Thursday, December 31, 2015


This year's Christmas looks like something from Dr. Seuss!
I’m into my 6th year of blogging with over 155,000 views from all over the world...and as I hit my 300th post, I thought it was time to look back on some highlights, both since the blog’s inception and this year in particular!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bluetooth it to my phone!

Michael, a sixth grader, pleaded with his friend.  “Please, bluetooth it to my phone! I want to watch it, too!”

Shrugging Michael off, his friend stared transfixed at the video of Jesus translated into Kamano-Kafe. “No, I can’t do that. But my cousin [Lani] sells these SD cards. You go to her house and buy one of your own like I did.”

Michael craned his neck, “Please, send me just one song! Then I’ll go buy it!”

“No! Get your own!”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When nakedness is...relative

I took a deep breath, looking at myself in the mirror. You can do this, Catherine. Everyone is doing it. It’s fine. You’re fine. I walked toward the door. See? You can do this. Down the hall...were they looking at me?, wait? Yes? They were!!? I glanced down, AGH! How do people do this? I just feel so NAKED! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"I'm just a man from the village"

“I had been praying for five years that that a revision of the Tok Pisin [Papua New Guinea’s trade language] Bible would happen.”

James, the audio-recording headphones around his neck, leaned back in his chair. “So when I heard that Rich, the translation adviser, requested we come and look over the old Kamano-Kafe New Testament [to see if it needed revision or re-translation], I came to find out. He smiled faintly in remembrance—he had never dreamed that God would answer his prayer through a retranslated Bible in his own language!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Anti-Radiation Mysterious Mouse Evil Spirit Pad!

"This verse offers no problems for translators," my translation commentary program blithely remarked about Deuteronomy 1:14

Obviously they had never translated this verse with the we were now over 10 minutes into an animated discussion with no signs of ceasing (were the Israelites actually *answering* a question or were they merely *responding*?).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Translating "kingdom"...with no king!

Miskum leading the discussion (photo courtesy of Jessie Wright)
 How do you translate “kingdom” when the language has no word for “king?”

Recently, the Tigak people of New Ireland Province discussed this very issue, along with several other key terms to be used in their translation. “Key terms” are words in the Bible that are especially important for understanding its message, such as grace, forgiveness, and salvation, and they are often difficult to translate.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Letters to a New Missionary: Not a Nun (singleness part 2)

“Wait, so you’re not married?”

I shook my head as the man, two seats over from me in Port Moresby international airport terminal, leaned forward incredulously. “So, does that mean you’re one of those....oh, you know...women who wear long black and white dresses and, you know, what’s the word...”


“Yeah! Yeah, that’s it. A nun! Are you a nun?”

I bit my lip, trying to choke back the laughter. “Uhh, no. Actually, I’m not a nun!”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Letters to a New Missionary: Praying for Husbands Club (singleness part 1)

Alone...but never alone!

My housemate sat on our porch with some of our Papua New Guinean friends as they expressed their concerns. “We’re worried about you girls,” they shared. “Since wives have to listen to their husbands, when you get married, your husband might tell you that you can’t be friends with us. We’re going to pray that your husband will be friends with us too.” They nodded vigorously....and so became the latest members of what we jokingly refer to as the “praying for husbands club” that seems to take a special interest in our household. ;)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Banana Leaf Bible

A rope of bananas
Would you associate the Bible with bananas?

 The other day, I was sitting with the Kamano-Kafe men before we began team checking, and Pastor Tuas began telling the rest of us about the recent adult literacy graduation he attended. Read more about his story about the Bible and bananas in my newsletter!

If you don't yet receive my newsletter by email and you want to, be sure to sign up on my Newsletters page (where you can also see all my archived newsletters from ages past). I also send out a monthly prayer update by email--if you want to receive that, sign-up on my Prayer page.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Peace Like a River

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since armed robbers broke into my house while I was home alone.
I didn’t write about the incident a year ago because it was only 10 days before I was supposed to leave on a nearly month-long village trip. When suddenly you’re filing police reports and attempting to replace stolen items and meeting with counselors and reassuring family (in addition to planning workshop lessons and packing and making month’s supply of granola...), well, blogging is kind of low on the priority list.

I’ve tried quite a few times to write about it in the year since then, but each attempt always seemed to fall short—they turned out too graphic or too lighthearted or too serious or too blase or even, too holy.

So I’ve just skipped it, just like I skip talking about most of what we might consider dangerous situations that I encounter here, because I fear misinterpretation, responses blown out of proportion, and that you may take on burdens that may not be yours to bear (after all, when God gives us trials, He enables us to bear them with His strength, and this was my trial, not necessarily yours). Without having enough beautiful, God-ordained, glory-filled experiences in this country to glow white in your memory, the presence of darkness could be overwhelming. (And since major events stick in our memory, you might start to think this sort of thing is normal and forget the vast majority of life here is made up of (relatively) uneventful days of laundry and cooking and dishes and translation.)

But whether or not I know how to write eloquently about it, the break-in was real. The scars I bear are real. The battle that you and I are both warring against a crafty Enemy is very real. And so, if I do not write, how are you to know how to pray?

 So instead, let me merely say I was home alone, watching a TV episode, and two masked men broke into the house, waving knives. There was a fight that included physical contact and my throwing a ridiculously heavy rosewood chair across the room into an attacker (adrenaline is an amazing thing); eventually, I escaped out of the house and down the road to the safety of some neighbors. I walked away with only scrapes and bruises; the robbers took my housemate’s computer and a few other things, but all things considered, the damage was minimal, and for that we praise God.

I also praise God for those days after—for the support and love that poured out from my prayer team, from the missionary community here, and my Papua New Guinean friends. I also praise Him for His peace. The night of the break-in, after our security team had left and all was quiet, I lay awake, the attack vividly playing over and over in my mind. But, instead of debilitating fear, I found myself sinking deeply into this most heavy, tangible peace that I’ve ever known. You are not alone. I love you. I am here whispered over and over and over into my heart. As I lay in those Arms, I saw again one image in particular—the rolling, panic-striken eyes of the younger robber peeking just above his mask. He was just a boy utterly terrified, trying to shush me and his fear into silence. And I found myself crying on his behalf, praying desperately, not from hurt or anger or fear, but from a deep wracking pity. For on this terrible night, I was the one wrapped in peace—and he was not.

