|Missionary Update: Greg & Laura Melendes
Post Date: 2009-11-19 19:00:12
Nothing makes a missionary in the US feel more like a missionary than deputation?an antiquated term, as we would say in the translation world. Plane flights that don?t take 13 hours, learning all the tricks of your rented car just before you turn it in, getting lost, sleeping in a variety of beds, digging the toothbrush out of suitcase as big as a haystack? getting lost.
But there are also the joys awaiting you at the end of the road. Visiting with special friends well into the night, seeing how much the kids have grown since the last visit, meeting folks new to the church, hugging old friends?and finally, best of all, telling the story. Telling the story of what God has done among the Waxe never gets old.
And now that we?re home from telling the story in places like Christmas Valley, Oregon and Chattaroy, Washington, I?ve realized that there are still so many stories we haven?t told you all. So, to better familiarize you with the Waxe church we?ve decided to tell you stories?a different believer?s testimony each month. Each one will be attached to our regular update, so it?s up to you if you want to open it.
Stories from Colorado Springs aren?t nearly exciting, though we have put aside our Romans revision and have begun Luke, a book Kletus helped draft. Our plans are to ?clean? up the first draft (1,151 verses) over the next three months, then continue to refine the translation during a visit to PNG early in 2010.
Appropriately, we?re going to start with a man named Kletus, our primary co-translator. We?re hoping you?ll not only be blessed by it, but that you?ll be moved to pray for each brother or sister on a regular basis.
Kletus is the name given him by the priest when he was baptized, but maybe it?s better to use it anyway as his Waxe name would be hard to spell and even harder to pronounce.
He was a mere teenager when New Tribes Mission first surveyed the Korosomeri River in the late 1970?s. When Peter and Freda Green, the first missionaries to the Waxe, moved into the village of Meska, Kletus became a valuable language helper and friend. A young man in the culture, sans any influence, he stood by helplessly when the capricious village elders inexplicably expelled the Greens from the village a year later.
Yet young as he was, he understood the power of words. So he wrote a pas, a letter, to the leaders of NTM?s Sepik Region. Though long destroyed, the message of the letter lives on. In his finest Melanesian Pidgin he simply challenged the leaders to send the Greens back to the Waxe. They came to tell us God?s talk, and we still haven?t heard. Send them back to us, plis (please).
Remarkably, the Greens did return, though to the smaller, upriver village of Wenim. It was there we joined them in 1982?and there was affable Kletus, a still valuable language helper and friend. As Peter?s primary helper, he was the first to hear the gospel and, we thought, the first to believe.
Kletus continued to help us navigate the complications of the Waxe language. He helped Peter craft lessons and he helped us refine the translation of Genesis. When we first presented the gospel to a handful of folks in May 1986, Kletus was right there, a character in the Bible story skits, a handy Waxe dictionary whenever a word would escape us.
So we were surprised when he approached us shortly thereafter and announced, in essence, that he thought he had previously understood the message of the gospel?but now I truly understand and kwaténainteya?I believe!
Since that day, Kletus has had a tremendous impact on the Waxe church. He was an integral part of the team that preached the gospel in Meska, where, some claimed, the gospel would never be preached. He regularly taught in Sunday services, and given He only had God?s Word at his disposal, he was one of the best teachers we heard in any church. We even missed hearing him when we were home on furlough.
Yet as years went on, Kletus? heart?s desire was to see God?s Word translated into his own language. So strong was his desire that during our hardest days in the Waxe, he was the one who encouraged us to keep working. When we wanted to quit, he was the one who picked us up and reminded us how important it was to finish the job.
It was a typical, hot and sticky afternoon in my little office, but we were going through a very special passage--especially to someone who lived much of his life fearing pervasive evil spirits.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As we finished these final verses of Romans 8, his eyes began to well up with tears.
Waxe men do not cry. Women cry. Ax wounds, centipede stings, wild pig bites?Waxe men do not cry. But those words in his language so touched his heart he began to sob. Unaccustomed to such behavior, and not wanting to give him a shame, I quietly stepped out of the office, walked to our nearby house, and joined him in tears of joy.
Today Kletus is our primary co-translator, the one who sits down for countless hours, patiently moving exegesis into rough draft, then preparing the text for the next level of refinement by others. And when the translation is finally polished and checked with a consultant, he?s right there to help clear up any problems that may arise.
It?s been nearly 30 years since the Greens first set foot in Meska. Kletus is no longer a young man. He now has baim, grey hair. Yet his heart is unchanged. When we return to the village next year he?ll be ready to get to work.
You see, though long removed from those tumultuous early days of the Waxe work, Kletus still understands the power of words.
Please pray for Kletus? health as he enters his later years in the typical Waxe lifespan. He is an integral part of the team, and it?s obvious he wants to be there when the New Testament is finally published.
Pray for his spiritual health and testimony as well. There are numerous entanglements in a small and remote society. Pray Kletus can walk above them and remain a leader in the church and community.
We close with grateful hearts for your financial investment in our ministry, your love and your prayer support. Without you all, the Waxe story would be very different.
Please pray for:
- wisdom in the exegesis of Luke, and for steady progress as we focus on this book over the next weeks.
- guidance as we begin to plan our next trip to PNG, set for late February or early March 2010.
- Laura as she enters the Waxe text into the computer and does preliminary checks.
Let me close with three quotes on prayer from John Piper?s missions classic, Let the Nations Be Glad?
?Prayer is the power that wields the weapon of the word, and the word is the weapon by which the nations will be brought to faith and obedience?Prayer is the walkie-talkie of the church on the battlefield of the world in service of the word. It is not a domestic intercom to increase the temporal comfort of the saints?When missions moves forward by prayer, it magnifies the power of God.?
Thank you all for your prayers on our behalf, and on behalf of the Waxe church.
Love in Him,Greg and Laura