Tackling a Different Kind of Challenge
In January 2019, I said yes to one of the harder assignments I’ve had in my life. No, I am not talking about a challenging airstrip or difficult weather; I am talking about coordinating a Bible dedication. Celebrating the Word of God in a new language is a major highlight for us. But coordinating a dedication party is a logistical challenge full of excitement, anxiety, and trusting God.
My assignment was to coordinate the Gumawana dedication to be held on the tiny island of Nubogeta, situated in the Amphlett Island group in Milne Bay province. Translators Clif and Roxanne Olson first began working on the Gumawana translation on Nubogeta in 1984. Since 2007, Clif and Roxanne have been located in California. There, Clif continued to translate Gumawana Scripture. He traveled to Papua New Guinea once or twice every year so he could receive corrections and feedback on his completed drafts and check the translation with the local translation team.
But here’s the challenge. There is no airstrip on Nubogeta Island. The best way to get there would be via the helicopter, but the helicopter cost was too much. Instead, we opted to travel there by Kwadima II, a boat that provides service for the Milne Bay translation teams. We thought we were all set with our plan for a Quest Kodiak to deliver 10 people to Goodenough Island where they would board the Kwadima II to head over to Nubogeta. Then … two months before the dedication …
I received an urgent call from Heather, the Alotau regional center manager on a Friday night. She reported they no longer had a boat captain for the dedication. What a setback! I had already communicated the cost to the attendees and international airplane tickets for visitors had been purchased. Even worse, I also learned the Bibles were delayed and might not make it to the dedication.
The following week, I sat down with the Director of Language Services and shared my frustration. All of our plans had fallen apart. Even the Bibles might not make it to the dedication. That’s when she suggested we send the helicopter! I explained that I had already considered that option but that it was too expensive. “What if we could subsidize the cost to keep the price reasonable?” she responded. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What a great use of the travel subsidy fund! (We provide a variety of commercial flying services—transporting green coffee beans, community-chartered flights, and government-chartered flights for local health departments—to help underwrite the cost of our operations. Discover more here.)
A week later, when I asked our helicopter team for a quote, they were thrilled at the chance to fly for a Bible dedication! With the financing in place, we booked the helicopter so that it could meet the Kodiak on Goodenough and fly to the dedication.
But … one last hurdle remained. Could we get the Bibles to the dedication? Two weeks before the dedication, the Bibles arrived at the port of Lae, but their customs clearance was very slow. With people praying for the Bibles to be delivered, one of our co-workers went and stayed at the dock on a Friday until the Bibles were released. The next day, Saturday, the Bibles made it to Ukarumpa via truck—just in time for the Milne Bay flight coming up the next week.
Reflecting on my experience during those tough ten months of work to coordinate this dedication, I realized that the dedication was just a small sample of the challenges translators face all over Papua New Guinea. These are some of the challenges we face getting God’s Word into every language and every life in Papua New Guinea. I am thankful for how God used our entire community to be a part of this special event. Without each person that played a part, this dedication may not have happened. I was also encouraged to be working alongside people that have been serving in Papua New Guinea for 20+ years. Their faith, perseverance and dependence on prayer provide an example worth imitating.
See more dedication photos here.