My name is David Robert Palmer. I am the author of this website as well as the translator of the new Bible translation offered for download on this site. Some of my readers and visitors have asked for my Christian testimony, and / or my biography. That is a good idea, so here it is. My father took many pictures, so I have included some of them.
My parents, Tom and Corinne Palmer, were missionaries in Papua New Guinea with New Tribes Mission (now called Ethnos 360) until 2016. They went to Papua New Guinea (hereinafter PNG) as single people, he in 1953 and she in 1954. They got married in 1956, and here is a pic of them during their honeymoon in 1956.
I was born in PNG and raised in Hamtai territory and lived in PNG until I was 15 years old.
Here are some pictures of Hamtai people.
My parents learned the language of the Hamtai tribe, my father working with the goal of translating the Bible, and my mother determined what their phoneme set was, set up their alphabet, invented their orthography, and made reading primers and lessons to teach them to read and write.
The first believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ from the Hamtai tribe was a man named Kabis.
Our house, where I was raised as a child, was on a high plateau, which had a steep cliff on one side that faced a gold miner’s canal below. (These details are important to my testimony.) An Australian gold miner had diverted water from a river near us, and conducted it many miles by canal and aqueduct to where he was prospecting for gold. The canal was my main swimming area as a child. However, the canal ended below the cliff next to our house, at which point it went into a large pipe which descended into a valley and then up the other side of the valley, and then on to the gold sluicing area. In the bottom of the valley in that pipe there have been found the skeletons of other children who got sucked down into the pipe. As a small child, my most common nightmare was being sucked down into that dark pipe in overwhelming water.
In the picture below, our house was the one in the upper left. You can see to the left of it, a cliff, and the canal cut out of the hillside below. My friend Billy Zell’s house was the one in front of ours across the canal, and in the middle of the picture, and my friend Tim Tuccelli’s house is in the far right on the peninsula of land that looks like the state of Florida. Most every morning when I woke up, it was slightly chilly, and I would go out and sit at the top of the cliff, and soak in the morning sun, and the singing of the Willy Wagtail birds, and enjoy the view.
Soon after I had turned 3 years old, I was given this wagon, in which the locals would pull me around.
I often played alone and unsupervised. One such day, when I was 3 years old, I decided to do what I had seen bigger kids do, and I pulled my wagon to the top of the incline of our back yard, and I got into the wagon and coasted downhill, steering with the handle. It was working, until the left wheel hit a large clump of grass, and that steered the wagon sharply to the left, and I went over the cliff.
I was headed to the canal below, the canal that soon afterward went into the large pipe that went down into the valley. The cliff was rocky and barren, and I tumbled, until I landed on a rock that was jutting out of the cliff. I remember this well, brothers and sisters. I was covered in dirt, and I cried, and sucked my dirty thumb. No one heard me, as there had been no one around at the time. The rock I was sitting on was not that large, and it sloped downward, and I looked down and was afraid I was going to slip off the rock. Then someone spoke to me. He said, “Don’t be afraid. God has things for you to do.” My guess is it was the angel that was assigned to me. I felt warm and comforted, and calmed down. As I sat there, in my imagination and memory was replayed my father playing on the organ and singing one of his favorite songs, The Ninety and Nine. The end of the song says “Rejoice for the Lord brings back his own.” I also pictured a full page panel from a children’s book of Bible stories we had. I could see the one lost sheep down on a rocky cliff, and Jesus Christ the good shepherd reaching down in the dark storm and lightning to get the stray sheep, having left the other 99 sheep.
After quite some time, I heard my mother calling me for supper. She alternated calling me in English and in the Hamtai language. “Ndeveto, ita nano wapuyo.” David in Hamtai is Ndeveto. Soon I could hear concern in her voice, since I neither answered nor came. Then I could hear her calling for some Hamtai people to help search for me. Eventually a Hamtai man saw me and climbed down and took me up to supper.
The Canal Again
“Mom, can I go to Billy’s house?”
“Okay, but only if you promise to use the car bridge. Do you promise to use the car bridge and not the foot bridge?”
“Yes, I promise, I will.”
I was four years old, and barefoot, and in order to get to Billy Zell’s house, I had to cross the gold miner’s canal. As I started down the hill, I noticed that the rocks and dirt were extra hot that day on my bare feet. I looked down to the car bridge, which was all the way down to near Tuccellis’ house, and at that age looked to me very far away. It was so hot, I just did not want to walk that far and then have to double back to Billy’s house on the other side of the canal. But there was a foot bridge much closer. It was just a rough pole stretched across the canal that the Hamtai people used to cross it. I chose to go across that foot bridge, as I had explicitly promised my mother I would not do.
