Computer Takes a Dip in the Ocean: Mussau-Emira NT Series

Author: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: John & Marjo Brownie
Part 2 of 3 in the Mussau-Emira NT series. The Mussau-Emira New Testament Dedication was held yesterday, 29 May, 2019. This is part of the story.

The trusty computer had been well-used during the four weeks on the island. Enduring heat and humidity, its operating system capably stored all the data as John Brownie and his team worked on the advisor check of II Corinthians.

At the end of the month, John gently placed the computer with its priceless data inside a padded, water-proof case, snapped the hinges shut, and carried it to the waiting dinghy. The case was safely wrapped up in a tarpaulin amidst other cargo. The boat pushed off from the shore under sunny skies.

After half an hour the winds grew stronger and the ocean waves increased in size and force, rocking the small boat mercilessly. As two great waves impacted the vessel one after another, the dinghy filled with water and sank. The computer, still in its case, floated away with the other cargo.

It would have been easy for the computer case to sink and become lodged in rocks or clefts on the ocean floor, to become a not-so-tasty snack for a shark, or to be carried by the tides and currents into the vast Pacific Ocean. Instead, God in his mercy kept his hand on it and it drifted toward the nearest island 14 km away.

Amazingly, despite the barrier of the coral reef encircling the land, the case washed ashore on the sandy beach of Emirau Island. There it was found by local residents who were searching for any of the cargo from the boat that had been sunk in the ocean. They took the computer case into their home and kept it safe, along with a few other items that washed ashore.

Two months later, John and his wife Marjo returned to the island. School children left their classes to sing songs of joy and greeting. Afterwards the people who had kept the case safe came forward and presented it to John.

When John opened up the case and pressed the computer’s power button, the laptop made its familiar start-up sound. Within a few minutes it was up and running. John was thankful that his correspondence, photos, and especially his language work had all been miraculously saved.

 

Five years later, school children gathered on a neighboring island to sing songs for another celebration. This time it would be to celebrate the arrival of the printed Mussau Emira New Testament!

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Perilous Journey: Mussau-Emira NT Series

Author: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: John Brownie
Part 1 of 3 in the Mussau-Emira NT series. The Mussau-Emira New Testament Dedication is planned for 29 May, 2019. This is part of the story.

When John and Marjo Brownie set out from the island of Mussau on Wednesday morning, 26 February 2014, they had no hint of the challenges that lay ahead. Nor had they any idea of the many ways God would care for them in the events that were about to unfold.

 

John and Marjo have been living on the island of Mussau off and on for the past 18 years, translating the New Testament into the heart language of the people. For most of that time they were able to fly in and out of Mussau, but more recently they have needed to travel by dinghy to the airstrip on a neighboring island and fly to the mainland from there.

Having completed a month of translation work, the Brownies set off at 8:30 a.m. in a 20-foot boat, accompanied by four Papua New Guineans. As they traversed the waters from Mussau to Emirau that Wednesday morning, the winds and waves increased in intensity. Forty-five minutes after departure, two large waves swamped the dinghy, sinking the small craft, and leaving its occupants in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. With the help of the boat driver, John and Marjo were able to free a locator device from the cargo and send off a satellite signal, indicating their need for help.

However, God was already intervening to meet their needs through nature itself. The sky stayed clear enough that they could see the island fourteen kilometers ahead, yet it was overcast enough to offer a bit of protection from the equatorial sun. Though it was not uncommon to see sharks in that area, none came near the group floating on the water. Ocean currents are never stagnant, and this particular morning they were flowing toward the land on an incoming tide, pulling the stranded travelers in the direction they needed to go.

Local people also were an invaluable help in the crisis. Marjo quickly became separated from her husband in the ocean swells. However, three younger men from the boat stayed with her, all offering reassurance through four hours of swimming in the open ocean, “Look, we can see the island. It’s right there. Keep going!”  When Marjo’s strength was depleted, Donny, a faithful friend, encouraged her to hold onto him as he swam the last several kilometers to shore. These men were familiar with the islands and knew the closest point of approach to the land.

Once they reached shore, a kind young mother invited Marjo into her home. Although this was the first time they’d met, this Mussau woman welcomed her unexpected guest with a hot drink, stoked up the fire for warmth, and gave her dry clothes to wear. The men walked across an inlet and one of them borrowed a bicycle to find the driver of the only truck on the island. He came and drove them to the medical aid post.

Meanwhile, at the SIL center in Ukarumpa, the administration was informed of the signal which indicated distress on the water. They mobilized into action. The aviation team prepped a plane for the search and rescue mission. Others studied the winds and tides.  At 2:00 the concern was shared electronically on the group’s internal prayer board and dozens of people began praying.

All this time John was still out on the open ocean, drifting along with Leslie, an older man who had been their faithful friend and co-translator since they first went to Mussau in the mid-1990’s. Having grown up in Australia, John spent many hours of his childhood playing with friends in the ocean waters near Sydney and he was therefore more confident in the sea than his Finnish-born wife. This strength and experience enabled him to support his older friend as the two men floated in the waves, holding onto boards from the wrecked boat. After several hours, John wondered about the time. He looked at his watch, was startled at how late it was, and was jolted into action. He came out of his stupor and became more proactive in swimming toward land. The time on his watch was 2:00.

