Earthquake Relief 2018

Story by Stephanie Ernandes
Video by Chad Owens and Stephanie Ernandes

In the early morning hours of the 26th of February 2018, the Southern Highlands of PNG were rocked by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. Since then there have been approximately 150 earthquakes recorded with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater, with countless smaller tremors. This seismic activity has brought havoc including mud slides, ruined gardens, and displaced villages. There is a widespread lack of basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, medicine, clothing, blankets, mosquito nets, and cooking pots.

One of the major effects of the earthquake has been that people have traveled from bush areas into the larger villages that have airstrips to seek refuge. An airstrip is a remote village’s connection to the outside world and people want to be there where the aid arrives. Food, clothing, and news of the outside world arrive by helicopters and small planes. In addition, medical help, both basic supplies as well as evacuations for life threatening emergencies comes and goes via the airstrip.

Albert is a Papuan New Guinean who lives in a village with one of these airstrips. He shared that inhabitants of seven villages located in the bush surrounding Huya have come to stay in their town, bringing their numbers from 750 to between 1200 – 1300. This stretches their capacity to provide food and shelter. Albert pointed to a large mountain nearby with its face missing, explaining that they’d lost 11 people in the landslide. Local men have been searching but found only two people to bury. They cannot find the other nine.

“Fear is one of the biggest things affecting the people now,” shared Erik Lofgren of the SIL PNG Aviation Department. “There is fear to go back to the gardens because they are afraid they’ll get stuck out in the bush or fear that their houses will fall on their families while they are away. All these continued tremors, even though they may not have a physical effect on people, still have psychological effects. When a tremor happens in the middle of the night everyone jumps out of bed and runs outside to wait for it to stop. Some people have not had a normal night’s sleep for weeks.” One way SIL and others would like to help is with trauma healing.

The four villages where SIL serves that are closest to the epicentre are Walagu, Huya, Bosavi, and Dodomona. SIL was able to transport men from the Rural Airstrip Agency into Huya via helicopter to survey their airstrip, which was closed to due to earthquake damage. Although it will need future repairs, they were able to re-open it so aid supplies could be delivered.

SIL has been working together with other organizations such as MAF, Adventist Aviation, and New Tribes to bring in supplies. Since the earthquake, SIL Aviation has brought in 5200 Kilos of rice, 10 temporary water collection systems, and 250 cases of tuna, among other things. They have also delivered supplies donated by other organizations and local churches, including clothing and tools for rebuilding. SIL has picked up and delivered large amounts of garden vegetables donated by other villages that heard about the tragedy and wanted to help. Medical evacuations have been part of the way SIL has helped as well.

“When faced with a crisis like this, your natural inclination is to help, and that is exactly what our community has done. As this event unfolded we realized quickly that other organizations were more adept at delivering supplies and handling donations and so we’re thankful for our partnership with them.” said Chad Owens the chief communication officer for SIL PNG. “Leadership deliberated over what specific skillsets SIL PNG had to offer this victims of this crisis. It came to light that we had people experienced in trauma healing training. Since training is one of our core values, we have begun putting together trauma healing workshops and are currently working through the logistics of helping people in that way.”

Amid the sorrow and suffering, it has been awesome to see various organizations,  local government, Papua New Guinean villages and individuals pulling together to help with the earthquake relief.


Heart to Heart, Glory to Glory P.1/3


Story by Kairu Tumae

(Kairu is a Papua New Guinean graduate from the Ukarumpa International School, this is his testimony continued…)

After graduating in 2016, my plan was to go to college. I mean that’s what most people expect you to do right?  Go to a nice college, pursue a career, get a good job and make your parents proud. At least that is what most Papua New Guinean’s families and relatives expect when they are attending an international school, as I was.

This expectation was one of the biggest things I struggled with after finishing high school.  I watched all my friends leave and go to college. My parents were going through a hard time financially so it wasn’t possible for me to continue my studies right immediately.  However, over this past year God has taught me so much more than I could have learned by sitting in a classroom.

