Saturday, November 15, 2008

Training Medical Workers in Remote Tribal Areas

Malaria runs rampant, indiscriminately takes its toll on young and old alike. Painful boils incapacitate even the strongest men. Chest infections due to almost constant smoke inhalation are common. Neonatal care is almost non-existent. Run-away ear infections cause permanent hearing loss. Traditional first-aid treatments are more counter-productive than just doing nothing. Poor hygiene habits breed germs and disease. These are some of the realities in the Nakui world when it comes to health care.

Beginning in the 1980’s, NTM brought major improvement in medical treatment and training to the Nakui area. An aid post was first established in Iteri, and later in Nakui where indigenous volunteers were trained in first-aid and basic medicine. The result is that infant mortality has been cut from 50% to below 5%, and fatalities from malaria is now exception and not the rule. People in all directions cross mountains and wade through jungle swamps to receive treatment from these trained volunteers. Populations are growing, and the sound of groups of children playing can once again be heard in these villages.

But the question always remained … what happens to these medical programs after NTM moves out of these areas? With no official certification, how will these remote villages gain access to medicine and supplies? Who will help train the next generation of medical volunteers? There have always been more questions than answers. Until now.

This past year, in cooperation with the Sepik provincial health department, NTM began organizing and sponsoring a 6-week village health volunteer (VHV) training program. Upon graduation medical volunteers in these remote villages are certified to receive medicine and supplies from the government and to perform basic medical and neonatal treatment. Presently a VHV course is in full-swing at the Iteri airstrip, with approximately ten medical workers in training, including two Nakui men (Auiyo and Kibo). Though this may seem like a small development, this is the very first time these tribes have received ANY kind of medical education or training from the government. More importantly, this program puts these remote people groups on the health department’s radar, and means access to free medicine (although the airplane freight cost sure isn’t free!) and ongoing government-sponsored training. Windows of hope like this are rare for the Nakuis … I hope and pray both they will take full advantage of it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Challenging days for the Nakui church

We heard from Greg and Heidi Greenlaw last week, who recently moved back into the tribe after covering leadership needs at the Wewak base for 6 months. The news out of Nakui is not overly encouraging. For the G-laws personally, they returned to find a good number of their solar panels had blown off the house and their power system down. This, in turn, shut off the 12-volt fridge which meant a freezer full of rotten meat greeted them upon arrival. Most of the next week was consumed with repairs and maintenance in order to get their home livable again. We've done that one before and let me tell you, it's not very fun.

One of the keen Nakui believers who has showed promise as a Bible teacher is struggling. This man has been a key figure in the church and was very intstrumental in the outreach to Yabu village last year. After many months of accusations, it has finally come to light that he has been in an adulturous relationship with another woman. To make matters more complicated this woman, who is another believer, is his wife's very good friend. There is now pressure on this man (from her family) to take this woman as his second wife (polygamy is not only common but a sign of status in Nakui culture). This man's wife is beside herself and making life miserable for everyone around her. What a mess. When God's people live according to the world's ways and not surrendered to the Lord, there is always a cost. In this case the Nakui church is paying a heavy price.

