Marathon pace

Language learning takes a long time, it feels endless! But the end is in sight for Steve Stanley. He has only one more speaking level to go up, and six months of practice ‘should’ get him there.

The Kovol team in Papua New Guinea have two thirds of their culture paper complete and Steve estimates that if he keeps his pace up, he could finish it by the end of July. One further paper after that and Steve will finish language study!

The next steps will be literacy lesson preparation followed by Bible lesson preparation and translation. All big jobs that will take a long time too! Pray for productive language study. Steve would find it quite disappointing to not jump up another speaking level by their next test in June/July.

Following four months of focussed language study Steve and Gerdine were ready for a break and so as a family they headed to the support base in Goroka. Their break ended up being extended by several weeks due to a fuel shortage in PNG. The fuel situation has stabilised, and they have been able to return to Kovol but were also glad for the extra time off. They are enjoying life and ministry a lot more after being refreshed. Praise God for His care for them.

The culture paper the team are working on is taking a long time as they have been given 111 cultural categories to investigate. Categories like “personal and communal property”, “hunting and fishing” or “cliques and non-kinship groups”. For each category the team needs to elicit three Kovol language sources (usually audio recordings of interviews) and use those to write a few paragraphs summarising that area of culture. It’s important that they are not guessing, and they need to have the audio recordings to back up their conclusions. The process has several benefits. It stretches their language ability and forces them to discover new vocabulary. For example, they need a word or phrase for “redemption” for the Bible lessons. Without culture, language is impossible to understand, it is the essential encoding to understand the words they are hearing.

Culture study is ultimately a church planting tool. It is vital for preparing Bible lessons, to know the meaning being transmitted underneath the words they use. They need to be able to predict how what they say will be received, pre-empting likely misunderstandings. They need to know which concepts are going to be easy for people to grasp and which will need patient and careful laying out over multiple lessons. They are two thirds through the cultural summaries, so there’s still a good chunk to go. Once the summaries are finished, they will help to identify key themes, pervasive ideas and key concepts needed for teaching. They will then work on a themes paper including a teaching plan on how to use God’s Word to interact with Kovol culture.

God willing all this preparation will put the team in a good place to effectively communicate His Word. Communicating in a way that cuts to people’s hearts and interacts with their deep needs, as opposed to teaching a lesson and getting a lot of people nodding and agreeing, but not really getting the big idea. Pray for the teams ongoing culture study that they would hear things they need to hear to understand what is going on beneath the surface in people’s minds.

It is an ambitious goal, and it’s easy to push too hard. Pray that they would find the right balance between rest, work, home school, family and Kovol friends.

Pray that they would be able to push as hard as they can, but at marathon pace and not sprint pace!