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Home Assignment!

On May 26th I arrived home in Minnesota for my regularly scheduled home assignment or furlough.

All packed and ready to go!

16 months in the States:

Here is a peek of what I will be up to while in the States:





Why Translate Hymns?

41_boat1One day some of the villagers looked up and saw several canoes full of people approaching their island. While the women gathered up the children and ran back to the relative safety of the village, the men grabbed their spears, axes, bows, and arrows and hurried down to the shore, ready kill the would-be raiders. As they prepared their attack, a strange thing happened.  The people in the approaching canoes began to sing a most unusual song –a song and a style of singing they had never heard before, in which it seemed everyone sang a different tune, but somehow instead of sounding discordant it sounded wonderful.  The music touched their hearts and seemed to penetrate to their very souls.  So instead of killing the new arrivals, they welcomed them to their island to stay.

png-experience-mt-hagen-warrior@2xThis is the story of how Christianity came to the New Ireland region of PNG.  The strangers approaching in canoes were actually Fijian missionaries, who, upon seeing the fierce worriers amassing on the shore ready to kill them, began to sing hymns. These songs touched the people of the region in a way they could not explain, and became beloved by all.

Several years later…

Tapungas jumped in his canoe and paddled the 10 miles from mainland New Ireland to Djaul Island.  He was there to visit his friend Chief Ilias.  He and Ilias both practiced Malangan, the local animistic religion, but he had come to talk to his friend about something else. As the sun began to set, he and Ilias sat down to enjoy the cool of the night, and Tapugas started to share about this new thing he had heard about on the mainland called “church.”  Ilias was intrigued.  Neither he nor Tapungas really knew what this church thing was so they decided to go and see a church service for themselves.  The next week they paddled back to the mainland and headed to the church building. The service started but Ilias couldn’t understand a word that was said.

hqdefaultEveryone was using the language of a people that was a distance from his island.  But then they began to sing and his heart was struck.  He had never heard anything like this before and he didn’t know how to describe it, but there was something different about these songs, not just the style and the tune, but something that struck him on a deeper level, something that touched his heart in a way he had never experienced.  I must have this for our people on Djaul Island, he thought.  Later Ilias found out that the song he had heard was “there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus”.  He sought out the missionary in the area and said, “please send someone to our island and start one of these churches.” Eventually a man was sent and a church was started on Djaul Island.

One of the current day churches – built on the  site of the first church on Djaul Island

This is the story about how Christianity came to Djaul Island. To this day hymns, alongside of modern worship songs, are still valued and loved.

Over 100 hymns have already been translated into the Tiaang language, and this mini hymn book is the most popular item of all the limited literature that has been printed in Tiaang.

Pray for the Tiaang translators as they continue to translate the remaining 300 hymns.  They started a new schedule of meeting once a week to translate and hope to have a rough draft of the whole book done within a year.  One of the difficult parts of translating songs is that the number of syllables in each line needs to match the number of syllables in the tune.

Translating hymns
Do each of these lines have the right about of syllables?  The check marks at on the right says they do!

Check out this video of the translators checking to make sure all they syllables are there.

God Moves – A Movie to Inspire!

A thunder storm was softly rumbling of in the distance, when suddenly a sharp but explosive and volatile sound disrupted the evening. As intense as the sound was, you could tell that it had originated a ways off and had traveled some distance to finally arrive in my own ears. VOLCANO! The thought instantly shot through my head. I looked up quickly and gazed in the direction of the far off Tavurvur and Vulcan volcanoes located two islands away.

Tavurvur and Vulcan volcanoes two islands away from Djaul on New Britain Island

But all was calm, and in the short time it took me to look, I realized the noise was just a rather unique thunder clap from the distance storm. Well that got my mind thinking and soon the conversation turned to volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Our village mother, Grace, had never seen a tsunami and asked what they looked like.  I struggled to explain to her what they might look like, never having seen one myself in real life but only once on TV, when I suddenly remembered a short video Wycliffe had put together about another translation project in a different place in PNG. The video told the story of 3 consecutive tsunamis that had struck that area, and how God had used this tragedy to accelerate the project causing them reach out to the surrounding language groups. Thinking this video might show what a tsunami looked like, I whipped it out and we all began to watch.

