Dear Friends and Family,
New Year’s greetings to you all; the Year of our Lord 2017. I returned from Papua New Guinea just before Christmas, so we missed getting out a Christmas letter. We do hope you had a blessed Christmas with family, lifting up the Name of the Reason for the Season. I’m glad to hear so many more people these days saying the full name, CHRISTmas. No matter what else they might call it, it all comes back to HIM as the purpose for and the object of the celebration.
In our last letter we shared and asked prayer for my planned trip to PNG. I want to tell you how the Lord blessed the time there, and keep you updated as to ongoing plans. It was good to be back to my dear wife, who held the fort well. We are happy with the progress of her new hip – she is now able to walk without her cane.
Travelling is not without trials and, sometimes, interruptions. Indeed, for me it was the worst misconnection I’ve ever experienced. The United Airlines jet here in Orlando was having trouble, so the flight was delayed until they could replace it with another one. That made us late in Chicago, so I missed the non-stop flight to Hong Kong. United put me up in a hotel and scheduled the next day’s flight. All right, but from HK there are only 2 flights a week to Port Moresby, so I bought a ticket to Singapore to catch a flight from there the next day. I arrived in Lae, PNG on Oct. 20th two days late. My trip insurance will cover those extra expenses.
The house at CLTC in Lae was God’s provision and it was good to be living on a Christian campus. Jim Jora was away, speaking at a youth camp in a Hamtai village. He came home (he lives 25 kilometers outside Lae) and came on down to join me, and we decided he would live there with me in the 2 bed-room house. Later, Bradley joined us from his far village interior.
My goal was, first, to check as many verses of Exodus and Leviticus as we could. It was good that, although we didn’t check as many as we wanted to, we did discuss translation principles and the procedure we are going to continue to use in sending the portions back and forth to each other for checking. And the fellowship and teaching opportunities were great with these two men, and later with two others.
I wanted to see as many Hamtai church leaders as I could. However, I didn’t have peace about going interior to our village. I requested a meeting in Lae and about 20 of them came down. Jim Jora and I wanted to get their feelings about the translation project we are engaged in. We have been praying they would get their hearts behind it. The Lord answered our prayers and brought about a unity of spirit and purpose, and so now all are willing to trust the Lord to enable each of us to do our part in finishing the task. The leaders had said they wanted to appoint a translation team, and so they did so at this meeting. Now we are a 5-man Hamtai Translation Team – Malcolm Uyaivato, Jim Jora, Bradley Elipas, Kalias Esi, and myself. Also, Malcolm’s son Vernon will help us with typing when he can. Please take it on your hearts to pray for these faithful men, that they will stick it out, with or without proper full support. By the way, at least two of them said, “My wife and I agree together that we will, with God’s help, do translation work until we die or until the project is finished.” Those are our sentiments, too.
The leaders promised that this time they would encourage the Hamtai local churches to support the men involved and not to neglect them like they had done with Malcolm, and later on with Jim Jora. The believers gave me quite a good amount of money as farewell gifts, a blessing indeed. Those funds, along with three special gifts from some of our supporters, helped pay for food and accommodation for the team. Also, I was able to buy a new computer for Malcolm and one for Bradley. Jim’s computer is still good, so we just had it updated to Windows 7. Now all computers are compatible.
The other part of our dual goal is to get more Bible teaching lessons translated in Hamtai for the New Testament epistles. Yes, after all these years we are still trying to get lesson outlines and commentary done on each NT epistle. We have only managed to get lessons translated for New Testament books up to and including Romans. Three years ago I left copies of the Pidgin lesson books with many of the men who had helped us with checking the Hamtai New Testament. I asked them to do their best to do a rough translation of some epistles from Melanesian Pidgin to Hamtai, starting with 1 Corinthians. I was hoping they would give it a go. I realize now that it was asking a lot of them, since they have had only a little experience in translation. So, no one except Kalias worked very much on them. He has worked on some before. When Kalias joined us in Lae from Kokhea Village he brought the hand-written copy of the lessons he had done for 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy and Titus. He plans to do more, probably on lessons for 2 Corinthians, 2 Timothy etc. I thank God for Kalias’ faithful work. These lessons are part of the course known as “Building on Firm Foundations” which uses the chronological teaching approach “From Creation to Christ.” I need to be checking these lessons as they type them up and send them to me. Corinne will help with checking and formatting.
We need to share with you one way God is blessing this through-the-Bible teaching. Presently, Jim Tanner, an experienced NTM fellow missionary, and a national teacher, are travelling to many places around PNG introducing and teaching the course. They are also giving teacher training courses to all who ask for this training, even those from churches not associated with NTM. Reception has been good and people are being saved and then becoming teachers in their areas. People have seen how the lives of those who received this teaching were radically changed. Jim Tanner plans to go to our Hamtai area soon, to train more teachers there. Please pray that many keen Hamtais will take the training and take many opportunities to reach out to other villages that need the Gospel. Young Bradley, part of our team, took the teachers’ course, and now he teaches a class of 60 or more in his village. Many of his students are coming from other villages and other churches.
Thank you for praying for my health and safety while I was away. I trusted God for my well being because I knew He wanted me to go, even against the advice of others. Thanks to Him, I did well, except that I caught cold when, at the end, I went to Sobega, near Goroka, which is our Highlands Area headquarters. It was a shock to the system to suddenly be in the mountains at a cool 5,000 ft. elevation. There I stayed with daughter Judy and Jim, who were on a break, and recovering from bad colds, and in Jim’s case, pneumonia. I disposed of the few remaining personal effects we had stored there and closed my account. So, it was Goodbye, PNG, for the last time.
Two days before I went to Goroka, I travelled 25 kilometers to Jim Jora’s and His Dad’s place where hundreds of Hamtai folk were gathering to give me a final farewell party. There were many speeches thanking God for sending me and Corinne to bring the Gospel to them. Of course, I represented our fellow-workers who had gone before as well. They said that I am their true father in the Lord. I guess I got that label because I’m the last of all the folk who have ministered among them. So it was a tearful goodbye for both them and me. More than one of them assured me that “even if you and I never see each other again here, we will rejoice being together in Heaven, whether you go first or I first. Or perhaps Jesus will come back, and take all of us together.” What faith, what hope. Praise the Lord.
Though I may not return to PNG, there is plenty of work for me to do in order to keep up with this enthusiastic team. I can’t even think of actually retiring and taking it easy with some of our friends. Thank you for praying for me as I continue to edit and prepare Old Testament Hamtai portions for Jim and Malcolm to check. Also, I need to translate the text literally back to English for a consultant to check. So I’ll be very busy during 2017. We are so thankful that God is providing for us, somewhat through some folk who continue to give toward our needs.
No room for photos; I’ll send some next time.
Serving with joy in 2017,
Tom and Corinne Palmer