The year since that night has not been all sunshine and roses for me—I’ve had to grieve and forgive and choose to trust again and claim that promise of peace over and over. But that’s why we’re here, is it not?  That’s why we choose to stay in the midst of trials and hardships, when the unexplainable happens and everything wants to scream retreat! Because we have been offered life, given peace when we never deserved it...and that boy, he doesn’t know Him yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How beautiful are the feet that bring good news...and donuts!

Lani and her sister-in-law hiked up mountains like these!
“My sister-in-law wanted to take the bus, but I said, ‘No, we have strong legs! We can walk!’ So we slung our bags onto our backs, and we hiked over those mountains.”

Lani couldn’t stop smiling as she told about selling audio recordings of the Kamano-Kafe New Testament, worship songs, and translated Biblical videos, which were loaded onto SD cards for cell phones and Audibibles (solar-powered players).

“We went straight to the market to sell the items. Because we were new, everyone wondered who we were and what we were doing. Once they saw the materials, many of the older men and women told us, ‘It is very good that you have come and brought these things. We desperately need them. We want to hear the talk of God in our own language.’

Many of the older women can't read--but they can listen to 
  audio recordings and hear God's Word!
Without friends or family in the village, neither woman had a place to stay, but God provided. “I’m very happy about this work you are doing,” a woman called out to them. “Please, come eat and sleep at my house tonight.”

As Lani and her sister-in-law hiked from village to village, they encouraged everyone they encountered to meet them at the local market, and sold a great deal. “My husband is a translator,” explained Lani, “and I want to help him in this work. [The translators] work hard translating the Word of God, but [they] can’t distribute it...So it’s my work to sell it as part of the Kamano-Kafe team.”

Now Lani and her sister-in-law have many requests from villages to come sell the audio recordings. When she’s not travelling, Lani heads to the road near her home, selling her homemade donuts next to the translated materials. “The donuts are a great way to draw in customers!” she laughed. “Before I go, I ask God to send at least one person to buy His Word...and He helps me, and I always sell a few...and so many people who can’t read or write get to hear God’s Word in their own language.”

Lani is the wife of one of the translators, whom I have the privilege of working with every week. Her joy as she told her story was absolutely infectious! 

I originally wrote this article for the The PNG Experience (our publication site for translation in Papua New Guinea).

*names changed for security

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Streams in the (Rainforest) Desert

This is what our hills should look like.
It rained briefly today. After months of drought, this tropical island is finally dripping again, diamonds falling off the pine tree needles. The world is rinsed, washing off the months of smoke and ash and dust from mountains charred black by villages, who hope water might want to condense on the rising smoke. Within moments, the hillsides are greening in excitement, but the gardens still wait. It’s not enough, this brief shower—it dampens the topsoil, but can’t heal the cracks that spiderweb across the earth, can’t soften the ground that traps the muna beetle from hatching.

Today, the clouds pile into our harbor, scraping their hulls on the mountaintops, and we hear their cargo tear loose in thunder and capsize upon us. Where do you come from, you treasure ships of the sky? How did you sail past the Pacific, cheating El Nino, who hordes our rains in his windstricken hands?

Drink eight glasses of water a day,
and so in our home countries we journey to our fridge or pop open a bottle (from crystal-sparkling springs in the Alps). But here, trustworthy water—water without typhoid or cholera—is gathered daily from ever-flowing springs or ever-pouring rain trickling into water tanks, metal drums, clay pots, tarps and cupped leaves. (Wells are too contaminated by the plethora of outhouses and roaming pigs.) Rules guard its cleanliness—upriver for drinking water, downstream for places to wash clothes, dishes, men, and women. Sanitation is the rush of water into the Pacific.
Here is a photo of the same hill now.

But here, in this 5-month drought—the last of this magnitude over 40 years ago—springs shrink to a trickle and no cloud-ships come and dock in this valley. Mamas walk further and further to fill their pots. Some become desperate and slosh their bottles full with stagnant, untrusted sources and hope for the best—for in the village there is no money for bleach, fancy bucket filtration, or those magic drops you buy at REI for your camping weekend.

Just boil your water, strain out the grime. Drink—and suddenly dry clouds mean more than just waterless. Precious gardens have withered in the heat or destroyed by the frost, and the greenlife has drained from seedlings supposed to provide the next harvest. Now breakfast, lunch, and dinner must be usually earned by selling surplus produce at the market or perhaps mowing lawns or landscaping houses (but dead grass and flowers don’t need tending). Schools close (money for fees goes to buy food). Jobs are let go. Prices rise. Water levels at the dam drop, and electricity flickers.

And so those of us who have an income (which means, a responsibility to employ others who don’t), struggle to help our friends in acceptable ways, buying their crafts and their chickens, finding extra jobs. Employment in this country is far more than a financial contract but an agreement for the employer to step deep into the lives of his or her employees, from education to marriages to grief to dying gardens. Together, we conserve every precious drop—cooking water into dishwater, dishwater into gardens. And together, we look up at the sky and pray.

I will make streams in the desert and waters in the wilderness. Oh Lord, even the deserts of a tropical rainforest?

Right now should be rainy season, which means heavy downpours almost daily. This is the same hillside pictured above, almost a year ago, after some heavy rains (at the fenceline, the height of the pouring water is above my head).
To read more about this incredible drought that is expected to last into next year, check out this article from the UNDP in Papua New Guinea and a video from Australian Broadcasting News.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

If My Life Was Recorded Like the TV Show "24"

The clock in the TV show counts down the seconds...
A while back, my house was watching the TV show 24. It’s an action adventure show starring federal agents who are always trying to avert major disasters reputed to hit Los Angeles (remind me never to live there). The show’s quirk is that each hour-long episode is supposed to be in “real time” and so the entire season of 24 episodes is only 24 hours.  It’s a fast-paced show, where a clock continually ticks down the seconds and minutes left in the hour (which is filled with car chases, explosions and our intrepid heroes who never get stuck in traffic, never eat, never drink, never sleep, and never go to the bathroom).

One day, Rebekah, Jessie and I were discussing what if our lives were made into the show 24. I recall one particularly stimulating day a couple of years ago when I was concluding a workshop on the Rai Coast.

Waiting at the airstrip...
Episode 1: 6 am
Get up and get dressed. Eat some granola. Pack up last minute stuff.

Episode 2: 7 am
Walk to airstrip hauling luggage. Expected departure is at 7:30 am.

Episode 3: 8 am
Wait at airstrip. No sign of plane.

Episode 4: 9 am
Wait at airstrip.

Episode 5: 10 am
Wait at airstrip. 

