Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ukarumpa International School: Band Teacher

Marlene Schutter is
head of the music department and teaches
instrumental music at Ukarrmpa Internationsl School.
We were blessed by the ministry of the music department at Ukarumpa International School, not only by the wonderful concerts but by the teachers who taught our kids in band.  Thank you, Marlene!

Marlene writes:

I get to teach instrumental music at the “ends of the earth”.  Well, that’s what one visitor said to me when he got off a little Cessna 206 after flying for two hours over heavy jungle terrain.

In reality though, even though I am in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, I have much of the same things you do.  Running water (until the drought we are having causes problems in that area!) and an indoor toilet.  My home is made of plywood and on stilts for the sake of earthquakes, but hey, it’s home to me.  We are 5000 feet above sea level, so even though it is the tropics, it has gotten down to 54 degrees in my bedroom at night.  That’s right, there is no insulation and I have louvered windows that add a little breeze through their ‘not tight’ openings.  When I have come back to the States on furlough, people have been very generous in giving me things to help decorate my home.  I love it…obviously, since I’ve been here for 35+ years!

We have one little store on center that provides food and staples for us to buy.  There are other stores in the larger towns around PNG, but it takes traveling by vehicles (which I don’t own) and in some cases, can be cause for concern for fear of holdups.  We also have a fresh market produce on Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 6-8am.  People come in from the villages for miles around to sell their produce.  Because of the drought, we are seeing fewer people come because their gardens are drying up.  This is a concern around the entire country right now.

Ok, now that you have an idea that I’m not really living in an uncivilized situation, I’ll tell you about my school, UIS—(Ukarumpa International School).  It has about 250 children in K-12. There have been times when I have had thirteen different nationalities represented in my band! 
Our students consist of MK’s (Missionary Kid’s), Papua New Guinea nationals, and commercial students whose parents work in the area.  Teachers come from around the world to teach here.  Not for the money though.  Each family or single raises their own support through an organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT-USA).  I have four supporting churches and many individual supporters that are faithful every month to send money into WBT-USA for me.  I sometimes get surprises from people I don’t even know personally who have sent in money for me to help meet some need that I might have.  It’s called living on faith.

Several years ago (2002), our music building was a classroom that had the lowest ceiling of all the classes on campus.  You know what that can do to a director’s hearing!  Not only that, it had been built in the late 70’s and the beams were now rotted out, there were cracks in the cement floor bringing with it dust and dirt, and black mildew had overridden the place. (Remember:  tropics-rainy season-humidity.  It can do huge damage.)  Because of working in this environment, my asthma turned into pneumonia which turned into a life threatening situation.  I ended up in a hospital in Cairns, Australia and had to spend two months recovering enough to travel back to Grand Rapids, MI, my USA stomping grounds.

When I returned, the school administration had people in the community come and try to clean the music building up as much as possible for me, but determined that a new building is what we needed.  A new building wasn’t in the school budget, so I set about raising $135,000 for it.  It took a few years, but finally we were able to move into a building that has over double the height of our last building and big enough to set up the band on one side and the choir on the other!  It’s been wonderful to work in an environment that is now clean and I even have an air conditioner in my private lesson room.  This helps keep things clean when people in the valley are burning off the sides of the mountains to make their gardens.  The smoke can be overwhelming.

We order music and instruments from the States and a lot of it is shipped by boat that can take months to get here.  Let’s put it this way:  We have to plan ahead!   The blessing we have is that we do have internet…expensive, but I can listen to pieces and decide if that is really what I want to do with my students.  We do have a large library as we have collected many pieced over the years.  Some have only been used for sight-reading because back before the computers, we ordered sight unseen or by word of mouth.  If we didn’t like it, we at least used it for sight-reading!

Over the years, there have been times when I was the only instrumental band person here.  I would start beginners in 5th grade, then middle school grades 6-8, and high school grades 9-12.  I also started a Jazz band.  I could say that those were the “good ole days”, but to be really honest, if I hadn’t been young at that time, I’m not sure I could have done it.  I had to make all my meals from scratch…homemade bread, etc. I didn’t have an automatic washer that I could walk away from and come back later when it had run its cycle.  Don’t get me wrong, life was fun, even with all the extra work that needed to be done at the time.  Back in the early 80’s, we had one television with video on center and two videos! (Roots and Against the Wind)  We singles played a lot of games on weekends or took motorbike rides down to the river to go swimming.  Kids learned to play games using their imagination…no electronics back then!  It really was a whole different world.  The world was moving on with electronics, and we were standing in place doing snail mail.  It took 4-6 weeks to get a letter, then another 4-6 weeks before they would receive a reply.  Phone calls were not existent for me unless it was an emergency.  It was way too expensive to call out.

