What is an Angel?

The concept of an angel is difficult and even foreign for Sunrise people.  I don’t know that most Americans have a clear picture of an angel, either.  It shouldn’t be too surprising that supernatural beings are difficult to understand since few of us encounter them (or become aware of encounters with them) ever or rarely at most.  Yet we know they exist, and it is important for them to be correctly understood, at the very least as benevolent supernatural servants of the most high who serve at the bidding of their Master without fail.

 

T was discussing angels with Markus.  Even though he has been a believer for a number of years now, even Markus doesn’t seem to have a clear perception of what an angel is.  Searching for an accurate equivalent, Markus used a term that was new to T.  T asked him to describe this concept.  This “near equivalent” in Markus’ mind is a legendary creature of female form.  As the story goes, these beautiful creatures descended to earth one day to bathe in a stream.  Seeing their captivating beauty, some men came along and stole their clothes, refusing to return the garments until the beings consented to marry them.  Uhh… That’s not quite the picture we want to convey when we use a word for “angel.”

 

T decided to explore the concept of angel a bit further with Markus to test what his understanding is of these beings.  He asked, “So are angels male or female?”  Markus’ reply: “I don’t think we can really know.”  Hmm…

 

We have been challenged through this process to test a few of our own assumptions about angels and make sure that our own pictures are grounded in Scriptural truth.

Tell Me a Story

Part of learning the storying process requires collecting stories from multiple people about varied life events.  T is trying to collect real life stories from individuals that they would share with a neighbor or friend.  Since the stories we are telling from the Bible are in third person, T is specifically looking for stories of this nature.  This has been more challenging than you might think.  The concept seems foreign to many.

 

To aid his efforts, T requested Markus to help him by sharing some stories of this nature.  He carefully explained that he desired for Markus to tell a story he was not in, perhaps about a friend or relative.  Markus’ first story was great!  But it was about himself and his family.  He told it in first person.  Markus was not the first person to be confused by this request.  T relented and their time dissolved into easy conversation.

 

As they were visiting, Markus began to tell T a story about his neighbor.  It was perfect!  Third person, real life people, problem, clear resolution.  “That’s what I’m looking for!”  They had been visiting in the national language (since sometimes T lacks the words to fully understand Sunrise technicalities still).  So T asked Markus to repeat the story in Sunrise.

 

We’re not the only ones that have found it challenging to get natural stories.  One of our colleagues even said he ended up recording a story that a language assistant told in third person about himself.  For whatever reason, it’s just hard for people to grasp what we’re looking for.  But once this collection of natural stories is compiled, T will be able to analyze the structure (How is a story begun? How are transitions made?  How is a conclusion marked? Etc.) and ensure that the B.ble stories we are working on contain these same, natural elements.  We want to be sure they sound like real life stories and not fairy tales.  When we tell a story of Jesus, we want people to know He is really alive and that the events of the Bible really happened.

Testing, Testing

T was able to begin one of the most important translation steps yesterday: testing.  Does the message communicate clearly from story teller to story recipient.  He went to his friend Wes’ house to share the “Jesus Calms the Storm” story.  Wes is from an area fairly close to where Markus is from.  T felt like the story was well received.  Wes seemed to get it AND to be pondering it long after they had finished discussing it.  One interesting detail is that he seemed to think the speaker (Markus) had actually been with Jesus in the boat and had experienced the story first hand.  While we felt this was a good sign that the story felt real and tangible to the listener, we want to make sure it is clear that this happened long ago.  Also, T was concerned after talking to Kyle that Markus’ dialect would give him away as being from the North (which might be looked down upon by other regions).  So T asked Wes about the language and asked him where he thought the story teller was from.  His reply: “Sunrise?”  Apparently, the vocabulary Markus used was not offensive nor did it catch Wes’ attention.  At least for him, Markus’ dialect seems to be appropriate.  Round one complete: A few minor alterations and some more tests coming up for story 1, but we are encouraged by round 1.

