Papua New Guinea (MNN) — It's not uncommon to hear about communities desperate for clean water when you tune into Mission Network News. You may be slightly more surprised to hear about Bible translators having difficulty accessing clean water.
Bible translation has been moving forward in Papua New Guinea for decades, and clean water has always been an issue. For the last 50 years, there has been a solution. A few months ago, however, old pipes needed maintenance, and repairmen went to fix them at the source–a nearby stream.
When plumbers reached the source, a dispute broke out with a neighboring land owner over the stream. "It was actually just a dispute about who had the rights to the water in the stream," says Wycliffe Associates president Bruce Smith. The ministry could have pushed the issue, but they chose to turn the other cheek. "It was best to find a way around the dispute rather than to push forward through it."
This act is representative of the way the Bible translators in the area have conducted themselves over the last several years. Originally the government gave translators the land for the center in question because it had been an old war ground. Officials assumed that missionary presence would discourage fighting and relieve tension. Their presumptions proved true, and war in the region has ceased.
In light of upholding this testimony to peace and ultimately to Christ, it was not worth the pushing the land dispute. Translators instead chose to go without a definite clean water source until they could find an alternative. This is a significant sacrifice for a ministry center that's home to so many missionaries.
"Bible translation in Papua New Guinea is currently going on in 175 languages, and this center supports about 400 missionary families that are either doing translation work or doing support tasks related to those translation teams," notes Smith. "With 400 families, you're talking about roughly 1,000 people in the village."
The dilemma could easily be a stress point to missionaries and their families. It's generally agreed that Bible translators committing their work to the Lord should not have to constantly worry about whether or not water will come from their faucet, or about how to find and construct an alternative water source. That's where Wycliffe Associates comes in.
Wycliffe Associates mobilizes believers with all sorts of skills, talents and gifts to aid with various projects on the mission field. In this case, the ministry has sent volunteer engineers and workmen to create a solution to this conundrum. Smith says that after working on it for a number of months, they're nearing the end of the process.
Harnessing a solution to the clean water problem will effect ministry directly. Translators will finally be able to rest in the fact that clean water will undoubtedly be available for their families. Smith says knowing this will help them to relax and focus on the task God has set before them, which will eventually bring the Gospel to more and more people in their heart language.
Furthermore, by humbly avoiding dispute in the first place, believers have managed to find a solution to their problem without alienating a neighbor. Pray that the Lord would indeed use the Christ-like actions of these believers to speak to the land owner and others in the region.