Often we tend be so focused on what we ourselves desire that we start thinking that our desires and plans are the same plans and desires that God has for us. Then we start praying for those plans in our life that we think are God’s plans, not realizing that they aren’t. We keep praying and the plans never happen and we ask God, “Why are you not fulfilling your plan in my life?” Then it hits us. All that time it wasn’t God’s plan, it was ours. God had a different plan all along and had been working on that plan while we were complaining. One of the biggest things that I have learned this past year is exactly that: not letting my own selfish desire overcome me so much that I start thinking it’s God’s plan. Many teens do that without even realizing it and learning from it.

When I graduated from high school in 2016 I had no clue whatsoever that I would be in place like Kompiam working with a mission this early in my life. I had planed since 11th grade to take pre-med classes in the United States after I graduated. I took all the science classes I could. Whenever people asked me what I wanted to do after high school, I told them I hoped to go to the US to study pre-med and come back and serve people in my country in the medical field. Little did I know that while I was planning all of this, God had a plan for me to serve people in my country now without having to go to college.

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 NLT

Sweeter Than Honey


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Story by Stephanie Ernandes

Photo by: Jude Snelson and Maggie Ferris

“Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it.  God will make it clear to you!” one church leader shouted out over the 500 people attending the Barok New Testament dedication.   Approximately 1/5th of the Barok people, a language group of about 2400 in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea, showed up to celebrate.  A group of women celebrating through dance decorated themselves in colorful clothing, arranging brightly colored flowers in their hair and wearing the typical PNG clothing for ladies, known as meri-blouses.  Singing arose to the heavens and many speeches were made.

Over and over leaders and speakers emphasized the importance of reading the Word that they would receive that day.

“This book has power to change you if you read it and live it.”

“This book is “swit moa” (very sweet). This book is a seed. Plant it and watch it grow.”

After sharing a childhood memory of his dad having saved a man from a cliff by throwing down a rope to him and pulling him to safety Ed Condra, the translation consultant working with the national translators encouraged the Barok people, “Grab the rope, a rope that will save you from falling to your death. Hold on tight. This New Testament is your rope. Hold on tight!”

A national translator from another translation program stated, “This book will set you free.  Food must be eaten to benefit the body. The Bible is food for your soul.”

“After the speeches and songs finished, a traditional feast with roasted pigs and garden produce was held while people gathered in groups to open and read their Barok New Testaments for the first time – food for their bodies and indeed, food for their souls,” reminisced Maggie Ferris, one of the invited guests.

“Remember this day. September 8, 2017 is the day we received our New Testament. Remember this day.”

During the ceremonies an elderly woman thanked the translation team for making the words so sweet.  It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be to try to understand the Bible in a language that is not your own.  But this old woman instantly recognized what David exclaims often in the Psalms:

How sweet are your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!   (Psalm 119:103 NKJV)


Spontaneous Worship

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By Rachel Greco

When mission organizations first landed in an area in Papua New Guinea, they were faced with about fifty languages. The organizations decided to find a dominant language and translate the Bible into that language as well as songbooks, materials for schools, etc. When the mission traveled to a neighboring language, they taught the people this dominant language, so that they became bilingual.

In the Rabaul area, the dominant language, or language of wider communication, was Kuanua. Wherever the church traveled in these first days, they took Kuanua with them. Now, several generations later, no one has been schooled in Kuanua, however it is still used in some churches because there are a few people from that language group still scattered throughout this part of Papua New Guinea.

The churchgoers in this area are reverent and quiet in the services. But when the Baining people are able to use their language, Ure, in the service instead of Kuanau, the difference is as huge as the ocean. “It’s electric, like someone has turned on the lights,” one of the language helpers for the Baining people said.

People will clap, kneel, raise their hands in the air, confess sins, praise God, and dance. No one came in and taught the Baining people how to do these things; it is all spontaneous, a rush of joy and delight in their God bursting out of their hearts as they’re able to worship Him in their own language.