Ok, I’ve gotten off the beaten path again!  Sorry about that.

My professional development over the years has included getting instrument repair help from a gentleman who started the instrument repair school in Redwing, Minnesota.  He was kind enough to spend two weeks with me teaching the basics of instrument repairs so I would be able to do them when I got back to PNG.  No music shop to bring broken springs, or bad pads to…just me at the time.

Over the years, more people started coming to work in PNG and I have had three different guys and one gal who have proven their worth in more ways than one in helping teach our kids here in the UIS Music Department.  I’ve taught them what I know in instrument repair, but we also have internet now and a lot of those things are on line, so that’s a big help.

Getting to go to the Midwest Clinic has been so beneficial to me when I have been in the States on furlough.  It not only gives me new ideas, it reinforces those things which I have been doing.  Sometimes when you are alone in the middle of nowhere, it’s easy to wonder if you are doing the right thing with your students, or maybe there might be a better way and you haven’t heard about it.  Since we are the only school in the country that has a band just like ours, we have no competition.  When I go to a conference, I love hearing other bands performing a piece that I’ve done with my group.  I can’t help but think through what I’m hearing and compare what my group has done.  My mind is saying… “yes, I like that” or, “I like the way my group was able to do that…”

Over the years we have had students performing
with well-known symphonies or orchestras not only in the USA, but also in Europe.  I’ve had a student come back to visit who is now a band director in Texas.  I say this because I have heard the comment, “What good can come out of Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea?”    We have great kids, and it is a great place to teach.  Great things can come out of Ukarumpa!

This past year I have been going down to the capital city, Port Moresby, one weekend a month to train teachers and help teach young Papua New Guinean children who have never seen a “Western” instrumental band!  This is a new challenge for me.  I am very grateful for the people who donated instruments and music books for this group.

I’m looking at coming back to the USA in 2020 to finally put roots down in my “home” country.  Papua New Guinea will have been my home for 40 years by that time!  I hope to settle in the Grand Rapids, MI area and would love to give some lessons, maybe visit some local bands.  I can’t imagine my life without music and kids!

If you'd like to learn more about Ukarumpa International School, click here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Jesus has called us to make disciples in every nation. Is God calling you to Vanuatu to help make those disciples?

Vanuatu is an island nation with a population of 250,000, spread out over 80 islands and home to over 100 distinct language groups.  Many of these do not have any Scripture in their mother tongue, the language that they use every day, the language of their heart. 

The JOY of Mentoring and Discipleship through Bible Translation

From SIL Vanuatu Director, Greg Carlson and his wife Bethann.

SIL Vanuatu works holistically in partnership with Vanuatu Bible Translation, the fellowship of national translators.  The consistent request of the local churches is to have full-time Bible translation advisors living in their communities, learning their languages and advising them in the Bible translation task.

What a joy to chew through each line of Scripture with them, meditating on its meaning, translating it; and watching them absorb it themselves!  One of the greatest joys in Bible translation is getting “off topic” at the translation desk, discussing the impact these Scriptures must have on our lives and watching people grow as the truths of Scripture are impressed on them.  Many translators go on to become pastors or elders in their church, and are known to be the best Bible teachers and preachers.  The translation checking process itself impacts God’s people and unbelievers in the community, as we read Scriptures and ask comprehension questions that offer further opportunity for discussion and growth.

While we do not take on roles as church leaders in any church, as translation advisors equipped with good understanding of the Bible as well as the language and culture, we are often called upon to have a role in training, teaching and occasional preaching in the local churches. 

Our involvement in the communities brings many opportunities for personal evangelism and one-on-one discipleship, as we help with practical and community development needs.

SIL Vanuatu follows this holistic “traditional model”.  We are encouraged by the fruit that it has produced.  Over the past 34 years, the VBT/SIL partnership has produced 7 New Testament translations.  We expect 2 more translations will be launched in 2016, and another 2 translations in 2017.    We are encouraged by the way that churches and language communities are  “owning” their Bibles, engaging with them, growing in evangelism and discipleship, and wanting more in the way of literacy, Bible study, and translation.  We are encouraged that the people we are working with are becoming true leaders. And we are very encouraged by growing momentum in the Bible translation movement.

Pastor Aman at N. Tanna Bible dedication

Pastor Aman Alang was a pastor in N. Tanna, where
he saw first had the effect of God’s Word in the heart language.  He has been asking for a translation advisor since 2008, and we thank God that an advisor team is on the way in 2016!

