Since I finished my job with Wycliffe, my “About me” page didn’t really fit anymore. If you had noticed this, and were awkwardly trying to think of ways to tell me discreetly, worry no longer! It’s now a little more appropriate. And not quite so awfully long. That’s all I have to say for this post.
Edit: The pictures weren’t showing up when I first posted this. They should all be working now.
“Lain ladang, lain belalang. Lain lubuk, lain ikannya.”
“A different farm, different grasshoppers. A different fish-pool, different fish.”
This is an Indonesian proverb that essentially means that when you’re in a different place, the people and culture will be different!
Where I’m At Now:
As you already know, in May I finished my commitment of working with Wycliffe Bible Translators for one year. I was working in audio and video production, so naturally, I made a video to summarize the work I did. I already shared it with you in my last letter, but because it’s awesome, I’m giving you the link to it again in this letter:
Feel free to share this video with everyone you know! If you would like the video on DVD (if your internet is slow, or you want to watch it on your TV, play at your church, etc.) let me know, and I’ll have one mailed to you.
After I finished my work in Australia, I came to Indonesia to study the Indonesian language full-time. Initially, I was living with an Indonesian family, but I didn’t feel fully safe there, and felt they were only interested in the money they could get from me. So I’ve since moved into my own apartment, and I feel this is a much better situation.
I can do all of my own cooking so I know that it’s all sanitary and safe to eat. (I had gotten sick shortly after arriving to Indonesia, because I was eating at small food vendors too often!) Here are a few more pictures of my little apartment:
I’ve mentioned before in my letters, and especially in the video I made about a wonderful, Christian, Indonesian man that I started dating last August. His name is Imanuel (Noel) Balle, and on July 4th, he and I got engaged! Traditionally in Indonesia when a Christian couple gets engaged, they have a ceremony with their family and pastor. So, he and I went to his parents’ island, and had this small service with all of his closest relatives – about 30 of us in all. Noel’s brother in-law gave a message, and then Noel spoke for fa few minutes to thank everyone for coming. We put on the ring in front of everyone (while they were taking lots of pictures!).
To end the service, we greeted everyone that arrived, and took lots of family photos. We then ate lunch and socialized, and many of them stayed the rest of the day to visit with their family. I was very touched by how many of them came early to help cook, and stayed late to help clean up, even if they didn’t know me yet.
Noel is a funny, hardworking man with a heart for serving the Lord. We love to pray together about everything, and the amount of faith he has, as well as his love for people (including those that hurt him) has challenged my own faith. With him, I learn to be a better, more caring person with stronger faith, and I hope I do the same for him. I am looking forward to a lifetime of serving the Lord alongside of him.
Our Future Plans
Right now I am just focusing on going to school and learning Indonesian. In mid-September, I will be returning to the States to see my brother get married! I’ll be home for about a month, so if you’ll be in Colorado at that time, we can get together and catch up. Then I’ll be returning to Indonesia to finish school. I should finish early next spring, and after that, Noel and I plan to return to the US and get married.
After marrying, we plan on staying in America for at least 3-5 years. He has never been to America before, and it will be good for him to learn about my own culture, just as I’m now learning about his. It will also give us time to spend with my parents and family.
From there, all we really know is that we want to use our lives to serve the Lord. That may be working for a ministry in Colorado, or maybe in Indonesia, or maybe even elsewhere in the world. But I feel confident that if we have a heart to serve the Lord, that He will honor and bless that.
My Daily Life
Even though I’m now living in Indonesia, our relationship is (unfortunately) still long distance! I flew to his city of Kupang for our engagement, but the rest of the time, I’ve been living on another island in the city of Bandung. The school I’m going to is Christian, and was recommended to me by other missionaries. Wycliffe, and other Christian organizations, often send their missionaries here to learn the language before going elsewhere in Indonesia for ministry. The school is small: my class has 7 people, and we spend half the time broken up into two groups to get better interaction with the teachers.
I have class every morning from 8am – 12pm. The teachers speak entirely in Indonesian to us, and we respond and ask our questions in Indonesian as well. Our afternoons are free, but we’re expected to use that time to practice Indonesian with our neighbors. Each morning, we each present to the class about an experience we had the day before in conversing in Indonesian with someone!
I’m trying my best to use this time to learn not just the language itself, but also the culture and daily life here. I mentioned that I’m doing all my own cooking, and I want to learn to cook Indonesian food. I’m also washing all my clothes by hand, because I don’t have a machine. This will be a good skill to learn, in case we’re ever living in a village with no electricity! And I’m trying to build relationships with some of the women that live near me, to practice the language, and also hopefully for ministry, as most of my neighbors are Muslim.
