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These pages will contain vignettes of our life here in Sentani. Most will be about the work here. Sometimes the writings will be just notes about our daily routines. Other observations may be more spiritual in nature. Expect a potpourri of subjects.

People celebrate receiving God's Word

The following are excerpts from the One Story website. We hope this provides a more complete overview of what that is [the bold emphasis is ours]:

The majority of the world’s unreached people groups are made up of oral preference learners, who often have no written language of their own. In order to reach them, OneStory works with mother-tongue speakers to develop and record worldview-sensitive, chronological Bible “story sets” for each specific group — typically 25 to 50 stories in a three to four year period.

Mother-tongue speakers spread the stories to others. These story sets can be the first step toward a traditional written translation or non-print media like the JESUS film or The HOPE video.

Mother-tongue speakers spread the stories to others. These story sets can be the first step toward a traditional written translation or non-print media like the JESUS film or The HOPE video.

Thy Word is a lamp to my feet.
Thy Word is a lamp to my feet.

Today at church, we heard a testimony from two Bible translators just back from an interior trip. They were traveling to different villages within their language group and having people read newly translated Scriptures. This is to help check the translation for readability and correctness prior to publication. The translators reported that one of the common exclamations they heard was, "We understand it now!"

This is why we're here. We're here to help bring light into darkness; God's Word to people who don't have it. It is as simple as that.

The pastor today was Buzz Maxey, whose parents translated the New Testament for a group in the highlands of Papua. Buzz grew up here and now he and his wife Moira minister and disciple people of that same group. Buzz related today that not long ago the elders of the church decided they needed to have the whole Bible in their language. The previous Maxeys had translated the New Testament and "bits and pieces" of the Old Testament. The church wants the entire Bible.

So, for the last three months Buzz and Moira have been facilitating the work of translation. They are not translators themselves and it has been difficult to do this job for which they're not fully trained. Just recently they were working through the Book of Leviticus and all the different types of offerings. Suddenly, one of the older elders shouted, "This makes sense!" He explained that he had worked with Buzz's mother many years ago as they translated Heb. 10. He finally understood verse one, "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near." He realized that human sacrifice couldn't pave the way to heaven and a more perfect, complete sacrifice had to be made. He understood the revelation of the work of Christ in verse fourteen, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."

When I taught "The Unfolding Covenant, the Work of God Through the Bible", I had my students learn the phrase, "Old Testament shadows become New Testament realities." This older elder realized the truth of that statement in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Translating the complete Bible into his language made these eternal truths sensible and clear.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;

 

The girls next to me gasped and grabbed the chairs in front of them. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. We were having an earthquake!

I like earthquakes. Let me be more specific. I like small earthquakes. Most everyone slightly panics when one strikes. I yell, "yippee!" and look at a clock to try to time how long the shaking lasts.

We get a lot of earthquakes here. We are living at the convergence of three fault lines right smack on top of the "Ring of Fire." A few years ago, I took my sixth-grade to the office of Geophysics here in order to see a seismograph. The scientists there told us that we average 50 earthquakes per day. Most of them are not felt.

But, I like the ones I have felt. It is hard for me to explain why I do. When I feel one, I enjoy the movement of the shaking earth. But, deeper than that, I am reminded that I am not in charge. And, that I should not in this earthly life depend on anything other than God's permanence. Mountains are fairly solid structures. A pilot told me that he will not fly through a cloud because there is often granite in those clouds. That granite has been the death of many a soul on this island.

But, as solid as that granite mountain may be, God is more solid. He contours and shapes this world. He contours and shapes our lives. Verse one of Psalm 46 is, "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." The verse at the top of this article follows it.

Today's earthquake was a 4.4 on the Richter scale. It was located just offshore, about 13 miles from here and happened at 10:01 local time April 3. As far as I have learned, no damage was caused.

The following is an excerpt from a report we sent last summer to one of our supporting churches. We hope this encapsulates some of the work we do.

 

Ministry/Organization Vision

Mike is the band director at Hillcrest School.  He also teaches other subjects to cover a deficiency of available teachers.  This year he is teaching eighth-grade language arts and American history.  In other years he has taught Bible and world history.  He also helps lead Middle School Chapel. Currently, he is doing this every night (because he is working on a Papuan time schedule), Sunday night through Thursday night, via the internet. All his creative juices are being challenged as he attempts to teach a band class with students on three continents.

Mary is still the webmaster at Hillcrest School. She also assists, as needed, translators when they need extra assistance.

We are both discouraged by being in the US and continuing the work via the internet. In April 2020, as the Covid blight gained publicity, the powers that be decided we fit the demographic which was at highest risk and it was decided that we must evacuate. We complied with the leadership and returned to our home in Auburn, AL. We prepared to return in August 2020. We have prepared to return in January. Finally, in July we were graciously granted permission to return. At that time, however, two things were happening. Papua was seeing a resurgence of covid and therefore had stopped processing work visas, and our passports were being processed by the US State Department. We now have our passports in hand. At present, all documents have been sent to Papua for processing as soon as they begin granting work visas again. That takes about four to eight weeks. Then, we will leave. We expect, and hope, to complete a four-year term there. UPDATE: After having to change our leave dates and itinerary about five times, we finally left the US on Dec. 30. We quarantined in Jakarta until finally ending the journey in Papua on January 8. It felt great to be home!

