Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Kate Semmelbeck

Kate Semmelbeck left Ukarumpa today headed for her home in Flower Mound, Texas, where she attends Crossroads Bible Church. She plans to attend Moody Bible College and pursue a career in missions. God used this young lady mightily during the Vasui SALT course! She taught with authority and warmly ministered to the Vasui people. Thank you Kate for being obedient to the Lord. You have blessed us!

My name is Kate Semmelbeck, and I am 18 years old. For the past 5 years or so I have been considering becoming a Bible translator, so last spring I decided to graduate high school early (in December) and look for opportunities to serve and look more closely into translation work in the field. Through some contacts at home I got in touch with Mick Bandy, who agreed to allow me to join the Vasui SALT course in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

Being a part of The SALT Project has probably been THE most rewarding experience of my life. I have been part of numerous mission trips and countless hours of community service, but never before have I seen the message of Truth snatched up so hungrily. Never before have I witnessed people, upon hearing the Truth, immediately turn around to spread their new knowledge to all that they can reach in their community. Granted, I've only been on this earth 18 short years, but I know that this has been the privilege of a lifetime!

How cool is it that you also get be a part of this incredible ministry! Thank you so much for all of your prayers and giving that make it possible. I know that each time Mick returns from doing a course you hear of all the amazing ways God moved. Some day you will get to hear it from the mouths of the people themselves! I know that this is what I look forward to most; just hearing (with all language barriers and pride removed!) the ways that God used me to encourage His people and spread His truth.

Now, let me tell you about the Vasui SALT course. It is hard to summarize three and half packed weeks into one report, but here goes:

(I'll start with the basics.) Living arrangements in the village were pretty nice. We stayed in the translator's house (well, at least Carol and I did) and so we had running water (from a rain tank on top of the house) and electricity for a few hours in the day and beds and everything! Electricity was the best because that meant we got was so hot in Bougainville! At night it cooled down to 80 or 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so I could sleep, but the heat, coupled with the humidity, was a real challenge for me. We would also go down to the river most days for a "was-was" to cool off; we called it our "river dance."

The village food wasn't bad, and I think it was pretty much worm free! A pleasant surprise! Mostly, it was "greens" on top of rice, with "kaukau" (yams). "Greens" are tips of vines and other plants that the Vasui people clip off and boil. It was funny because when we would hike they would point to half the plants growing on the ground and say, "yu inap kaikai dispela" (you can eat this). That was interesting. But this was the menu at pretty much every single meal, except when the translators would cook for us. Honestly, I never realized how important food was to me until this trip!

Our SALT team consisted of six teachers, four men and two women, half nationals and half "white skins". It was a pretty diverse group; and I was the youngest by 10 years! The translators were expecting about 24 people to show up for the course, all church and community leaders. The first day we had 35 students, but ended up with 56 graduating! It was very exciting for us and encouraging to the translators.
My greatest fear was standing up in front of these 56 people and teaching; but that went extremely well! I do feel like God really spoke through me to give these people something they needed to hear. For example, the last lesson I taught was on "Walking in Forgiveness," which was a very important and meaningful topic for the Vasui people. The whole team kind of stepped up to field all the questions, but the class definitely had quite a debate over it. Also, in the students' final evaluation of the course, many said that this session was their favorite. Praise God!
Apparently, having two younger women (Carol and me) teaching was a huge blessing. About one quarter of the students were women, and Vasui women normally do not speak in front of men. However, during morning review the first day after we taught, women came to the front and shared what they had learned with confidence! Very cool to see these women gain that respect for themselves. The Paramount Chief (tribal leader) gave a speech at graduation in which he gave recognition to this fact; and he personally thanked Carol and me for being examples to the Vasui women. That was very cool!

On the last weekend of the Vasui SALT course the students went on "outreach", and they presented the material they had learned to outlying villages in their language group. The students were divided into 10 teams (of five to six persons each) and every individual on the team helped teach part of the assigned topic. The outreach team that I tagged along with did very well; and the people were very receptive to what they were sharing. In fact, many of the villagers asked the students to return and give more teachings. Again, praise God!

There are approximately 2,500 speakers of the Vasui language, and on these outreaches, the students witnessed to over 600 people. This represents almost 25% of the entire people group!

Overall, I think it's safe to say that the SALT course made the people thirsty for the truth of God! The students requested the SALT team to come back for a second course next year; and many others in the community are clamoring for this as well.

I cannot express enough how much of an impact these teachings made on the Vasui people; and I feel very privileged to have been able to serve the wonderful Vasui people through the ministry of SALT! Thanks to all of you who prayed for this course and made it possible!
Kate Semmelbeck and Carol Saferita