Another struggle in the church has to do with the death of Tunawe's daughter Sien. Although Diana spent much time in June nursing her back to health, she died in July of a mystery illness. I'm sure Tunawe, who had just recently lost his father Imo, was devistated. Nakui animistic beliefs require someone or something be blamed for death, and this time the blame was cast toward Yabu - the very village the Nakui church did their outreach. Relationships with Yabu had already been strained. Now they teeter on the brink of war. A few days badk a band of Nakui men left to attack Yabu, but were talked out of it by a man who lives in a village half-way village. During a church meeting the following day it sounds like Greg was able to initiate some healthy discussion centered around 1 Thessalonians 2 where Paul describes being holy, rightous and blameless among they young Thess. believers. This is indeed a key time in the life of TWO churches in the Nakui language group -- they need our prayers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I read in this morning's paper about the smell of fear. It turns out scientific researchers report labratory mice were able to detect with their noses the "alarm pheromones" emitted into the air by other mice that were subjected to stress. It also turns out that we humans have the same nerve mechanism at the tip of our noses. Although I've been told my sense of smell isn't overwhelming, next time I find myself in a room of nervous tension, I'm going to take a deep wiff and give see what fear actually smell like. :-)
Not that fear and anxiety are laughing matters. I recently read where nearly a quarter of the adult population in the US will have an anxiety disorder sometime in their lives. That's a lot of stressed out people. Fear certainly isn't unique to our corner of creation. In the Nakui world it's an overwhelming theme in the lives of men, women and children. Fear of the unseen world ... fear that even a close friend from outside the village could be a sorcerer sent to attack ... fear that an unsuspecting illness could take the life of a loved one ... fear of a recently diceased relative roaming the village at night looking to take someone with him. It's no wonder that when Nakui believers meet, it's not long before the subject of heaven comes up. There is a genuine longing for what God has prepared for us once we trade in these imperfect bodies living in this fallen world. In their prayers, as well, it's a major theme. Below I pasted a recent prayer by Tuti, one of the Nakui believers and up and coming leaders, before sharing the Lord's Supper.
"Thank you Papa, you are always helping us. You have given us your Word, it’s no small thing. It is the talk that opens up Heaven’s road to us. Our ancestors did bad actions, they went to the place of fire. We are glad we will go see you in heaven. Your talk of getting us back from the fire is good. Jesus didn’t come to this ground for nothing; he came to help us by throwing away our sins. He came and did this work, then he went back to heaven again. When he knew he was about to die, he called his followers together and he ate with them. He said the wine water was like his blood and the bread was like his body. He told them to eat like this over and over again so they would remember him. Oh God, this is very good. When we do this in Jesus’ memory it is good. Thank you to you, God, for sending Jesus to us. His blood spilled on the ground, his body got broken. He did this for so we can live forever and ever with him in heaven. We say thank you to Jesus."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Moved Again!

We're getting way too used to this. By now we're pretty much able to sort through stuff and move it from one place to the next in our sleep. Our most recent move took us from Univ. City up to San Marcos where we will hopefully be able to settle in for a while. Well, for about a year anyway. In the midst of moving life the pace of life is picking up as school nears for the kids. Bekah is now in volleyball two-a-day practices at Tri-City Christian, and the 4 trips back and forth mean everything else is scheduled accordingly. Diana is in the midst of registering at Palamar College to take some prerequisite courses she will need for nursing school. I am getting the office set up and hopefully will be getting into Nakui Bible translation work before long.
For those needing our address, it is now 671 Corte Loren, San Marcos, CA 92069. Phone # is 760-597-0728.

Friday, July 11, 2008

We're Home !!!

Yep ... we're here! The trip home wasn't without some ticketing hassles in Port Moresby, but thanks to some last minute heroics by the Qantas lady we got out of PNG as scheduled. All was quickly forgotten as we enjoyed the next two nights on Denarau Island in Fiji. Tough but someones got to do it :-). These past two days in SD we've been unwinding, recallibrating our clocks, and buying a minivan. Today we got out for a bit of shopping ... it took about 20 minutes for me to pick out a stick of deoderant, and killed the afternoon in clothing stores.

It's great to be here and great to be with family. When I can connect on something more than dialup, we'll be posting some pictures from our recent Nakui trip.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In Wewak

Wow!  What an incredible three weeks in the tribe.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely worth every bit of effort put into the trip.  After a lot of hours in the office, the Galatians translation finished to teaching draft.  We were able to spend some good time re-establishing our relationships with dear friends.  I did some teaching in the church, and was blessed to participate in baptizing four believers.  I enjoyed some especially dear moments with Kibo and a few of the other key believers.  It was a special family time to be able to spend some good time in our home after a year away.  The cool, refreshing river floats on those steamy hot days were, as always, family highlights.  As we pushed the limits of our physical, linguistic, emotional, and cross-cultural limitations, God met us and ministered to Diana and I both in very special ways.  We praise God for the work He is doing of making his grace known both in Nakui lives and in our hearts as well.  Now here in Wewak for three nights, we are wrapping things up and packing our bags.  Next stop is Fiji for two nights and then LAX on July 8 (1:20 pm arrival).  Soaring gas prices, floundering economy, rising cost of living and all … it will be good for our family to be in the USA again after 3 ½ years!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Diana Braves the Swamp