Mentoring and Discipleship through Scripture Engagement

With all these New Testaments rolling off the presses in recent years, SIL Vanuatu has really stepped up the Scripture Engagement thrust.  We have one new Scripture Engagement team on the ground and three more who will be arriving before the end of 2015!  After learning the local language, these teams will be equipped to help churches and individuals dig into available Scriptures.

Father Norman

Father Norman Candy, a ni- Vanuatu Bible translator has been working on I Corinthians. As he reads what Paul has to say about the Resurrection in I Corinthians 15, he writes, “You know that many of us rural ni-Vanuatu have very different beliefs about what happens to a person’s spirit at death.  When people hear what the Bible says, may it change their thoughts and hearts, as they put their trust in God and His Word.”


In recent years, we in Vanuatu, like many places in the world have found the power of scriptures in audio format. All of our published New Testaments are in audio on MegaVoice players, as well as in print. We’re also using the audio in the translation and testing process.


Literacy is a crucial part of Bible Translation and Scripture Engagement. Here are some thoughts from our ni-Vanuatu friends:

Pastor Joshua
·         Pastor Kiel, Assemblies of God pastor from Lenakel language: “It is written!  What my people need most is to learn to read God’s Word.”
·         Pastor Joshua, Presbyterian pastor from N. Tanna language:  “We need more literacy work!”

·         Pastor Fiama from Futuna:  “I want to start a Christ-centered school in my language.”
·         “Can you come run a kindergarten workshop?”
·         “Can you help us develop a primer?”


The Vanuatu Group works as a team, even though we are often in different language groups or on different islands. We usually assign one team to on language area. But we are also assigning Scripture Engagement teams to partner with current translation projects to achieve project goals and also to provide fellowship and encouragement. We are also looking at placing new translation teams near current projects in related languages for mutual help and encouragement in their respective projects.

Who are we looking for?
 -well-trained people with a clear sense of God’s calling.

-those with a love for God’s Word and a desire to share this with Ni-Vanuatu people.

-people who are flexible, spiritually hardy, motivated, resourceful and self-starters.

-ability to work together as a country-wide team to get the task done.

-people who would enjoy living amongst Ni-Vanuatu and have a desire learn their language and culture.

-translation teams as well as Scripture Use workers.

Would like to learn more? Contact Wendy at 

More Information and Stories from Vanuatu

Vanuatu Bible  Lots of good information about the ministry there.

Pacific Bible  on Facebook has many short posts about the work in Vanuatu.

North Tanna NT Dedication

Blog Post: Lewo Bible Dedication

Blog post: Translation Need: How much longer will they have to wait?

Blog post: South Tanna NT Dedication

Blog post:
"JESUS" DVD in the North Tanna

Blog post:
Vanuatu Women find meaning in the Bible

Blog post:
International Literacy Day

Blog post:
Critical thinking skills for National Translators

Blog post: Overcoming Obstacles: Audio Bibles

Until 1980, when it achieved independence, Vanuatu was called New Hebrides, and ruled jointly by Great Britain and France. Vanuatu means “the land stands” or “exists.” People born in Vanuatu are called “Ni-Vanuatu.”
The islands of Vanuatu are part of Melanesia, a large archipelago that includes Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The country’s population of around 250,000 is scattered over 82 islands totaling about 13,000 sq. km. of land. From top to bottom the islands stretch across 875 kilometers (about 550 miles) of Pacific waters.

Traditionally these communities were oriented to the land as gardeners rather than to the sea as fishermen. Their diet primarily consists of root crops such as yams and manioc, plus lush tropical fruits – bananas, pineapples and citrus fruits.
Almost all Ni-Vanuatu have had some contact with Christianity for well over 100 years through different missionary and church agencies. Early missionary work included attempts at Bible translation. About 38 language groups have some Scripture, but most were done in the late 1800s and are no longer understood.


A Ni-Vanuatu lady encourages Lewo speakers to 'go inside' God's Word.

"A Bible in a language you can't understand is like a locked door. Now that it’s been translated into your language the door is open for you to go inside."

And Serah Markton, the secretary of Vanuatu Bible Translation (VBT), continued by encouraging the speakers of the Lewo language on Epi island to really go inside God's Word, reading it well, asking many questions to better understand its meaning.

Serah has worked alongside SIL for over 20 years and during those years, has developed a passion for Bible translation and a growing love for God's Word, which she now communicates well to her ni-Vanuatu audience.

At the recent Literacy-Scripture use workshop on Epi, Serah also pointed out to the communities their responsibility to support their mother tongue translators: "Perhaps you don't have money to give him, but put a hand of bananas in his kitchen or a pile of fire wood at his door." She knows just what to say!

