November 2023

November 18, 2023

Hi, everyone! We’ve been back in Papua New Guinea for a little over three months now. We’ve been reacclimating to language, culture and life here in general.

Just to recap since it has been a while - We took a medical furlough from June 2022-July 2023 to get Erin therapy for her speech delays, which was diagnosed as apraxia of speech. She had a year of classes and has progressed remarkably well. We had our baby, Emily, in February 2023 and headed back in late July once we got her passport and visa.

Our goal since we began our training all the way back in 2016 has been to move into an unreached people group who has no clear understanding of Jesus and the gospel because their language has never been learned and written down by outsiders. They're effectively cut off from the Good News because of this language barrier. The goal is to learn their language while living among them, document it, then chronologically present the story of the Bible from Creation to Christ for the first time in their language. After that comes the important and weighty task of discipleship and translation, Lord-willing leading to a self-sufficient indigenous church years down the road.

[As I re-read this, it comes across so matter of factly, but please know it has been a bumpy road already, full of shortcomings and failures. We know we are wholly inadequate for this task before us and frequently feel our "not-enough-ness." Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement for God to strengthen us.]

We first arrived in country in 2020 to learn the trade language, Tok Pisin (Pidgin). Due to the fact that there are 800 distinct languages in Papua New Guinea, baseline communication between the different people groups takes place in a trade language that is known by a fair number of speakers. During our first term, we learned Pidgin through the help of native speakers, completed an orientation training, became familiar with the culture here, spent two months in a bush location shadowing senior missionaries and "checked out" of the orientation-to-the-country phase. We are now right at the cusp of that goal of moving into a people group!

We’re currently in conversations with two other families about forming a team together to move into a tribe. (A team has to consist of three families/singles before you can move into a people group). For the past few months, we’ve been talking through lists of questions to see if we’re a good fit. We meet with a mentor couple every other week, and they help us with things we need to talk through and consider. So far, all signs point forward, and we seem to be a well-balanced team with differing strengths and personalities.

If you all would please pray for discernment as we continue the conversation. This is one of the biggest decisions that we all will make here. The next steps would be to live together in the same place for a period of time (currently, we’re all in separate places and have been video conferencing) while we continue conversations that include leadership. If all is still a go, we’ll then make a decision on which people group to move into. There are currently a couple tribes that we think might be a good fit for our team, but some need more scouting and survey work. Would you please pray for us? These decisions have ramifications for the rest of our lives.

To everyone who has ever prayed for us or given financially, thank you. Because of the remoteness of certain people groups, it takes more money to move into certain tribes because of the difficulty of moving supplies, but because of our financial supporters, we’re able to consider those areas that would require more money to live in.

In the meantime, we’ve been helping out on the field where we can. Sometimes that looks like giving bush missionaries rides to and from the airport or making meals for families that are out on base for a break.

In other exciting news, for the past two years, Nate’s been able to use his former career as a web developer and software programmer to help in a huge way here. He’s been working on an app for discourse analysis with one of the main language consultants in PNG. It will replace an out-dated and buggy current program that NTM-PNG has been looking to replace for years. Discourse analysis is the last stage of language learning; it’s where you take whole stories/speeches from native speakers and dissect the style and wording so that you can be a more natural speaker. I’m oversimplifying it, but it’s a pretty involved app to help with plugging in data and analyzing it. This past week, Nate formally introduced it in a field leadership meeting here. It was the culmination of hundreds of hours of hard work and expertise. It will be the official discourse analysis tool going forward for the field of Papua New Guinea, and ultimately, the plan is to use it mission-wide.

Aside from all that, we started homeschooling Erin in August. She’s adjusting pretty well here in “Papua MOO Guinea” and seems happy overall, but she has her moments (as we all do). Her speech is continuing to improve. Emily is 9 months old and crawling and eating and smiling sweet, toothy smiles. Both have had their share of sickness as their little bodies fend off new germs. Please pray for Erin to make friends and enjoy spending time outside. Please pray for God to save Erin; she seems to be understanding the stories of the Bible and can answer questions about who God is and what he’s done, but there doesn’t seem to be any illumination yet.

Thank you all for standing with our family here. We’re happy to be back.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” - John 1:5

Nate and Laura