Greetings from Papua New Guinea
This week we are excited to feature Courtney Davis on the blog! Courtney has been a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea for the past 7 years. Her primary role is supporting Bible translation by teaching music to children of missionaries at Ukarumpa International School. She is also actively involved in youth ministry. Prior to becoming a missionary, Courtney served on camp staff at IOLBC from 2010-2014 in a variety of roles.
Everyone across the world has experienced challenges in the midst of the Covid-19 global pandemic. I have certainly faced trials as a missionary in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, but I’ve also seen God continue to work despite the restrictions of a pandemic.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an island located north of Australia and east of Indonesia. It is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world due to the rough terrain and remote locations of villages. There are 840 languages in PNG alone! Wycliffe’s main focus is translating the Bible into the remaining languages that still need it so that people can encounter God through His Word. About 300 languages in PNG are still in need of Scripture! I live on a mission center called Ukarumpa, which is essentially a little town that exists to support Bible translation throughout PNG.
Throughout the duration of the pandemic, international travel has been exceedingly difficult. None of our missionaries were able to return to PNG from March 2020 to September 2020. Our mission center was incredibly short-staffed and those of us who remained in PNG had to fill in the gaps. I was the only music teacher at our school and also filled in as the youth director.
Burn out was striking as several missionaries attempted to do the jobs of multiple people and the length of time kept growing without relief. I came to PNG with a desire to serve others and share Christ to the ends of the world, but life had become overwhelming, discouraging, and stressful. It would have been easy to give up.
As I reflect on this season, Galatians 6:9 comes to mind. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
We were certainly weary, but God empowered us to keep going. Despite being short-staffed, God was with us!
· We still had school!
· Youth ministry events still happened!
· Bible translation continued!
· 3 Bibles were even published and dedicated!
Like the rest of the world, we’ve had to remain flexible and adapt to the ever-changing restrictions around Covid-19. Our school did distance learning for one term. By God’s grace, we were able to have in-person classes for the entirety of the past school year (with COVID protocols in place).
I even got to direct band in person all year (unlike many band directors in the US)! Every one of our band concerts had different restrictions. In March 2021, we rescheduled our concert three times! Our final plan was to do an outdoor concert in the afternoon so that we could still have a live performance and adhere by the new mandates. This was very risky because it rains fairly regularly in the afternoons. So we prayed and asked people from around the world to pray. The weather was great the morning of the concert date! However, at 1pm there was a huge rainstorm. The rain slowed down around 3pm and was done by 3:45, when we were scheduled to start our warm-ups! Later that night, another big rainstorm came. God orchestrated a perfect window of good weather and we were able to have the outdoor concert! What a great testimony to His goodness! God certainly provided a miracle for us to perform a concert that term!
The youth of Ukarumpa still had opportunities for weekly Bible studies and I had the privilege of coordinating retreats for the middle school and high school students. Several students have commented about how these retreats and community groups have helped them stay focused on God through the hardships they’ve faced in the midst of a pandemic.
International travel is still difficult, but God has made it possible for people to start returning to PNG. It was a joyous occasion when the first planes landed at our air strip in September, filled with missionaries that would lighten the load for those of us who stayed. In January, my music teacher colleagues were finally able to return to lighten my load!
After 27 years of translation work and various setbacks, the Gizrra Bible was dedicated in December 2020 - right in the middle of a global pandemic! It seemed like an impossible task to get God’s Word into the hands of the Gizrra people, but God made it possible. God speaks their language, too. Furthermore, this Bible was translated by the parents of a girl that I taught in school and was also in the youth Bible study I've lead for the past 6 years!
Sometimes it can feel like my role as a teacher/youth leader is insignificant. How much of a difference am I really making to further the work of Bible translation and spreading the Gospel by teaching band? Well, I’m encouraged to press on when I think about the Bible translations that happen because the school, where I teach, exists. I’m honored to pour into the lives of my students so that they can know Jesus and be sent into the world to share Christ with others.
Romans 5:2-6 says, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
I think many of us have felt these verses to the core. Suffering and trials are certainly not fun. We don't want them to happen. But when I reflect back on hard times, I often see the thread of perseverance and hope that strings everything together. When we come to the end of ourselves, God’s power shines even more.
-When have you become weary in doing good? What encourages you to press on?
-How have you seen God work through trials in your life?
-How can you support, encourage, or pray for an overseas missionary as they face burn out or feelings of insignificance?