Great news, God has led us to translation work with the Watut people! You can read about it in our newsletter below or load the PDF version by following this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9j2mEsQoGKhQ0QzQi0xT0dGSEU/view?usp=sharing.
Dear friends and family,
Do you remember our recent trip to the Watut people of Bencheng from the picture travelogue we sent out? If not, you can view it again here:
Well, we are excited to let you know that last Monday we received an official invitation from the folks in Bencheng to come and live with them for a month. After communicating back and forth, a man in the village graciously offered to lend us his house and a village leader affirmed their desire to teach us their language. In a short span of a few days we have purchased, packed, and prepared supplies to take with us. We will be flying by helicopter on Monday morning the 16th at 9:00 am (Sunday 3:00 pm PST). The chopper ride is only about 20 minutes compared to the 30 hours of travel to reach Bencheng by road and river. We will be landing in the school’s soccer field and expect our arrival to bring a lot of excitement to say the least. After a 28-day village stay, we will return to Ukarumpa on March 16th in time for the bi-annual branch conference.
While we are in Bencheng, we desire to hear clearly from the Lord as to whether this is the place He would have us work long-term. Please pray for discernment and wisdom in this decision. Pray also that we would connect and build lasting relationships with folks as we begin language learning. It is rather hot in Bencheng, so please pray that our bodies would quickly acclimate so that we can function well during the day and rest at night. Please especially pray for the people of Middle Watut, that they would have unity and purpose in moving forward to translate God’s word.
As we leave on this journey, in some ways alone, we are thoroughly encouraged that Christ goes with us and that we are sent by you through your prayers and support.
With love in Christ,
David, Shelly & Cadi Midkiff
As a part of the Markham Multi-Language Initiative, we made a trip to the Watut Valley in order to visit the Middle Watut (Maraliinan) language group. Our team consisted of us three (David, Shelly & Cadi) as well as David Howard (our team leader), Sunnie Karbrette (a national worker from a nearby language group), Stephanie Tobiana (a national Scripture awareness worker), and Pastor Martin (a Lutheran Renewal pastor in the Adzera region).
Our trip began on Friday, January 16th at 7:30 AM. We departed Ukarumpa and drove four hours to the port city of Lae.
Upon arriving at the SIL Guest House in Lae, we prepared our luggage and rested before heading into town to catch a Passenger Motor Vehicle (PMV).
Our contact in the Watut Valley, a Lutheran Deacon named Maliaki, had traveled into Lae the previous day and slept overnight in the market area. We were supposed to meet him at a local bank, but upon arrival we were’t able to find him. We tried calling his cellphone to no avail, so we asked around and found where to catch the PMV out to the Watut Valley. When we found the PMV, Maliaki had already reserved seats for us and had wandered off in search of us. We waited there for some time and eventually he came back, very happy to see us. We are very thankful for his kind help!
We then boarded the PMV (a covered open-bed truck with benches) and prepared to depart.
Because the PMV wasn’t full initially, we waited a couple more hours for passengers to fill up. The floor was full of bags, produce, a few chickens, and even a couple puppies. Needless to say, it was crammed. Eventually the PMV took off and left Lae, heading south across the Markham River towards Mumeng.
After some time we arrived at the base camp for the Wafi-Golpu mine. This mine is one of the largest gold/copper mines in the world. A very well-maintained mining road crosses over the mountains into the Watut Valley and only certain PMVs are permitted to travel that road in order to service the local community.
Upon gaining access to the private mining road, we began to ascend into the mountains, following a ridge much of the time. The scenery was breathtaking and there wasn’t a pothole on the road.
After descending into the Watut Valley, we unloaded near the village of Madzim, and hiked about 20 minutes to a small hamlet where Maliaki and his family live. We arrived around 7:00 PM, after nearly 12 hours of travelling.
We slept that night in an open-framed house (which was still under construction) on roll-up mats and under mosquito nets. (The community has a portable sawmill nearby and is able to cut smooth planks for their houses.)
The next day (Saturday) we set out on a two-hour hike to the river in order to catch a boat upstream to a large, central village called Bencheng.
Part of the way through the hike we stopped at a small village and ate yellow watermelon. Cadi really enjoyed that!
On much of the hike we waded through thick, muddy bogland, balancing on sticks and logs with the expert guidance of our hosts. At some points the logs were submerged in the mud, and we had to be told where to place our feet in order to avoiding sinking in the bog. A local woman with amazing balance carried Cadi at that point, which we were very grateful for.
