Ryan and Elna Mitchell
In three short days, we plan to move to Mawerero. It is quiet, my family are all still asleep. I sat down with my Bible this morning, resolved to make sure that my heart and mind is still focussed on my Saviour. Because in the excitement and craziness of moving, it would be easy to forget why we are moving. Why would we uproot our family, come to the other side of the planet, and move to a remote village? Why go live there? Why put ourselves and our friends and family through this trial of being apart? Why would we take the time, and do the hard work of learning the local language and culture? Why translate Scripture? Why pick the ‘hard way’? Why not just come for a little while, use a translator, and add another story to their story-telling culture?
I started jotting down some notes, and I am more convinced than ever that we need to keep moving forward…
We go because we are commanded to go.
We go because people are dying without knowing the Truth. People are living burdened and hopeless lives, without a clear understanding of their true guilt, the true price of, and inevitable punishment for their sin, and the fact that God has indeed made a way for them to be forgiven! We go because Jesus is the ONLY way to God. John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus’ command in Matthew 18:19 is clear, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
We are all commanded to be ready to preach the Good News. Every believer is called to confront friends, family, strangers with the truth and point them to Christ. But not every believer is called to go and plant a church in a remote village. Not every man is called, prepared and gifted to be a church planter. Some believers are eyes, some ears, some elbows… But we believe this is the work we are called to do. God did not call us in a mysterious way. By the time we heard of the need and a specific ministry opportunity in Papua New Guinea, Ryan had already completed seminary training and was serving as pastor in our church. God prepared us for the work He has for us.
Paul’s charge to Timothy echoes in our hearts:
2 Timothy 4:1-3 “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction… But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”
We do not go on our own authority.
Last week, I found Marie biscuits in a grocery store here. As I stood in the aisle, picking up different packets, comparing prices and nutritional information, a young woman was standing close beside me. She would pick up every packet I picked up, and look at it intently. When I put it down to look at another, she immediately put hers down too, and picked up the brand that I had moved on to. I ended up buying two packets – one we knew we liked and a cheaper one to try. She followed me out of the aisle, carrying the same two packets. While this event and its comical nature brings a smile to my face, it serves as a reminder of something very serious.
Our teammate, Amelia, did a great job in explaining the general PNG culture (here) in a simplified way. In a culture where the general understanding is that spirits can be manipulated, God could be seen as just another spirit who has more power than theirs, (and therefore is giving me more possessions – or cargo). Within this worldview, the possession of material things denotes a sense of moral superiority or greater spirituality. This week, we will arrive in a tiny village with a helicopter. By the time we arrive, it will have already dropped off another load of building supplies, plastic tubs filled with household items and many boxes of food… Here, we are wealthy. If I, with my greater wealth and knowledge, pick this brand of biscuit, it must be the best. And if I, with my greater wealth and knowledge, choose to serve this God, He must be the greater God, right?
In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, Paul writes, “…my speech and my preaching was not with with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
I am not coming to show the nDo people a superior culture. I am not coming with my own cleverness. I am merely a messenger – carrying “this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” It is God’s Message. It is by His authority that we bring the message.
To bring this message clearly we will need to be able to communicate clearly in the local language. We also need to understand the local culture well enough that the men can address underlying erroneous world views when they teach. You can read more on the importance of that here, and here.
We translate because it is the Word of God that brings salvation.
Romans 10:13- “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be save.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? … So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Everywhere we go, we are invited to sit down and ‘stori’. So why not just tell the story? Why work for years to translate this Story? Because this is not just another story. When we speak of bringing the Gospel to all nations, it is not in a vague sense, like a school assignment, ‘Write a paragraph on the Civil War. Make sure to use your own words.’ No! We come bearing the very words of our God! It is not our version of the truth that brings salvation. It is the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:14-17 “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Note here too the weight of this assignment. We need to ensure that when we use the words of a different language, we are in fact conveying the truth. Please pray for the men especially, as they undertake the task of translating Scripture and preparing the lessons for chronologically teaching through the Bible.
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
We translate because it is the Word of God that brings growth.
God saves us not just for our own sake. Yes, He saves us from the penalty of sin. But if that was the end of it, why not just instantly transfer us to heaven? God saves us for a purpose! We are saved ‘unto good works’. We are saved to bring glory to our God by growing progressively more into the image of our Saviour. And that growth will not happen unless we are saturated with Scripture. If you are not convinced, go and read Psalm 19! God’s Word is “perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is lean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether…”
The charge in 2 Timothy 2:15 is for us, but if God chooses to establish a church in Mawerero it will also be for the believers there! “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of God.” So as we make disciples, followers of Christ, we need to help them become approved workmen. And it is simply not possible to grow in the Truth without the Bible.
So now I am ready to get on with my day.
- We are going because we were sent.
- We are going not by our own authority, but by that of the One who sent us.
- We will be translating Scripture because that is God’s chosen means of salvation.
- We will be translating Scripture because the Word is God’s chosen means of sanctification.