How to get to Papua New Guinea

August 23, 2015

There are many ways, but here is mine.

If all goes as planned, the blinking red dot will show my current location in real time.

Click the map!


August 12, 2015

Saturday was JAARS Day, a sort of "open house" where there are all sorts of demos and presentations about the role JAARS plays in Bible translation.

My favorite part was the aviation demo. The Helio Courier airplane is designed to be able to take off and land on extremely short runways, which is essential when you're flying to remote jungles and mountains.

It's also able to stay in the air going only 28 miles per hour (!!!), so if you're flying into a 30mph wind, you can actually move backwards and stay in the air. (Not that flying backwards is especially useful to anyone - but it's a neat parlor trick, if you have a very big parlor.)

We also have a few helicopters for getting to places where even the Helio can't land, and for transporting cargo without landing at all. This is the Robinson R44:

Despite what the pilots here would have you believe, JAARS does much more than aviation. The mechanics here are in the middle of converting what used to be a firefighting boat into a passenger/cargo boat. Next year, it will be shipped to PNG, where it will support several dozen language projects.

I hope they take the wheels off first
I hope they take the wheels off first

Many years ago, some bright people realized that a translation can be made available to many more people by turning it into formats in addition to print. JAARS provides audio/video equipment and expertise, enabling native speakers to create audio recordings of the translation. These recordings are used in many ways. We partner with other organizations to distribute small, solar-powered audio players so people can listen as they work, and for people who don't know how to read at all. We've developed an app for cell phones that contains both the text and the recording, and each phrase is highlighted on the screen as it is spoken, allowing people to listen to God's Word and learn to read at the same time. The recordings are also used to create translations of the JESUS film. Technology is allowing more people to have access to the Bible than ever before.

Creating a JESUS film dub
Creating a JESUS film dub
Portable movie theater
Portable movie theater
MegaVoice audio bible
MegaVoice audio bible

ICC continued

August 7, 2015

It keeps happening. This time, with photos!

Heading to class
Heading to class
ICC classroom
ICC classroom

We've discussed many topics during the past couple of weeks. Dealing with stress, moral purity, conflict resolution, spiritual vitality, missionary kids, biblical absolutes vs cultural application. Whether or not to bribe if it's part of the culture. Relating to people who say things that a direct Westerner interprets as outright lies, but are totally appropriate and expected in that culture if the purpose is to prevent shame (to you or them), or to avoid showing disrespect to someone in authority. Complicated stuff, but learning more about the wildly different ways different act and think is giving me an greater appreciation for God's creativity and imagination in creating each one of us.

One thing that I appreciate most about the course is that the Bibles that we are required to bring to class are not just for decoration. As we discuss all of these topics, we are frequently directed to relevant passages and discuss them in our small groups. Useful for teaching indeed!

Many missionaries have an unfortunate tendency to get so focused on their ministry that they fail to properly look after their own spiritual vitality. We are encouraged to set aside a large chunk of time every so often to get away for a while, read, pray, and listen. I decided to take advantage of the fact that, unlike home, the highest point around is something besides a landfill, and spent several hours at Crowders Mountain State Park.

At the top of Crowders Mountain
At the top of Crowders Mountain
There's a cell tower up there too
There's a cell tower up there too
Crowders Mountain from below
Crowders Mountain from below

We've also practiced observing and participating in a (sort of) unfamiliar culture...

Hall's Auction
Hall's Auction

Learning how to build spaghetti towers how we work and react under pressure...

It's like Legos
It's like Legos

And driving 4-wheel drive vehicles on rough terrain and maintaining your vehicle when there's no Jiffy Lube down the street.

4-wheel drive vehicle training
4-wheel drive vehicle training

Of course, it's not all Serious Business.

Men's outing
Men's outing

How I know I'm in the South

August 6, 2015

  • Publix, Waffle House, Bojangles', Food Lion
  • Cheerwine soda
  • Cashiers say "have a blessed day"
  • Churches everywhere
  • BBQ everywhere
  • At Gander Mountain:
        Me: I'm here to pick up an online order.
        Cashier: Is it a gun?


