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Archive for October, 2011

Photo taken by Merle Busenitz

By Katie Adams

JAARS delivered a third Quest Kodiak airplane to Wycliffe personnel in Papua New Guinea on Monday afternoon, October 10. A crowd gathered to greet the 33-foot long aircraft when it landed on the Aiyura airstrip in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

For most people, a brand new aircraft landing to aid the Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea could mean progress, adventure, opportunity, and hope. The sight of the shiny, blue and white wings and silver propeller and the sound of the powerful turboprop taxiing on the runway brought excitement to the workers who will depend on this airplane to do their jobs. For Kristen Brewer, they brought something far more personal—a connection to the family she left seven thousand miles away.

Kristen and her husband, Jeff Brewer, are Wycliffe personnel who have lived in Papua New Guinea since 2008. Jeff is an aircraft mechanic and Kristen is a stay at home mom for their three children. Her father has worked in the Quest factory where Kodiak aircraft are built in northern Idaho since 2007. For Kristen, every Kodiak is a little piece of comfort bridging the gap between her and her parents.

“When I see a Kodiak land for the first time, I just always think that it started in my parents’ town,” she said. “My dad may have even touched it. It’s just amazing to me that a small plane can fly all the way from them to me. It makes the world seem smaller and my family not seem so far away.”

Now one in a fleet of seven aircraft on the ground in Papua New Guinea, the Kodiak will be used to fly people to and from remote villages, transport cargo, perform medical evacuations, and provide other support for more than 175 translation programs in-country.

As of 1999, translation programs around the world were starting at the rate of about one every eighteen days, meaning there wouldn’t be a program underway in every language until the year 2150. Wycliffe’s introduction of Vision 2025—the goal to see a translation project in every language by the year 2025—increased the pace dramatically. Today, translators begin a new program about every five days.

Of the roughly two thousand languages around the world that still need a Bible translation started, there are about three hundred in Papua New Guinea alone. In a country like this, rich in steep mountains and rolling hills that make traveling long distances on foot or by vehicle cumbersome, air travel becomes a crucial part of the translators’ ability to meet the urgent need for Bible translation.

The Kodiaks are being phased in to replace two existing Cessna 206 aircraft, which are older, more expensive to use, and carry less cargo. The Kodiaks can seat ten passengers, but typically seat eight after loading cargo. Unlike the other two Kodiaks, this latest addition has a cargo pod located underneath the airplane that solves that problem.

“Now that we have one Kodiak with the pod, we’ll be able to load it to maximum capacity and carry more people,” Kristen said. They are expecting pods to be delivered for each of the other Kodiaks as well.

Quest lists its base price for Kodiak aircraft at $1.6 million, which doesn’t include shipping and related costs. The aircraft can only be paid for by donors willing to contribute to the translators’ efforts, said Chuck Daly, vice president of global transportation services at JAARS.

The Brewers and fellow personnel in Papua New Guinea are hoping to streamline their fleet even further with the addition of a few more aircraft. A helicopter will be delivered next spring, Chuck said, and he is hoping a fourth Kodiak will also be delivered next year.

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Alemayehu Hailu
Photo by Adam Jeske

Story by Adam Jeske

Is persecution good for Christians?” Alemayehu mused. The silence that followed suggested the question was all too real for him as he remembered the days of communism in Ethiopia.

The Communist government, known as the Derg, barred churches, which included most evangelical churches, and harassed and mistreated many Christians during its rule from 1975 to 1991. Yet during this season of persecution, Alemayehu Hailu decided to follow Jesus.

He faced questions and hardships. His immediate family did not support his new faith. The government did not allow Ethiopians to be involved in underground churches, such as the one he attended. This, however, did not stop Alemayehu. Instead, he became involved in student Bible study groups, became a leader in his church, and mentored other believers.

“God used the hard times”

But the pressure only continued to increase. Throughout the 17 years of the Derg’s rule, Alemayehu and other underground church leaders were often followed and harassed.

He spent time in prison—a total of nine months for following Jesus. While he was there, he was tortured and forced into hard labor all day. At night other prisoners often beat him. Other believers in prison with him were sometimes taken away and killed. Alemayehu refused to renounce Jesus.

“God used the hard times,” Alemayehu said as he further explained that the church had God’s love, mercy, grace, and power to rely on through this time of suffering.

Years of persecution resulted in years of ministry for Alemayehu. He became a deacon and then an elder, a choir member and then the choir director in the Hiwot Berhan (Life Light) Church.

After the end of the Derg’s rule, Alemayehu studied communications at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. It was also during this time that Alemayehu met Simon and Lynne Caudwell, a British couple who were training in Kenya to work in Bible translation with SIL in Ethiopia.

Alemayehu and Tensea
Photo by Heather Pubols

The first recruit

Alemayehu wanted to join in their work with SIL, but administrative systems at that time made it difficult for Alemayehu to serve in the way he desired. Six years later Alemayehu returned to Ethiopia and reconnected with the Caudwells. They continued talking and looking for a way for Alemayehu to become involved.