Wednesday I went with one of my village friends out to get saksak.  And it was quite the adventure.  I could call it the Hike-Scrub-Carry triathlon.  The first half hour of the hike section, we were surrounded by huge towering trees above our heads, peaceful shade underneath without thick underbrush.  It was gorgeous.  I was a little unsteady on the logs we were crossing… the higher they were, the more unsteady I felt.  Then we got to the swamp.  At one point, I missed the log (to my credit, it was about 3” in diameter) and sank down to my knee in “soup” as the Nakui’s call it.  J  I felt like I could easily leave my shoe there forever if I wasn’t careful.  So I did the slow pull against incredible suction, and eventually I was free!   After snaking around in mucky water for another half an hour, we arrived at our destination -- a downed sago tree with half its middle already chopped out.  Linai pointed to some brackish water and told me to wash the mud off (were those my legs under all that?!).  It was about then that I started noticing the amount of mosquitoes around.  I think I could have literally lost every pint of blood I had to them by the end of the day!  I’ve never been so thankful for bug repellant in my LIFE!!!  Even with multiple layers of it slathered on me, they still swarmed around, trying to land, but not liking the taste.  I shared my bug repellant, realizing these ladies came here several times a week without any.


Soon, my turn to “scrub” came.  Linai had split open the bark on an 8’ section of the trunk.  I was handed the V shaped stick they use to chop the pith out of the sago palm.  I was determined to try to keep up with Linai, if not in prowess, at least in stamina.  J  Watching her, I tried to copy her style.  Her swings were even, coming down in a fine shave from top to bottom, her pith was fine, and she worked quickly.  My swings were haphazard, my lines were choppy, my pith was chunky and my work was slow.  I felt like a little child working next to a master.  It was fun.  J  But it was so tiring.  My hands started blistering.  My back started aching.  The mosquitoes kept attacking and then horseflies kept biting.  All the while, she just rhythmically worked away like a sago scrubbing machine.  About 11am, Linai, with a piece of sago pith hanging from her mouth, asked me if I’d eaten yet today.  It was then I learned she hadn’t eaten since the day before.  And on that day, all she’d eaten was saksak… the pudding they make from the starch rinsed out of the sago pith.  No greens to go with it, no fish or meat.  I couldn’t figure out what source of energy she was consuming to do all this work!  By about 1pm, I was cooked.  My back was aching, my hands were completely blistered and I had to tell Linai I was done.  I’d scrubbed about ¼ of our 8 foot section and Linai was making quick work of the other ¾ of it.  I put down my little stick with an intense feeling of relief that I didn’t have to do this every day.  I thought the hard work was done for the day. J


Around 1:30, we started packing up.  They drained the water out of the rinsing troughs and peeled the starch from the bottom, packaging it in leaves and vines for transport.  That’s when I realized we had to get all this stuff HOME!  Each of those ladies carried at least 70 pounds of starch, axes, bush knives, bark baskets, tools, etc on their backs.  And not in a nice, easy to carry backpack with extra padding on the straps, but instead tied together with a vine and slung over their heads.  I did what I could to help, carrying bilums, tools, whatever… thinking back to the long hike, the unsteadiness… wondering if I could manage the logs with a load on my back and no free hands.  The hardest work of all was just beginning!  We took a small detour up a mountain and Linai got some more betel nut to stave off the hunger.  Then we turned toward home.  It was a long hike and the ladies were puffing under their heavy burdens.  Rosama, a girl of 12, all of 40 pounds and 4 ½ feet tall, had worked all day alongside these two grown ladies and was carrying at least 50 lbs herself.  Never a complaint, always helpful.  Every time the trail got tough, she was telling ME, “Sorry”,  “Sorry”.  Along the way, they stopped to rest briefly (usually just enough time for me to catch up J) and we were immediately swarmed by mosquitoes or horseflies.  What a relief to finally start recognizing gardens near our village.  I had survived!  All I wanted was a huge glass of water.  And then another.  And then another.  My whole body ached and still aches today.  It sure gave me a greater appreciation for their version of the daily grind!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Report from Nakui