Episode 6: 11 am
Wait at airstrip.

Episode 7: 12 pm
Wait at airstrip. Eat snack.
Hooray! It arrived!

You get the picture. The plane didn’t arrive until 1 pm (unavoidable delays), where it then took the first load of passengers to their village, while my team and I waited until about 4 pm, when we finallly boarded, flew back to Ukarumpa, got home, ate a quick supper, and was in bed by 9 pm.

Contrast this with my recent trip to Australia, where everyone not only wore watches and carried smart phones with alarms, but planned events down to the minute, packing more things into the day than I would have put into my entire week in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Efficiency, productivity, speed were key. People talked fast, walked fast, zipping from one thing to another, eating meals on the go, with barely a pause. Navigating the streams of racing passengers swarming over the Flinders Train Station in downtown Melbourne was definitely not a feat for the faint-hearted (I barely made it out alive!).

I’ve joked with my family that their one day in the US is equal to my one week in PNG at our centre (which in turn is equal to about one month in a village setting).  I don’t respond to your email in a week? Well, just pretend one day passed for me (also, similarly, our shortest measure of time that is really worthwhile is the day. Seconds, minutes, and hours just don’t have a lot of purpose...)

More waiting for the airstrip...
Life moves slowly here because it both takes longer anyway (remember my 42 steps to a dinner party?) and because PNG culture shows respect and value by spending as long as necessary with the person or event at hand (even if the person showed up at your door unannounced while you are walking out to go to a meeting). On the other hand, in Western culture, respect is demonstrated by the value you place on the next upcoming event or person you are planning to meet, so in the proposed situation, you’d be expected to respect the time of person you were meeting for the appointment and would not be late.

Both time orientations have their merits, of course, but the transition from one to another is always a bit of a shock, especially when I come from a place where an entire TV series could be spent waiting at an airstrip...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Fingers of the Man Cow-Pig

“Sister, we have a question.”

I was slouching in my metal folding chair in the tiny room at the back of the shed, my mind drifting as the five men on the Kamano-Kafe translation team waved their arms in a deafening shouting match in a language I didn’t know, impaling sticky notes and thumping Bibles onto the table until the computers shook. We were checking the second draft of Leviticus, deep into the many repetitive verses dealing with sheep’s entrails and fat covering the kidneys and the lobe of the liver and the specific rituals and rules of sin offerings and guilt offerings and peace offerings.

There are some concepts of that everyone expects to be difficult to translate. Guilt, for example. Consecrated. But more often than not, at least for the book of Leviticus, it was things like the distinction between skillet and frying pan for the grain offerings that was causing more challenges (not having the words in Kamano-Kafe).

And now they all were staring at me.

“Okay,” I said, “What’s that?”

“When the man cow-pig’s body is dumped outside the camp, do they throw away his legs or his fingers?”

A few man cow-pigs I saw when visiting a cattle station in the Markham Valley

(In traditional Kamano-Kafe society, they only interact with one large mammal: the pig. Thus, “pig” is also the word for “large mammal.” So, when they have to translate terms for other large mammals in the Bible, they tag on “pig” at the end, to indicate this animal fits in the same class as a pig; hence, they have horse-pigs and cow-pigs and goat-pigs and sheep-pigs.)

“What do you mean by fingers?” I had a pretty good idea of what he was referring to, but it’s always wise to confirm we’re on the same page.

Nathan stood his arm on the table, curling his fingers into the shape of a cow’s hoof. “This part, the bottom of the leg.”

“Okay, well...they dump both his legs and his fingers. It’s the whole thing that gets burned.”

They nodded and looked at each other. Loud arguing erupted for a few more minutes, as they continued to gesture emphatically. Obviously there were now two sides to this discussion.

Suddenly it all went silent, and Nathan turned to me. “Are you sure?”

Some mama cow-pigs and pikinini (baby) cow-pigs
Oh dear. “Yes I’m sure. See, right here where it says legs?” I read the passage aloud again. “In English, that refers to the entire thing, including the fingers.” I pointed down my arm, then my leg. “The whole thing, shoulder to finger. Hip to finger.”

I sat back down as the discussion flowed around me in very exited Kamano-Kafe. Was I explaining this wrong? What was the problem?

James leaned across the table. “Please, look it up in your translator notes. Are you sure they throw out the fingers of the man cow-pig?” The others nodded vigorously.

I clicked through the translator help commentary on my computer program, but for some reason, the authors had neglected to discuss at length if it was the legs or the fingers from the bull that were burned...compared to the lengthy discussion of atonement a few verses earlier, which had been a piece of cake for us.

I turned back. “Umm, well, it’s definitely the WHOLE THING. The only things not burned are those kept for sacrifice by the priest. Everything else, hip, shoulder, leg, fingers, skin....all of it gets burned. Can we say that in good Kamano-Kafe? Do we need to reword it?”

“No, no, we can say that.” The guys chatted a bit more, trying out a few different phrases. James typed a few notes into the computer.

“Okay, Sister,” Nathan folded his arms on the table, “We’ve said the whole leg including the fingers..... but now we need to know, do they throw out the arms of the man cow-pig too?”

You never know what discussions might come up when dealing with the complexities of translation!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Happy Birthday PNG!

Happy, happy birthday, Papua New Guinea (PNG)! Today, September 16th, is PNG's 40th anniversary of independence!

Check out this awesome video showcasing some of the beautiful people and scenery of this young nation!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Australian Holiday from A to Zed

  A is for my accent which slides and changes based on who I’m with. So far, I’ve been pegged as an Australian, New Zealander, American, Canadian, Brit, and even a generic “European!”

B is for tasty treats we can’t get in Papua New Guinea (PNG) like blueberries, sliced ham, peaches and grapes!

C is for clean! The stores were clean! The roads were clean! The sidewalks were clean! Even the train station platform was clean!

I even got to improve my in-hand dressage skills.
D is for dressage, my favourite equestrian sport, and the focus of ten days of my trip, where I helped out at an upper level barn and was able to take lessons, watch clinics, and be in a lovely horsey environment!

E i is for etiquette on a train. Rule 1: Don’t acknowledge the existance of any other person. Ever. Rule 2: Always stare at your smart phone. If you accidentally look up, remember Rule 1.

F is for my being oblivious to Western-style flirting after not being exposed to it for years...

G is for eating successfully gluten-free eating during my entire time (quite a feat while traveling)!