One of the elementary School’s on Djaul Island

At the end of the movie, my village mother sat thoughtfully for a moment and then said, “I had a school board meeting today, and I was so angry with the parents of the village for not caring enough about their children’s education. They don’t try hard to earn the money needed to send all their kids to school, so they only send one or none at all.  They don’t help out with the school repairs, improvement projects, or attend the parents meetings. But as I was watching that movie, God spoke to me and said, “Do you know how you feel about those parents and their lack of interest in their children’s schooling? That is how I feel about you and your community and its lack of interest in the translation of My Word into your language.”  Wooo!  I wanted to jump in and start talking about what she had just said, but I could feel very tangibly that God was doing something here and I could feel him saying to me, “Jessie, shut up and be quiet.”  So I did just that.  My village mother went on thinking and talking about all that she had seen on the video, how that translation project had built a translation office so their translators could work without disruptions, how they had computers for every single translator, and how they had reached out to the surrounding language groups to help them get a translation project started in their language.  She finally ended with, “We need to show this video to the Translation Committee tomorrow.”

So the next day we showed the Committee the video.  After the video ended there was deep silence. Again I felt the need to jump in and start talking, what about, I have no idea. I am sure I would have just started babbling.  But again, thankfully, God told me to be quiet and so I sat and said nothing.

Photo by Hani@traveltherooad

Then one of the men stood up and began to pray, and as he prayed he began to cry.  Then the rest of the group began to lift up their voices in song.  A slow and meaningful tune that seemed to bear the prayer of the one up to God.  I couldn’t hear what the man was saying as he prayed but all the committee members could and through their song their own hearts added their agreement. But most importantly God could hear the prayer of that man and of them all, for he was the originator of those prayers just was he was the originator of the new zeal and commitment that everyone from the Committee seemed to leave with that day.

Translating hymns

The Committee has committed to meeting once a week to translate more hymns and songs and have the goal of translating a rough draft of the entire Hymn book within the next year. Pray that they would continue through with their commitment.  Pray also that our one and only editor, who has to read through, revise, and edit every hymn they translate before they can be published, would be able to keep pace and not be taken up unnecessarily with all of the other legitimate responsibilities she has in the village.  Finally, pray that God would touch the heart of someone in the village who would commit to coming alongside her as a second checker.

Check out the video that inspired the team!

arop - intro still shot

Our Village Digs!

Ever wonder what kind of house we live in while we are in the village? 

Well, here is your chance to see!

Until we get our own house built, we have been living with our village host family. Grace and Ephraim, our village mama and papa, who we call Maamói and Paapói (pronounced “Mom-oi” and “Pop-oi”), have graciously allowed us to live in their newly built, hewn plank, two bedroom house, while they remain in their old house.  The new house is adjacent to their old house, so we get all the benefits of living with a family, but the privacy of our own place.

Enjoy the video and pictures below, and I hope glimpsing a small part of my life here in Papua New Guinea will help you to feel a little bit more connected.

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For the last few months, our team has been working on finalizing the orthography for the Tiaang Language. An orthography is the writing system for a language, including the alphabet (i.e. the letters) and script (i.e. Roman, Cyrillic, Arabic). We must take into account purely linguistic factors, like the sounds in the language, but also sociolinguistic factors, like government language policies and the opinions of the speakers themselves.

Working hard!

For example, if we were working with a language group in Asia or the Middle East we might choose to use a script that is similar to the Chinese characters or the Arabic script since the people would be used to seeing these large neighboring language scripts. Conversely, however, if the language group has been historically suppressed by a large neighboring language culture, then the people may choose to use a script that is decidedly different from that language. English is the language/script that most Papua New Guineans are use to seeing, with Australia so close by, and the relationship with the Australian culture is generally good, so we will use the same script as English, i.e. the Roman Script.


Regarding the alphabet, you might think, Well, just choose a letter for every sound that you hear! But a good orthography doesn’t do that because it could lead to confusion. A good orthography has one letter to represent one underlying sound.

