It’s been a busy couple weeks of travel for us! We just spent last weekend with our wasfamili (foster family) from POC village living, and we had a great visit with them. Relationships are of paramount importance here, and we really wanted to be able to reconnect with them again before we leave in January. It’s now the end of mango season and there are mango trees all over the village, so they were anxious to send us home with as many mangoes as we could carry. We were able to give them bilums (bags) of fresh highland veggies since the drought and a bush fire had damaged their own garden. Our waspapa (host), a Christian Revival Crusade pastor, had just been voted chairman of his denomination’s provincial council, so we were honored to be a part of a church service (under a mango tree where they meet) in which he handed over leadership of his local flock to three of the congregational elders. What a blessing to watch the body of Christ at work!
As we mentioned before, we (Rebekah and Aaron) went on a pre-allocation visit to the Mamusi language area of East New Britain from November 10-17. Our goals for the trip were to establish relationships with some Mamusi speakers, see some of the villages, get a feel for the way of life there, and (most importantly) listen for whether the Lord was truly calling us there or not. We’re happy to report, each of these goals was met successfully! As of Tuesday afternoon, November 24, we are officially assigned to Mamusi as a linguist/translator team. The biggest part of our job for the next several years is what we call ‘anchoring’: putting down roots in the language community, investing in relationships, and learning everything we can of the language and culture of these 6,000 Mamusi speakers. We already feel love for them, but we must learn their unique ways to actively and effectively love them.
We’ll likely spend much of our village time in Aona, one of the most populated and centrally-located villages in the area. The hikes in and out of Aona (the logging road from the airstrip is not yet complete, but should be by the time we allocate there) were long and arduous for us, but the hospitable friendliness of the people and beauty of the scenery were more than worth the effort! It’s a fairly remote area – situated almost in the middle of the island, north-to-south, at about 3,700 ft above sea level in the central mountain range. We heard that we were the first white people in several years to come up there, so many of the younger children were pretty astonished to see us. They’re a naturally shy and reserved people, but incredibly accommodating and generous.
We went to their Catholic church service on Sunday, after which we spoke briefly at our second community meeting (the first was a few days prior in another village) about our intentions and what we would be doing if/when we came back. The response at both meetings was extremely positive – these people are hungry for the Word in their language. They were anxious for us to come begin work, and they seemed to solemnly accept our challenge that the responsibility of a successful project is largely on their shoulders; we will be a resource to help train and equip them in every way we can, but the community truly has to take ownership of the translation work if it’s going to be completed with the highest quality possible. Greg, an SIL translator who made the trip with us, has worked with his wife Mary (now one of our supervisors) in a neighboring language called Lote for 24 years. Several Mamusi speakers, one of which was traveling with us, were educated in the Lote language area. It was beautiful to watch her hold the copy of the Lote New Testament Greg brought with him and excitedly devour God’s Word in a language she understood. She showed it to friends and talked about how sweet it would be to read it in their own language someday.
We will spend the majority of our non-village time at the Kokopo SIL regional center, a 250-mile plane ride from the Mamusi area air strip. The regional center is close to the city where we can do food/supply shopping for our village stays. The Kokopo center frequently hosts workshops and courses for Papua New Guineans learning about and working on Bible translation. Aaron will become involved in these courses as part of his assignment. During the workshops he will have the opportunity to teach some skills, to mentor the (eventual) Mamusi translators, and to get to invest in translators from other language groups as well. We’ll also spend much or all of the rainy season (sometime between May and October) in Kokopo as well, as we’ve been warned there’s not much that can be accomplished during those several months of heavy storms. Providentially, we learned that some Mamusi speakers migrate to the city of Kokopo, so we shouldn’t have to stop our language learning just because we can’t be inside the village.
Shortly, we will be finalizing our calendar for 2016 as much as we can, talking and strategizing about our family’s purposes and involvement here in PNG. Our Thanksgiving will be very different this year, but we’re taking the day to be still and count our many blessings. May God grant you a wonderful time of reflection, joy, and love as you recall His faithfulness to you and yours. We are ever so grateful for you, our team, whose prayers and gifts are constantly sustaining us. Thanks for walking and praying with us through this pre-allocation phase – we’re so excited to be moving toward the next part of our journey!