H is for hay bales. We don’t use hay bales to feed our horses here in PNG and so getting to hang out at the horse barn, with their gorgeous fences, beautiful water troughs, elegant stalls, perfect arenas, awesome shavings pile, and of course, their shed of hay bales, made me very happy!

I is for the icy cold weather in Melbourne (well, compared to my home state of Minnesota, it was nothing, but compared to my life in PNG, I was shivering under 5 layers!)

J is for the jolly and beautiful countryside of Australia that is a lovely change from PNG jungle!

See the baby in the pouch on the left?
K is, of course, for the many kangaroos (and don’t forget the wombats and wallabies) I saw roaming around the various parts of Victoria. The babies were pretty cute!

is for the scary left turns that happen when you’re driving on the left (or right) hand side of the road. I can’t remember anymore and so midway through the turn I’m panicking WHERE DO I END UP??? WHERE AM I?? AHH!

M is for the many medical appointments which finally shed some light on my several years of chronic fatigue—there are multiple underlying viruses and parasites in my system that need to be eradicated. Yay for treatment plans!

is for traveling at night which we don’t do in PNG...and so it was very strange!

O is for being overlooked when I’m wandering through town. For once, I’m not a celebrity!

P  is for visiting cool paintings at the Melbourne Art Museum (even more fun, their exhibit was “The Horse”)

Q is for how quickly everything happens in Australia! After living at a much, much slower place, I was rather taken aback by the speed at which everyone lived and spoke and shopped and travelled and planned...

R is for restaurants; we don’t have many restaurants in PNG, and we get to visit them even more rarely, so it was fun to go out to eat with a friends a couple times and enjoy Greek and Argentinean food!

S is for “sticky beak” and all the other fun Aussie expressions!  (And no, it does not mean a giant bird beak covered in honey...but to take a look out of curiosity.)

T is for all the travel challenges I experienced this time around. Ah well, I made it, and flights and departures and customs can’t all go smoothly every single time!

U is for the apparent unconcern people have for security issues (which are constantly in the back of our minds in PNG)—for example, no extra locks on doors, no bars on windows, no alarm systems in houses and no security guards checking your bilum (PNG string bag) as you enter and exit stores!

Melbourne from the sky!
V is for the cool view of Melbourne from the tallest lookout in the Southern Hemisphere!

W is for the wide aisles in the grocery store.  I know this sounds weird, but aisles in PNG are usually really narrow and crowded, and so this made me really happy...

X is for both eXpensive and ineXpensive...which is what prices look like when you keep trying to filter too many currency exchange rates in your head....

Y is for when you look like you ought to belong, but you don’t, the global traveler’s conundrum.

Z is for the zillion lovely new friends I made!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pineapple Skills

Sometimes, I really like channeling food bloggers. They make scrumptious meals with TONS of step-by-step pictures (in case we don't know what a bowl looks like) and can get you enthusiastic about the most mundane of things like...oh, I don't know, brussel sprouts (which my housemate actually cooked the other day and I had them for the first time... and they weren't so bad! Why do they always get such a bad rap, like the epitome of disgusting vegetables? But I digress.)

On today's food blogging episode, I will enlighten you to a skill set every tropical-living missionary needs to learn...chopping the pineapple (later, I'll walk you through The Mango). I actually earned lots of "cool foreign points" when I sliced a pineapple like this in Australia for my hosts.

The Pineapple
Step 1: Get the pineapple...this may include wading through a spikey garden to wrestle it off the plant...(Signs of ripeness vary between kind of pineapples, but generally you want a nice pineapple-y smell and golden shades in the skin.)

Step 2: Remove the pineapple's crown by twisting it off the fruit. Proceed to plant the crown in the garden for more pineapples.

Step 3: Slice off both ends of the pineapple so that it sits upright on your cutting board.

Step 4: Now here's where it gets interesting: Slice off a chunk of the skin. If it's a Highlands pineapple, then the eyes aren't very deep and you can easily take the entire skin off with one fell swoop--like you see in this first photo. (Proceed slicing the skin off all the way around the pineapple.)

But, if it's a Lowlands pineapple, then the eyes are deep, and even after you have taken all the skin off, it still looks something like this:

Step 5: In order to cut out all the eyes, you'll need to make diagonal wedge-shaped slices from top to bottom of the pineapple, following the spiral of the eyes.

Step 6: You're almost there! Cut your pineapple into delicious slices (aren't they pretty?) and enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Third Conversation is the Hardest

image courtesy of
 Two years ago this month I was back in the US, experiencing the adventure and the challenges of "home assignment." While I anticipated conversations with friends after years away would be difficult, I never guessed that it would actually be the third conversation that would be the most lonely. Although I don't plan on returning to the US until 2016, many of my friends are currently in the midst of this transition around the world.

The Third Conversation is the Hardest
I see your blurry face through the glass, door cracks open, and years
are squashed in our embrace, as dogs and children squall
welcome back! A bowl of snow peas from your new garden, new baby on your hip, new
job, and best friends curl on the couch together between
pieced pillows, shuttling questions like a tennis match.
Tell me all about it!

A few weeks later, an apple orchard reunion—filling our mouths
with Honeycrisp and Beautiful weather, isn’t it?
Did you have a nice holiday? And I tell you about falling off
sidewalks, and forgetting how to use self-checkouts in Walmart,
laughing together, juice running down our cheeks.

A month and 20 minutes until the concert starts, and together, suddenly
silent.  What to say now—the weather
 is still beautiful, your kitchen remodel
is still finished, your child
is still crawling. Conversation springs from shared
life and we are walls built on a common foundation
no longer touching. 

An armrest and countries apart, I rehearse small talk in my mind
searching for that first brick. Maybe
next week, we can talk about the concert?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I could trust it!

an Audibible!
One afternoon, James, a Kamano-Kafe Bible translator, received a phone call from his cousin, an engineer with a master’s degree who worked at a big gold mining company. A fellow Kamano-Kafe speaker had recently come to visit his cousin and brought with him an Audibible, a hand-held, solar-powered audio player that held all of the translated Kamano-Kafe New Testament along with Genesis.

“Where did you get this?” James’ cousin had asked.

“The team of Kamano-Kafe translators had made it,” the man had responded.

As James’ cousin listened to the Scriptures being spoken in his own language, he was amazed. “I’ve read the English Bible and the Tok Pisin [Papua New Guinea’s trade language] Bible, and I’ve not been able to understand. I wasn’t ever able to comprehend all the meaning.