Sometimes if an outsider is at one of these church services, they prefer to listen to the service in the language of the Baining people because of the passionate atmosphere, even though they can’t understand the words. The people’s spontaneous worship contrasts so sharply with the usual quiet, reserved behavior of the Baining people, and reveals that their love for the Lord is real.

Jimmy’s Story

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(photo: Jimmy and his daughter)

by Rachel Greco

Jimmy’s father and brother had served on Jim and Joan’s translation team for years, but Jimmy never wanted anything to do with God. Then, the unthinkable happened.

A hunting spear that Jimmy stored in the rafters jiggled loose and fell, piercing the skull of his eight-year-old daughter. She was his firstborn, and he was worried. She did not die, but neither did the injury heal. Instead she developed a high fever, and Jimmy knew he had to do something. He asked the local church leader, Johnstead (who is also a leader of the translation team), to pray for her.

Jimmy said, “I’ll do anything for my daughter, anything at all!”

Jimmy was able to get the money together for the expensive two-day trip to the nearest hospital, where he and his daughter stayed for over two months. The girl’s wound slowly healed, but she was also diagnosed with tuberculosis and malaria.

One day a local woman came to the hospital to pray for the sick children. She said to them, “I am sure that at least seven of you will be released from the hospital tomorrow.” And sure enough, not seven, but eleven children were released—and Jimmy’s daughter was one of them.

Jimmy’s rebellion against God had shattered. Jimmy’s first Sunday back spent at church and requested to meet with the Bible translation team to thank them for their prayers. One team member after another shared their thoughts and Baruga scripture with Jimmy. Several of them spoke with shaking voices, obviously deeply moved to see the change in Jimmy. Jimmy himself looked close to tears several times.

One person said, “We church leaders saw your bad behavior for nine years, but we didn’t talk to you about it. We took all our heaviness to God. And here you are.” God has the longing and power to bring people to Him—even through the means of pain and sorrow.

Every Tribe, Language, People and Nation


Story and photographs by Stephanie Ernandes

I received an email a couple of months ago asking me if I would photograph and video an upcoming partial Bible dedication for the Odoodee people group in Western Province, Papua New Guinea. I am a support worker here in Papua New Guinea. I live here to provide support for the work of Bible Translation throughout this country. One of the ways I do this is by writing. This was my first opportunity to offer my services of photography and videography. Very excited, I accepted.

As the time for the dedication grew closer and this being the first time I’d done anything like this, I grew more and more intimidated by the task before me. What had I gotten myself into? It was an incredible opportunity, but could I pull it off? Then I remembered that Papa God loves to work through His people! It’s through our weaknesses that He is shown strong. I prayed. A lot. Then jumped. God carried me through the rest.

When I stepped off the little ten-seater plane with translator Darrell Hays and the other attendees into this tiny village it was like stepping into a live National Geographic magazine. We were greeted by women elaborately decorated with paint, beads, and striking feathers, their grass skirts gracefully swishing in the wind as they surrounded the plane singing and dancing. Men equally as decorated in war paint danced with bows and spears, some beating drums – a deep base beat resonated. The movement of colors and sound, the smells and the heat overwhelmed my senses. I stood stunned, shakily trying to point the videorecorder and camera in every direction at once.

In the midst all of the chaotic beauty surrounding me, the most amazing part – the part I will never forget – was the moment during the dedication when I heard, out of the mouth of a Papua New Guinean man speaking over a loud speaker, the verse from Revelations 5:9 describing representatives from every tribe, language, people and nation standing before the Lord in worship. I have heard that verse many times and imagined and rejoiced at the thought. I have even shared that passage as I stood in front of churches describing the importance of Bible Translation. But to hear it out of the mouth of a Papua New Guinean man from a small tribe in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, it came alive. As I watched and listened, that prophesy was coming to fruition before my very eyes.

Much like a translator discovers the first time he or she steps into a village planning to spend the next years of their life translating the Bible into a language needing one, I experienced that God shows up. He works in and through us in spectacular ways. What I witnessed was just that, God accomplishing His purposes through us, his weak but fervent children, trying our best to follow Him.

“I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it.” Isa 46:11b (ESV)