So I’ve promised in the past that I would write all the time in this blog about my daily life, and I’ve sorta failed on that! When I was living in Australia, I honestly felt like it wasn’t all that different from living in America (except for their funny accents), and I didn’t have a lot to write about. Now that I’m in Indonesia, and settled into my apartment and set up with internet access, I plan on writing more.
I have finished my time of serving with Wycliffe, and I hope to serve with them again in the future. Right now, I’m on my own and living off of my own savings. Those of you that have given financially have made it possible for me to save my money to do this. I cannot thank you enough for your support! If you are still giving to me through Wycliffe, or would like to make any final donations, your final gift needs to reach them before August 31st. If you give after that, your gift may not reach me, and would instead go into a general fund. You can give online at this site: https://www.wycliffe.org/partner/6E4C4B, or you can mail a check to this address:
Wycliffe Bible Translators
PO Box 628200
Orlando, FL 32862-820
Attach a separate note saying, “For the ministry of Lisa Besler, #228437”
I’m writing to let you know I’m finally arrived and settled in Indonesia. I’m renting a room in a house with a family. My room is on the top floor, going out onto the roof, with a beautiful view of a valley!
My house is just up the street from the school where I will be studying the Indonesian language full-time. I had orientation yesterday morning, and it seemed like a really good school. Among the new students, there were four Koreans, and three Americans, including myself.
I already spent 3 months in Indonesia last time I was here, so I was feeling like I was getting a pretty good handle on the language. I took a placement test to see which unit I would get into. The school has a total of 9 units that are each one month long, so I felt pretty confident I would at least get into unit 3 or 4. During my test, I was nervous and made some mistakes, but overall I was proud that I managed to get through it, all in Indonesian! The two guys testing me told me to wait outside for a minute while they talked about it, and then they would call me back in. They even told me that part all in Indonesian too, and I understood it all! When they called me back in, they told me that they decided I would do best in… Unit 2. That’s all! I guess I’m not as skilled yet as I thought. Oh, well. At least it shouldn’t be over my head, and it’ll give me a chance to learn the basics well.
After school, I stopped to eat lunch at a warung up the street, which is a small food vendor by the road. They’re all over in this country. I got some rice, chicken, vegetables, fried tempe, and sambal, made of chilis. Sambal is similar to Mexican salsa, but much spicier, and you eat it in small amounts with the rest of your food to make it spicy. The whole meal cost me about a dollar and a half. Here’s a pic of a similar meal I had at a larger warung on another day:
So now it’s the weekend, I’m here all by myself, and don’t really know anyone aside from the family I live with. So I’m letting myself be lazy for the weekend, and trying to not feel guilty about it. I’ve spent the day cleaning and arranging my room a little better, and hanging out on my roof reading a book and drinking coffee.
Next to school, there is an English-speaking, international church that I visited last week, and I plan on going back there tomorrow. At first I felt guilty about going to an English church, instead of finding an Indonesian one. But my boyfriend pointed out that I’m spending all week long using Indonesian, and he thought it would be good for me to get some Christian fellowship and Bible teaching in my own language. So I’m going to keep going there, and already I’m looking forward to seeing some friendly faces, and people I can talk with a little more easily.
“…My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:14, NIV)
As I write this letter, I’m also packing my bags and finishing the trip that I started nearly a year ago. In June of last year, I left home and headed out for the unknown and seemingly magical land of Australia! And now, after putting up with their funny accents and learning their strange words for things (like “tea” actually means dinner, not just a cup of tea), it’s now about time for me to leave.
But before we go into the details, I want to share a video I made for you! Since I came out here to work in video, I decided it should only be fitting to make a video for all of you, to thank you for your support!
Feel free to share this video with your friends or anyone, or share it in your church or Bible study. Let me know if you would like a copy of the video on a DVD. If you know anyone interested in missions, maybe this can show them a taste of what it can be like.
What I’m doing next:
This newsletter is short, because the video already says most of what I have to say! Even though I’m finishing my commitment with Wycliffe, I am not actually coming home yet. While I was in Indonesia, I fell in love with the people and culture, and felt like God may be calling me to work there as a missionary in the future. So, I’ve decided to go there from here, and study the Indonesian language full-time for several months.
In September, I am planning on coming home to the US for a short time, to see my brother get married! If you are in the area, I will love to meet up with you while I’m there.
A word to my financial supporters:
Since I am finishing my time with Wycliffe, in a few months I will no longer be able to receive your support. If you are signed up to be giving automatically, you will want to make your last donation before August 31st. If you give after that, your donation will be given to a general fund, and they will not be able to return it to you.
To everyone: if you would like to make a special contribution to help cover my school costs, please make that donation in or before August as well. You can donate online here.
