz

Shaping the stern! Despite using what looked like large and awkward axe, the canoe-builder was extremely precise in his cuts, and could wield that axe like a conductor’s wand.

photo by Hanna Schulz

Time to hollow out the middle!

photo by Hanna Schulz

In between work, the canoe is covered with branches to prevent the tropical sun from drying out the wood and causing splits.

photo by Robbie Petterson

This one is almost completed. Now they add decorative carving and prepare it against termites.

photo by Hanna Schulz

 They build a fire under the boat using dry coconut leaves. This produces a greasy soot which coats the bottom of the boat which protects it against worms and termites.

photo by Hanna Schulz

Some canoes are tiny, and might only fit one person.

photo by Hanna Schulz
Others are huge and could pack 50 or more people inside!

photo by Rebekah Drew

Some canoes have a flat stern, where a motor could be attached.

No matter what, all canoes require outstanding balance to maneuver!

Not all canoes look the same throughout Papua New Guinea. Canoes that are made for ocean travel often have outriggers--like this one that I rode on in Madang Province.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Observations on the Happiness of Piglets

They race past the rooster, grazing his wingtips, and he squawks, hops, crows in surprise. Around the water-tank pen of crocodiles who thrash at the sudden vibration, six piglets, striped, spotted, black, white, brown, only weeks old, charge past, a frenetic dash just for the joy of it.

photo by Robbie Petterson

Dodging veranda posts and barreling between the legs of ponderous sows, they run, past dogs soaking up sunshine like solar panels and the rugby field where ten-year-old boys shoot bamboo arrows in practice.

photo by Susie Pederson

They ram each other, tossing brother over brother, in and out of shadows of banana trees and wooden floorboards, narrowly avoiding stacks of new marota* draped against the neighbor’s house to dry.

photo by Susie Pederson

A moment, a breath to snuffle in cast-off shoes, then away! No need to rest, the piglets race, charging through the bamboo fence, wiggling as milk-rounded bellies, back legs get caught on sticks, then, push, kick, and through and they are past their mother rooting in the grass for sago crumbs, diving into mud patches which steam in the heat until the air is thick and tastes of moldering leaves.

photo by Susie Pederson

Under the flapping laundry and the breadfruit tree, piglets tumble, flip on their noses, then up again, ignoring the cactus struggling in the metal pot and the pile of gum boots tossed at the bottom of the ladder, where the fathers of Akoma village have climbed to shake hands and settle cross-legged on woven pandanus mats. The blue sky breaks among the clouds; nine meters of rain a year fall here, and Pastor Michael ushers us to the place of honor in the middle of the haus win.^

photo by Susie Pederson

The piglets charge past, a valiant cavalry, until a motherly grunt, and the leader brakes, siblings tumbling over him like swept leaves, and their noses twitch in anticipation. The sow trundles toward the road, her children falling into place, single file, each step all steadiness and decorum.

photo by Susie Pederson

Until the black-faced one stops, leaps, tail jerking, and they’re off again.

*roofing material made from sago or nipa palm
^an open-air shelter with a roof but no walls and often built on stilts


Observations on the happiness of piglets were made on our three-week trip through Gulf Province, where I and my teammates assisted local communities in literacy, translation, song-recording, and other projects. Read more starting here.