Ticking along

Steve and Gerdine Stanley, who serve among the Kovol people of Papua New Guinea, want to thank everyone for praying for them. Before their break last month, they were struggling with sickness and being run down, but last month was a good, productive one.

Learning an unwritten tribal language is tough, especially working with two different dialects and with different speakers who adopt varying shades of both, and can make mistakes! The team’s personal data is in continual flux, and they are coming to the stage where they need to combine six team members’ different sets of data. As they move towards a literacy programme, they need to agree on a single spelling for words and where the word breaks are for some words. Please pray for the team as they face the daunting task of figuring out this unwritten language together. It takes a lot of grace and humility.

So far, language-learning progress has been steady. It is taking time, but month by month, Steve can look back and see improvement. He understands the recordings in his audio library better, things he had found hard have become easy, and other little things like that show they are getting there.

Steve never had the thought, “I’ll never learn this language”, until this week! They were pretty worn out and so they took an extra day off on Monday. Then Tuesday came around and Gerdine, and co-worker Stacie, set off to deliver a baby, leaving Steve with the kids for the day.

On Wednesday, Steve still felt tired but went to the village to do language study. He heard a hammer banging and went to check it out. A man was nailing rafters to his house, but did not seem like he wanted to stop for a language session. Steve sat with his village grandpa in the sun and they started chatting. It seemed to be a sleepy, lazy day, but Steve prepared a backlog of texts that he needed to check, which is intense work. After trying to talk about house building, and not making much progress, Steve hiked home thinking, “I’m never going to learn this language.” But it is not the time to give up!

After some lunch, Steve spotted a super helpful language teacher, who happily spent two hours poring over a three-minute-long text. With a little time left, Steve grabbed a guitar and they had an impromptu song writing session using Kovol lyrics. Some chords were thrown together, and a chorus developed (in Kovol). Wednesday turned out ‘ok’ for language learning in the end. The problem with language learning is that there is always another day. “Keep going,” Steve tells himself, “I’ll get there if I keep going.”

Their village grandpa was telling Steve about the pain in his hand (possibly arthritis) and reflecting on the fact that everything wears out. God’s Word has life-giving truth to share about that. Steve thinks, “I’m sorry Kovol grandpa that it’s taking so long learning to speak your language.”

A big change is that Gerdine has now started home school with Oscar. This first month has been mostly about getting ready for reading and writing. She is finding it a challenge to encourage Oscar to follow the exercises in the workbooks they are using. Gerdine is busier than ever now, often spending evenings preparing for the next day. Pray for her to adjust well to the new routine and that she would enjoy it more than being stressed out by it!

This month has been also been busier (but not overwhelming) for them, helping with medical cases. Pray for wisdom for each and every case they see!