Praise & Prayer Requests:
Praise the Lord that I was able to finish well! There were plenty of challenges, but now I am quite happy with the last year, and everything that was accomplished. When I left home, I rested in the promise that if the Lord brought me out here, then he will use it for his good, and I believe he has. Thank the Lord for his faithfulness to be with us wherever we are!
Pray for my safety as I travel to and live in Indonesia.
Pray for me to be able to learn the Indonesian language well, and have the courage to practice it while I’m there. For a shy person like me, this is a difficult thing to do! Specifically, I would like to become good friends with a girl about my age, who speaks no English at all, so I could practice the language a lot with her. Please pray for that to happen.
I mentioned earlier that my brother will be getting married in September! Pray for him and his bride-to-be, as they prepare for their life together.
In my video, I talked about a relationship that I am in as well, with a young man named Noel. Please pray for us as we seek after Christ together. Pray that my studying his language will also help to develop our relationship.
Now that it’s February, I’m about two-thirds through my commitment of working one year with Wycliffe. I left home on June 8th, 2013, so that means I have only four months left! Much has happened since I last wrote to you in October. There is so much to tell you, so let’s get started.
When I last wrote, I had recently attended a dedication of the New Testament in the Tetun language of Indonesia. This is probably the most significant event that I will be able to attend and film during my year of work out here. Twelve years of work went into drafting and revising before this New Testament was finished! I put together a video about the event, which you can view here.
Anmatyerr Catechism Dedication
Later, in December, I attended another dedication in a very different kind of place. In the desert of Central Australia, several books of the New Testament, along with a Lutheran Catechism (a small book explaining the basics of Christianity) were translated and dedicated into the Anmatyerr language, spoken by Aboriginals in Australia. The missionaries here hope that this celebration will generate enthusiasm as they work toward finishing the New Testament. I put together a DVD of the entire service (all 3 hours!), as well as a short promotional piece to show the highlights, which you can view here. We’ll be selling these video on DVD’s in our bookstores.
Our Word Conference
Every year, Aboriginals from Northern Australia get together to discuss the Bible translations they are workin on. They use computer software called “Our Word,” which helps them compare their translations with other, similar languages. These workshops give the translators a chance to encourage and learn from each other as they gain experience throughout the year.
I interviewed each of the translators to find out why they want to have the Bible in their own languages. When I was visiting our office in Central Australia, the staff there told me how they wish that people there were as excited about translating into their own languages as our people up north. This video, that I compiled of the translators’ responses, will hopefully inspire other Aboriginals throughout Australia to want to be involved in translation like they are.
Being a videographer and a young person, I’ve seem to become our social media person by default. My boss wanted to think of new ways to distribute our videos, especially to people in remote areas that have difficulty coming all the way to the city. Smartphones are becoming more popular throughout the world, and often it is actually easier for many people to watch a video on the Internet, than it is to come to the store and buy it. So we put some of our videos on Youtube, and in certain parts of Australia, we’re happy to see that it’s been a huge hit! We decided to create separate channels for our different audiences. I’ve gone through much of our older videos, which are still amazingly popular, and uploaded many of them to these sites.
AuSILVideos: Targeted to “white” Australians and secular audiences, this site will have more about linguistic research and advocacy for Aboriginal rights.
AboriginalBibles: Targeted to Aboriginal audiences, this has many Christian resources in various languages. Most of our videos are on this site.
TorresStraitBibles: Like the Aboriginal Bibles site, this site is targeted to Torres Strait islanders.
VideoUBB:This is our site for our work being done in Indonesia. “Unit Bahasa dan Budaya” is our office there, which translates to the “Language and Culture Unit.”
What I’m working on now
Up until now, my only experience has been with shooting and editing video, but not with distribution of those videos. That’s the next step, when we burn the video onto DVD’s, create labels, and sell them in stores. My supervisor decided it would be good experience for me to learn that side of it. So, my next tasks will be doing all these steps, from start to finish, for distributing the Anmatyerr and the Our Word videos!
Though it’s still a ways off, the Katherine Christian Convention will be the next big thing on my calendar. Katherine is a small town south of Darwin, which is more easily accessed by Aboriginals of the area, and missionaries working on rural areas. Every May, we hold a Christian convention there to encourage believers in the area, and I will be helping to shoot, edit, and distribute videos from the event.
Where I’m living
I am currently living in Australia, and working with a couple that focuses on media production for Wycliffe, like making videos, and audio Bibles, etc. They are much more experienced than I am, and I have much to learn from them! I’m glad for the opportunity to work with them. It’s possible that I could be here staying for the last four months of my trip, depending on what my boss decides.
I’m living in a “demountable,” a term I’ve never heard before coming to Australia, which is less than a house, but more than an apartment, and is really a nice place.
It’s on a property owned by Australian Indigenous Ministries, which is a partner to Wycliffe.
