Wednesday, March 4, 2015

At the End of My Strength

From left: Susie, me, Hanna, Tiramu, sorting Acts pages to
get ready for typing; photo by Debbie Petterson
“I’ve kept them in a safe place and looked after them.” Tiramu, an elderly Kope man, beamed at the piles of musty papers scattered over the floor, painstakingly preserved over the last twenty-five years despite Gulf Province’s notoriously wet climate. With his black dress trousers rolled up to his knees, he picked his way across the room, until he found the stack he wanted. “This is my draft of Acts.”

As we gently turned the pages, some as soft as the fabric of my skirt, he looked up at us pleadingly. “When I look at this, I feel that I want to finish it.”

We're intent on setting up Paratext! photo by Hanna Schulz

Rebekah, Susie, Hanna, and I were on a three-week trip around eleven villages of Gulf Province, assisting multiple languages in a wide variety of areas. Although the Kope language hadn’t had a translation advisor in decades, Tiramu had kept working over the years, resulting in this precious, molding copy. If we wanted to save it, Susie and I needed to decipher these strange words with hand-written notes and chunks of paper missing and type them into Paratext (a translation software program).

And so, with Tiramu and his wife and son hovering nearby to clarify spelling and smooth vague references, Susie and I settled in at our modified desks (built on the spot) and began this monumental task.

Tiramu was a great help! photo by Debbie Petterson
After an hour of typing, I was exhausted and ready to give up. We were near the end of our trip, and both Susie and I, with our previous health problems and severe chronic fatigue, were feeling the strain of our intense, constantly-moving schedule. Even as I had lain in bed that morning, I had known it would  be a struggle to get through the day.

But, praying that the Lord would keep me upright and able, I kept typing. A quick lunch came and went, and Susie and I kept typing. The others returned, napped, then left, and still we kept typing. (And praying. And typing.) I kept looking over at Susie (who I knew was at least as exhausted as I was) and thinking, “If she can keep going, by the grace of God, so can I.” And so we kept typing. Little did I know that she was looking at me, thinking the same thing!

As we completed pages, Tiramu would gently gather them together, reading them over. “What are you thinking?” one person asked. “We must have all of Acts,” he said.

Six and a half hours after we first sat down, we finished typing about 12 chapters of Acts—nearly 43% of the book. I crawled into my mosquito net with Kope words blurring before my eyes and feeling like a deflated air mattress. But if not for you, Lord...I curled into my pillow, too tired to think or move, as I heard Tiramu's exclamations of joy through the thin walls as he showed my teammates the work, now no longer threatened by rats and decay. Thank you!

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.

It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

Hanna has since chosen to work with the Kope people to continue to help them translate God's Word in their language. You can follow her adventures at