I’m writing this from Papua New Guinea. I arrived here January 17 extremely weary after two long flights from Delhi to Singapore and then to Port Moresby, the capital of PNG. Then my flight to Lae was delayed so I waited all day in a non-air conditioned waiting room, very congested with several hundred other passengers. I dozed off a few times but was very scared that they would call my flight and I would hear it. While I waited Neil and Kathy Vanaria came. They had stopped in Bangkok for physicals and Kathy had surgery to remove a growth on her ovaries. It was unexpected but the doctor did not want to wait. It was benign—Thank you, Lord.
It is for the Mesem New Testament dedication that I decided to come to PNG at this time. The Vanarias have worked years through that translation in the midst of great persecution and some life threatening situations. Since the Mesem and Nabak language groups border each other there are some similarities in the grammar and our analysis helped them get started. We have been good friends and I was happy to hear the news that they had finished the translation and they invited me to the dedication celebrations.
It took awhile for dates to come together but now here we are. Today I went to the port at Lae to pick up the shipment of 3,500 New Testaments. A group of about 20 Mesem dressed in traditional headdresses, and loincloths went with us. Playing drums and the conch shell they sang and danced into the shipping area, surrounded the pallets filled with cartons of books then prayed thanking the Lord for God’s Word coming to them. Then we drove an hour out to their village (on very poor roads). They were in the truck ahead of us and sang all the way. When we reached their village of Hobu the gate was closed. People on the inside prayed then Neil, on our side of the gate prayed. The gates were opened and people rushed at Neil and Kathy, so happy to see them. They unwrapped the pallets and one by one they carried the boxes up to the schoolhouse to be stored for the dedication later this week. One lady said, “Put two boxes on my head. I want to carry two.” And she did.
I just stood aside watching this wonderful drama when a man came to me and started speaking Nabak. I answered in Nabak and pretty soon a small group gathered around me. I pulled out my photo album so they could see pictures I had brought of my family. There were probably twenty children around so I asked who was Nabak and gave each one a pretty card with a Nabak verse/s or a song on the back. They loved them. Such a little gift but you would have thought I’d given them $100. There has been some intermarriage between Nabak and Mesem and some people speak both languages.
We couldn’t stay too long because it would be dark before we got home. It was a very rewarding day. After 25 years the Mesem will receive the Word. That’s what this is all about.
Tomorrow Neil and Kathy’s guests from the Assemblies of God Church will arrive to be part of the celebrations. It is an honor for me to be part of this. I look forward to the next few days.
This week I also celebrate my 75th birthday. Being part of this is a very nice birthday present. Thank you to all of you who had a part in my travel and the printing of the Nabak hymnbooks. I hope to pick them up from the Swiss Mission print shop tomorrow.