Your Translation, Our Translation

One of the most difficult things we have faced here is the independent nature with which many partnering groups have been working.  This style of work has caused very fragmented results.  One group puts out stories over here while another group just unveiled a finished version of a B!ble story book over there.  Every group has their own idea of what the message should sound like – what level of language to use, what key terms to use to refer to God and Jesus, angels and Spirits, Heaven and Hell, etc., and even how much the stories should be embellished or paraphrased or how literally to translate.  While we are encouraged that the Word is getting out and there is enthusiasm for materials, it is discouraging to us personally.  It is fuel for the enemy to whisper, “Why are you here?”  And yet we persist here because we know that there is still work to do.  While these materials are available and varied to hopefully reach different audiences, and we know that the Lord can use any materials to reach the lost with the truth, we also see that the quality is low and untested.  None of these groups checks to see that the message they are communicating is understood by the target audience. 

 

One group we have heard is tran$lating stories is Kyle’s team.  We ran into Kyle’s team leader this weekend and he expressed his desire for Kyle to be more involved in their project.  He also seemed opposed to Kyle helping us.  As they discussed the situation, T offered, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.  Maybe we can work together.” But this team leader reiterated his desire for autonomy in their project.  “You are free to use our stories and do whatever you want with them, but we want our people to do this on their own.”  It was frustrating to hear and discouraging to know that what we thought was consent to have Kyle working with us really wasn’t there as deeply as we thought – if at all.  We are not out to offend.  We are here to bring peace and work towards unity.

 

Kyle’s team leader did say he believed he needed to leave the final decision to Kyle to decide whether or not to help T in our project.  And so we’d like to ask you to pray.  We don’t want Kyle to make a divisive decision nor to be over committed (he reportedly has a hard time saying no to things).  But if he has a passion for translation and if T can be a resource and a help to him as he can be to us, we pray he will have a vision for working together.  If not, we pray the Lord will lead us to the right replacement for this vital role in the translation process.  Please pray for unity and for the Lord’s leading for Kyle.

Rockville Visit

Some of our teammates, Levi and Aaron, recently made a trip to Rockville, an island off the coast of Sunrise where the people speak a different dialect of the Sunrise language.  We were so encouraged by their experience, I wanted to share some of their report with you.  Aaron writes:

We didn’t have any particular plan for our time in Rockville. We primarily wanted to visit, understand a little more about the island, the people and their needs. We wanted to understand how our capacity and vision might fit with the reality on the island. I think we were particularly wanting to be perceptive to what God might have planned for our time, in particular ‘who’ he might want us to meet.

So, we got off the ‘fast boat’ at 9am, got some bikes and were riding out of the small town where the boats come in. We both stopped on the road about 1km out of town to collect our thoughts and set an action plan. Within seconds of us stopping a man pulled up behind us. His name was Wayne and he promptly told us that he was the new mayor of Candy Rock which is one of the 8 villages in Rockville. He was asking us what we were doing and soon wanting to go with us on our activities. He immediately invited us to come and visit his village and his home.

At first, I was pretty hesitant. Although we didn’t have a plan and wanted to be responsive to God, I wasn’t really expecting that God might want us to go straight to a specific village and listen and hear this guy’s heart for his village. Anyway, thanks to Levi’s willingness :-), we said to Wayne, “Come on, let’s get some fuel and head to your village.”

It turns out, that Wayne was supposed to be headed to the mainland that day and had just missed the Ferry. Because he has not yet been inducted into his new position, he’d decided to ride around looking to meet people and hear their needs. Wayne is originally from the village of Candy Rock, but as a boy moved to Sunrise and has worked in the city since then. He was elected by the village to be their head, primarily because they wanted something to change. They felt that someone with ‘outside’ ideas and vision might help move their village forward. Wayne definitely has a unique perspective, vision and in many ways seems to be re learning the culture and needs of his village. As we rode around he would often stop and introduce himself, as he has only been back for two weeks. He has moved his family back to his home village and is living with his mother in quite a simple setting.

