When we first returned from Papua New Guinea in mid-February I did not envision a trip to Thailand. I rather thought we'd be reviewing a budget for Southern Europe and raising our support to begin that chapter of ministry. But I had been feeling exhausted for some time and had a series of symptoms from slurred speech to forgetfulness that were troublesome, so in conjunction with my primary care doctor we went back to Bumrungrad in Bangkok where I had surgery in January. I have a severe case of hepatitis, a resurfacing of Type A, which I had in 1994. I thought one could not get it twice, but apparently if you get it once, it can come back if you become exhausted. I met the criteria for exhaustion.
Shortly before we left for Thailand, the leadership of AGWM, as well as our Southern New England leadership asked us to pray about delaying ministry in Southern Europe so we could devote our experience in translation to the "Fire Bible" in Melanesia Pidgin. The Fire Bible is a study Bible with helpful notes and teaching aids in addition to the translated text. Melanesian Pidgin is the trade language of Papua New Guinea and spoken by millions of people. However, like all trade language it has a very limited vocabulary and theological concepts are very difficult to translate. By creating a study Bible in the language there is an opportunity to provide helpful notes to prevent people from reading in wrong understandings of the scripture. Another purpose of the study Bible is that there are many untrained pastors who serve in Papua New Guinea. With no formal Bible training they benefit greatly from having good study notes to guide them in sermon preparation as well as helpful charts.
The Fire Bible name comes from Luke 24:32 where Jesus encounters the disciples on the road to Emmaus who, after hearing Him explain Messiah in the law and prophets say, Were not our hearts burning in us while he was talking to us on the way, making clear to us the scriptures?" The Fire Bible is meant as a tool to support and encourage the indigenous church. Bishop Giegere Wenge of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, who has long supported us in our service with AGWM, has received a copy as well and spoken of his gratitude for a study Bible. We believe it will serve many churches around the country of Papua New Guinea.
So how dos our trip to Thailand relate to the Fire Bible? It is clear that my health is such I cannot make any kind of international move at this time. Neil, however, is free to come and go to Papua New Guinea and begin the work of organizing and setting up the translation work among Papua New Guinean Christians. We can both read the language fluently to proof the notes. AGWM has agreed that I can remain in Massachusetts and with todays' technology Neil can spend half time here in the US with me while I recover. We need to replenish our donor base as well, and this arrangement allows us to maintain a vital ministry while preparing for the next phase in Southern Europe. Our experience in the language is a tremendous boost to the project and our experience is very helpful. Al in all, it seems the Lord's timing to enable me to recover and the two of us to continue to make a contribution overseas. We are truly thankful for the opportunity and trust that our second translation project will be much speedier than the first!