Greetings from Nakui village!  If you are reading this, that means the HF airwaves have successfully carried this posting to you.  After email problems for our first five days and now horrible atmospherics, we are again reminded this is not a given!  Yes, after a week of moving out of Lapilo and another crazy couple of days in Wewak getting organized, we arrived in Nakui last Friday.  We were soon reminded that life in Nakui is no less crazy!  Although the challenge of getting our house livable and all systems up and running was a major effort, we seem to have won the battle at least for the time being.  Besides getting unpacked and organized, we have built a new front door, fixed a leaky roof, fought off lots of termites and plumbed in a new water pipe to the Greenlaws house.  Having Josh in here has been a big help.  I'll have no problem keeping him busy for four more days until he leaves.  The Nakui village these days is consumed with politics and money making schemes and is now an important destination for outsiders with motivations of all sorts.  Our first night one particular group deemed untrustworthy was "escorted" out of the village after dark.  The Nakui church is going through a bit of a rough time.  Yes, they are meeting and opening up God's Word together, but a number of unresolved conflicts are hindering them.  One in particular involving Tuti and his wife Abelo has caused Tuti to withdraw from the church body altogether.  Diana and I both spent time trying to encourage them yesterday, and will continue to try and help see this situation resolved.  The good news is there are a number of people wanting to be baptized, and we are making plans to hold a baptism class and then baptize these ones within the next couple of weeks.  That will be a lot of fun.  Whenever possible, I am also trying to steal away time in my office to work on translation.  I would really like to have Galatians ready for Greg to teach from later this year.  Health-wise we are all doing pretty well ... Bri is nursing a nasty sore on her foot but otherwise we’re surviving fine.  All for now … thank for your prayers.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Heading into Nakui

On Friday (June 13th) we will be flying into Nakui, where we will have no internet and limited communication for 2 1/2 weeks. We will be periodically posting to our blog using HF email modem. Let's hope the radio waves are working! In the meantime we are flat-out sorting, storing and packing as we move out of the dorm and get ready for our flight to Wewak in two days. It's all too familiar ... since 2003 we've had to dump all our stuff into storage bins and move every year. This next year in San Diego will be our 6th home in 6 years! And then when we come back again in 2009 it will be #7. ~Sigh~ ... missionary life!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

4 things I've learned on the mission field this year ...

  1. More laborers are needed. Of over 16,000 language groups worldwide, 6,749 (41.4%) of people groups are still referred to as "unreached" with the Gospel message. Even among the "reached", the need to see believers taught and discipled to maturity is staggering. As a mission, we constantly face issues that limit our ability to reach ideals we know we need to achieve due to lack of personel and attrition. We need to continue to pray God sends church planters, pilots, school teachers, boarding home parents, and mechanics this direction, for the work of planting and establishing churches to continue in a way that brings glory to God in PNG. For more info on unreached groups check out the info at For more info on the needs of NTM go to
  2. The church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of truth. The second half of the Great Commission mandate - making disciples - although sometime assigned lesser priority than evangelism cannot be sidestepped or overlooked. As the church grows deeper in its love and worship of Christ, the work Christ mandated in Scripture for all believers to accomplish will be fulfilled. But shepherding the church to this level takes time, and means the missionary task is prolonged by years and even decades before seeing the mature church established. Which is also why we need more laborers (see #1).
  3. Interdependence and fellowship within the Body of Christ is paramount to the success of the missionary effort. God's people must strive to conduct ourselves in a way that demonstrates we are Christ's disciples. The level of closeness and interedependence in which we live on the mission field often means freedoms are forfeited and personal rights set aside. When we function well in this, it is a beautiful thing. When not, the power and example of our witness and tesimony is undermined.
  4. God's will is to do as much in us as through us. As we see in the Bible, God's people are not immune to illness, hardship, dissapointment, loss, and setback even when (and maybe especially when) we are doing His work. Missionaries certainly aren't immune to this dynamic. Plans fall through. Computers crash. Co-workers go home. Government paperwork is lost. Hours and days can be spent making all these "wrongs" right again. Without faith in the Soverign One who has all such things under control, one very quickly can become disilusioned. We know God uses suffering to further the cause of Christ. We also know it is the training ground for rightousness and peace. To avoid frustration, it's good to remember what Paul wrote to the Philippians about believers having been "granted the privilege" to suffer. In each trial is born an opportunity to live out what God wants for our life instead of our own preference.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Short-Term Help Coming to Nakui