So, Wayne took us to see some sights around Candy Rock. We then went to the town hall of the village and met the staff there. I was surprised to see the small health department attached to the town hall and the conditions of the antenatal care for the village. We talked a little about some of the needs that he has been hearing from the people. He talked quite a bit about the farmers desire to learn some new ideas and techniques. Talking about health, he shared that there seems to be a lot of trouble with Skin disease and diarrhea. We I asked about some solutions to these needs, he talked a lot about ‘training of trainers’ (his English is good)…which I found very interesting after doing our “training of trainers” course a few weeks ago. He talked repeatedly about how a lot of the solutions for his people are about passing on knowledge to the people. We talked a little about prevention education and he understands that concept. We also talked about water needs and access. It seems like Rockville has a good and developing water source and I was very impressed by the network of piping across the island!

After a short lunch, we decided to go further south to the coast to check out the primary water source for the island which is basically an underground river that pours out of the side of a 160m cliff face into the ocean. I have never seen anything like this. It was spectacular and we were all amazed at the huge amount of water that is pouring out continually considering Rockville is such a desolate place! With trepidation we walked down a steep rusting staircase and ladders on the side of the cliff down to the source. At the bottom of the cliff, at the source, as we swam in our underwear :-) with Wayne. He was telling us that it was a miracle that we met today. He described how God wanted us to meet and how it wasn’t ‘chance’ that we met. I agreed.

We went back to Wayne’s house later and his wife Patricia cooked a simple meal for us. We chatted at length at his house about his village, his vision, our organization and our vision for Peace amongst other things. He was emphasing to us that us meeting is important and we need to get to know each other. We need to meet and talk more, to understand how we can work together. He was also quick to mention that we need to work together over many years to help his community. He said, we can’t see instant transformation here, but over time, over years, one issue at a time we will see some change.

I was impressed at Wayne’s perspective and seemingly genuine desire to ‘serve’ his village. No doubt he will have other motives that will become apparent as we get to know his village. Wayne’s perspective was very compatible to ours which was encouraging to me.

As we talked, I shared a little of our need as a foundation to source some funding for our work. We shared a little of our desire to trial raising goats as an income source. As we were riding around, Levi was constantly commenting on the islands suitability for goat farming. There are many hills that are open and sparse of any farming. Most people are trying to farm cows or pigs, but the topography etc.. of the land seems more conducive to goats. Anyway, both Wayne and Patricia, very quickly invited us to come and trial a project there in Candy Rock. It turns out that Wayne helped raise a herd of 100 goats while on the mainland when he was a boy and quickly shared a lot of his knowledge about goat farming and its suitability for a trial in Rockville. His perspective seemed accurate to us. He was also emphasising the willingness on the part of the farmers to try and learn something new. Anyway, this was very interesting and definitely something for the team to consider.

So, we left Wayne and Patricia’s house about 5 pm and battled pouring rain for one hour back to the north side of the island. The next day we met and chatted with another friend there in Rockville who seems like a very open lady worth following up. We then rode around a different part of the island.

Personally, I agree with Wayne – that God has provided a clear open door to this Candy Rock and we should be intentionally pursuing a ‘relationship’ with them. Even Wayne emphasised the need to get to know one another for a while first and then try some small programs together. I also strongly believe that Rockville seems to have been a stronghold without a long term consistent gospel presence. This is an opportunity that could result in long term presence and change.

Let’s start praying for Candy Rock and see if God really is opening a door for access to this village!

 

Blessings,

Aaron

He Can’t Say That

One of the incredible challenges of the Sunrise language is the issue of register.  Register is hard to really grasp from an English perspective, but it is something like the difference between the way a lower class person might speak in a small town in the south and that of Harvard professor.  The most polite speech of the one may still sound unrefined to the other, while the refined speech of the professor may be virtually unintelligible to someone who has spent their entire life in their country home.  It is more complicated than that, but hopefully, that helps clarify the concept a little, at least.  In the case of register, it goes a bit farther.  There are whole different sets of words for basics concepts, but everyone is expected to know both sets of words for relating to different classes of people.  Once upon a time, just a few generations ago, a person could be stoned for using the wrong sets of words when speaking to the upper caste.

 

Register issues make translation tricky, especially since different areas of Sunrise use the higher register more or less widely.  One area’s high register can be down right offensive in other areas.  Whereas, the areas that have this lower form of a high register no longer use and struggle to understand the highest register language.  So while we don’t want Jesus words to go around offending people, we also don’t want him to have such lofty speech that the lower castes of people don’t even understand what he’s saying and make him feel unreachable and foreign.

