Friends, thank you so much for your prayers over my trip to Sivauna village last week. They were much needed and truly felt. The whole trip went incredibly well, and I’d love to be able to tell you all the stories and share with you all the ways we saw–and are still seeing–God move in our lives and our work. There’s way too much to be able to write here, but I will attempt to give some highlights. I was so blessed that my dear friend John was willing and able to come out from Ukarumpa and make the trip with me. Since John had spent time in the village before (2016 when building our house), people already knew him and were delighted at his return.
Since we heard of some unrest in Sivauna–and especially our adopted family–after the passing of Papa Lawrence last year, I was unsure what kind of reception I’d receive my first time back. But the joy and enthusiasm we met everywhere we went was both a tremendous blessing and a huge relief. We enjoyed many sweet reunions, not the least of which was a very bittersweet few moments right when I got out of the car and went to sit with Mama Rosa (Papa’s widow) and cry and grieve together. Though no words were spoken for quite a few minutes, I feel like that was one of the most important things that happened the whole week. This and several other experiences affirmed to me that they really do consider me part of their family, something that’s hard to be sure of in light of the vast cultural gulf that still persists in separating us. I was able to sit and ‘straighten talk’ with my brother Melki, who took the initiative to tell me all about what had happened and clear the air between us. It’s a very big deal in Mamusi culture that loraona keng yaate, ‘our insides rest peacefully’ together. This too showed me that he considers our relationship important and worth reconciling.
One of the most encouraging things I saw in the village was a small but devoted group of people, called the Sacred Heart Devotion Group, meeting together at dawn every morning Monday-Saturday in the village church, reading the Word and praying together. I joined them soon after we arrived and was welcomed enthusiastically; joining with them in seeking the Lord every morning was a privilege and delight that I can’t easily describe. These are many of the people whose lives are really bearing fruit, and it quickly became obvious that involvement and partnership with them was a big next step for our ministry. They would love very much to have materials in the Mamusi language (they’re currently using the national language Tok Pisin), and I heard a dear sister actually praying in Mamusi, maybe only the second time I’ve ever experienced that.
While we did learn that the house problems we’d heard of were not as serious as we’d expected, I also heard from a trusted friend that there has been a good deal of misunderstanding about who we are, why we came, and why we were away so long, among other things. It also became clear that a new translation team needs to be formed, since the three young men who were involved before have all gone and found other work, and Uncle Nick is in very poor health and not able to participate much or travel at all. For these reasons, I was anxiously seeking a chance to address the community, both to try and clear up any misunderstandings and to ask for their help in moving the translation work forward, if they were still interested in that. I was disappointed when the regular Thursday morning village meeting never happened, but we got a much better opportunity when our village leader set aside a few minutes Sunday evening for me to address the village. The great advantage of Sunday was that people were gathered in our village from at least four other nearby Mamusi villages for a sporting event. So when I gave my talk, there were dozens of people there to take the information back to a much wider audience than I would otherwise have had access to. Praise God for messed-up plans!
The response to my announcements and challenge was overwhelmingly positive. It was very clear that interest in translation work was still very high, but that some confusion had taken hold and disturbed things in our absence. Our village leader committed to discussing and nominating a new Sivauna translation team in the next week or so, and a leader from our closest neighboring village was interested in having a team from his village as well! We’ve dreamed of having teams working all over the Mamusi language area, coming together to train and check each others’ work, accelerating and expanding what we’re able to accomplish together. Please pray with us that the villages will put forward the right people, and that God would continue to use us imperfect vessels to move forward His perfect will.
The whole time all these great relational things were happening, John was working hard getting the village house back in good condition and making some needed repairs and improvements. Among many other projects, he installed a new water pump, cleaned out gutters and solar panels, replaced broken window panels and screens, and evicted bees, massive spiders, and armies of termites. He kept the neighborhood kids entertained on the porch nearly every day, learned almost everyone’s name in the whole village and beyond, spoke on behalf of our organization in support of translation work, and helped me process and navigate the cultural and relational issues that came up, all with a perpetual smile, a quick wit, and a tireless desire to serve. I can’t tell you what a blessing it was to have a friend like that by my side during this pivotal time in our ministry.
Due to the huge success of this trip, Rebekah and I have decided to go all-in in the village for the next several months, starting next week and staying there–with only a short Spring Break outing–until June, when we’ll move back to Ukarumpa for the kids to start school there in July. As you can imagine, there are a LOT of logistical challenges to work through before our February 12 departure for the village, but please also pray that we don’t lose sight of the joy of what is happening here. Pray that our hearts will be prepared to fully re-engage with these amazing people we get to serve alongside, and that our Lord would be lifted up through His Word and through our work. Definitely pray for the re-formation of the Mamusi translation team and committee, and that the Holy Spirit would guide us in the path He wants us to follow together to bring the Word alive in this beautiful language. We would love to organize and host events like song- and story-writing workshops, a literacy summit for educators, and of course meetings and work sessions for the new translation team(s) and committee–but even more, we want to be led by the Spirit. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for walking this amazing journey with us!