Later that afternoon, John and his friend Leslie reached an inlet between two islands and were able to climb ashore. Meanwhile, the crew of the dispatched rescue plane was searching for survivors in the choppy waves. Not finding anyone in the water, the pilot landed on Emirau Island just as the sun was setting in the west. There the crew met John and Marjo at the clinic and radioed to their children and co-workers in Ukarumpa the happy news of their safety.

As they flew homeward in the SIL plane the next day, John and Marjo looked down at the ocean waters below. It was obvious the waves were higher, the winds stronger, and the clouds darker than they had been on the day of their mishap. John and Marjo had the unmistakable assurance that it was God who had watched over them and taken care of every detail of their perilous journey.

Pediatric Advanced Life Support

by Karen Weaver

The Ukarumpa Health Centre serves both Papua New Guineans and those from other countries. The staff often gives medical treatment for common ailments such as skin infections, respiratory problems, malaria, broken bones, cuts, etc. Usually they are routine procedures, but fairly often, usually weekly, the clinic has to serve in a life-threatening emergency.

This is why it was invaluable that all clinic staff had the opportunity to be trained in Pediatric Advanced Life Support by Dr. Helen Doss. Not only does Dr. Helen have more than 30 years of experience treating children in the highlands of PNG, she is also certified by the American Heart Association as a Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) instructor.

During the training, doctors, nurses and community health care workers learned to accurately assess the source and severity of a problem, begin immediate interventions, and stabilize the patient for transport to a hospital. They practiced working as a team with other medical professionals, reviewed the location and use of emergency medical equipment, and solidified their knowledge on the correct medicines to give for each type of treatment.

Not long after the training, the staff had the opportunity to apply their skills when a six month old infant came to the clinic with severe pneumonia. Rhona, a community health worker taking the course, immediately recognized the severity of her illness and asked for assistance from Megan, RN, also in the class. She affirmed, “This is exactly like the case we practiced yesterday and I knew what do!”  The child was stabilized, started on treatment, and transported to the local hospital for further care. A child with this type of illness would have likely died if not seen as quickly and if Rhona had not recognized her severe illness and immediately started appropriate management and treatment.

Dr. Jenny said, “When a medical emergency hits, especially one involving a small child, it is scary. That’s why it is so valuable to have PALS training to run through different scenarios over and over, until we can function well as a team in the face of life and death situations.” All of the medical staff is grateful for the training they received and for the privilege of helping children and their families.

No More Fighting

by Karen Weaver

“There will be fighting among us this afternoon!” This was the warning a church leader gave his visitor.

This district church president and others had just been reading the printed New Testament and listening to the audio recording of it. Even though it was in a related language and not their own dialect, it was close enough that they were transfixed on the message. Their interest was so keen that their eyes didn’t want to leave the printed page and their ears didn’t want to stop listening to the audio playing on the solar-powered MP3 player. When Jeff D’Jernes, the visiting translator, would pause the player, the people listening would look up and say, “Let’s hear more!”

Seeing their interest, Jeff asked if they would like an adaptation of the book into their own dialect. However, the church leader declared, “The Long Islanders do not speak the same as we do, but our ears can hear it. Just give us copies of what you have.” That’s when he learned Jeff had only brought six copies and predicted there would be a fight among his people for the books. The dilemma was solved by sending a boat to Long Island to bring back several cases of New Testaments and AudiBible players.

Several years have passed since that visit. After many hours of listening to and reading God’s Word in this neighboring language, the Lokep people have realized there are parts of the message that aren’t totally clear to them. There are some words they don’t understand which obscure the meaning. Now they have a new request, “Could you write an adaptation into our dialect so that we can understand God’s Book clearly?”

Jeff and his PNG co-translators will soon begin work on this important project. In the process, Jeff will train a national translator in the skills needed to do an adaptation of the New Testament into even more languages.

Their dream is that one day everyone in the area from any language group will be able to own a copy in the words they understand best. There will be no more fighting for books!

Just the Beginning

by Karen Weaver

One Sunday morning some of the Titan translators stood before a local church congregation and took turns reading aloud a portion of Genesis 15 in the Titan language. This was the first time the people had heard God’s Word read in their own language. Everyone there that day was deeply impacted, but no one more so than the elders themselves.

The church leaders had an argument months before this which had caused a rift between them. As a result, they hadn’t spoken to each other, even about church business, for months. For the Titans, maintaining good relationships is everything, so this rift was devastating.

But God had a plan! When the Scripture portion was read in Titan that Sunday, God spoke powerfully to the hearts of these leaders through his Word in their own language. Immediately after that service, the leaders mended their broken relationships and began meeting again.

The Bible says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s Word did exactly that in the lives of the church leaders and others that Sunday.

Grateful for how Scripture in the Titan language had spoken powerfully to their hearts, and looking forward to the team translating more of the Bible into their language in the future, translation facilitator Steve Clover declared, “This is just the beginning of what God will do among the Titans once His Word is available in the Titan language!”