We have been encouraged by the ongoing progress of Bible Translation. Specifically, in August, a translation that was in its infancy when we arrived in Sentani in 1995 was dedicated and another people have God’s Word in their language. We rejoiced as we read reports of translation progress even during the covid restrictions. That is the reason we went to Papua in the first place. Our supporters had a part in that translation because we taught all of the children of those translators. Thank you.

What are the MAIN goals/ministry objectives of your organization/mission? Said otherwise, why do you exist as a ministry/organization?
We are part of a larger Wycliffe Team of perhaps 100 ex-pats and their families who make up the Bible translation teams here.  The goal is to have an on-going language project in all the +250 languages here in Papua by 2025.  We enable those workers by ministering to their children.

What is your general strategy in accomplishing  your organizations goals (e.g. street corner evangelism, church planting, native pastors, mercy ministry, etc.)?

Our specific role in aiding Bible Translation is by teaching the children of Bible Translators and jungle pilots and mechanics. By coming along the side of these families and teaching their children enables them to focus their talents in areas of their specific training. By providing a Christian worldview as a foundation to education, we also are helping to train the next generation of Christian workers. A large percentage of our students return to a full-time ministry when they enter the work force.

What SPECIFIC "tactics” are used to implement this strategy? (In other words, HOW are you going about evangelizing, church planting, Mercy Ministry, etc?) Isn’t this question fulfilled in the previous question.? We interact with our students, formally and informally. We work with them through the school, we interact with them at school activities, we encounter them informally at the beach, parties, and at church. At times, we’ve hosted them overnight in our home. We go with them to the hospital when requested. Mary has taken a student on the back of her motorcycle to a nearby hospital. His parents were out of town and no other vehicle was available. Yes, he did have a broken bone in his hand. Other times, we’ve counseled with students over concerns about an earthquake, or their upcoming tonsillectomy (a very routine matter to adults, but terrifying to the student). Basically, we live with and work, with and thereby disciple, our students.

Are you currently at full support for your fiscal year? If not, what percentage/dollar amount remains unfunded?  Formally, yes. Informally, as it is, we are trusting the Lord to provide finances for medical travel as the need arises. We are stretched to our limit.

Assuming you are a non-profit, 501(c)3, entity, how many board members presently oversee your ministry? To what extent are they involved financially, operationally, and/or strategically in furthering your mission?  Both Wycliffe Bible Translators and Mission To the World are such entities. Our support level is determined through WBT. Monies are handled by both organizations.

Other than financial, are there other material needs? While in the US, our house was broken into twice. We do not have a complete inventory of what may have been taken. Gas was siphoned out of our motorcycles. Our air conditioners were stolen. Further, our motorcycles are quite old. If the Lord provides, we would like to replace them.

Does your mission agency belong to ECFA (Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability)? If not, what arrangements does it have for outside financial accountability? Yes, both Wycliffe and MTW are members.

What are your goals/plans for the coming year? We both are continuing in our stated jobs of teaching and website maintenance. After that, our goal is TO GET BACK TO PAPUA! UPDATE: We are back and are busy full-time.

To what degree did you meet your stated goal(s) from the previous year?  Since our goal was to get back to Papua, we totally failed at that. However, in the meantime, we have continued in the assigned teaching roles. We have been trusting God that although our goals weren’t met, He is totally sovereign in this affair. We have done what He has enabled us to do.

Thinking ahead, where (how does it look different, etc.) is the ministry in the next 5 years? How might you intend to measure such?  We expect to see one New Testament or complete Bible translation project completed every year. There are several which are nearing the finish line!

Struggles and Challenges

We have struggled with not seeing our students face-to-face. [UPDATE: that has now changed. We are with them and hug them and teach them and pray with them face-to-face.]  While in the US, Mary  experienced some medical challenges related to her cold agglutinin disorder[1] which would not have occurred in the tropical environment.

Please share other significant things about your work that you would like for us to know. We are carrying on correspondence with former students. Pray that we can have insight into their needs and ministry accordingly.

What is the legacy of your efforts if you left the field this year? Would the ministry continue and, if so,  how?  On-going Bible translation will continue. The translation teams partner with churches and they are invested in continuing. Hillcrest School will continue. The music program will die for a time. It has been very hard to recruit instrumental teachers.


[1] A little information about Cold Agglutinin Disorder. It is a relatively newly recognized disorder and is considered “rare.” A layman’s description of it is that when Mary is exposed to cold weather, temps in the low 60s and below, her red blood cells clump together and then they dissolve. That leads to chronic anemia and makes her quite tired.  Again, it is not something experienced in a warm, tropical environment.