 

We have run into some early examples of this discrepancy in dealing with Markus, who is from the north, and Kyle from the East.  In Markus’s area, they use a much lower “high register” than Kyle and his neighbors.  So when Kyle heard Markus’ first draft of Jesus calms the storm, there were several things that were said to which Kyle responded, “He can’t say that!”  Time and the testing process will reveal more clearly whether Kyle is right or whether Markus’ language really does communicate clearly to the people in his region.  If Kyle is right for the east and Markus is right for the north, we may end up with different story set versions for their differing dialects.  In fact, we suspect that when we’re finished, there will be at least 4, maybe 5 versions needed among the Sunrise people, so that the Word may be able to be communicated clearly to all.

What About the First Stories

Since Kyle was on the team that developed the first attempt at chronological Bible stories for the Sunrise people, it was only natural that those stories should come up during T’s meeting with him.  T was hoping to avoid the topic, if possible, but it couldn’t be helped.  It is hard to know how to politely say, “The project you worked so hard to produce is still riddled with issues, some of them major.”  But T said the conversation went smoothly.  Although Kyle considers the stories usable, he also recognized that they have some issues; so they were able to agree that they need some work.  T requested, though, that first they work through the story crafting process, from beginning to end, with three brand new stories, then go back to consider the previous set to see what, if any of it, they may find to be useful.  Kyle was agreeable to this, for which T was grateful.  Working through the complete process of what T has been trained to do and what Kyle has been introduced to will give both of them a great foundation from which to build and help give further insight into the possible strengths and various weaknesses of the first attempt.

Progress

It has been an exciting week.  T has had two very encouraging meetings this week with two Sunrise men.  One is from North Sunrise and the other from East Sunrise.  Originally from North Sunrise, Markus lives in the central mountains now.  He has known the Lord for a few years and has been discipled by some of our colleagues.  We are so thankful for these coworkers connecting us with him.  He is an eager young man.  He works in a small shop repairing TV’s and other similar electronics, but in the late afternoon, he is free to meet with T.  There are so many reasons we are very thankful for Markus right now.  Not only is he a young Sunrise background believer, he seems to really grasp the need for quality materials in the Sunrise language.  While talking with him on their first meeting, T commented that the Sunrise religion doesn’t really have an equivalent for a prophet.  In the past, the national language term has been borrowed and used in Sunrise resources, but the Sunrise people are confused by the term because they have no concept of a person who is a messenger sent from the Lord.  Immediately, Markus eyes lit up and he shared an idea – a word in Sunrise that T had never heard before.  Enthusiastic, Creative, Motivated.  Markus is a blessing to us.

 

Just yesterday, T was able to meet with Kyle, who lives a short way east of here.  Kyle has been a believer for many years.  Although born into the Sunrise culture and religion, he was led to the Lord through other colleagues, has been discipled, and currently works with the same organization.  Previously, when another translator was on the island trying to initiate some work in the Sunrise language, Kyle worked on his team and received some initial training in translation concepts.  Now, Kyle has adapted some of this initial work and does his own radio program, which has been very effective in reaching some parts of the Sunrise community.  We had considered Kyle a possible partner during early brainstorming sessions, but the organization with which he works knew that he was already overcommitted and couldn’t devote much time to yet another project.  They asked us not to even consider him, because Sunrise people have a tendency to say yes in an effort to please even if they don’t have the time or ability.  But back in December, David approached Kyle’s organization again and asked for permission to pay him for just a couple hours of consultation a week.  They agreed, and we are so thankful!  We are thankful to have Kyle’s experience and training as a resource in this process.  AND Kyle shared yesterday that one of his day jobs will be coming to an end in 5 months time, potentially freeing him for more service.  Lord willing, Kyle may just be able to fill the roll of co-facilitator that we have been looking to fill all these month.  Pray with us as the Lord guides our steps and leads us. Pray that we may be able to rejoice in the current progress and be patient as we wait with great anticipation to see if we really are on the right path – to see if Markus and Kyle are two of the teammates we have been waiting for.

