This is the second installment of a 3-part post on our most recent visit to Sivauna village from February to April of this year. If you missed Part 1 (Family) a few days ago, you can find it here.
Probably more than any other previous village visit, we were able to actively engage and participate in community life in Sivauna. This had a direct effect on the work of translation. The Lent season was a great time to be there, as there were special community and church events just about every week. I was able to be a part of an informal group that meets at dawn every morning for worship and prayer, and of which all three new translation team members are active participants. We also engaged in the Stations of the Cross every Friday leading up to Easter (more on that in Part 3), an all-day Fathers Day celebration, community and school board meetings, a National Repentance Day event, and even kids’ Sunday School most weeks!
Definitely some of the best and most important things that happened during our time in the village had to do with re-establishing, developing, and deepening relationships with people in the Mamusi community. Relationships are everything here in PNG, more important than job descriptions or timetables. I’ve learned that my role as Bible translator doesn’t mean anything to them until it’s seen and understood as secondary to my role as a community member. I think coming back after a long time away has clarified to people that we really are in this for the long haul, and our participation in the community has somehow earned us the right to speak and be heard. Even the work of translation itself is secondary to disciple-making, which happens naturally with the team as we dig into the Word together. Everything we do has to be prayerfully considered from the perspective of maintaining and improving relationships. This was why we were so concerned after Papa’s death, not knowing how people were understanding our relationship with him and how we related through him to the rest of the community. We were so encouraged to be welcomed back with open arms, for some of the kids to jump back into friendships with their peers, and to pour into new relationships that the Lord allowed to come about.
A big part of maintaining relationships here is through the giving and receiving of gifts. Giving a gift shows that you’re still interested in pursuing the relationship because you think the receiver is worth pursuing. We were incredibly blessed to receive a near-constant stream of food gifts. Since people know we don’t have a garden of our own and they do, garden food is the most common (and practical) gift people choose to give to us. We often feel inadequate to reciprocate, not having much to give back that’s of equally practical value. We were able to give some baby clothes, school supplies, and a few other things, and we often charge the cell phones of the community. But while we’ll never feel we’ve ‘paid back’ what we’ve been given, that’s really not what it’s about. People do realize that we are there serving the local church, and their giving is a way of showing their appreciation.
One incredibly important relationship was developed in a critical way. After Papa’s death, the role of waspapa needed filling; we needed someone whom everyone recognized as the man who looked out for our family in our presence and spoke for us in our absence. Through much prayer and thoughtful conversation, it was clear that that person should be my adopted brother Willy. Willy plays many other roles in the community, among them ambulance driver, auto mechanic, house builder, electronics repairman, musician and composer, Sunday School leader, Ward Vice-Chairman, brother of four, father of five, and many others. While we didn’t want to add any more burdens to his life, he was the clear choice. He gladly accepted the responsibility and has already taken the lead in looking after the house and helping the translation team with whatever they need.
We know many of you pray for us daily, and we can’t tell you how much that means for us. Here are a few community-related prayer points for you to join us in:
- Please pray that we’d continue to be able to communicate with folks in the village while we’re away. Many people have left the village to live in the jungle in isolation until COVID passes by. I’ve heard from Willy a couple of times, and it sounds like everyone is okay.
- Please pray for the next opportunity to go back to Sivauna and re-engage in community life there. While we were away on furlough, many relational factors took a step or two backwards, so we’re praying to be able to return as soon as things start opening back up.
- Please join us in praying for Willy and all his responsibilities, and that the Lord would continue to give wisdom and provision to him and his family.
Thank you for reading, dear ones. Your love and support mean the world to us! We’d love to connect with you, especially if it’s been a while. Please reach out in the comments or send us an email and let us know what’s going on and how we can be praying for you.
Stay tuned for Part 3 in a couple of days!