Monday, February 3, 2014

The States of Ministry
Things change in year, and many of those changes are beautiful and wonderful.  They are changes nonetheless and until we had definite news it has been hard to keep everyone posted.  Yesterday, as I sat with my parents in New Hampshire, I laughed a bit thinking we are now in various "states" of ministry.

Neil went to Missouri yesterday to begin working with Life Publishers on the next step of the Fire Bible in Melanesian Pidgin.  The start has been delayed twice, not for our part, but a reality that occurs when you try to coordinate the schedule of so many people.  After these three days he will likely plan his return to PNG, and then a transfer of the work to Bangkok.  I'll write more about that in our next letter. 

Anthony is a first semester junior at Northpoint Bible College.  If you don't recognize "young Tony" in the photo above, it is because he is now a young man who has exceeded all height expectations for anyone with our surname.  (He's in the blue jacket with the brown pants on the right).  The photo was taken last week before the ten students pictured headed to the Super Bowl to work with an organization dedicated to rescuing victims of human trafficking.  We've learned a great deal about the terrible plague of human trafficking through Anthony's passion to minister the love of Christ to the victims as well as to those who traffic.  In keeping with that call on his life, he spent the weekend in New York and New Jersey. We sense that he will not be "long for America" after he graduates but likely minister overseas in the future.

For my part I continue to teach a women's Bible study on the Gospel of John to some 50 women every Thursday. I enjoy it a great deal. I had a bout with my liver enzymes again reaching elevated levels but my appetite has returned.  I continue to enjoy good mobility though I've had my times when my legs have given out and I needed a physical "lift" into the apartment.  Though I did not envision a stretch in the US to exceed a year, I recognize it is a gift to me and this time has made it possible for a million people in Papua New Guinea to have access to a study Bible.

So the "states of the Vanaria's" yesterday were New Hampshire, New York and Missouri. (Though, the NH state was a "location" not a ministry). I'll soon have a letter out with the specifics of the Fire Bible and updates on Mesem's continued use of the New Testament as well as the work Neil has produced as an additional Bible aid to Mesem speakers.  That we were in Papua New Guinea a year ago at this time seems unreal at times, but when I look around I know that I have led a blessed life that is so rich that a year passes and there are so many rich moments, it seems hard to believe only a year ago we were celebrating the culmination of 25 years in Papua New Guinea.

So as the radio plays, "With everything, with everything, we will shout for Your glory", I say, "Amen".  Till next time, thanks for standing with us.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Time For Every Purpose

This year, has had some amazing moments, most notably, the dedication of the New Testament. Reports of its use, the interest, and the change in the spiritual atmosphere are so encouraging.  

This year has had some surprising moments.  I had a surprise surgery in January, an unexpected illness in February, and doctors orders for a prolonged period of rest in May.  Got a liver biopsy in there too just for fun. I'm doing just fine but have an excuse not to eat foods I dislike without appearing impolite.  I still tire easily but everyone says the same thing. "We ain't 30 no more." 

We've had inspiring moments.  We had a wonderful time at Missionary Renewal in June.  We had our third 10 day vacation in 34 years in July and in August had hoped for Neil to begin training for the Fire Bible. That was delayed for reasons beyond our control but we have needed to "re-fund" our work as many of those who first supported us have gone on to heaven, or retired and are no longer able to continue so we've needed the time to meet with pastors and interested individuals to explain our work. We've had time to concentrate on chaplaincy and Bible teaching, our most frequent non-missionary activities. In October, Neil will be participating in Convoy of Hope here in Marlborough, which we pray has a tremendous impact on the local community.

Anthony is in his second year at Bible College and sure of his call to missions, though to a very different ministry than we had. It makes my heart glad his call is unique.

My parents are moving to New Hampshire to be closer to my sister as they are in their late 80's and they need a home that is easier to maintain. Neil will soon be traveling overseas for extended periods again as soon as we can make necessary arrangements and I can handle the travel schedule alone. 

When I am honest, this is not how I saw 2013-14. I thought my folks would be nearby, my health would be robust, and we'd be moving to Southern Europe already. But I am thankful for the health I have, the friends so close, this time while I can live in the same country as our son, for a husband of 34 years who is smart and funny and compassionate, and of whom I am most proud.  (I might add he has never once cheered for a non-New England team). I'm thankful that the Lord knows the timing of all things and how events in Papua New Guinea impact that work and how our age, and health, and families fit into our ultimate calling to my other passport nation. 

Isn't it good to know, that every time has meaning ordained by the Lord, and none of it is without purpose?  "Return to thy rest oh my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with thee".

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why the Fire Bible?

I wanted to use the entry to explain a bit more in detail why we are delaying the move to Europe to initiate the Fire Bible project in Papua New Guinea and to answer questions that you may have, more in depth than what would normally be included in a news letter. Here's a sample of the questions we've been asked, and please feel free to ask anything I don't cover it here. The first thing we've been asked is, "What about Sicily?"

We still feel sure of God's call to Sicily. The work is being set up in such a way that Neil will be able to continue to work with the translators even after we move on to Southern Europe. However, to gather a team of translators, equip and train them will require prolonged stays in Papua New Guinea, a great deal of travel within the country, and meetings that really need to be face to face. Once the translation team is in place and has demonstrated they can work with remote supervision, we will be free to move on Europe and still encourage the translators in Papua New Guinea with Neil making periodic trips to assist the translators.

Another question I've been asked is, "Are other churches involved in translating this study Bible?"  The answer to that is "Absolutely".  The translation team will include Christians from a variety of evangelical backgrounds.  The notes for the study Bible were written by a Nazarene missionary named Donald Stamps.  He was working in South America and realized that even for those who owned a Bible, they struggled to understand it as they had no Bible studies nor any other Bible helps.  In fact, many pastors had neither additional study materials nor any formal Bible training. Stamps was gifted to write clearly and in such a way that the Bible has become an invaluable tool for many indigenous pastors and believers, who are able to use the notes for exegesis, topical study, and to understand the basis for foundational Christian doctrine. 

Another question I've been asked is, "Wouldn't a vernacular Bible be better?"  The vernacular is always the best choice but for a generation of Papua New Guineans who grow up in settlements or are the offspring of parents who married outside their tribal group, Melanesian Pidgin is their vernacular. There are more than 6 million people in Papua New Guinea, and 5 million speak the language to some degree. It is estimated that more than a million people speak it as their first language!

"What is your time table?" is another question that has come our way.  At this point, we expect it will take 2 years to get the work in Papua New Guinea on firm enough footing that it can be maintained from a distance.  Internet is still a challenge in PNG and computers are also difficult to maintain.  Within two years we believe people can be trained to the point where they will be able to send the work via email.  Due to the heavy travel requirements, the ruggedness of Papua New Guinea and the exceptionally high cost of living, it is actually more economical for me to remain stateside so Neil can travel with a minimum of costs and we are not spending extra funds looking for a place where i can live safely. Our vehicle was taken and destroyed before we finished there so Neil can travel on public transit which is not possible for me.  My doctor requires I spend a year recovering my immune system and rather than sitting in "idle" we will be able to resume ministry full time as soon as our funding is in place.  Neil will travel back to Papua New Guinea as soon as I am able to over our stateside duties. He is already working on the initial logistics and looking forward to returning to Papua.  

I may not have answered all your questions but feel free to send them along and I'll do my best to get back to you. You can contact me at

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thailand and the Fire Bible

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!