July 24, 2015

ICC (the Intercultural Communications Course) is a 4-week course designed to prepare its participants for ministry in a multi-cultural environment. It is held in North Carolina at JAARS, an organization that partners closely with Wycliffe in the areas of transportation, technology, and media. The astute reader will have surmised that I have some personal connection to the course, as I am not one who is wont to create frivolous entries on this humble site simply for exposition's sake. Indeed, on the 14th of July, 2015, I arrived at the JAARS campus and prepared to commence my studies.

(Upon reviewing that first paragraph, I have concluded that an unadvertised part of the ICC curriculum is to subliminally teach us to write using language far more flowery than is customary, necessary, or even prudent. Good thing I noticed it now, otherwise you'd have had to endure a whole post's worth of that rubbish.)

Most, but not all, of the 35 participants in this session are Wycliffe members. The rest were sent to join us us by other mission organizations who like the ICC curriculum, I guess. Since the course is designed for people going to all different parts of the world, I'm not learning about Papua New Guinea culture specifically. Instead, we've focused on such topics as:

  • How to observe and begin learning another culture
  • Dealing with transitions and stress
  • Impact awareness (how we are perceived by and impact the people whose culture we enter)
  • The sovereignty of God (or, how to deal with trials)
  • Servant attitude, the importance of relationships over getting things accomplished
  • Staying healthy and safe in remote locations
  • How to go about learning another language (just started this, much more to come)

There's also been a good deal of discussion about communication styles and personality types. (And I do really mean "discussion" - classes are typically a fairly even balance of presentations, small-group discussion, and full-class discussion). Before the course started, we all took a couple personality/communication profiles (aka, "answer a bunch of questions and we'll tell you all about yourself!") I've never been very interested in such things, but I do see now how it can be helpful to know your particular strengths and communication style interact with those of your coworkers, especially if you're working closely together on a project. Wycliffe members from dozens of different countries are represented in Ukarumpa (where I'm going), so chances are good that I will be working with people from other cultures.

Another component of ICC is attending ethnic churches in the Charlotte area. The church I went to on Sunday, and will go to for the rest of my time here, is called 以愛華人浸信會. (They try to match us up with a church related to the country we are going, but Charlotte has a severe lack of Papua New Guinean churches for some reason.) The service was entirely in Chinese (I don't know which kind), though most of the people there spoke English also, so we were able to talk without too much difficulty before and after the service. The words to the songs on the screen were in both English and Chinese, and it was neat being able to listen to the congregation and have an idea of what they were singing about. The service itself was similar in structure to a typical American church service. The only part that caught me off guard was when the pastor asked us visitors to stand up and introduce ourselves, except we didn't know he was asking us to do so until a lady next to us leaned over and whispered the translation. Sunday school was after the service, and there was an English class and a Chinese class so at least we were able to understand that part. And after Sunday School, everyone has lunch together. The food is quite Chinese and quite tasty.


July 15, 2015


If you had told me 6 years ago that in 2015, I would be talking with individuals and getting up in front of large and small groups to share about Bible translation and inviting them to join me as partners in the ministry, I would have looked at you funny (ok, I often do that anyway) and told you that you were nuts.

If you had told me the same thing 5 years ago, after my summer trip to Mozambique, I would have been super excited that it was actually going to happen someday!

If you had told me the same thing 1 year ago, I would have been terrified. And, in fact, I was. How am I supposed to present to people? What do I say? What if they have questions I can't answer?

If you had told me the same thing 9 months ago after the excellent two-week Equip course, I still would have been quite nervous, but confident for the first time that I could do it. If this was what God had for me to do, He would provide the confidence and enthusiasm I needed. And he did!

If you told me the same thing today (go on, I'll wait), I would tell you that God was indeed with me. He has helped me do what seemed impossible just a year ago, which has greatly strengthened my faith in God's loving care and provision for us when we follow his leading, even if it involves stepping far outside our comfort zone. And, I must admit, it's actually been much more fun than my introverted self expected it to be to share with everyone I've talked to about the work that God is doing through Wycliffe all over the world.

So, onward! Less than 2 months till PNG!

