“How many copies did you say you want us to print of the revised Hamtai New Testament? Ten thousand! The order of 5,000 in 1975 was not sold out for nearly 30 years. Some copies were damaged by cockroaches and others by moisture. Where will we store that many copies? You think they might all be sold the first day? Well, we will consider it.” So went our conversation with one of the church elders who called us from Papua New Guinea on his mobile phone. We were planning on having only 5,000 printed but finally decided on a slight compromise and had 6000 printed.
Finally the day of the “launching” (dedication) arrived. It was held at Yaiwa Hawa, our former mission site on the edge of the tribe. The local government council that bought it agreed to the program being held on their property. The grand stand was on the edge of our old soccer field, and the program of national dancers, skits and viewers filled the soccer field and surrounding areas. The weather was beautiful, in answer to prayer. The only set back was that the invited government member of parliament called saying he would arrive late as he had to attend a program for the death of a policeman. So the dancers and singers carried on for an hour or so awaiting his arrival.
We were concerned that it was getting late, would possibly rain, and that very few testaments would be sold. A few copies were presented to invited dignitaries and to some of those who helped with the translation and checking. The elders decided to sell the testaments the next morning. A photographer from the local TV channel took video and some of our folk said they saw his report later on TV.
The next morning Tom took pictures of the line of individuals as they purchased their New Testaments. Then he saw some men carrying cartons of New Testaments and asked where they were going with them. The churches in different areas of this large, scattered tribe had taken down the list of names of people who pre-paid for their copies or would pay for them when the books came. Each carton held 15 copies. The Wau area has 9 churches and started to take 80 cartons. However, when there were no cartons left for the literacy office to sell, they were limited to 65 cartons. Well…..nearly all of the copies were sold at the dedication. So…..the elders told us to immediately put in an order for a reprint. How many? “Four thousand, so we get the ten thousand we originally requested!” When we asked who would buy them, they said that the other church groups and their own children will want them. “Many more people are literate now than when the first New Testaments were printed, they said.”
Of course, we say all this because we are thrilled with the desire for the Word in their own language. Tom was also thrilled to spend the next week teaching from the new revision and to see each of the leaders removing his copy from its plastic carrying bag and reading from it. Tom had different ones read portions out loud. I, Corinne, was pleased that so many could read so well; I had helped teach many of them. This was an unwritten language before the missionaries came, reduced it to writing with a phonemic alphabet, prepared primers and taught them to read and trained teachers to continue teaching in their village schools. So there has been progress.
Tom spent three days teaching an outline on the Holy Spirit to counteract some false teaching in the churches. Some have caused division, insisting that they have never been baptized with the Holy Spirit, so that is why they were not as blessed as they thought they should be. However, the Scripture assures us that when we believed on the Lord Jesus as our Savior from sin, the Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ. His work in us now is to conform us to the image of Christ. We are filled with the Spirit as we yield ourselves to Him and let Him lead us. Christ is holy and desires that we live holy lives, being transformed into His likeness, living in fellowship with Him. Some have a sincere desire for these blessings and to grow in this way, but Tom found that others are confusing these blessings with material blessings. They have a hard life and would like so much to have a better standard of living.
Also, Jesus gave us a new commandment that we should love one another, letting others know by our love that we are His disciples. Many Hamtais want to hear everything from the mouth of the missionary himself. They confessed to Tom and asked for prayer after we leave because they do not want to listen to each other. We are all to be subject to one another. Anyway, we believe that many were touched by this teaching from the Word. The departure of us, the last remaining missionaries, along with this teaching and the revised New Testament in their hands can bring about a real revival in the Hamtai churches. Please join us in prayer that the Lord will bring this to fruition as He has done in several of the other works after the missionaries departed.
Though our time here in Hamtai land was short, we treasure this time with the believers. They treated us royally, many expressing their thankfulness to the missionaries for listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit and leaving their homes and families to bring the Hamtais the light that delivered them from the darkness in which they dwelt. Now they have the assurance of sins forgiven and the prospect of living with Christ forever. They shed many tears when I told them that this would be my last visit to PNG. Tom hopes to be able to return to check Old Testament verses and to see how various ones are translating the chronological Bible lessons for the churches. It was humbling to see even the men cry as they bid me goodbye and to say how they looked forward to seeing me again in Heaven. Helping me as I struggled with my cane to get to and from the meetings, my lady friends realized that I was not physically up to returning. Several of our friends commented on how they saw us come in our youth and stay with them into old age. They showered us with gifts of appreciation. It has been an honor and a joy to serve the Lord and the Hamtai people. We feel extremely blessed and are so very thankful for all of you believers who have supported us and partnered with us in this ministry. Rewards are awaiting all of you also. We look forward to being with you all in Heaven, too. What a time of rejoicing that will be!
But right now we look forward to seeing our daughter Judy and her husband Jim, who will be coming from their home in the Dom tribe to be with us to help us wind things up here and to see us off on the 19th. We have probably collected too much over these 60 years, but a lot of it is pictures and memories. We will be sending a crate of our belongings in a container that SIL will be shipping soon.
We’ll share more photos later.
Thanks again for your love and prayers.,
Tom and Corinne Palmer