VBT’s role includes helping to make the people of Vanuatu more aware of what Bible translation is all about and also to spur on projects at the grass-roots level. Serah performed those roles well and provided a great foundation for the Literacy-type activities covered in the workshop.

Where There Wasn't One Before
by Ken and Mendy Nehrbass

SIL leaders hiked around Southwest Tanna, Vanuatu, (formerly New Hebrides) in 2002, looking for a suitable village where Mendy and I could begin advising a translation of the New Testament. They looked at a couple of other villages, in addition to Yanemilen. Chiefs of Yanepkasu, another large village in the Southwest Tanna language group met together and decided that they would not allow an SIL advisor to work in their village. They didn’t want a church, or a missionary or a white person (who would represent the West and the church to them) to live in their village.

But last week I went to Yanepkasu with a group of pastors and mission workers to witness the opening of the village’s first church.

In the early 20th Century people in Southwest Tanna were either attending or at least aware of the Presbyterian Church, but in the 1940's, the Jon Frum Cargo cult swept through the language group. Virtually all of the congregations in SW Tanna fell apart.

This cult taught that Christianity would cause sickness and disasters, and would impede the “cargo” from coming. Men in Yanemilen and Yanepkasu villages took an oath sealed in pig's blood that they would never send their children to church, school, or the hospitals, lest they become Christians.

That covenant lasted until 2000, when Elder Eliud, a Tannese believer from another language group, came to plant a church in Yanemilen. By 2002, several families had joined the church, opening the door for an SIL project there. Mendy and I moved in to Yanemilen in February, 2003 to begin Bible translation.

As the church in Yanemilen grew in Christ, they became concerned for the spiritual welfare of their relatives across the mountain in Yanepkasu. A handful of people in Yanepkasu had become Christians and began attending churches in nearby villages.

In 2004, the church in Yanemilen sent one of their elders to live in Yanepkasu and plant a church. Two years later, they had enough people attending services to construct their own building. Now Yanepkasu has its own church. (The other two villages that would not allow SIL workers -- Yematukwa and Yenfitana -- also have churches now!)

But there’s work to be done. Only a handful of people in Yanepkasu attend the new church and even those have not really had a chance to become clear about what the Good News of Jesus is.

And how could they? They have heard very little of the Scripture in their own language—but help is on the way! They now have 90% of the New Testament completed and only have I Corinthians and Romans left!

Praise God for the new church in Yanepkasu and pray they will grow in their faith and knowledge of God, and that they will be full of the joy that come

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PNG: Communications and Technical Services

Communications and Technical Services (CTS) is a vital department supporting Bible translation and the SIL PNG community. Those who work in CTS intentionally select, create and maintain technology systems for the purpose of accelerating and accomplishing the translation of the Bible into all languages.

CTS provides communications and technical services and products to SIL PNG translators and support workers as well as other missions and private customers in PNG.

The CTS department consists of about 20 national and ex-patriate employees (more needed!!) working together in Programming, Networking, Telephone, Electronics Repair, and Solar Power.   

:  Supports corporate and home networks, satellite connection (for internet and  email), data backup, maintenance of internal websites in Ukarumpa and seven regional centers.  

: Handles the telephone services (VOIP and analog) for on-Center calls and works in providing connections to Telikom and Digicel Networks in PNG.

: CTS is the go-to-place when something

needs to be repaired.  The department has  repaired electrical tools, household appliances (from toasters to microwaves), TVs, radios, uninterruptable power systems, alarms, watches and clocks, power inverters, stereos, printers/copiers, ink and laser cartridge refill, HF radios, computers (and everything that attaches to them), and solar systems. CTS also provides technical assistance via radio to village teams and rental equipment.

Sales Counter
:  CTS has a store that stocks things from electrical components to mice, to batteries, to solar panels.  CTS also can special order items that are not in stock.

Help Desk
:  Provides services including virus and

malware scans, installing licensed software and updates to Microsoft, Apple, and Linux computer systems.

While serving the translation activities in the country, the CTS Department is located in Ukarumpa our Linguistic Centre.   

In our experience of living at Ukarumpa, being involved in a Bible translation program and reading over all that the Communications and Technical Services provides to support Bible translation, I can safely say:

This department is extremely important and vital for the 200+ Bible translation programs that are going on now, not to forget the 300+ languages still waiting for God’s Word in a language they can clearly understand.

Would you consider using your skills to further Bible translation in PNG by serving in one of these areas for a year or more?  

To learn more, email Wendy at