“But, when I heard the Scripture spoken in my own language, I knew I could trust it. These words, they contained all the meaning of the Bible, and it was in my own language! It touched my heart, and I’m so happy.”

James, who is working with his fellow Kamano-Kafe translators to translate the Old Testament, and his cousin talked for a while longer. “God is doing a good work with this!” the man exclaimed, “It’s good you keep working on this task! I regularly go to church and worship and listen to a sermon in English or Tok Pisin, but when I finally heard it in my own mother tongue, God’s Word touched me deeply. It took its rightful place inside me!”

I originally wrote this article for The PNG Experience (the blog that chronicles translation and language work in Papua New Guinea). Over the next year, I'm planning stepping into the Kamano-Kafe team as translation adviser while the primary advisers are in the US on home assignment. Stay tuned for more Kamano-Kafe stories and videos to introduce you to these remarkable people!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure--Part 2: Going Somewhere

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books that often seemed to involve capture by aliens and untimely deaths if you made the wrong choices? Last week we started our own Missionary Holiday version with Part 1. Once you make it all the way through Part 1, then I invite you to continue on this treacherous path with Part 2! 

Is it time for a shopping trip?
4. After trying the stay-cation for several years, you finally decide it might be worth branching out. You’ve saved up the money and remind yourself that mental health is important. Even Jesus went away up to a mountain to pray! Your vacation activities are simple--either you drive to a town with shopping or fly to a town with snorkeling. First you ponder the driving option.

Three towns are within driving distance (2-6 hours over very rough roads). However, you don’t own a car, so you either need to recruit some friends with vehicles or rent one. If you plan on driving, you need to not only make contingency plans for bridge wash-outs, criminal activity, mudslides, directions, motion-sickness, and fuel, but you also need to make sure you have a man in the car (not a given if you are a single woman).  Once you get to the town, there are a few more decisions to consider, all of which are equally complicated (housing, transport within the town, food, security issues). Do you...

...feel like your mind is going to explode and you want to devour an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies because of the stress?
    (Indulge your craving (though you might have to break up the melted-and-rehardened chocolate chips into dusty crumbs with a mallet) and begin to consider flying somewhere instead of driving. See paragraph 5.)

...decide to gather with a bunch of friends and do a whirlwind shopping tour that means you need a week to recover when you come home?
    (Pause for a moment to savor the new food you brought up, and then return to Part 1, paragraph 1, but add in all the work that piled up during the week that you were gone.)

You could be like Susie, waiting for a plane to refuel...
(photo courtesy of  Rebekah Drew)
 5. Five towns are within flying distance. You first will need to catch a flight out of your local airstrip (or you can drive to one of the local driving towns (repeat paragraph 4)). These flights can be quite expensive, and beware connecting flights and short time connections because often your home valley gets fogged in during the mornings and flights delayed. Once you get to the town, you now need to figure out driving transportation (repeat paragraph 4), along with all the complications of housing, food, and security. But, the water is pretty, you finally feel warm, and you see interesting coral. Do you...

...still feel like exploring this option?
(Read paragraph 4 to understand all the driving complications that you have taken upon yourself. If you still find yourself on this answer after reading everything twice, then enjoy your water holiday.)

...wonder if there is another place you could go where you could actually walk around at night and take public transportation without finding a token man to accompany you and where you could maybe do some shopping AND some enjoyable activities?
    (You are not alone! Continue on to paragraph 6.)

6. Suddenly, you find yourself opening up Kayak flight search engine and randomly putting in the names of cities in nearby countries. After you pull yourself off the ceiling when presented with the fares, your mind begins to race through a litany of questions—Which country? Which city? Which time zone? Where will I stay? What do I need to do—shopping? medical appointments? Which place accepts my insurance? Wait, how does the exchange rate work? Where is my credit card anyway? What time of year should I go to get the cheapest rates?  Will I know the language? How will I get around? Do I need a car? What’s my budget? How much luggage allowance can I have?  How many days of travel to get there? Where do flights connect? What do they wear I even have the appropriate clothes? How cold is it?

Your vacation-planning has turned the corner, now rivaling the complexity of a quantum physics manual. Do you...

...consider flying to your home country?
    (Why not go see your family and save much of the planning unknowns? Trek onwards to paragraph 7.)

....decide to tack on your out-of-country vacation with your next departure  for home assignment (a year and a half away) and just stay put this year...(return to Part 1, paragraph 1).

7. You merrily begin to dream about returning to your home country (perhaps the United States)—why not take a full month? After all, it’s so incredibly expensive, that you might as well try to get as much bang for your buck for those thousands you’re spending on the holiday. But, you are worried a bit. You're 17 hours ahead of your hometown, which means you’ll have to cross a lot of time zones...and everyone knows that the jet lag is much worse travelling east. You might even lose a full ten or more days to foggy memory and strange sleep cycles. Add that into the week of travel, and you only have 13 days of holiday.

Subtract at least three days of culture shock, one day dedicated to doctor appointments, and two days to buying lots of things and packing them in luggage or shipping them by sea freight. Don't forget that since your friends and church haven’t seen you in years, you probably will be asked to meet a few for dinner and lunch and coffee and perhaps give a quick testimonial at church and a Bible study--at least two more days.

So now you have five holiday days left to spend with your family, which may or may not emotionally tear you to pieces because before you know it, only moments after you said hello, you are flying across the ocean for a departure of another few years. Do you...

...decide that it’s all worth it—after all, you’ll see family!
    (Congratulations! You’ve had your holiday! Now you’ll need another one when you get back to your work country...)

...shed a tear or two, and move on to a different holiday plan....perhaps somewhere like Australia—cheap flights, same time zone, and speaks English?
    (Don’t worry, you’ll find the perfect holiday someday! You might have to take some time off of work to plan your vacation...but it’s all worth it in the end, right?)

Okay, well, it’s not always this difficult...but let’s just say the truth can be stranger than fiction! As for me, after five months of planning, I finally finalized my holiday plans for 16 days in Australia next month. Yippee! It will be an adventure!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure--Part 1: The Decision

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books that often seemed to involve capture by aliens and untimely deaths if you made the wrong choices? Well, today you can play your own version—by planning a holiday as a missionary! Don’t forget to stay tuned for Part 2 (if you survive that long!).