The caretakers of the property is an Indonesian family. I’ve been trying to learn Indonesian since my time out there, so I’m so happy to have them to practice with! They invited me over for dinner this week, and I had a wonderful time eating Indonesian food, and hearing the language that I’m still not quite confident enough to speak much, but I enjoy listening to anyway.
Praise and Prayer Requests
My health has been very good the last several months! I had asked you to pray for me after having colds and food poisonings several times, so thank you for your prayers! I’ve been healthy and happy, and even getting back into running when it’s not raining!
I got a tooth infection in December, which cleared up after taking some antibiotics. A dentist and an oral surgeon told me that the tooth should be pulled, but it can wait until I’m back home in America if I prefer. It will be cheaper to do it back home, so I decided to wait. But now, just this week, the same tooth has started aching again. Please pray for this to clear up, so I really can wait until I’m back home before I have to get it pulled.
Praise that the office just loaned me the company car! I need it to be able to take a weekly Indonesian class in downtown Darwin, because the buses don’t run at the right times to be able to take them. This will also save me a lot of money that I had been spending on taking the bus to work every day.
Living in Australia is more expensive than Indonesia, and even more expensive than my hometown in America! Pray that my living expenses won’t get too high and go over budget, which would make it hard to stay.
As I enter the final third of my time out here, pray for guidance for me to make the most of the time. I sometimes wonder if there will be enough work to keep me busy, so please pray for me to be able to be productive for God’s Kingdom while I have this opportunity to be here.
On August 9 & 11, I was able to attend the dedication of the New Testament in the language of Tetun, hot off the press. After 12 years of working on this translation, the team was full of so much joy to be able to share the Word of God in their own language! In two different villages on opposite sides of the island, the services lasted nearly all day with dancing, sermons, laughing, crying, and lots of gratitude.
Visitors came from Australia, America, and other islands in Indonesia to be part of the celebration and share in their joy. The central part of the service was the procession, when the Bibles were brought forward to be prayed over by the local pastors. I was asked to be part of the procession, as somebody representing all of the Americans and Australians that gave their support to make the translation possible.
After the service, we sold hundreds of Bibles, and uploaded digital versions onto countless cell phones for free. We also sold USB sticks that contained software to read the Bible on their computers, as well as audio recordings of portions of the New Testament, and a video that tells the Gospel through Bible stories.
During all this time, I was busy taking as much video as possible so I could share this special event with the world. Our first priority was to share it with local pastors. During the week of September 16, a Bible conference was held here, inviting over 150 Indonesian pastors from all over the region. I had the chance to show a video about the work we’ve been doing here. The video is all in Indonesian, but you can watch it and follow along with the English script in my last post. Our goal was to encourage them in their ministries, and inspire them to support translation projects in their local languages.
You can see more video of the singing and dancing at the services on our Youtube channel. You can watch a video I made of the traditional dancers during the ceremony. Another good video to watch is one about the Kupang Malay dedication. This video isn’t mine because it happened before I came here, but it shows a lot of good video of the city I live in.
Trip to Semau
If you were to visit this office, you wouldn’t be here long before you heard talk about Misriani, or just “Mis.” From the nearby island of Semau, she was invited to work here to help translate the New Testament into her heart language of Helong. After that was finished and dedicated last year, she stayed on the staff to help other translations.
Since I arrived, she’s quickly become a good friend of mine. She invited me to come to her island one weekend, and I was blown away by all the beauty on the land that her family has owned for generations. I think I was probably the only white person on the entire island! I swam in the ocean, helped a little with dinner, and shared lots of smiles, even if I couldn’t share words. It was so refreshing, and lots of fun to learn about village life.
Last week, Mis and I attended a prayer conference for Wycliffe missionaries in the Pacific area (which is Australia and the islands all around it). It was a great chance for us to learn about what God is doing in this region. We learned ways to share our prayer requests and our stories with the rest of Wycliffe. I was able to connect with their communications people and hear about the projects they are working on, getting ideas for things that we could also do in the future. The week was very encouraging and uplifting for everyone.
What I’m doing next
Right now, I’m working on making a video in English about the Tetun dedication. It will be much like the Indonesian video I already made, but with a more global audience in mind. After that, I have in mind to make a video about the Helong dedication (Mis’ language) that happened last year. Now that it’s been one year, I’d like to find out what has happened in the community since. How much are the Bibles being used? What kind of ministry is needed now? Do people actually have access to the Bibles when they want one? Will the Old Testament be translated as well? Often, people think of the dedication as the finish line, but really it’s just the starting point, and now all sorts of new challenges come that are easily overlooked.
For my office:
· Current translation projects: We have several Bible translation projects that are in their final stages of checking. Pray for these teams to have the encouragement they need to finish translations that are clear and accurate.