A new Wycliffe organization, Wycliffe Africa, was just beginning. Its focus was to recruit and send Africans to work in Bible translation. Alemayehu became their first recruit. In 2004 Alemayehu and his wife, Tensae, became the first Wycliffe Africa members and the first members of that organization to be seconded to serve with SIL Ethiopia.

His passion for Bible translation was evident as he worked to find a team of churches and individuals in Ethiopia to support his ministry.

“When people get the Scriptures in their own language, they grow in understanding and faith. They are mentored in Christ, their life is transformed, and development follows for the community,” he said.

He knew the ropes

From 2004 through 2006, Alemayehu worked directly for Simon Caudwell as the External Relations Coordinator with an emphasis of relating to church and government partners.

Simon shared how those in leadership in SIL Ethiopia recognized Alemayehu’s competence and friendliness, and he became as a strong candidate to become the next SIL Ethiopia director. For several months in early 2007, Alemayehu even shadowed Simon, who was the director at that time.

2009 Ethiopia CP Meetings
Photo by David Ringer

“I did some intentional mentoring and hand-over activities, but because we had worked so closely together for some years already, Alemayehu already knew the ropes. The transition was smooth,” shared Simon.

This transition made Alemayehu the first African to serve as the director of an SIL entity.

As far as the answer to Alemayehu’s earlier question of whether persecution is good for Christians, Lynne Caudwell may have answered that best when she said, “Alemayehu and Tensae show maturity that comes through when people have suffered for their faith. We have always been struck by the high levels of commitment to the Lord and sacrifices they have made to serving Him.”

And with faith that’s been tested and refined, it was not surprising when he said, “If not me, then who?”

Read a longer version of “Is persecution good for Christians?”.

Editor’s note: Adam Jeske and his wife, Christine, have served as development workers in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Communications for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This story was originally written for the Wycliffe News Network.

Learn about the Ethiopia Comprehensive Project.

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2011 Wycliffe Gift Catalog

Each year Wycliffe produces a gift catalog filled with tangible ways for you, your family, and your friends to get involved in Bible translation. From Bibles and audio Scripture players to laptop computers for translators, or Jesus picture books for children, there are many options to give at www.wycliffecatalog.org.

We hope you’ll take time to look it over, pray about the eighteen project opportunities, and decide whether God might be leading you to participate in them. A gift of any size will help provide men, women, and children with God’s Word in their own language this Christmas.

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Our daughters learning to fish in Papua New Guinea

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

—Matthew 4:19, NIV

As a young girl from Ohio, I thought there was only one way to catch fish—with a pole, string, hook, and bait. My husband Vernon, on the other hand, knew from experience that you could also catch them using a make-shift spear.

Later, when God called our family to become “fishers of men,” and we joined Wycliffe Bible Translators to serve in Papua New Guinea (PNG), we soon discovered that there were many, many more ways to catch fish.

We first lived in the village of Baisarik to learn the trade language and culture. Our village “brother” took Vernon fishing in the nearby river and proceeded to patiently demonstrate how to get food for our evening meal. If Vernon wanted to catch kingdon (freshwater shrimp), he needed to cut six inches off the spine of an umbrella, sharpen it to a point, attach a rubber band, and head to the shallow part of the river. There he needed to turn over rocks and shoot the rubber band mini spear before they could escape to the shelter of another rock. If you wanted to catch other types of “normal” fish, you took several short pieces of umbrella spines, bound them together at the end of a thin piece of bamboo, splayed the ends, and used that to ensnare the fish in a deeper part of the river.

On Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinean translators found great pleasure in teaching our daughters another type of fishing. They taught them to tie a length of fishing line around the neck of a glass bottle and wind it round and round until only about 12” remained. To the end of the line, they attached a rock to act as a sinker, followed by a paper clip sharpened and shaped to act as a hook, to which they attached a grub as bait. They then learned how to swing the weighted rope, hold tight onto the bottle, and send the fishing line off the back of the boat as it was moving. Once caught, the fish would be taken back to the village, smoked in a fire, and enjoyed for days to come.

The people of New Ireland had an even more “thrilling” way of catching much larger fish. They took hollowed-out coconut shell halves, tied several together with vines, and set out in their dug-out canoes far from shore. There they would shake the shells against the hull of their canoes and slap the surface of the ocean with palm fronds to attract the sharks. Once the shark came near enough to the canoe, they would hand-spear it and haul it to shore to feed the entire village. Yet another way of catching fish in New Ireland is to lure large numbers of fish on a reef into a large trap and involve the whole village in bringing in and preparing the haul for everyone to enjoy.

Knowing your fish

In all these methods, we learned that before you could catch anything, you had to first know what kind of fish you wanted to catch, what they liked to eat, and what their habits were. You couldn’t use the short umbrella-spine mini spear to catch the sharks off the coast of New Ireland; likewise, coconut shells would have little impact in attracting fish in the shallows of an inland river. Matthew 4:19 came alive to us in Papua New Guinea as we considered Wycliffe’s method of “fishing for people”—that of Bible translation and literacy. Hooking people with God’s Word not only wins souls for the Kingdom, but it also provides bait for other methods of evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism, church planting, radio and television ministries, medical and relief missions, and Bible schools—all need God’s Word as their foundation.

By Robin Miller

Sunday school on the beach

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