“I am the Bread of Life” – Jesus (John 6:48)
As some of you know, I (tOdd) have had the great honor of managing over two dozen very dedicated Papua New Guineans in the work of a Support Department disguised as a Store & Shipping Department. That is to say, we sell everyday consumable grocery, household, house-ware & even meat department items in a ‘General Store’ setting.
When I say that we are a ‘Support Department’, I mean that we are part of a team of other such departments (Auto-Shop, Computers, Clinic, Aviation, Construction/Maintenance, Schools, etc.) which exist for the sole/soul purpose of supporting Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea. The adage “it takes a village” is evident here throughout Papua New Guinea as well as in the Centralized Support area called Ukarumpa (ooh-kuh-rum-puh).
This is important and vital work for all involved in, around & through Ukarumpa (I mean, one does get hungry, right? 🙂 ). Sometimes, though, one can feel (OK, I can feel) a bit disconnected from the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ work that is taking place out in villages and even amongst our Language workers here on Center.
I confess to you right here, right now that I have sometimes forgotten during the craziness of a day the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ that brought our family from Gresham, OR USA over to this beautiful “Land of the Unexpected”, Papua New Guinea (PNG).
But today we did something a bit different…we sought to incorporate our day-to-day work at the Store with something that recently arrived on our loading dock – Bread. Well, not the flour and baking kind of Bread, but the verse-listed-above kind of Bread—to be exact, the arrival of the Arop-Lokep New Testament Bibles that are awaiting a dedication and release later this year (in the Province of Madang)!
The timing, as always, is all God’s. We (our Store & Shipping Staff) were a little tepid in implementing something on the ‘sales floor’ before because we did not want to come across as trivial or to be seen as making ‘little’ of The Word.
At the conclusion of a Multi-Language Initiative (MLI) Conference last week, we were extremely encouraged and decided at the next opportunity we would increase our daily supply of sliced bread and then offer it at 50% off. At that point, we just needed to wait for one of these ‘special’ shipments to come in. Well, the very next day the above New Testament’s arrived. OK, God. 🙂
These are special occasions that we (the Store staff) would like to see increased around here. When a recently translated New Testament or Scripture portion is sitting there in a box on the dock…waiting to come to Life for a group of people who have NEVER had the Bible in their mother tongue–their heart language!?! I mean, THIS is it! Truly, one can’t use enough exclamation points when talking about the significance of such realities.
The first time I saw a box of translated Scriptures, I immediately started wiping tears from my eyes. My eyes may have been wet on the outside but on the inside I was rejoicing with a proclamation of “Wow!” 😀
Keep in mind, the boxes on the loading dock don’t hold the latest best-seller from the current crop of best-selling authors—they contain the Bread of Life!
I’ve had the privilege of pulling popular books out of similar boxes in the past (and keep in mind that when I did they weren’t yet ‘best-sellers’; I did so when I managed Christian Bookstores)—books—such as Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, Bruce Wilkinson’s ‘The Prayer of Jabez’, Donald Miller’s ‘Blue Like Jazz’ and Randy Alcorn’s ‘Heaven’ to name but a few. With all due respect to the authors—and I’m pretty sure they’d emphatically and quickly agree—these boxes sitting on this loading dock right now are MUCH more valuable and worthy of “acclaim”.
And it isn’t just because I’m telling you about it, or because of the people involved in the actual translation work, or because I’m “too close” to the work and therefore emotionally compromised and prone to say such things, but because this is what “it” all rests on and what “it” is all about: the Word of God.
I mentioned ‘realities’ earlier.
Imagine the reality–if you can for just one moment–of not having had access to God’s Word in your language. Of not ever having had that special ‘life verse’ moment while you sit in church listening to your pastor preach from it. Or, perhaps, over-hearing this Truth in a language not your own that is geographically close to you and trying to put ‘bits & pieces’ of wisdom and knowledge next to the clarity & understanding of your tongue…trying.
That is the reality for nearly 300 languages here in PNG right now (which represents over 12% alone of the “Other languages” in the graphic above who don’t yet have Scripture in their heart language). That represents thousands of Papua New Guineans who live with such a reality.
Much great work has transpired and is currently in process–and that’s the exciting reality. We, you & I, are a part of bridging this so that our fellow brothers and sisters around the globe have access to this Living Water…which, if you ask me, has always gone great with Bread.
I’m pretty sure Peter, the Papua New Guinean translator for the Arop-Lokep language team seen here with the Bibles, thinks so, too.
It is our hope and prayer that such a small gesture or token will provide reminders and even create some awareness to the very reality of why it is we are here—from customers and Staff to our kids and ‘yumi olgeta’ (all of us).
Let’s pray we begin selling a LOT of 50% off Sliced Bread in the future! 🙂