· Local churches: Mis has mentioned to me that they would really like to see more local churches involved in the work we are doing. Missionaries from outside might come and go, but it’s the churches that are here for the long term. Pray for their leaders to be passionate about Bible translation, and encourage the use of Bibles in local languages.
· Scripture distribution & use: Once a translation is finished, the next task is to get the Bibles into people’s hands, and to get them to read it. Pray for the completed New Testaments to be accessible to the people that speak these languages, and that God would move in their hearts through them.
· Local supporters: We have a specific need for more language advisors. These are people that are native speakers of a language needing the Bible, and are willing to help the work on it. Pray for God to move in the hearts of the people that would be right for this kind of work.
· Praise: my visa! During the week of the Bible conference, when I was finishing the Indonesian video about the Tetun dedication, that was also when I needed to renew my visa. With being so busy, I completely forgot about it until the day before my visa was set to expire. I went to the immigration office and had to beg for them to rush the process, which normally takes 4 or 5 days. Very many of you prayed for me, and the next day my visa renewal was approved without any hassle! God loves me, even when I forget important things like staying in the country legally. Thank you for your prayers!
· Health: I have gotten food poisoning a couple times, and a few colds, and cold sores, and in general I’ve felt like my immunity has been down while I’ve been here. Pray for my continued health so I can do the work that God has brought me here for.
· At work: Pray for me to have the focus and the creativity I need to make good quality work.
· Language learning: I’m being tutored in Indonesian, while also trying to learn the local dialect of Kupang Malay. On top of that, people keep teaching me words in other local languages like Helong, and it all becomes a lot to remember!
· Travel to Australia: I will be heading back to Australia on Oct 21st, and staying for about a month before coming back to Indonesia again. Pray for safe travel, and to be just as productive there.
All donations are tax-deductible!
For financial partnership send a check to:
Wycliffe Bible Translators
PO Box 628200
Orlando, FL 32862-8200
Attach a separate note saying, “For the ministry of Lisa Besler, #228437”
Or, go to this site where you can give online, pledge to give, or sign up for my newsletters.
I finished my first official video of the dedications I went to last month! Unfortunately, the video is for an Indonesian-speaking audience. There are parts in the local language of Tetun, and those parts are subtitled into Indonesian. I promise to make an English version soon, but I still want to share this video with you anyway. Some of it was shot by me, and some by the Indonesian photographers that we hired for the event, and all of it was edited by me.
Now to let you know what it’s actually about. The language of Tetun Belu is spoken by over half a million people in the center of the island of Timor in Indonesia. After 12 years of work, we had just finished translating the New Testament into that language, so this service was to dedicate it to the Lord and celebrate its completion. I made this video to show to an audience of church leaders from around the area, hoping to inspire them to our new opportunities for ministry, now that this New Testament is finished. You can watch the video here or on Youtube, and I have the English script here below it, so you can follow along.
What do I feel about it? The first thing I want to say is that it is ‘amazing!’ It was just exceptional.
Ladies & gentlemen, I only want to say that I have long been dreaming of the moment when the Word of God, which was given to us approximately two thousand years ago, is now finally available to people here in their own language.
As a member of the translation team, I not only feel happy and proud, but I want to take this opportunity to give praise to God.
How fortunate for people who speak the Tetun language. Because the words that we have been eagerly awaiting have now arrived. That is, God has spoken to us in the Tetun language through the writings of the New Testament. Let us go in festive celebration to receive this blessing! Thank you.
Greetings! I want to speak a little about us, the small group called the Tetun Team. We are the translation team for the Tetun Bible. We here, this Tetun Team, we are just a few insignificant people. I and my companions here, It’s just us. Along with two of us whom God has already called home. Many people have helped us in this work. There were consultants who examined our writings in fine detail. There were many people who speak the Tetun language daily who helped us so that we could be sure that all the words in this book, all people who speak Tetun can understand them. Whether they are from the Foho dialect or the Fehan dialect, everyone can understand the words.
But one important key that stands out is that I feel satisfied, and so I am very grateful. I feel satisfied and for so long I’ve been desiring to read (the Tetun scriptures) in front of the congregation so they can hear the Word of God. And today it has … God has answered [my heart’s desire].
From a long time ago when I began to translate, people were saying, “Wow! God can… God can speak using… We can talk about God using the Tetun language!”
Because we have assumed for so long that the Lord Jesus was just for people who went to school, and for people who speak Indonesian well. In reality, the Lord Jesus was from a rural village, and could also speak the local language.
The part (of the service) that made me cry the most, and keep crying was when our translation team went forward and the priests… the priests and the ministers received and accepted this translation in the name of God, as an offering of service to God.
This has been amazing, but why? So many people have come from all over the place, from Australia, from Ambon… what was it they came for? Why did they come? But that reflects the day of Pentecost, even though we have different languages, nevertheless we are one in God.
