Mark E. Rondeau

A warm welcome to Bennington for Gina and Tim Matthews, from Stuart, Fla., who have come to Bennington this week to help with volunteer projects.

The couple is planning to go on mission for two years in Papua New Guinea, and they have launched a fundraising campaign through Wycliffe Bible Translators (www.wycliffe.org), which aims to reach every group of people with the Christian scriptures in their own language.

Most recently they had sailed on a 30-foot catamaran to the Bahamas, where they help established an orphanage and taught. The upcoming mission will also involved water travel, which is no problem. Tim, 55, is a retired Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer.

As marine/boat operations manager, he will oversee various tasks in maritime services to serve overseas needs for safe water travel for missionary/translation teams in the Papua New Guinea region.

According to Wycliffe, "this position is to assure that transportation of team members among islands and along coastal areas is enabled by providing appropriate safety gear, boat services, and training. In addition, he will assist in developing proposals for projects and services to meet future water travel needs and serve as a link between those in the field and the maritime headquarters."

Gina, 49, who served in the U.S. Navy as a meteorologist, will be will be supporting Tim’s activities and providing water safety training.


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Their adventure there will start out with three months in a jungle survival school. There are more than 800 languages in Papua New Guinea and about 300 have not been translated. One implication of this is that the scriptures are not available in these languages. Many tribes live on small remote islands that can only be reached by boat. The couple will help provide the safe transportation needed to get the translators to these islands.

Several Florida newspapers have recently told the couple’s story. In notes Gina provided me from one of them, they described what they’ll be doing in Papua New Guinea.

"We will fly over to Papua New Guinea (located north of Australia) to start our training in January 2015. Our transportation (ferry) boat is being re-fitted at JAARS in Waxhaw, N.C. (a mission support organization) and will be sent by container shipment.," Gina said. "Tim will use this boat to bring the translators to the out islands that cannot be reached by boat. He will also be in charge of search and rescue when needed and water safety training. I am praying God will open a door for me to teach and share the gospel with the children.

"God is sending us to the other side of the world! Up until this point we had only used the resources God had already provided for us. Now, as Wycliffe missionaries, this organization has a foundation built on being a ‘faith based missionary,’" she added. "They believe that we are all called to be a part of the ‘Great Commission’ you can go like we are, you can pray for us (they need 400 prayer partners before they go) or you can help send us financially."

In a recent blog entry on their website about a radio interview, Tim wrote, "If anyone had told me that Gina and I would be on the radio five years ago representing the Bibleless people of Papua, New Guinea, my response would have been you are crazy! But God is crazy in a great way. He takes the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Here we are, send us!"

To make a donation to their mission, or offer prayer support, visit matthewsmaritimemissions.com.

JEWISH GENEALOGY WORKSHOP: A Jewish genealogy workshop will be offered locally Tuesdays, Aug. 12 and Aug. 19, from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Congregation Beth El Board Member Ellie Roden is conducting a Jewish Genealogy presentation and workshop. In the first session on Aug. 12, Ellie will tell her story about becoming interested in her family history and the discoveries she made in her 12 years of research. She will also share information, tools and tips for those want to do their own research.  The second gathering will be a work session during which Ellie will offer guidance and problem solving to participants working on their own laptops. These two sessions will be just a beginning point. For those who want to continue on with research, she will gladly schedule more sessions.

The workshop will meet in the Richard and Pamela Ader Social Hall at Congregation Beth El, 107 Adams St. This workshop is free and open to the public; Beth El encourages and gratefully accepts donations from those who are able to give. For more details, call Ellie at 802-464-5265.

POPE FRANCIS ON MIGRANT CHILDREN: A statement from Pope Francis on the crisis of migrant children arriving alone in the United States from Central America arrived in my email on Tuesday from the Vatican Information Service, English section, to which I subscribe.

In the statement, according to VIS, "the Pontiff urges the international community to promote the adoption of new forms of legal and safe migration and called for protection and a suitable reception for the many children who migrate cross the border with the United States unaccompanied. He also highlights the need for policies to inform potential migrants of the dangers of such a journey and above all, for initiatives to promote development in their countries of origin."

Francis noted that migration is a constant fact all over the world, a manifestation of globalization, yet "migration is still seen as an emergency, or as a circumstantial and sporadic fact, while instead it has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.

"It is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges," Francis said. "Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.

"Faced with this situation, I repeat what I have affirmed in this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: ‘A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization -- all typical of a throwaway culture -- towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world."

Mark E. Rondeau is the Banner’s county news and religion editor. He can be reached at mrondeau@benningtonbanner.com. Twitter @banner_religion