When we lived in Papua New Guinea it took around three weeks for a letter from the USA to arrive in New Guinea. Not bad, if you weren’t expecting a letter and one just showed up. However, we did not live at the location where mission mail arrived… we lived interior, in the tropical rainforest where postal services were not available.
“…So how did you get your mail?” you ask. The mission airplane brought our mail and supplies to us once every three months. That’s a long time to wait, especially if you are running low on supplies. (A story on that to be featured in a future newsletter).
Let me give you a ‘for instance.’
If you wrote and sent a letter to us… And, if your letter arrived today and we had a supply flight yesterday, your letter would be placed in a mail bag and sit in our supply bin until our next supply flight, typically three months later; then your letter would reach us. …But our mission pilots cannot wait around for you to read three months-worth of mail so my reply to your letter wouldn’t get out of the bush until the next supply flight. Yep, three months later, and then another three weeks to get to your location back in the USA.
To put this into realistic terms, if you wrote and sent a letter to us on March 1st, it would arrive in country around the 22nd or thereafter. If my supply flight was March 20th, your letter would not reach me until sometime after June 20th, and my reply to you wouldn’t reach you until after the second week of October.
Golly, I think back to the days of courting Joyce when we exchanged more than 3,100 letters. I couldn’t imagine waiting that length of time to receive a letter from her. Oh, by-the-way… back then (1971) postage was just six cents or the equivalent of thirty-eights cents in today’s economy.
What did we learn from this experience?
- Selfishness… I am a typical American and I do not like to wait for anything; “I want it and I want it NOW!”
- Patience, patience, patience… yes, patience often requires ‘sitting on your hands’ and waiting.
Let’s put this into perspective of God’s Word –something we take for granted despite the fact that there is hundreds of translations and paraphrases of the Bible available to us in our English language. Think about the millions of people of the world who don’t have a Bible in their language. That, in itself, is a stark reality for many, but think about it; if they don’t have a Bible available to them in their heart language then it is safe to assume that they don’t know God because no one has brought them a clear understanding of His story and the gospel. They’ve been waiting a lot longer than six months to receive His Word even though they don’t know it exists. Nor do they know the way of salvation and light.
Ethnos360 is working hard to place hard working missionaries in some of the most remote places on the planet in order to bring them the light of the gospel AND God’s written Word in their language. But let’s look at a timeline of getting the Bible to them.
First, a missionary must be trained and equipped with the knowledge and skills to engage with unreached peoples. That includes Bible training, missions training which entails language & culture acquisition skills, an understanding of New Testament church principles, teaching skills, and understanding key elements of Bible translation. Such training can take up to four years or longer.
Once a missionary is so equipped, they locate a people group with whom they wish to engage. But the missionary does not know or understand the language and culture of the people so they will spend the next four to five years learning these elements for life and understandable function among such ones. Oh, and then there is the learning of worldview… what makes these people ‘tick.’
Then comes the task of teaching God’s Word. Where do you start?
Well, you begin with foundations… teaching who God is; His nature, His character, His attributes. Next you launch into the story of creation and follow thru the Old Testament laying a foundation of truth that points to a coming redeemer, just as God disclosed His story to us in the pages of the Bible. Bear in mind that the Bible lessons you teach must be developed on the basis of knowing and understanding the language & culture of the people, then translated into a comprehensive scope for teaching.
There comes a time when the story culminates in the gospel. –Remember, God’s Word says “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing (understanding) by the [proclamation of the] Word of God.” Once you have believers you begin to disciple them in the principles of walking in Christian light… how to stand on their own, as well as establishing a body of believers as a living church. So there is a lot of work that goes into the effort of getting to this point. Next is the task of translating the Bible.
Ah yes, Bible translation…
Coworkers in Paraguay wrote, “we are currently involved with three different translation projects. One team checked the Gospel of Mark, and another team checked Galatians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. These books are now being distributed. The third team is preparing for a printing that includes a revision of the NT and about half of the OT.”
“Currently, the Scriptures are in several different booklets. To bring your Bible to church, you would have to bring a bag full of books weighing about 10 pounds. So, this printing will put all the Scriptures into one book which we trust will help serve the existing church. The Gospel of John is being translated as well as the Gospel of Luke, which has a total of 1,151 verses.” Wow! That’s a lot of work!!
Another co-worker writes from Papua New Guinea with this update: “We were able to get 2,200 verses of a translation checked by another consultant. Then we were able to check another 2,750 verses of two other translations. During this time the two more New Testaments were completed as well as a revision of a New Testament. we also were able to use this time to finish a huge literacy project for a tribe and assist several other tribes with their literacy programs.
A field director wrote and said that “7 different translation checks were taking place across a period of time.”
This is exciting news in that people who have waited much longer than we’ve ever waited for our mail to arrive in the tribe will finally have God’s written word in their very own language.
But why should such ones have to wait so long to have something as precious as God’s Word made available to them? In part, it is because few are going to the hard to reach places of the world to establish thriving churches, and in part, it is because not many are willing to go. We certainly are grateful for those making sacrifices to carry the gospel to lost people waiting in darkness to receive a message they’ve never heard. …And we are grateful to those who stand with us in prayer and the giving of resources so that such ones might hear the glorious news of the gospel.
We would value your prayers as we continue to mobilize and mentor those God is raising up to finish the task He’s given us to do. Pray also for open doors of opportunity to stimulate the interest in missions… perhaps at your church or in a home meeting. We are here to assist you in any way we can. Please contact us for scheduling.