Tragedy & Strategy

Posted: August 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

Okay… ‘tragedy’ is a bit too strong a word for a burst pipe, but it was in the concrete slab and on a corner – a very difficult place to work. Plus…

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… it was the first day I was going to be able to sit down and work with Sion in a couple of weeks, (Jeri is currently in Bias), and I really, really wanted to make some progress on the Moses stories! But apparently this pipe had been leaking for a while. The concrete around it was breaking up, the whole wall was wet, and the paint – inside and outside – was flaking off.

So what to do? Work on the Bible stories or fix the pipe…?



Sion worked on the stories, and I worked on the pipe…

This is what I love about the strategy we have taken with the Yetfa translation project! It’s all about training, equipping, and building capacity for these guys to do the work God has call them to.

The strategy is slower at first. It’s hard to be patient while people to learn to do what I could do quickly, but in the end, the real value of our work here is not just what we ‘produce’ but who we disciple.

We’re still 100% engaged in the work, but the work isn’t 100% dependent on us.

So, by evening time, the pipe was fixed, and Sion had done everything I hoped we’d get done. The next morning, when I went over what he had worked on, it was absolutely flawless!




And my plumbing wasn’t too shabby either…

Bias Playground (PhaseONE)

Posted: August 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

In 2011, after a furlough presentation at Holland Chapel BC in Benton, AR, a group of guys approached us and expressed their desire to come and help on a building project – our village house. Well… as things sometimes go, plans never came together.

However, in 2014 after another furlough presentation at Holland Chapel, the same crew still felt compelled to come and help. For sometime, we had envisioned building a playground for the kids in Bias, but I couldn’t do it by myself and was hesitant to put out a plea for people to come halfway around the world to build some swings and play equipment in the middle of the jungle. When I mentioned it to the Holland Chapel crew, however, they jumped at the idea!

So they are now preparing and plan to arrive in Papua in 3 weeks.


Of course, nothing is simple in the jungle, and since the playground will be constructed primarily of wood AND since the nearest lumber mill is 90+ miles away with no roads in or out, all the wood needed to be cut and prepared ‘onsite’ ahead of time.

That was our primary goal during our last stay in Bias.

Along with our family, we took 2 woodcutters to Bias. We needed to prepare 40 – 1x8s, 35 – 2x4s, and 13 – 4x4s. All 12 ft long. And not just from any kind of wood… from iron wood.


We had 1 week to turn a tree (actually 2 trees) into materials ready for the team of builders to use when they hit the ground in September.

The trees were approximately about a mile from the village. The process looked something like this:








After the wood was cut, everybody pitched in to carry it to the village. Even the little kids came out – teaming up in 3s to carry a plank! (note to self: NEVER leave your camera at home!)

Currently, all the wood is drying. Most of it has been planed and is ready to go!

Everybody is excited and waiting for the team to come…


Of course, when we’re in Bias there’s always a lot more going on than ‘the primary goal’. I got to preach (using our Bible stories).


Kelli taught Sunday School (using our Bible stories).



The boys even got a pet bat for a few days (using our Bibl… okay, that had nothing to do with the Bible stories)!




Now we’re back in town preparing to continue testing and revising the new Moses stories and finishing up preparations for the building team!

PhaseONE – done!

Back N Bias

Posted: March 1, 2015 in Mission Updates, Uncategorized

It had been 8 months since we had prepared for a trip to the village. Thankfully this was a short trip and had a fairly focused set of goals.

First, we just wanted to reconnect with people in Bias.

Second, we needed to check on the house.

Third, we wanted to craft a series of 6 stories from the life of Joseph.

Kelli quickly got back into the groove of cooking and getting household supplies ready. She canned chicken and beef and vegetables, made up pancake and bread mixes, and boxed up fruits and other foods. A twelve-day menu all planned out, prepared and packed up.

I got all the materials (recordings, pictures, etc.) and equipment we needed for story crafting ready. Kelli even drew all the storyboard pictures in her ‘spare time’!

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Finally, we stuck the boys and stuff in a plane and left the city and concrete behind!

After all the hugs and greetings on the airstrip, we got to the house. Eight months of sitting unoccupied in the jungle had taken its toll, but thankfully the house was in relatively good condition.

Kelli got busy cleaning and unpacking, and I got busy repairing the necessities.