As we began planning toward our 3-week trip into Nakui on June 11, one of our concerns has been the amount of work we face upon arrival to the village. It has been many months since our house has been lived in, and we have heard reports of a number of areas that are in disrepair. With Diana's back still an issue, at times we wondered if a trip into Nakui was too much to even attempt. But that's where the body of Christ comes in! As we have seen so many times before, God brings people along side who make what we do possible. The young man in this picture is Josh Verdonk, an MK from Belgium. As we have spent time with Josh this year, he began to express interest in coming to Nakui to lend us a helping hand. Not only a very hard worker, he is also very gifted in a number of areas (such as mechanics and electronics) where I can sure use the help. No twisting of arms necessary! While Josh is fixing washing machines, solar panels and leaky roofs, hopefully I will be able to spend that much more time with Nakuis in discipleship and Bible translation. It has been great seeing God provide enough funds and more for Josh to come to Nakui for 10 days in June. Thank you Lord for providing for our need once again.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nakui Christians Testifying to God's Healing Power

Because illness and death are such common occurances in the Nakui world, treatment and prevention is a major part of everyday life. Nakui worldview (which mirrors PNG culture as whole) holds that unfriendly spirits and human advesaries using spiritual powers are almost always the cause. In response, it is incumbant upon the victim to identify the offender (diagnosis) and respond by performing the appropriate incantation or ritual act (treatment) to remedy the situation. The following story told by Kibo demonstrates the collision that currently is taking place between traditional Nakui beliefs and a worldview that is centered around God's soverignty and authority.

“A man from Sari village brought a very sick child to our village. The child had short-wind (asthma) and he couldn’t swallow. For days he couldn’t eat and had a very painful throat. When they brought him he was unconscious and we couldn’t awaken him. We all thought for sure he would die. His uncle brought him to Auwio and I to get medicine for him. When he brought him I told him, "Now, we’re not going to do ceremonies where we use banana leaves over the fire. You can’t do that that here. We are going to give him into God’s hands. God will help him, some of us Nakuis told him like that." The child’s parents and relatives wanted to bring him to Afuwitamu’s place (a jungle spirit they fear) and do a ceremony. But Tuti and I said to them, “No, this is God’s time, we need to give the child to God.” They didn’t carry the child to Afuwitamu, they gave him to us and we gave him medicine and prayed for him. Tuti and I prayed for him in the house, and then after going back to my house I couldn’t sleep so I prayed for him until 3:00 am. I prayed that God would help him and that the Sari people would see God’s strength. In the morning he was better, he was awake and eating food. God’s strength helped him. God's power is very big, we gave the child to him and he helped us. This is the second child the Saris have brought to us recently, both times we told them no ceremonies and we gave the child into God’s hands. Both children didn’t die. We want to bring God’s talk to Sari, and now they want to hear about this God who helps save their children.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Translating 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Today Kibo and I were translating in 2 Thessalonians 3, and came up on verse 3. It says, "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." I did the rough draft (the first draft I do alone after doing exegesis) a few weeks ago, and made a note to myself to ask Kibo about this verse when I saw him. While not nearly the hardest verse in 2 Thess (see 3:7!), it does present a number of challenges for the translator. For starters, the Nakui equivalent for "faithful" is a mouthful, and I would really like to shorten it up a bit. It goes something like "he follows his own promise talk well." No luck, Kibo didn't have any new revelations on this one. "He will strengthen you" is pretty straight forward as we have a great word for "giving strong" to someone else's heart. The real challenge is finding an equivalent for the word "protect" or "guard". I thought for sure Kibo would come out with a great term for me. I mean, with all the horrible stories I've heard from Nakui history and lore of deadly attacks on unassuming victims, I thought for sure the Nakui language would have a nice, concise term for protecting another person. Kibo's offering? It was something like, "To take someone and run away with them". Hardly what I was looking for to describe the Lord's protection of his people from the evil one! In the end, it looks like I'll have to settle for something like, "He stands with us and helps us." Not terrible, but hardly the rich imagery I was hoping for. We'll see how it flies with the translation consultants! :-)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kibo's Testimony

