Thursday, June 5, 2008


...yesterday's picture actually had five kittens in it, but you couldn't see the fifth because it was still hiding inside Kiki. This morning I went down to see how they were doing, and #5 was there, apparently born during the middle of the night sometime. The newest arrival looks a lot like #4, just without the white paws and white back legs. I would have another picture, except every picture I take only shows four of the kittens well, because there's always one on the bottom of the pile. Don't worry, if only for my sisters' sakes, there will be another picture or two later as they're growing up. :-)

This morning we had a heavy rainstorm, which was good, because things were starting to get dry. (unfortunately, it hit during the time that I had to walk across the compound to go to the print center) Things are a lot greener and brighter right now, as the sun has finally come out and is starting to set.

The reason I went to the print shop this morning was to help out with what's called a "Scripture check." Basically, when a New Testament is completely translated but not yet printed, a team of people will get together to review the final draft for technical or printing errors. There were six of us working, and we checked things like page numbers, text formatting, cross-references (to make sure they're on the right pages, are chronological, and abbreviated correctly), and more. The entire Minimimb (yes, that's really the name of the language) New Testament was printed on individual sheets of paper, like these shown below. (This is the first page of Revelation, as well as another page from chapter three. This is one picture you're almost certainly going to have to click on to enlarge and be able to see it well)

You might be able to see how there are little corner outlines not too far away from the main text. What happens is that when the check is finished, the printers will take pictures of the area between those markings on these sheets, then mass-produce print copies of only that area. We were careful to do most of our handling on the edges of the paper, outside those lines. (we also had to wash our hands before working, to keep the pages as clean as possible) If we found a mistake, we had to take the page off the pile, draw a big red slash mark across it, and mark the mistake so that the page could be fixed and reprinted.

This was another one of those jobs that's slightly tedious, yet essential to the work here. In a short time, these pages will appear bound together with the rest of the New Testament as it's never been seen before, and the Minimimb people will be able to read God's Word in their own tongue for the first time. To be fair, though, the actual work of a Scripture check is not very exciting, but the atmosphere is exciting, because everyone knows what the final result will bring. Also, this isn't something that happens every day. The last Scripture check was finished four weeks ago, and apparently it's not often that two are done this close to each other.

One other thing that I didn't take a picture of, but noticed about some of the pages: there are often pictures of things which the people here may not be able to imagine because they've probably never seen them before. For example, many maps of the Mediterranean Sea region, a picture of a horse being turned with a bridle and bit (James 3), and a lion, leopard, and a bear so that they have some idea how to picture Revelation 13:2. (I'm not sure how much it will help in that particular case to know what those three animals look like on their own... but I guess it's better than nothing)

Another interesting thing about the Minimimb New Testament in particular (and may be true of others, though I don't know for sure) is that the verses are really long sometimes. It's not uncommon to have only 7-8 verses on a full page of text. I'm not sure, because no one in the room could read Minimimb and the translator wasn't there, but it may be because some words or concepts that are meaningful to us really have no direct translation in many native languages. The translator would have had to use 15 words to explain one English word... possibly a phrase like "not feeling angry about something wrong that was done or not ready to get back at someone for something wrong they have done" to substitute for the word "forgiving." That's not an unusual situation. Either that, or the Minimimb are just exceptionally verbose.

One last comment about translation in general: there are some amazing stories about how translators have finally found a way to describe a concept previously unfamiliar to the people whose language they are translating. I won't get into any of them now, or else I'll be here typing all night, and you'll be reading it just as long. It's neat to see how God works it out though.

There are also lesser situations, like Jesus' quote of "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4) Well, for some of the people here, bread is a foreign concept. They don't make it or eat it. Therefore, this verse has little meaning to them. Instead, the translator will use a phrase such as "man does not live by kaukau alone" (with the appropriate other native words of course) because "kaukau" is the name of the sweet potato that is a high-carb staple of many tribal diets, not unlike bread to us.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Well, it's getting late, but I have time for a quick post to update you on the excitement of the day. The Bandy's cat Kiki had 4 kittens today! I got to watch the first 3 as they were born during my lunch break, and the 4th was born just before dinner. Kiki is a proud mom, and she's been purring all day! The kittens don't sit still for pictures very well, so this is the best I got. You can see all 4 pretty well. From left to right: #4, #3, #1, and #2. Suggestions for names, anyone? I don't know which are male and which are female.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm in the Southern hemisphere?