You might even feel like you have a cuscus on your head!
(photo courtesy of Rebekah Drew)
1. Your computer’s low battery light blinks, startling you out of your headache-induced stupor. Despite your living on a tropical island in the South Pacific, it’s been frigidly cold for the last few weeks and your uninsulated house has turned your fingers and toes into ice. You’re trying to understand the complex financial situation of the dozens of accounts that make up your translation project as well as problem-solve for your translators (in multiple languages—and who ever learns those words right off the bat?) the bugs in their translation program, when you hear the pitter-patter of rain on the metal roof. Bolting outside to try to salvage the laundry (which you’ve been trying to dry for a week), you sigh as you notice that all your reds and your greens are slowly becoming indistinguishable (thanks to river water) and your underwear has been stretched and ripped beyond recognition. As you lug your laundry basket into the house, you feel that weird cough rising in your throat (who knows what illness you might be fighting?) and you realize that you forgot to go to market this morning, and now your fridge is nearly empty. The power has been out for a few hours, but you do find some old bananas and dust off the fruit flies as you look around your home.

“Hmmm,” you mutter. “I need a vacation.” Do you...

...brush off the nagging thought? Holiday? Who needs a holiday? Missionaries don’t need holidays! I’m just fine!
    (If so, you’re not unlike most missionaries. Please repeat paragraph 1.)

...collapse into tears because you are so burnt out that planning a holiday is the most overwhelming task you’ve ever heard of in this universe?
    (If so, again, welcome to the club. Please repeat paragraph 1.)

...briefly wonder if it might be a possibility in this lifetime.
    (Congratulations! Continue on to paragraph 2.)

2. Over your supper of Maggi noodles and rice you found on a bottom cupboard, you tentatively bring up the topic with your (spouse/housemates). “Ah, a holiday!” one person sighs in ecstacy, “I went on a holiday once! But it’s just so expensive!” Your other friend looks up at you, “Do you know when you want to go? After all, there is that workshop next month and school doesn’t let out until July and who would take over your team’s translation needs? We better look at the next three year plan and coordinate this.”

As you sip your water, you feel your eyes glazing over. Quickly, before you go comatose, do you...

....forget the whole idea. After all, there’s a whole lot of work to be done here, and there really is no one else who can take your place, except for maybe Mary, and she’s busy with other important work and if she took over your spot for a few weeks, then who will take hers? Maybe next year someone will be here, and you can leave.
    (You’re in good company, my friend! Please return to paragraph 1.)

...begin hyperventilating about the expense. Money?! Of course holidays take money! I completely forgot about money! I don’t have any money! And what will my supporters think if I spend their money on a holiday! After all, the last time I put photos on Facebook of our family at the beach, we got some critical emails from a person commenting on the “[supposedly] poor, suffering missionary” and misappropriation of funds!
    (But, you have great resolve and faith—after all, God takes care of sparrows, and they don’t plan vacations! Decide you will consider a stay-cation. Continue on to paragraph 3.)

3. Staying in your home sounds like a cheap alternative—why pay for a bed, food, and roof when you have one right here? Also, no one would actually have to take over your job...maybe if you just spend one day a week in the office, you can push the other things off or delegate. After all, you could be emailed the notes for the department meeting and then read them in the evenings and answer a few more aren’t technically working, because it’s not happening during “work hours,” right? You keep it up for a few days, before the first medevac crisis hits and then your pet gets ill and then your translators need some money to buy a cell phone and then you offer to fill in as the community librarian for a few days. “Isn’t it good I stayed home?” you smirk to yourself, “Look at all this work I’m doing!”

Suddenly, as you run from one meeting to another, while still trying to do laundry that won’t dry and finish the shopping and make the yogurt and fix the blinking security light and chase down the escaping dog and help out your village friends with school fees, you realize...this probably isn’t a holiday. Do you...

...think, this is pretty close to a holiday?
    (So do we all, kemosabe, so do we all. Return to paragraph 1.)

...realize that you might want to think about leaving home.
    (Stay tuned for Part 2.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015 it still revenge?

One of the participants hard at work in the workshop
“What do I do when evil spirits text me on my mobile phone?” “If someone else takes revenge for me, is it still taking revenge?” “Does God protect unbelievers from spirits and curses?” “Why didn’t God just destroy Satan in the beginning?” “Isn’t it true that a dead man’s spirit can come back to hurt the living?” “Why do some omens seem to work?” 

Many many questions just like these were raised and discussed at the recent Culture Meets Scripture workshop (I talked about it a bit in this blog post). You can read about one of the cool stories that came up in the workshop (dealing with the pressure of revenge-killing) in my newsletter!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

A Spoonful of Hope

This has nothing to do with spoon theory. But it's a pretty
view from my veranda!
I had a lovely fistful of spoons this past week.

After spending the second two weeks of July in an intensive workshop (more on that later), I had been feeling a bit rundown and more tired than usual, so that weekend, I decided to greatly reduce my usual plans and plant myself horizontally on the couch for a few days of furious resting. “Spoon-gathering, ” I called it.

In the world of chronic illness, “spoon theory” is a way that Christine Miserandino developed to describe how she has to manage her energy (her spoons) throughout the day, making wise decisions as to when she can afford to spend her spoons or ought to keep them in reserve. Of course, healthy people have spoons too, but the difference is that those with chronic illnesses (especially ones that affect energy, like my challenge with chronic fatigue), have a smaller number and may need to spend their spoons on something as small as taking a shower or getting dressed or standing for a length of time. If a person overspends their spoons, he or she can have sometimes painful and debilitating consequences, and it may take days for the supply to be replenished.

When I was in the worst part of my illness, I found “spoon theory” to be a helpful way for me to explain to myself and others why I was making the decisions that I did, why I had to sometimes cancel plans at the last minute, why I was militant about respecting certain boundaries—it has helped me not to overtextend myself and learn a measure of contentment in my limitations. As I’ve been recovering, I’ve been occasionally discovering that I have one or two more spoons than I did a month before, which is very exciting.

But sometimes, knowing how many spoons I hold in my hand can make me rather cynical (I like to call it “experiential realism” but let’s not delude ourselves...). About 5 weeks ago, when I had my first translation session with the Kamano-Kafe, I ended up missing most of my rest times and crossed nearly every boundary I’d set for myself that day. As a result, by the time I came home that evening, I was barely coherent. My roommates kindly fed me and shuttled  me into bed, where I promptly slept for 12 hours without stirring. As I dragged myself around the house the next day, barely mobile, I moaned in despair, “This will never work. I’ll never be healthy enough again to do my job. What was I even thinking??”