With the availability of the Word of God in the Kupang language, the Dhao language, the Helong language, and the Tetun language, this opens new opportunities and possibilities for different approaches to ministry, and also ministries that are more effective.
How are we going to use these local language Bibles within the context of the church? This is not about shoving the Indonesian Bible out of the way, but about how we are going to use them to strengthen and deepen the faith of people in Belu, on the island of Ndao, in the Helong speaking region, and so forth. This matter is something I think must be discussed and thought about. And I think there are already people who have begun to think about these things. So I believe as ministers and others become creative, this will start to happen in a good way.
With the availability of the Bible in Tetun that can be used by both Catholics and Protestants alike, this will certainly help us help the believers to… in raising their ability to get along with each other, right? It will increase their ability to walk arm-in-arm in overcoming the big problems, such as the social issues that are a concern to both of them. Obviously we can’t address these on our own, to overcome the widespread problems. That’s not realistic! We have to walk arm-in-arm because God mandates our relationship, right? We cannot just be our own denomination by itself, but everyone who believes in Christ Jesus is called to carry out His great mission.
Brothers and sisters whom I love in the name of Christ. We see here inside this church our brothers and sisters have come from faraway lands such as Europe, the Netherlands, America, Australia, from (the islands of) Papua, Jakarta, some have come from (the towns of) Kupang, Atambua, Halilulik, Betun, to be with us in this place. Even though we have come from various lands, each with their own customs and traditions, nevertheless all of us are united in the name of Jesus Christ. In the Lord Jesus Christ there is no Catholic church or GMIT church. In the Lord Jesus Christ there are no white people or black people. In the Lord Jesus Christ there are no poor people or rich people. We are all Christ’s sons and daughters; we are all Christ’s ambassadors. Christ has called us, has chosen us, has commanded us to go to the ends of the earth. From the hills and valleys, from the east to the west bringing, delivering, and causing people to hear the Word of God throughout the whole world, so that all people are brought to maturity and perfection in their belief in the one true God. (In the name of) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
After hours of listening to lectures, I noticed people sitting up straighter, waking up, and getting quiet when we started our video. When they saw people in the video they recognized, they laughed and commented to each other about how they looked on screen.
After the video was over, they applauded, which my boss Chuck explained to me afterwards, is very rare in these formal settings. Chuck spoke a few more words after the video, explaining about some of the work we do, and we gave out coupons to our bookstore for a complimentary copy of the book of Ruth in the local dialect of the city of Kupang.
Now the video lives on our new Youtube channel, which is designed to encourage Indonesian speakers like these to continue in their ministries. We hope to inspire other Bible translation efforts to keep up their work. We also hope that as these translations are finished, the churches will be ready to break from the cultural norm of using their formal Indonesian Bible (which is difficult for most to understand), and instead learn to talk about God using their casual, more comfortable local languages. As our brothers and sisters in Christ learn to think of God as a close friend, instead of a distant leader, I think we also can take a lesson from them, and be thankful today for a God that walked among us, died for us, and lives and loves us today.
Where I’m living:
I mentioned once before about a guest house that our team recently built here, where I would be staying. I’m not staying there. Instead, I’ve decided to live like other Indonesians, in a very typical, one bedroom apartment. It is called a “kos” (pronounced like “coast” without the “t”). It has a single bedroom with a bathroom, and a communal kitchen. My kos has 8 rooms total, and the manager, a Christian woman, only rents these rooms to young single women. One of my coworkers is living in one of the other rooms and recommended it for me, and I love the chance to see how Indonesians live, and make friends with them. The manager, “Mommy” Tirza, is a wonderful woman who doesn’t speak a word of English, and I don’t yet speak a word of Indonesian! We tried to have a conversation the other day, and it consisted mostly of saying words, pointing at things, shrugging our shoulders, and shaking heads. Soon, I hope to learn enough to talk to her a little more successfully!
What I’ve been doing:
My first task when I arrived in Darwin was to set up a youtube channel and post some of our older videos. Tons of Aboriginals in Australia love to get on youtube via their mobile phones, and so we decided it would be a great way to reach them! For many of them, it’s actually much more convenient to download a video online, than to find a way to come in to the city to buy a DVD from us. In the end, we decided to make three separate channels in order to target different audiences. AusilVideos is our “white people” channel, for videos targeted to a general audience of both Christian and non-Christian people. AboriginalBibles is Christian materials targeted to Aboriginals, the indigenous people of Australia (similar to our Native Americans). TorresStraitBibles is similar, but targeted to the indigenous people of Northeast Australia. They are of a very different ancestry than Aboriginals, so it doesn’t really work to group them all together. Some of the videos on these sites, you’ll notice, might be a little dated, but the videos are still very popular, and even the fact of seeing their own native language on youtube makes them feel very special and proud. For example, in some of these dramas, you can see Jesus portrayed as a black person, speaking a native language of Torres Strait!