Day 1 included putting up some fallen guttering for our water tank, crawling under the house to reconnect the pipe for the toilet (apparently a hog had gotten under the house and knocked it down), cleaning out all the water tank screens, reconnecting the solar panels, and getting the beds set up again. (I can’t even begin to detail all of Kelli’s tasks that first day. She looked like the Tasmanian Devil – dashing here and there cleaning and setting up house!)

The first couple of days were primarily consumed with getting the house in order, Unfortunately, there were some damages that couldn’t be immediately repaired. For instance one of our solar panels was fried. (Major loss!!!) Also, I had put a type of plastic screen in all the windows. To my great disappointment, the sun had completely dried the screen up till it became brittle, and the hard rains caused a large portion of the screens to simply crumble. (Another major loss!)


The fried solar panel circuitry.


Sunday, I preached using a story from Revelation 7 that the people had not yet heard. It was fantastic worshiping the Lord and sharing His word with our friends in Bias again.

Monday, however, began the real excitement!

Monday, we began meeting with a group of about 10 people to craft stories from the life of Joseph. Up until this time, we have always crafted the Bible stories as a small team – just me, Sion, Jeri and Alex. This was a very different approach in using a larger group of people to help in the learning and translation process.

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Everyday we spent about 4 hours learning a part of Joseph’s story in Indonesian by listening to a recorded passage repeatedly, discussing the terminology and concepts that were unfamiliar to them (e.g. sheep, kings, grapes, etc.), considering how to simplify the story without deviating from its essence, then working phrase-by-phrase in translating it into Yetfa.


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After we had the basic story worked out, the group spent about 2 more hours going over and over and over the story, polishing up the language and getting it fixed in their heads. Then we started recording them telling the story. Everybody wanted a chance to be recorded telling the story – usually 2 or 3 times!

Finally, when everybody was satisfied with the recording part, we would sit down and have a devotional time of discussing the story. What did we learn about God in this story? What did we learn about the people in the story? What impact should this have on our lives?

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Then when we finally dismissed, Sion would type the story up and store it in the computer. Then we’d get the materials ready for the next day’s story.

We went through this process everyday for 6 days straight.

For me, the week was such a mixture of mental exhaustion (working in Indonesian & Yetfa all day long) and spiritual exhilaration. It was priceless to sit back and watch portions of the living word of God being born in this language for the very first time ever. Every day the group was growing in excitement about the stories and the process.

When Saturday rolled around, I was inclined to take a break and finish the last story at another time. However, the group wouldn’t even entertain the thought! “No! We have to finish this!”

When Sunday morning came, the church was packed! Jeri told me how the group had been talking about the stories and the process to everybody in the village. One man named Matias, who was formerly a shaman, stood up and gave a long testimony about his experience in the group and the importance of having God’s word in their language.

In just 6 days, we saw a renewed interest and impact on the community in general. The group participants were clearly captivated by their involvement, and Jeri and Sion also seemed completely reenergized through the group crafting.

It was an amazing return to the village. I imagine all of the remaining 16 stories will be crafted in a group setting. The potential for wider discipleship and community involvement (not to mention the benefit of additional input concerning language issues) is simply invaluable.

I’m just overwhelmed at the fact that we have only been back on the field for less than 2 months, and yet so much has happened and so much progress has been made. Tomorrow we start the final recording of our initial set of 25 stories. Once that is finished we will move towards a widespread distribution of the solar powered MP3 players, as well as training for Story Fellowship Group leaders from various villages.

What an unbelievable opportunity to watch as God reveals himself to the Yetfa people through his word in their own language!

Presenting a soccer ball given by Seth Penny from Mt Zion BC in Malvern, AR.

Presenting a soccer ball given by Seth Penny from Mt Zion BC in Malvern, AR.

These 2 guitars were paid for by offerings from __

These 2 guitars were paid for by offerings from 4th/5th/6th grade SS class at Mercer BC in Pennsylvania!

Marten (Sion's brother) was one of a handful of guys who vowed not to shave till we returned from furlough.

Marten (Sion’s brother) was one of a handful of guys who vowed not to shave till we returned from furlough.

He asked if I would shave him, so we started with a trim.

He asked if I would shave him, so we started with a trim.

Finally, the furlough growth was gone and his wife was thankful! :)

Finally, the furlough growth was gone and his wife was thankful!:)

Class time for the boys!