View From the Top

While T was on his last trip to the mountains to work on crafting a story, he sent me this text: “The view from the top is beautiful today!”  it has been an especially rainy morning.  Knowing the driving stress that T has been having, especially since the fender bender last month where a motorcycle hit him pretty hard, I had specifically asked the Lord for a reprieve for his drive time.  The Lord did one better than that.  About an hour before T left, all the rain stopped and the clouds began to clear.  By the time he reached the mountains, we could see the blue peaks from our house – a rarity in the middle of the day, especially in rainy season.  And from the top, T could see the tallest peak on Sunrise AND all the way to the coast and beyond to a small island off the coast.  Beautiful.

 

One many of our low days, I lift my eyes to Heaven and remind myself how limited my view is compared to the Lord’s.  When we hit yet another dead end and there is no next step in sight, I take comfort in imagining the day when we will stand on the other side of these “getting going” obstacles and look back and see the path clearly and all the ways the Lord has led.  When T sent me that text, I initially rejoiced in the provision of a clear day for T to travel.  But my very next thought was of this vision.  I can imagine the Lord saying the very same thing to us from his view above the clouds, “The view is great from here.”  Again, I felt He was asking me to trust Him to make the path clear, and my heart was filled with hope that maybe even now, we are beginning up the path that the Lord has chosen, building a relationship with the very men who will be key partners in this journey towards clear materials for the Sunrise people.

 

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The Other Side

So I find myself once again in one of these blogging slumps where I have been silent for a very long time.  And I think, “How do I get myself in these predicaments?”  I feel like there’s too much to say to even know where to start.  As I was contemplating the question though, I realized I have been trying to make this too complicated.  In an ideal world perhaps, I should be able to always blog on things that are happening and on progress that is being made.  I think I started with this ideal in mind.  But honestly, the other half of the reality of life keeps me silent for months.  Sometimes, it just feels like I can’t find any progress to blog about.  So then I stop for a while and then there’s a hole and then I find myself trying to start over… again.

 

Today, I want to “start over” and head in a new direction.  I hope it will be a more honest and more consistent direction.  And I hope it will widen my perspective on what to write.  I want to commit to honestly sharing not only the moments when we see God shining, but also some of our moments of discouragement with you and asking for prayer in those moments.  I know we all have them.  Sometimes, it just feels like we get discouraged more we should and we don’t want to have to say it again.  But I’ve realized that in hiding how we are feeling, we are not being fair to those of you who are so faithful to pray for us.  I want you to keep me accountable not to be negative in my blogging, but to share truthfully and with hope when things are hard.

 

When I last abandoned you, I was in the middle of sharing about Bradley.  It was truly encouraging to have someone who was so eager and blessed by the task helping us create faithful Bible materials.  But I stopped writing when it became obvious that, for all his enthusiasm, Bradley just wasn’t the right guy.  A gifted evangelist, Bradley just struggled to be able to “stick to the facts” when telling a story from the Word.  He wanted so much to elaborate in his excitement.  But elaboration is not what we are striving for in our translation materials.  We want the message to be clear and true to the original such that the listener will be able to understand and truth will be revealed through the Word itself.  We still hope that one day, Bradley will be able to find a role in the translation process.  We enjoyed his fellowship and were blessed to be able to help him in his financial need.  But we’ve had to move on.

 

In fact, we’ve had to move on several times since.  Now three potential story crafters later, T is up in the mountains working to record a good draft of the first story – the same first story we’ve been trying to get now for… six months? Nine month? I’ve lost track.  That’s the “other side.”  The long periods where it seems the Lord says, “Wait and see.  I have something better.  Be patient.  Watch and wait.  I will show you the way.”  Waiting is hard.  And the enemy enjoys using those seasons to discourage us and whisper messages to us like “Useless” and “Failure.”  Yet we spend much time in these valleys on this journey with the Lord.  We watch and we wait.  We struggle and search.  Sometimes we lose perspective.  But always the Lord calls us to press on towards the goal He has set and to trust that He who began this work in us will be faithful to complete it.  We’ve thrown out our plans several times and started over.  We don’t know if we’ve found the blueprint that matches the Lord’s plan yet, but we continue to take it a step at a time.  Thanks for praying for us.  Now that you know the other side of the story, perhaps you can pray for us even more clearly.

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