After setting that up, I was fortunate enough to attend a youth camp for Aboriginal children, and to shoot some video of it. It was run by Rachel Borneman, an Australian girl my age who works at our office. She has been passing this leadership over the the Aboriginal elders of the communities. We held the camp at a beautiful setting with a lake and a waterfall. It is native Aboriginal land, and Rachel and I needed to get permission from the government to visit. I felt extremely fortunate to have the chance to visit a place like that, with the native people, eating their food and learning their language, and sharing in the love of Christ together. The theme of our camp was learning to trust God like Daniel did when he was thrown into the lions’ den. I made a short video of the camp, and put it on our youtube site so the kids can watch it when they got home, and you can see it here. These Aboriginal children love to see themselves on video, so if we post a video like this of them performing a Bible verse, they’ll watch themselves over and over, and learn the verse in the process!
The next big event in my schedule is the Tetun New Testament dedication. This is possibly the most important event for my entire year out here, and I was working hard to raise support in time to be here for it. Tetun is a language spoken by over half a million people in Indonesia alone, and even more in the country of East Timor. The New Testament was recently finished in this language, so on August 9 & 11 we will be having dedication services to celebrate it’s completion. Since the language is so widely spoken, we are having the service twice on different sides of the island, so everyone can come. I will be busy shooting video of the services (each service at least 3-4 hours long), and getting several interviews, all for me to edit once we get back here to Kupang.
Prayer requests & plans:
- Pray for me to learn the language of Indonesian quickly. I’m very frustrated to not be able to talk to anybody unless they happen to speak English. Pray for me to have opportunities to learn the language well, and the memory to retain what I learn.
- Many people in my team ask for prayer for our continued health. A few people have started to feel the beginnings of a cold, and now is not the time to be sick!
- They also ask for prayer for all of the people traveling into Timor to attend this dedication with us. Some people are still working out their travel plans at the last minute. Pray over all of the logistics involved in getting everyone out to these remote mountain towns.
- Praise God for those Indonesians on our team who are learning English! Pray for God to continue to bless their studies.
- A few people in our team are working on an audio recording of the book of Galatians in Tetun. They would like to have it finished this week so they can distribute it at the dedication. Prayer for their editing work to go smoothly and quickly so they can finish in time.
Thurs, August 8th: In the morning, we are leaving to go to Atambua. We’re taking two buses, and it will be a full day of driving on mountain roads, with only one stop in the middle for lunch. Pray for safe travel and for no one to get carsick.
Friday, Aug 9th: The first dedication service. Pray for those leading the service, that God will bless the service and give them the right words to say. Praise God that the Tetun people can read God’s Word in their own native language!
Sat, Aug 10th: We are driving about 4 hours south to Betun, where the second service will be held. Pray for the hearts of everyone receiving these New Testaments, and that it would touch their hearts in new ways, and draw them ever closer to God.
Sun, Aug 11th: The second dedication service. Again, pray for God’s Spirit to be over the service, working in the hearts of everyone attending. Pray for those going to both services, that God would speak to them in new ways each time. Pray for the people who have travelled far to have energy throughout the day.
Mon, Aug 12: We drive back home to Kupang. Pray for safe travel and carsickness again. Also, pray for the Tetun people who are now reading their very own Bibles in their own language. Pray that God’s Word will be clear, allowing them to understand things in new ways, and to be able to share openly with each other everything they are learning.
Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to get settled into life in Australia, I thought it would be a good time to share a little of it with you. Above is a picture of the front of our office. AuSIL is a branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators located here in Darwin. This office/bookshop is located in a suburb of Darwin, where it can be easily reached by many of the Aboriginal community of the area. Inside, they sell lots of Christian materials, including Bibles, in several different languages of Australia:
As for the people that work here, we have a staff of linguists, anthropologists, and administrative positions. There are also other members throughout Australia that are a part of AuSIL. One of my favorite things here is the sense of community among the staff. After only a couple of weeks, I feel like a member of the family! Here is most of the staff having morning coffee together:
As for what I actually do all day, I spent the first couple days of work just talking with my boss about everything we want to accomplish the year that I’ll be here. My first project has been setting up a Youtube channel for our office. For many people in remote, Aboriginal communities, it’s hard to get videos and other materials out to them, but everyone has cell phones where they can get on the Internet. We decided that streaming videos on Youtube would be a much easier way for them to view materials like Bible dramas. Some of the videos are dated, or not the best quality, but seeing videos in their own languages on the Internet is a pretty good feeling for people groups that previously felt obsolete in the modern world.
And now, let me introduce you to some of my coworkers!
