‘Isabel Pamatmat’

Language learning, culture acquisition, cancer and Bible translation. Madonna has had a wealth of life experience working in Papua New Guinea before coming on board as a mentor with the Connect program. Working as a translator, she spent the first three years learning language and culture amongst the Patpatar people of New Ireland PNG which in turn grew to spending nine years on the field.

With many ups and downs including having breast cancer, managing other people’s medical emergencies in the middle of the night to discipling many women on the field, she brings with her a wealth of wisdom for participants preparing to work cross culturally. 

We spoke to her about her joys of mentoring, the advice she would give to participants as well as the importance of Bible Translation. 

My greatest joy has been meeting up with people who have the same passion and commitment to the Great Commission. It’s not about marking someone’s exams in order to get the answers right, it’s about getting involved in the participants lives and making an impact. It is a great joy to be able to connect with like-minded students and talk about the things I am most passionate about.

Q: How do you hope to see more and more participants equipped and prepared for cross cultural work? 

M: My hope is that the participants will definitely be equipped and have the tools to be able to evaluate clearly what those areas or points of difference are in culture. It’s better to be able to swim and thrive and grow when Connect members go overseas rather than drown and be swamped by things they don’t understand and can’t comprehend within another culture. The whole purpose of the Connect program is to equip people for that. 

There’s always going to be honeymoon period of living over there. Then reality will kick in where you’ll realise that people see the world differently and speak a different language. Having those tools to be able to understand culture better is what will make you thrive and grow. 

Q: What advice would you give participants currently doing Connect? 

M: Don’t give up. Keep going. I realise that all of our connect participants are doing other things. You’re not just doing this course, you’re also working, studying and doing ministry in your own churches. There are a lot of things happening. Our participants are being pulled in all sorts of different directions so it can be overwhelming. However, don’t give up. Keep finding those little snippets of time to keep working through the course when you can. Keep plugging away at it.

I really admire people who go through this course because it is a long trajectory and a huge commitment of time and effort. There’s not a real certificate at the end other than the sense of being well prepared to work cross culturally. I really admire you guys for doing that.

God never wastes an opportunity to teach us. Everything that is happening in the training or in life, God is preparing for you for the future. Nothing is wasted. God never wastes an opportunity to help us grow in whatever endeavours we have. Things might happen which might not be what was originally planned, but God knows and has planned it all along and there is a reason for it, so be encouraged. 

Q: Why have you found Bible Translation to be so important? 

M: Two things. Firstly, when the bible is translated into the local people’s language, it just sings to them. Translation makes it so much easier to teach them the truth and it’s less likely that they will be confused about what is being said because it is being spoken clearly in their own heart language. That’s number one. 

Number two. For the future of the church.  If they don’t have the Bible that’s in a language that they feel comfortable in, there is no future church.  Truth will gradually be added and they’ll pick up other ideas. It’s important that the message is consistent and will be there for future generations in their heart language. 

Q: What advice would you give to those considering Bible Translation work in the future? 

M: Do it. But be prepared for a hard slog. The tediousness of it can be very mundane. Don’t expect it to be glamourous. I was thinking of this past year when I was finishing off Genesis that I knew I still had a long way to go. I was looking forward to a particular step to be done and I realise that it’s not always enjoyable, but it’s incredibly rewarding. 

‘It’s a hard slog but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because it’s something greater than yourself.’

Don’t enter into Bible Translation as a romantic thing or an exceptionally exciting thing. Be aware that it is a lot of work and tedious and you’ve just got to be careful in approaching the Bible. However, it is certainly worth it and when you hear news from your friends overseas who have really enjoyed reading the Bible. It’s moments like that which motivates you to want to spend all those hours and hours trying to get it right. The reward of people being able to read God’s Word in their heart language is what keeps you going. My advice would be prepared for hard work, but know that it is worth it.


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