What is an underlying sound you might ask?  Well here is an example. In English we add an ‘s’ to the end of a word to make it plural.  So ‘dog’ becomes ‘dogs’ and ‘cat’ becomes ‘cats’.  But if you actually say these two words out loud, without whispering,  you will notice that there are actually two different “s” sounds.  While the ‘s’ on the end of ‘cats’ sounds like an ‘s’, the ‘s’ on the end of ‘dogs’ is actually a ‘z’ sound.  When the ‘s’ gets added to the end of ‘dog’ some of the characteristics of the letter ‘g’ bleed over into the ‘s’ and change the ‘s’ into a ‘z’ sound.  So while we pronounce ‘dogs’ with a ‘z’ sound, underlyingly, we know that it is really an ‘s’. So, like a good orthography should, we choose to spell ‘dogs’ with an ‘s’ even though it is pronounced with a ‘z’ because ‘s’ is the underlying sound.

Orthography decisions will effect how words are spelled.

Currently we are looking into how the ‘b’ and ‘v’ sounds are used in the Tiaang language.  Our current theory is that the ‘v’ sound is actually a ‘b’ sound underlyingly but is pronounced as a ‘v’ when there are vowels on either side of it.

These are the kinds of issues that we need to investigate before we can officially finalize the current trial Tiaang orthography.

Only 21 calendars left!

If you were planning to buy a calendar now is the time to do it before it is too late. 


Purchase the calendar for someone else – it would make a great present for someone who appreciates supporting missions – or purchase it for yourself and enjoy the tropical island photos.


The calendar showcases photos from the five Tiaang Language villages as well as a few of Rebekah, Janell, and me.

  • See our host family!
  • See Janell and me weaving a sleeping mat!
  • See ladies from the village doing a traditional dance!
  • See how sago is made!
  • See some of the local volleyball and soccer teams

 All proceeds go to the Tiaang Bible Translation Committee and will be used to buy their first computer! This new computer will greatly speed up the translation process and will allow us to have digital off-site backups of the translation.  No more handwritten work lost because it got wet in the tropical rain storms or was eaten by cockroaches!

 Learn more about the calendar
or purchase one here.

God can use pizza

The sun was shining brightly through the windows as I woke up that morning, but I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to face anymore new faces. I didn’t want to trying to understand a new language. I didn’t want to hear another rooster crow, or another dog yelp, or another pig squeal.  All I wanted to do was cry and bury my head in my pillow and hope that it would all just go away.  I couldn’t face the five more weeks we had planned to stay in the village. I just couldn’t do it.


This is how I felt one morning last February, and every morning after that for a week.  I knew God had called me to this job and to this place, but doubts began swirled around in my head.  Maybe I can’t hack living in the village.  Maybe I won’t ever be able to learn the language, so why should I keep trying?

Feelings of failure and defeat were encroaching in on me. I tried to push them away and remember God’s promises, but I was just too tired, too weary, too exhausted, and too worn-out. I didn’t have the strength to fight these feelings anymore.

So I met with my teammates and we decided that I should return early with Rebekah since my health was more important than trying to prove anything.  It was already in the plans for Rebekah to leave earlier than the rest of us, so I could easily catch a ride with her. But we wouldn’t leave for another four days. How was I going to make it through another four days?

Just making the decision to head back early took a huge load off of me, but I needed something to take my mind off how I was feeling. Something that would distract me but also that I would enjoy enough and engage me enough to entice me out of my bed in the morning and make it worth getting up.

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I needed something that would entice me out of my bed in the morning.

Well, God had not left me. He never does, and He had just the right activity already planned for me.  Later that day the women of the village came and asked us to teach them how to make pizza.   They would be gathering in two days for their usual get-together and wondered if we could teach them how to make pizza then. I love cooking and I love teaching, so this was an activity hand-made for me by my God. I spent the next two days planning, making sure I had enough ingredients, hand writing out the recipe for pizza dough, and crafting how I might say all of the needed cooking vocabulary in Tok Pisin (local trade language).

The day arrived and 30+ ladies showed up all eager to learn.  It was a day of laughter, camaraderie, joy, entertainment, and fun.  And the best part of it was the 20+ pizzas we all got to share and enjoy at the end of the day. But for me, seeing the enjoyment of the ladies and the smiles on their faces as they crafted their own pizzas was a healing balm for my soul.  Thank you Jesus.

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