So I just realized yesterday that because I'm in the Southern hemisphere, the sunshine comes from the north rather than the south. That's a weird concept that I haven't quite gotten used to yet. I also saw the Southern Cross constellation Sunday night, which was exciting. Even though the days are usually sunny, most nights are cloudy, so that was the first time I saw it. I don't know any of the other southern constellations, so I didn't recognize anything. Nothing was anywhere close to as bright as the Southern Cross though. Actually, I did recognize another one - it was the Big Dipper, which appears just above the northern horizon here.

Sunday was a fairly relaxing and restful day, which is nice. At school, there are so many Sundays where I have to be working on (or at least thinking about) all the things I have to do. I went to the English service rather than the Tok Pisin service this week, so it really wasn't that much different from anything we would find in the States. The evening service, however, was centered on the work of the translators here. The Lee family (from Korea) recently finished translating the New Testament into a tribal language (unfortunately can't remember the name...), and they were sharing about the nearly 20 years of work that they put into that and the dedication when the new Bibles arrived for the first time. They showed a video of the highlights of the dedication, and it was amazing to see the joy on the faces of those who were seeing God's Word in their native language for the first time. 1200 Bibles were distributed that day, with hundreds more to follow in the days and weeks following.

It's incredible to think of what it must be like to spend 20 years or more in the same village, translating the New Testament into that language for the first time. God certainly gives these translators strength that they don't have themselves. Some have a harder time than others, but even the "easiest" translation work still takes many years to complete, with many obstacles along the way. The village lifestyle is not easy or comfortable either, with most villages here lacking electricity or easy communication with the rest of the world. I can't imagine what it must feel like to see the fruit of their work after having gone through all that. I already mentioned the immediate result of joy on the people's faces, but there is also the long-term and more important result: many of these people will come to Christ, or at least know of Him, as a result of having their own New Testament.

Monday and today were spent mostly in the finance office, doing what probably everyone (even accountants) would consider less-than-exciting tasks. Examples: taking 4000 paper Kina notes fresh from the mint (which means they stick to each other), counting them in groups of 10 and folding those in half, then putting groups of 100 in rubberbands. Or, taking rolls of 25 coins, removing 5 of the coins, re-wrapping the roll that now has 20 coins, and collecting the extras that had been taken out to make new rolls of 20. This is so that it's easier for the cashier at the little bank to serve the customers who come in. Or another, photocopying all the checks that are ready to go in to the bank as a deposit. (There were a lot of those too)

I had plenty of time during these tasks to reflect on the work I'm doing here. I'm not here to serve myself, but to serve God and the people around me, so I've tried to have that attitude as I do these kinds of tasks. When I look at it that way, I really don't mind what kind of work I do. I'm just here to do whatever I can to help out, and right now that's an area where someone was needed to help.

Another way to look at it: I won't be translating the New Testament this summer, but that work wouldn't be sustainable without the support work here in Ukarumpa, part of which is the work of the finance office. Within the finance office, there is also work that is not glamorous, but it makes the operation of the finance office possible. So in a way, even folding money or rolling coins is furthering the mission of SIL.

Of course, there are many things done here that no one thinks of as "missionary work." When you think of being a missionary, let's say specifically here in PNG, you would probably first think of being a translator or someone who goes out and preaches God's Word in the tribal languages. Then maybe you'd think of the pilots who fly them around, and possibly even the doctors who serve the nationals and the mission workers here.

If you thought about this for a little longer, you could probably come up with other jobs, like accounting (though that's obvious to you now if you have any idea why I'm here this summer :), or teaching the children of those who are working here (which includes all subjects), or mechanics who repair the planes and vehicles that are so essential to the work.

But... now that you have a support center where almost everyone is based, you suddenly have a multitude of other necessary jobs. What about running a store, so that people can buy food and household supplies? How about a post office? Who will be equipping and maintaining the houses and buildings of the center (electricity, plumbing, construction/repair, etc? Or who will make sure that the supplies for all these jobs reach the center from the nearest port or larger town where they are available? Who takes care of the computer system and network of communication? Would you guess that there are people here to just serve as house parents for the children of translators, who need to go to school, which means they can't be with their real parents in the villages during the school year? (Their official job titles are "mom" and "dad") Further, who's going to manage, and more importantly, coordinate ALL these people and positions to make sure that the work done is effective?

The list could go on, but I think you get the idea. Some people have said that Wycliffe/SIL is the only organization where you can switch careers three times, yet still be working in the same place. Mission work can be done by anyone, in many different ways, and it's all important.

P.S. before I end this post, I know some of you are wondering what kind of birds are flying in the picture at the top. They happen to be black kites, and they are ubiquitous around here. It's not hard to take a picture like that, with more than one of them in the frame. It is harder, however, to get two of them in the frame in front of a cloud like that, which is being illuminated from behind by the setting sun.