Finally we arrived at the Watut River with muddy feet and a good amount of mosquito bites.
A very large wooden dugout canoe with a mounted outboard motor was waiting for us, sent by the local Lutheran Church Parish. Their generosity and care for us was humbling.
Our hosts loaded our luggage on board, as well as some coconuts for drinking, and we began boarding ourselves.
We then proceeded upstream a ways and continued on a shallow tributary that flows into the Watut River. They had to lift the outboard motor up a ways and navigate around shallow sand bars in order to make it to the village of Bencheng. We had Cadi in a life-jacket, which made her rather hot and a bit cross for a good portion of the trip. But she made it with stories to tell!
We finally arrived on the outskirts of Bencheng and unloaded our luggage.
We then made a short hike into the village and rested under a large shade tree for a few hours. The Lutheran Church leaders met us there and gave us a lot of kulau (coconut water) to drink and pineapple to snack on. We tried to get Cadi to sleep (rather unsuccessfully) by hanging her in a bilum (string bag) from the tree (a common Papua New Guinean custom). We then made our introductions and storied for awhile.
A couple hours later we went and bathed in the river (quite refreshing!) and setup our beds in a nearby village house. David as well as David Howard went out in the early evening and explored around a field outside of Bencheng where an old World War II airstrip called Tsili Tsili used to be located. It’s now overgrown with tall kunai grass and has a trail running down the center of it. This airfield was a strategic location for the Australians and Americans in holding off advancing Japanese troops.
That evening we attended a church service in the village square, and Pastor Martin preached an excellent sermon on the renewal of our minds to the gathered congregation. Afterwards we had a good meal and chatted for some time out under the stars. It had been about 92 degrees F that day, and only got down to about 70 that night. Our temporary house, not being well-ventilated, was rather hot most of the night but we were so tired we fell asleep quite quickly. The next morning we bathed again in the river and prepared for church.
The church service began shortly before 11:00 AM. People from Bencheng as well as neighboring villages showed up, and leaders from the local Lutheran Parish arrived from throughout the region. It was a packed house and many people were sitting on the ground outside.
We were then ushered into the church by a traditional singsing procession. They sang hymns in their language with traditional-style singing and kundu drums. The hymns were translated to us and we learned that they were singing about Christ’s eternal reign and other deep theological truths. The Holy Spirit was very present in their gathering.
Our team leader David Howard preached the sermon that morning in Tok Pisin on “Language and the Plan of God”. He tied in themes throughout Scripture on the importance of language and diversity in God’s plan for the nations. Just as God hadn’t created one type of flower, or one type of tree, He also hadn’t created just one language; He delights in diversity. This reaffirmed to the people that their language is important in God’s redemptive plan.
After the service we ate lunch and rested, then we proceeded to a large covered area in the village square in order to meet with everyone and discuss the possibilities of translation work in their language group. We presented on the history of Bible translation, what a good Bible translation looks like, and steps we desired to see them take in order to form a sustainable translation committee. It was very hot and many people looked drowsy, but the key leaders were very attentive. After presenting we as a family were invited by a couple very passionate church leaders to come and work with them. We explained that SIL is committed to working with them but that we as a couple needed time to pray and seek God about our decision to work with them. They accepted that and committed to forming a translation committee that would involve all the major villages in the entire Watut Valley (including the North and South Watut languages as well). We were greatly encouraged by their passion and desire to move forward.
After the meetings completed we got the contact information of a number of church leaders there and then proceeded across the village square back to our temporary house in order to pack up and depart.
After packing up, we ate a little more and said our good-byes. Several people asked us when we were coming back and we reaffirmed that we would if God sends us. We then hiked out in the late afternoon back to the river, passing a small Seventh-Day Adventist Church on the way.
Many women lined up on our way out of the village, shaking our hands and giving us small gifts of bananas and pineapples. We came across this cute little guy and couldn’t help but adore him.
When we arrived at the river bank we waited as a man carried the outboard motor on his shoulder down from the village. Many villagers came to see us off and we enjoyed their lively chatter.
As we departed from Bencheng, the men used large bamboo poles to row us down the shallow tributary back towards deeper water. They then put down the motor and we quickly returned back to where we had originally boarded the boat downstream.