Class time for the boys!

Every evening some of the kids come to the house and play soccer or color.

Every evening some of the kids come to the house and play soccer or color.

Bags packed and ready to head back to town.

Bags packed and ready to head back to town.

Waiting on the plane to pick us up...

Waiting on the plane to pick us up…


Hit The Ground Dragging

Posted: February 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

After 49 hrs in airports and airplanes, we landed in Sentani on Sat, Jan 10. Monday the 12thwe started another 3-week OneStory workshop.

Although I was dragging (and even a bit sick) for the first week-or-so, it was sweet to be back together with Sion and Jeri working on stories from God’s Word!


Our primary task for the workshop was to complete the final review of the 25 Yetfa Bible stories. It was a long tedious process of us (and then 2 consultants) going over the entire set and all the documentation with a fine-tooth comb.

We also had 3 other Yetfa speakers come in and listen to all 25 stories multiple times, answer questions, and give feedback on anything that was unclear.


We made a handful of minor revisions and, in the end, came out with a set of Bible stories that tell the panorama of God’s salvation from Genesis to Revelation targeted for the Yetfa people and culture.

It was a major milestone!


However, even as the consultants were giving the final check over those stories, the translation team selected and began working on an additional set of 25 stories!

Jeri and Sion, although excited to have a solid set of Bible stories for the Yetfa people, felt like we really needed to continue working on oral stories – something I completely agree with.

As a whole, the Yetfa people are still primarily preliterate. There is still no literature of any type in their language, and only a very small percentage is literate in Indonesian.

So, while the team is eager to begin a written translation of the Bible, we understand that the best strategy for reaching the Yetfa people is an oral approach.

By the end of the workshop, we finished the final review, got preliminary approval on the first of the additional 25 Bible stories, tested a second story, and crafted a brand new one!


In a few days, we are heading to Bias. While there, we plan to craft a series of 6 new Bible stories from the life of Joseph.

Pressing on…



It’s been 30 weeks since we waved goodbye to our friends and home in Papua. Since that time we’ve…

Driven 21,174 miles

Given 44 ministry presentations

Preached 56 sermons

Attended 4 missions conferences/revivals

Participated in 3 church camps & retreats

Been in 13 states

Visited 37 churches

Finished translating 7 new Bible stories

We’ve seen people applaud and weep in response to God’s work among the Yetfa. Parts of furlough have been busy and demanding, but overshadowing the demands of furlough have been times of refreshment. We’ve spent time with family, reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones.

While reporting and ministering to churches, we’ve also had healthy doses of recreation. We’ve…

Ridden rollercoasters

Watched knights jousting

Swam at 2 beaches

Been to 4 state parks

Explored 2 Cave systems

Enjoyed Tubing, Horseback Riding, Hunting, Fishing, Hiking, Skeet Shooting, Shopping, Bounce Houses, Mining for gems/fossils, Crabbing

Visited the Space Center, Lego Land, 2 Zoos

And much more!

Now it’s approaching time to return.  Lord willing, 4 days from today we will be on a plane drinking from little plastic cups and trying to cope with mixed emotions – excited to get back to the most incredible task we can imagine but sad to leave people we love. It’s inevitable. As missionaries, there’s no way around heart wrenching thrill of ‘going’.

The most frequent question we hear these days is “Are you ready to go?”

My answer is always, “I’m ready to go, just not ready to leave.”

Glordinary Days

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have a dilemma…

We just wrapped up another OneStory workshop, and I am so excited about where we are in this project, how far Sion and Jeri have come, and how the overall work here is progressing!

My dilemma?

When I sit down to blog about the workshop, it sounds… uninteresting. Ordinary.

Now, not to me! I know that getting another ‘key term’ tested and entered into OneStory Editor… getting the answers to our testings of Paul’s Conversion Story back-translated… correcting the recording of the story of Paul’s trip to Thessalonica may not sound exciting, but each little step… each movement forward is ushering in the Kingdom of God among the Yetfa people.

Nonetheless, when I was getting ready to write it up, I thought, “Well… this blog won’t get as many ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ or ‘comments’.” (I don’t even have any pictures!)

Then it struck me how ironic it is.