Barbara is my boss, the Director of Ausil. She’s also the only other American here! I’ve been getting along with her really well, which is always a relief at a new job. Barbara is an anthropologist, and her husband Chuck is a linguist, and together they have been working with the Tetun people of Indonesia for years. The Tetun New Testament is about to be dedicated in August, and I will be there with them for it!
When you enter the shop, you’d be greeted by Barry, who runs the bookshop, and helps with lots of various work around the office. Since manual cars are much more common here than in the States, Barry’s been giving me lessons on driving a stick shift.
Coming back past the bookstore, the first person you’d meet is Margaret. She was one of the linguists working on the Kriol language, which is the first Aboriginal language to have a complete Bible! Watch a video on the dedication celebration, and you’ll get a couple glimpses of a younger Margaret.
Mally is another linguist that has worked with several Aboriginal languages. I don’t even know how many languages she speaks. She has been helping me learn about Australian culture… and reminding me that I’m the one with the accent, not all of them. I look forward to talking to her each day, because I learn something almost every time.
Further back in the office, you’ll meet Lance and Gwen. They are retired missionaries that live elsewhere in Australia, but still volunteer their time up here once in a while. Right now, they are my roommates, while we share a two-bedroom apartment owned by AuSIL for the people that are always coming and going to work here. You’ll also find them in that same video from the Kriol dedication.
It’s now Saturday evening after my first real week of work here in Darwin, Australia, and what to say about it? I spent last week in Brisbane with coworkers there where I could rest from jet lag and begin to be initiated and learn about our office (and see wild kangaroos!). Last weekend, I took the 4.5 hour flight up north to Darwin, a town of about 100,000 people. The entire state that we’re in, called the Northern Territories, has only about 200,000 people total – smaller than my hometown of Colorado Springs! Most of the people not living in Darwin or Alice Springs are mostly Aboriginal Australians living in rural communities. As our office works primarily with these people, and with people living in nearby islands of Indonesia, Darwin is the perfect place for our center.
I was pretty anxious to get here to Darwin, as this area will be my home for the next year, and I hadn’t seen really any pictures of the area or my coworkers! So I’m thrilled to tell you that I just love it here so far. My boss Barbara is originally American, and the only one here without an Australian accent, and I’ve been getting along with her (as well as everyone else) just great. Since it took me over a year to raise support to come out here (as you well know!) she’s had lots of time to think of projects that can be done “when Lisa gets here.” Now that Lisa is here, there is so much to do! We spent my first couple days of work talking about ideas and ways that our programs can move forward through media and the internet, and to every idea she had, I thought “I can definitely do that.” Before coming here, I was so worried that maybe the job would be over my head, or maybe there really wouldn’t be enough work to keep me busy, or maybe there wouldn’t be enough direction and I wouldn’t be sure how to spend my time. It turns out there is LOTS to do, LOTS of cooperation and clear direction, and I feel very capable of accomplishing the things we talk about doing! It’s such a relief to me!
I’ll go into the gritty details of work in another entry, but right now lots of you back home have been asking what it’s “like” in Australia. The first obvious thing is their accents! The “language” around here hasn’t been all that difficult, but I’ve found it’s sometimes tiring to spend your whole day straining to hear and understand and learn the new words and converse with Australians. Some days I come home and go right to bed early just to give my brain a rest.
The next thing I notice is the amount of plants and water! Even in their dry season, I spend most of my time that I’m outdoors gawking at the plants and the birds, noticing the smell of eucalyptus in the air from the gum trees, and taking pictures of flowers and trying to learn all the different bird calls. Seriously, I feel like I live in a zoo. One of my first days here, in Brisbane, a wild turkey was walking down the sidewalk to get out of the rain, and everyone thought that was perfectly normal.
The food so far hasn’t been too strange. I was disappointed to find things like mayo and tartar sauce very different from what I was expecting, but I was happy to find “American mustard” on the shelves! Various types of Asian food, like Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese, are all very popular here as those areas are pretty close to Darwin. I’m pretty much totally unfamiliar with these kinds of foods, so that will be a learning experience for me as I slowly start to try them! I’ll tell you more later about how that goes…
I’m currently staying at the home of a lady who is friends with my boss, who often has people like me stay for short periods at a time. She herself is actually out of town for a few weeks, so I’ve had the house to myself so far. To get to and from work, I bought a bike! I got it used from a site called Gumtree, which is like our Craigslist. Since today was Saturday, I spent the afternoon riding around town. There was a green area on my map, so I went there, wondering if I would find anything pretty, and I found this:
This is certainly going to become a favorite place to come read on the weekends! I’ll go back there with a better camera next time, on a clear day, so you can see it better.
There’s lots more to share, but my brain is all full of taking everything in… so I have to make some more sense of it before I can write it all down here. More to come!