Our hosts decided to take us a longer route through the bush in order to avoid a lot of the bogland we had originally gone through. At a rather fast pace we booked it down the trail in order to get back before dark. Yet the path was quite long, and there were a few bogs to cross nonetheless, so it got dark well before we made it back. Hiking through the jungle with flashlights was quite an adventure!
We arrived back at Maliaki’s hamlet safely, praise the Lord! We bathed in a stream, ate, and went to bed quite exhausted. At 4:30 AM the next morning we got up, packed, and hiked out to the mining road to catch the PMV at 6:00 AM back to Lae. With the Lord’s help we had completed a rather grueling, whirlwind journey.
Our trip wasn’t all enjoyable and fun. Intense heat, long hikes, caring for a baby, and interacting with a sea of new faces was difficult for us. However, we were greatly encouraged by the positive reception we received, their eagerness to do translation work, and their outstanding hospitality. The trip was remarkable to say the least and we are patiently seeking God as to whether this is where He would have us work in the long-term. Please pray with us and for the Watut people, they really desire to hear the Scriptures in their language!
P.S. – If you want to see where we journeyed, you can lookup the “Tsili Tsili Airport” on Google Earth or Google Maps. Bencheng is right next to it in the foothills of the highlands. You also might be surprised to hear that though we were in a very remote location, there was a cellphone tower up on the mountainside giving us access to the Internet. The world is a much smaller place, in the best sense of the term!
Dear friends and family,
Next week from January 16th through the 19th we’ll be making a trip into the Watut region of Papua New Guinea to meet with church leaders. It will consist of an 8-hour trip by road and a short boat ride on a river. We will be accompanied by our team leader David Howard (who heads up the Markham Multi-Language Initiative), Steven Ttopoqogo (a representative from BTA which is the national Bible translation association of Papua New Guinea), and possibly a few others. The purpose of our visit is to determine if the Watut leaders desire to start a Bible translation project and have us move in among them to learn their language and come alongside them in the translation work. Please pray for safety, wisdom, discernment, and guidance for everyone involved in this important trip. Pray also for travelling mercies (especially for Cadi). This trip may determine the course of the next couple of decades of our lives! We cherish your important involvement in this through the power of prayer.
David & Shelly Midkiff
We are happy to report that we’re safely in Papua New Guinea. We arrived on Friday at Wycliffe’s missions center called Ukarumpa in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Our fellowship family met us at the airstrip and have been showing us around the center these past few days. We’ve been happy to reconnect with friends that we’ve met at various stages in our training and also have been enjoying making new friends.
Cadi did great on the flights. Her ears seemed to bother her a bit during takeoff and landing, but each flight got progressively better. Her cold is also doing much better. Thank you so much for praying about that! We received excellent treatment in the airports because of her, including having our excess baggage fees waived as well as getting to cut to the front of the line multiple times through security and customs. She charmed everyone!
Yesterday we moved into a house here at Ukarumpa and are happy to have a place to call home. We will be here at the center until mid-August when we will go to the pacific orientation course in the coastal city of Madang. After our training we will return to Ukarumpa, and then eventually move into one of the villages of the language group we’ll be working with. Right now we are focusing on learning the trade language. Soon we will get to meet our colleagues in the multi-language translation project we will be joining.
Our e-mail here in Papua New Guinea is email@example.com. If you send to that e-mail we won’t be charged for the bandwidth. And if you would like our cell-phone number, feel free to ask us. Thank you so much for all your prayers and financial partnership!
Blessings in Christ,
David, Shelly & Cadi Midkiff
2 July 2014
Wycliffe Bible Translators
P.O. Box 628200 Orlando, FL 32862
Dear friends and family,
We write to you to celebrate the Lord’s provision. We are now fully funded! This is a HUGE answer to prayer. Praise the Lord! We began this journey in 2012, and the Lord has orchestrated His perfect plan in His perfect timing. He is truly in control. We will be departing for Papua New Guinea the last week of June, and will be purchasing our plane tickets in the next couple of weeks . Please be praying that Catherine’s visa application process will go through smoothly. And pray for the multi-language translation project (MLP) we will be joining in the Markham Valley, that God will orchestrate all the details and increase community support among the participating tribes. Pray also that the enemy will not be able to hinder the work as it moves forward.
We thank all of you who have been praying for us and partnering with us financially. If you are still interested in partnering with us, any amount above and beyond 100% will go directly to our ministry expenses as our budget needs do fluctuate over time. Thank you so much, and we will keep you posted as our preparations to depart progress.
With love in Christ,
David, Shelly & Catherine Midkiff