Ben’s auto mechanics project in the picture isn’t exactly what I’m talking about, although I’m thankful for that. Ben is making good progress on it, and it should soon be able to pass a safety inspection and be street legal.
What we really need is a reliable, rugged, 4-wheel-drive vehicle that we can drive along the Highlands Highway and lesser roads without fear of breakdown or getting stuck. Cars and trucks cost a lot in Papua New Guinea, because none are made here, there is a high import duty, and transportation charges are high. Nevertheless, I believe that the Lord will provide both an affordable vehicle and the money to buy it debt-free. If He puts it on your heart to help us with this need, please do.
In a land where only about 10% of the people have electrical power in their houses, you might wonder what good such technology as electronics, satellites, radio, and cell phones might be. Actually, such technology is very useful, indeed. Technology is no substitute for living and proclaiming the Word of God. It can, however, make it easier to reach people with the Word of God and make the logistics of getting the Word of God to new people groups much easier.
We rely heavily on communication satellites. All of our telephone calls from Ukarumpa to anywhere farther than Kainantu are carried by satellite, no matter which way we make them. The Papua New Guinea Christian Broadcasting Network (also known as Wantok Radio Light) uses a satellite channel to distribute its programming to FM radio stations scattered all over the country. Our Internet connection is via satellite. In a country consisting of about 600 islands, including the very large and mountainous island of New Guinea, satellite links are the most practical way to communicate in many cases. Running cables all over the place is way too expensive, and far to vulnerable to damage by vandals, earthquakes, and other problems. We also make heavy use of HF and UHF radio links.
A few weeks ago, the local Wantok Radio Light station in Kainantu stopped working. Its receiver (shown in the picture) apparently suffered damage to its RF front end in a lightning storm. The station manager sent a replacement up via an SIL flight, and I put the new one in place. Many people were happy to be able to hear their favorite Christian programming, again.
Although few people have electrical power in their houses in Papua New Guinea, there are many battery-operated radios listening in. We have distributed about 700 fix-tuned, solar powered radios to people in Wantok Radio Light’s service area, so far.
Yes, the Good News of Jesus Christ is simple enough for a child to believe. Rocket science can help deliver that good news.
Our last field term in Ukarumpa, there was no mobile phone service at all in Ukarumpa, except for bulky and expensive hand-held satellite phones. Now, there is service from two different companies! One of those (B-Mobile) has excellent signal strength in Ukarumpa but high airtime prices. The other (Digicel) has better coverage most places in PNG and better prices, but weak signal strength in Ukarumpa. It is interesting to watch the culture changes that happen when technology like this comes to where it wasn’t available, before. The introduction of competition for telephone service has been resisted by the existing telephone company (Telikom and B-Mobile) and some people in government. Therefore, the newer and larger mobile phone network (Digicel) has been blocked from interconnecting with the existing telephone company, so far. Because of this political state of affairs, it takes two telephones to be able to talk to anyone with a telephone in the country. Both networks connect internationally, but there is a significant price difference ($1.97/minute for Telikom vs. $0.36/minute for Digicel). Fortunately, accepting inbound calls is free on both networks. I hope that Telikom wakes up, lowers prices, and makes an interconnect agreement with Digicel and Green Communications (the other licensed mobile phone service provider) before everyone cancels their B-Mobile and Telikom service and just goes with Digicel because of better service and lower prices.
Having these additional telephone services has significantly increased our communication reliability from Ukarumpa. In the last week or so, the “land line” service of Telikom from Ukarumpa to the outside world has gone out of service twice for about a day at a time, but mobile phone service was available at those times. (Telikom has had significant difficulties maintaining service due to theft and vandalism of their lines and equipment.)
The expansion of mobile telephone service in Papua New Guinea is a valuable additional communication option for many people, including Bible translators.
A helicopter is a wonderful but expensive machine. With it, we save lives. We do that by moving Bible translators into places they can’t get with fixed wing aircraft or wheeled vehicles to bring the Word of God to people so that they can be saved. Eternal life is the greatest gift we can get from God. God, in His great wisdom, has tasked us, His children, with sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with people so that they can believe in Him and gain eternal life with Him.
Of course, we also save lives with this machine in the more common sense, too. SIL Aviation recently made national news by saving the life of a pregnant mother in distress. It is good to show Jesus’ compassion in practical ways. See http://www.thenational.com.pg/100207/nation12.htm for that article.
So, how do we pay for this expensive machine? With a combination of donations and commercial work done with that machine in between Bible translation and life-saving runs.