And I really was afraid. After all, my workload and output was at a snail’s pace compared to my previous life; I’d already cancelled multiple workshops I was supposed to attend due to lack of energy, and now I was attempting to manage an intense two-week workshop in July. How could I possibly have enough spoons for that?

“Why do I think I can go anywhere?” I wonder, looking at my track record. “This is idiotic. It will never work.” And so, I lay out my future in stone, as if I was some sort of god, able to see beyond the present.

“Never!” says Cynicism.

“Maybe!” says Hope.
The Kamano-Kafe team leading in worship

Maybe you can’t do this right now...and maybe that’s because He’s not asking you to...Or maybe if you drop those spoons alongside those loaves and fishes, you can. And so it ended up that the Culture Meets Scripture workshop was that very thing—a deep breath and I laid fears and spoons aside to see what might happen, and while I still participated in the workshop with times of extreme fatigue, the point is, by His grace and through your prayers, I participated in it. 

It’s hard to live in equally in both hope and contentment—to be satisfied in the present, yet optimistic for the future...and not be dragged into cynicism and resignation by years of waiting for those spoons to increase. In a few weeks, I’m flying to Australia for a holiday, and despite my attempts at realistic planning, I can just see my spoons flying out the door left and right as I navigate doctors and housing and transportation and reverse culture shock and physical labor at a horse barn and more. It’s enough to want to make anyone give up....


but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30


Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Need for Numbers!

Krompe and Franky at the Culture Meets Scripture workshop this month
Krompe leaned forward, studying the computer screen, his mouth silently forming the Hebrew words. “It says, ‘accepted for him to make atonement for him,’” he pointed out, pushing his woolen cap out of his eyes. The other men nodded, then broke out in noisy discussion. “No, it’s not clear yet!” one man shouted, waving his hands over the table, as James typed a few more words on the computer.

Last month, Krompe and his five colleagues (along with myself and Rich, the two translation advisers) were diving into the translation of Leviticus into Kamano-Kafe, a language group of over 80,000 people in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Verse by verse, the men argued, negotiated and polished until the Scriptures were communicated in clear, beautiful Kamano.

Krompe is one of only a few PNG translation consultants who is able to check his own mother-tongue Scripture as it is being translated (most PNG consultants come from languages where the Bible translation is already finished and no longer needs checking.) Checking by a consultant is an important step in the translation process—it ensures the translation is clear, accurate, and natural.

In order for Krompe and many other PNG translators to focus on their work, they are supported financially by various partner organizations.  The oversight and accountability provided by the finance team makes it possible for money from those organizations to provide training, equipment and travel costs for these dedicated men.

However, an immediate personnel crisis in the finance team means that translators like Krompe may no longer be able to receive their needed funds. Without accountants and finance specialists to oversee the financial transactions, Bible translation in PNG is severely crippled—many of the 200 language programs relying on the finance team will have to shut down or significantly restrict their goals over the next few years.
Do you have a gift for numbers and accounting? (I don't--trying to figure out how to best manage the complexities of the Kamano-Kafe finances feels like designing a nuclear reactor blindfolded while swimming with Great White Sharks!) Contact Tara Ellis ( to learn more about how you can directly support Bible translation in Papua New Guinea!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

And the Word Came with Power

I can’t remember the first time I read the book, And The Word Came with Power. I do know I was young enough to be rather disgusted that the front cover had no photos and opinionated enough that I thought the title was too long.

But, somehow I overcame those reservations, and soon the story of farm girl JoAnne Shetler and the Balangao people of the Philippines captured my heart and imagination. Jo found her way amid the missionary heroes of old...fitting in somewhere among Gladys Alward, Amy Carmichael, George Mueller and others.

I know I read it again in high school, when I felt compelled day after day for two years to pray about serving in Bible translation, and found the same questions I was wrestling with, Jo had wrestled with too.

In college, when I finally bowed my head and said yes, Lord, I’ll go, I grabbed my old copy with the green cover and read it over and over. What in the world was I getting myself into?

This past week, JoAnne Shetler arrived in Papua New Guinea to lead a Culture Meets Scripture workshop here in Ukarumpa. I was delighted to meet this lovely lady who had so impacted my journey, and be able to sit and listen to her stories and testimony the other night, many of which now hold much deeper meaning for me as I recognized many similarities between the Filipino and Papua New Guinean cultures.

The workshop is a week-long training for local believers to help them develop biblical responses to and understanding of deep-seated practices in their own culture. For example, many aspects of daily life in Papua New Guinea revolve around the belief (and experience) of sorcery, evil spirits, charms, spells, and dreams. How is the Christian supposed to respond to these in a way that both honors his culture and follows the Bible? This workshop equips the local Christians to critically examine their own cultures and not only develop a biblical response (whether by altering the ritual or replacing it with something that would be just as culturally poignant), but also it encourages and equips them to stand strong in the face of the deep societal pressure and incredible tension that can be placed on believers when they choose to act differently.
Culture Meets Scripture

From July 8-15th, I’m privileged to go to this workshop along with quite a few of the guys from the Kamano-Kafe translation team (actually, there are supposedly over 80 participants total from many local languages!). We appreciate your prayers for these men as they seek to lead their people in godly practices; many of them are pastors and prominent leaders in their community. Also, you can pray for my limited energy this next week, that I’ll be able to make it through the entire workshop and still be a coherent, wise adviser as we delve into the Scriptures.

I look forward to sharing with you more stories about this workshop. In the meantime, if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to pick up a copy of And The Word Came with Power!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Midwinter Day

While I know at this time of year many of my readers are lounging by The Lake (in Minnesota, it must be capitalized), eating corn on the cob and slathering on sunscreen, for us in the southern hemisphere, June 21 is our Midwinter Day. Yes, now the days get to grow longer again (by 10 min or so...), and we can look hopefully toward spring...

And for this tropical transplant, it has certainly felt like midwinter! In the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Highlands where Ukarumpa (our linguistic centre) is located—over 5,000 feet above sea level, it’s now the dry season, which essentially means that our rain is more drizzly rather than torrential, the mornings are filled with dense fog (called “sno” in Tok Pisin, the trade language of PNG), and it’s frigid enough in the mornings that my devotional time often ends huddled up in my bed with a dog, a cup of hot tea, slippers, sweatshirts, and a couple of blankets, while looking for the gloves and hat... (50 degrees F in the house—or,  gasp, one morning was 44 DEGREES!—with no insulation or double-paned windows, my friends, is a wee bit chilly). Even the dog has his own sweatshirt!