"Yes, way before I didn't know about God and Jesus. I thought this ground we live on came from nowhere. Our ancestors told us we came from pigs. When I was a child this is what I believed. Later Tim and Greg came and I learned this talk wasn't true. Now I know all the things that God created - the ground, water, men and women - came from Him. He spoke them into existence. Yes, before I was a man-of-death. I sinned a lot, I was a thief and stole a lot. This road was leading to death, but God got me back. Now I'm not a man of death, I have life in Jesus Christ. Now I am free, I believe that Christ's death paid for my sin. I give big thanks to God, who shared his Son in order to help me. That's my little story. Thank you for listening to my testimony."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sepik church planting consulting trip

Question: What does a church planting team working in a remote tribal location do when they have questions pertaining to their ministry? What sort of lessons to produce? What to translate and teach next? How to take a group of believers and see them move toward functioning as a mature church? What about leadership development ... outreach ... literacy ... baptism ... communion ... ? And on it goes. Tackling these kinds of quesions along with tribal church planters is where our field consultant program comes in. We certainly don't have all the answers, and our recommedations don't come with a guarantee! But, we do see value in those with experience investing in and assisting those who are needing input. It is also important to assure in each location we work they are aligned with mission core values and methodogy. I have been serving as a CP consultant on the field of PNG for several years. This past weekend I flew to the Sepik for 3 busy days in one of the tribes. What a great time of fellowship with both missionaries and tribal believers. We saw God work in our midst as we encouraged and listened to one another, prayed together, looked to Him for wisdom and direction as we work to see Christ's church established.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NCA Basketball Team Finishes 8-2

The Numonohi Christian Academy basketball team finished off a fine season with a 38-32 overtime loss to rival SIL. Down by 9 points early in the 4th quarter, the press-break began to click and NCA tied the game up with under a minute to play. With 4 Numonohi players in foul trouble, SIL capitalized and took advantage in the extra period. After losing to SIL by 18 the previous week, we were so proud of how the boys came out and played in the finale. What an exciting end of a great season. And what a blast it was for coach Tim to work with such a great group of guys!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Auwiyo Serves the Sick in Nakui

News from Nakui: We have heard via 2-way radio from Nakui that three babies have died in recent days from severe diarrhea along with high fevers and vomiting. Auwiyo (pictured with his son Iyen), our trained medical worker, has been working around the clock to save the lives of other babies, and has been treating a number of adults as well. A plane in the area was diverted to drop off more antibiotics when his supplies were running low. Today Diana spoke with him over the radio about a woman named Maniya, who suffers from these symptoms and is very weak. Please be praying for Auwiyo, Maniya and the other sick Nakui people.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Home in Nakui Soon

Man ... we miss Nakui. There are less than 2 months left of school, and after cleaning up the dorm we'll be heading back down to the Sepik heat and humidity. Just booked our flights ... heading into Nakui on June 13th. We are excited about spending time with our Nakui friends, getting some translation work done (will be working in Titus, 1 &2 Thessalonians and Galatians), and heading over to see the new believers in Yabu with Nakui Bible teachers. We will be in the bush for almost 3 weeks before heading back out to Wewak on July 3.

Moropote airstrip and village

Tim spent 3 days in this village over the weekend of March 21-24, 2008. NTM was making an assessment as to the whether we should allocate a church planting team in this part of the Saniyo language group.