These are glordinary days – when glory is mixed with the ordinary! So much so that the two cannot be separated. They are uninterestingly phenomenal! They are as wonderfully boring as watching a plant grow… “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4: 28)

So what’s been going on lately?

Nothing special – just some typing, testing and the breath of the Almighty being expressed in the Yetfa language.

Time to Cut the Cord!

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


We flew into Bias on Tuesday, planning to begin training Story Fellowship Group leaders on Thursday.

While we were setting up the house, Kris – a fantastic, young man who has helped us many times with testing the Bible stories – came and told us that his wife had given birth to their first child the night before! The birth went well, however, she had not yet delivered the placenta. Could we come help?

Now… in all my Bible and lingustic classes, never once did we have a unit on childbirth. I know something about being born AGAIN, but I’m considerably less experienced helping with that first birth.

Nonetheless, we (i.e. Kelli and I) said we would come. NO WAY was I going by myself on this one!

We quickly grabbed our well-worn copy of ‘The Village Medical Manual’ and started reading like we were cramming for an exam. Armed with a page-and-a-half of new expertise, we headed to Kris’s house.


When we arrived, there was momma Rashel and 18 hr old Linda Naksa Anni! She was so tiny…


We quickly learned that, although other wet nurses had nursed baby Linda, Rashel had not yet nursed her – which, thanks to my new-found knowledge, I knew was important to the delivery of the placenta. (Kelli acted as though that was common knowledge!)

After thoroughly demonstrating that we really didn’t know much about what needed to be done (all 3 of our boys were C-section), Kris simply asked if I would just cut the cord.

At first, I declined on the basis of my complete lack of experience, but then I remembered a past conversation with a couple of our Yetfa friends.

“Who cut your cord?” is an important part of a Yetfa person’s personal history. It’s dinner-time conversation. Then it dawned on me… Kris was not asking me to perform a medical procedure but to become a significant person in his daughter’s life.

“Kris, I would be honored to cut the cord, but you’re gonna have to go get a momma who can show me what to do.”

A few minutes later Kris’s mom and sister came in. They bit off a couple pieces of yarn. Tied off two places on the cord. Momma smiled and pointed in the middle. Then ‘snip’!


We prayed for Baby Linda and their family and headed home. I couldn’t help think how I almost missed a great opportunity by “thinking like a Westerner”.

For me, it doesn’t matter WHO cuts my child’s umbilical cord. What is important is that they know what they are doing.

For them, what is important is WHO cuts their child’s umbilical cord. You don’t have to be a genius to sever a cord. Take a sharp object. Apply pressure. Done!


Well, that got the week off to a great start.

Our main goal for the week was to train a few people on how to lead oral Bible studies using the Yetfa OneStory Bible stories. Because this was our first time to do this training and because we were limited on time, we started with 3 men.

The first two days, the team and I demonstrated what a story fellowship group (SFG) is and how to lead it. The first half of each session was conducting an actual SFG. Then we taught the principles and procedures during the second half.

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During the final 2 days, the participants led the SFG – memorizing their story, telling it, teaching it, and leading a discussion about it.

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After hearing the story several times and after all the participants have had a chance to retell it, we always ask 3 questions:

In this story, what is God like?

In this story, what are the people like?

After hearing this story, what should we do?

After 4 days of sitting with these men and hearing their responses, I just sat there in stunned-joy thinking, “I love this!”.

A while back, I wrote a short post about Pekiam. He was one of the participants in this training. On the last day Pekiam said, “If we would do this, our faith would be strong! Right now our faith is not strong.” He talked about how understanding God’s Word and having a chance to discuss it, in just a few days, had strengthened him.


Up until very recently, the Yetfa people had gotten all their spiritual nourishment via the umbilical cord of a foreign language and from outsiders, but now they are beginning to feed on the pure milk of the Word in their own language, and they are learning to discover truth on their own.

What an honor to serve and help them in this transition!

(Even I had my ‘cord cut’ as I preached my first full sermon in Yetfa!)


Here are a few other random pics from this trip in:


We treated several cases of malaria during the week!


    Our boys literally climb, swing and hang from the rafters!



Okay… mom & dad do, too! (Kel’s photo wouldn’t upload…)






A heated game of Lightning McQueen checkers!


For most of you, this moon was on its way to being a ‘blood moon’!


Watching Corin play with his view finder!


Okay… my turn!