Where in the world is Papua New Guinea?

November 22, 2014

Well... it's right about here:

Papua New Guinea map

Its territory consists of the eastern half of the large island of New Guinea, as well as 600 other islands. It is home to 6.7 million people, who collectively speak a total of 838 (!!!) different languages. Of these, 467 still have no Scripture at all.

English is one of the official national languages, but the most widely used language nationally is called Tok Pisin. I'll be studying the language during my training after I arrive in PNG. Much of its vocabulary is drawn from English, but knowing English if of limited usefulness when trying to understand Tok Pisin. Here's what John 3:16 looks like:

God i gat wanpela Pikinini tasol i stap. Tasol God i laikim tumas olgeta manmeri bilong graun, olsem na em i givim dispela wanpela Pikinini long ol. Em i mekim olsem bilong olgeta manmeri i bilip long em ol i no ken lus. Nogat. Bai ol i kisim laip i stap gut oltaim oltaim.
Jon 3:16 (Buk Baibel long Tok Pisin)

Here is the town where I will live, Ukarumpa:

Ukarumpa map

Ukarumpa is quite close to the equator, but due to its elevation of 4,900 feet, it doesn't get that hot. The temperature rarely rises above the low 80's during the day, and generally stays in the 50's at night.

People have told me I will miss the snow. They are wrong.

What's it like to live there? Ask me in a year. They have a store, a post office, a clinic, a library, an elementary school and a high school, an airstrip, an auto shop... and more, I'm sure.



Equip has ended

October 30, 2014

Equip is over, or near enough. Snarky comments about the name notwithstanding, these two weeks have been fantastic. I didn't know what to expect when I got on the plane two weeks ago, but any expectation I had has been far exceeded.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

First off, the course itself. It's an intense two weeks, with class / group time from 8 to 4 every day, and sometimes an activity after dinner as well. The 4 main leaders (Mark, Deb, Lisa, Diana) do an amazing job. The class time itself, which I can only describe as "lively", is a combination of lecture, small group discussion, and full group discussion. There are lots of little skits or demos to emphasize a point, but none are superfluous and most are hilarious. The topics we cover are alternated, so we might spend the first part of the morning talking about organizing home meetings and the second half discussing how to manage our finances. All of this helps keep things interesting. And interesting it has been! I can't remember a single session this week that I did not find useful in some way.

And then there's the people. The other day, one of the other guys (who's in his 50s) observed to me that this is the first time in his life that he has been abruptly dropped in the middle of 50 total strangers, and just one week later considers all of us as his family. The Equip staff, participants, as well as the people who work here full-time, are some of the most friendly, loving, and passionate people I have ever met. Every single one has a unique story of how God called them to be a part of what we're doing, and each has something different to contribute. Never before have I seen the body of Christ demonstrated so clearly, with so many different parts working together to accomplish the task that God has set before us.

Yeah. It's awesome.

Equip 24

Equip 24

All of us who are going to Papua New Guinea

All of us who are going to Papua New Guinea

Call presentation

October 22, 2014

Three days ago, we all presented our three-minute stories on how we were called to Wycliffe. We were informed that three of us would be asked to give our presentation again at EnterMission, the Wednesday worship service attended by the members in the Orlando office as well as streamed online.

Guess who one of the three chosen was?


Giving my call presentation at EnterMission
Giving my call presentation at EnterMission

So, I did. It actually went very well, and many people told me afterwards how much they had enjoyed it. Some informed me that I didn't act nervous at all. I informed them that I should have taken up acting. But anyway, I'm glad I was able to be an encouragement to the people there. Perhaps God is trying to get it through my head that the things He has done in my life are worth telling!

I also met the CIO today, and his eyes lit up when he heard that I'm a SQL Server DBA. I think it's now his personal mission to convince me to come to Orlando instead of going to PNG. Well, good luck with that, Doug!

All 47 of us drove over to the Cresons' house for dessert tonight. Bob Creson is the President of Wycliffe USA, and he and his wife told us their story. There sure are a lot of stories around here. I wish I could remember them all.

Dessert at the Cresons'
Dessert at the Cresons'