Poor Buddy!

In light of all this, at my house, we would like to propose a new energy source...clouds. 

Because, you see, on nice sunny days, the rays of the sun beam down and hit our solar panel and voila! We have piping hot water for showers...just what you want on a day when the sun is baking the earth. This, of course, means that on frigid, cloudy days, the water is also like ice...a nice bracing wake-up in the morning (until we buckle down and boil some water on the stove and go for the bucket bath)...and all the while, that thick blanket of clouds wafts by overhead, unharnessed by the little people shivering underneath.

Also, laundry. Let the record show that when laundry has to hang for a week so that it finally reaches a semblance of dryness, so the day you take it down is the day you do are supposed to do laundry again...well, what's the point?

Not wanting to hog all the goodness of this spectacular plan, we invite you to join us in this venture. Don’t be afraid! Submit your designs today! We offer our house as a free testing facility for all your grand ideas and will even bake you cookies (as we huddle together by the oven for warmth).

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Race to the Fenceline!

Yay for horse camp!
“Ready? Chestnut! Find a chestnut!”  The kids, scattered in the grass under the eucalyptus tree, scrambled for their books and magazines, racing to be the first to identify the horse color. “I got it!!” hollered Aisha, “Here’s a chestnut!”

“Very nice” Isaac, one of the Ukarumpa Pony Club youth leaders, grinned. “One point to your team! Now for the next color...ready?”

Isaac and his fellow youth leaders were developing their teaching and horsemanship skills as they helped lead a horse camp that I organized for the younger kids in the Ukarumpa community earlier this year. Horse health, colors, breeds, tack-cleaning, riding lessons, feeding and more were on the schedule as the kids learned more about themselves through horses.

Kids of all ages get to participate! photo courtesy of Isaac McEvoy
The Ukarumpa Pony Club has been around for decades, serving the youth and adults from dozens of countries who have come to work here in Papua New Guinea in Bible translation.  For many adults, the Pony Club is a valuable break, providing stress release and emotional/mental care from the rigors of life here, as well as a recreational athletic activity. (Those sorts of things are harder to come by here, especially for women who deal with more restrictions here—we can’t just spontaneously leave centre and go to the park for a run or the pool or head to the mall or the movie theatre or the coffee shop or even less exciting places like a gas station!) For the children, it promotes character development, responsibility, teamwork, sportsmanship, and communication skills, and for many, the horses encourage emotional stability as the kids deal with the many transitions and aches of missionary life.

As someone who has been involved with horses for her whole life, I’ve found the Pony Club to be extremely valuable for me in keeping me sane :) , as well as a great ministry opportunity as I teach riding and horsemanship to dozens of kids and adults, and care for the medical needs of the herd. In particular, I remember one adult Papua New Guinean student who had never been on a horse before....

Firewood and a young rider competing in a gymkhana
photo courtesy of Isaac McEvoy
“I don’t know, I’ve never done this before,” Dana* admitted as she put her foot in the stirrup. “Firewood is a good soul,” I reassured her, “he’ll take care of you.” Dana took a deep breath and swung her leg over.

“Now, I just want you to focus on breathing and feeling his footfalls,” I instructed. “I’m holding the lunge line, so he won’t go anywhere. If you can, I even want you to close your eyes.”

Dana looked at me askance. “Okay....if you say so.” She squeezed her eyes shut, as she clung to the front of the saddle. But, as Firewood plodded slowly around the circle, her body began to relax and a smile broke across her face. “I can’t believe it!” she opened her eyes, and grinned at me, “this is actually so much fun!”

Last November, the Pony Club sustained some significant damage when a local upset village attacked the horses and our facilities and destroyed a good portion of our property, which resulted in us needing to evacuate the horses to a different location for several months. Although we have since returned to our original location, after much discussion our leadership has concluded that the best solution for future peace and protection of horses and participants is to extend the primary Ukarumpa security fence around our pastures, arenas, and barn.

However, as the Pony Club is entirely financed by individual members, we aren’t able to bear the extra expense of this fence alone. Would you consider partnering with us and helping us continue this valuable ministry for years to come?

At this point, we only need another $8,395 for the fence (we’re 57% of the way there!); we’ve been told we need the finances by the end of June. If you’d like to learn more and partner with us, check out our website ( and watch this video: (can you find me? :) I’m involved in 3 different ways in the video!).

Join us in this race to the fenceline!

Go! Go! Go! (and here's your chestnut horse!) photo courtesy of Isaac McEvoy

*Names have been changed

Friday, June 12, 2015

On lampstands and sacrifices

Many things in PNG (this is a house wall) are made from natural materials
 “We don’t have words for things like “lampstand” and all the different metals and clothes,” Kosseck explained with a grin. “It was hard work trying to translate those concepts so our community would understand!”

Kosseck, Tuas, and James, three of the Kamano-Kafe translators were gathered together, reflecting on the challenges of translating the book of Exodus into their language.

“We had to look at a lot of pictures and do research to understand the [Jewish] customs,” he continued, “We’d been praying hard that God would give us the wisdom how to translate it all correctly. But, all the talk in the Bible about the animals and how and what parts to cut up on the animals for sacrifices That was easy to translate! It directly parallels our own culture where we cut up animals for our feast celebrations!”

In addition to finishing the translation of Exodus, the team was spending three intensive weeks polishing an audio-recording of the book, to be distributed on hand-held audio players throughout the villages. These Audibibles create a critical link between the traditional oral culture of the Kamano-Kafe, where many people don’t read and write fluently, and the written Word of God.
A local Highlands village (photo courtesy of Jessie Wright)
Tuas, who was the voice of Moses, appreciated how much all his time spent translating Exodus had helped him as a pastor. “Now, when I want to talk about Exodus, the story is in my mind! I know it so well, I can just tell about it off the top of my head.”

“The book of Exodus is a good book,” he said, “It’s similar to the story of when Jesus came to earth as Savior. It creates a bridge, a parallel...and so it’s our goal as a team that this book will help our people understand Jesus.

Over the next year, I'm serving the Kamano-Kafe team as a translation adviser while the primary advisers are in the US on home assignment. This past week I had a chance to meet with the team and begin advising them as they translate the book of Leviticus. It was a lot of fun, but it left me really tired this week, so in the meantime, enjoy this article I originally wrote for The PNG Experience (the blog that chronicles translation and language work in Papua New Guinea). Stay tuned for more Kamano-Kafe stories and videos to introduce you to these remarkable people!