When I crossed the foot bridge over the canal, I must have slipped, and fell into the water. I remember the bottom of the canal gently moving by as I floated face down in the water, and I was noting the beauty of the different color of the rocks, and the shimmer of the sunlight hitting them through the rippling water. I was completely calm, and I don’t remember struggling for breath, or panicking, or trying to swim. After all, the last time I had fallen toward this canal, an angel told me not to be afraid. And I wasn’t afraid.
Billy Zell’s mother, Laverne, was a typist for the mission. She typed the various documents produced by the other missionaries on the team. Typing is a tedious job of course, and she decided to take a break and pray as she walked along the levy next to the canal. As soon as she came up to the top of the levy near her house, she saw me floating down the canal face down, and she pulled me out.
My Born Again Experience
My mother would plant many different shrubs and trees around our house. We had orange trees, lemon trees, mango trees, papayas, and many different colorful-leaved shrubs, and many different flowers. When I was 5 years old, we had a rim of double hibiscus around the outer edge of our plateau.
The main play activitiy of young boys in PNG was to shoot child-sized bows and arrows. I and my friends had bows and arrows. One day I noticed how big the hibiscus were, and that they would make great target practice for our bows and arrows. So I suggested to my Hamtai friends that we shoot all the hibiscus flowers, and that is what we did. We shot them all, and many of the large floppy petals fell onto the ground. We set down our bows and arrows, and moved on to something else to play at.
When my mother came outside, she shrieked, “My hibiscus! What happened to all my hibiscus?” I pointed at my little Hamtai friends, and I said, “They did it.”
As I lay on my bed later that day, I could see the look of shock and hurt on my friends’ faces. I could hear the anguish of my mother’s voice. I could feel the alienation from my friends, and betrayal of trust with them and with my mother. I knew that what I had done was wrong. “You shall not bring false testimony against your neighbor.” I realized that I had lied, and that I was a liar. Worst of all, I could sense the alienation that my lie had caused between myself and that warm peaceful spirit that had always comforted me and reassured me. I could sense darkness and anger and loneliness. I knew what it was. My mother had told me the gospel. I knew that I had committed a sin, and that I was a sinner. I knew that my sin had separated me from God and from my mother and from my friends. I felt sad. And I felt afraid. Afraid of God and his anger and judgment. I knew that God is holy and that he casts sinners away from his presence and that they end up in hell.
I called for my mother. She came into my bedroom and sat on my bed. She must have seen that something was wrong, and she asked me what was wrong. I said I was afraid I was going to hell. So I told her that it was my idea to shoot up the hibiscus, and that I had lied, and I felt very bad. She explained to me that all people sin, and were hopelessly addicted to sin and bound for God’s judgment, but she reminded me that God loved us in the world so much that he had become a human to help us, in the body of Jesus Christ, and he had taken the punishment for our sins, and shed his blood on the cross for my sins included. She asked if I would like to confess my sin to God and ask for his blood to cleanse me from my sin, and for God to come into my heart. I said yes, and I told God I had sinned by lying, and I wanted God to be back in my heart. I experienced God’s forgiveness, and my mother’s forgiveness, and I regained the peace and warmth I had before.
But now it was a little different. I had a sense of humility, and a new awareness of my other sins. For a few years after that point, I was quite tender hearted, and humble and meek. I now was an intent listerner in church. All the missionaries met together for church, with all their children of all ages in the same meeting, never separate. We, even 5 year old me, could call out for us to sing a certain song.
So the “age of accountability” for me, was five years old.
My mother, in addition to all her linguistic and literacy duties, taught me first through third grade. We used a curriculum provided by the Queensland School of the Air, from the state of Queensland, Australia. My teacher, Mrs. Gay, would send lessons to me in the mail, we would send them back to her in Australia, and she would grade them and send them back to us. We sometimes even spoke to her on short wave radio. I remember a recurring admonition from her, that I not press so hard when I wrote.
To Be Continued…
God has given me a full and very interesting life, and I will probably write a book about it. But I say here that my dream was always to be what my father was, a missionary Bible translator. I tried several times to do that, but people would not allow it. God is in control, and every varied and strange thing that has happened to me is part of his foreknowledge and loving plan for me and for his whole body, and how I fit into that body.
One thing I can tell you, brothers and sisters, is that when I walk with God and am filled with the Spirit, translating the New Testament from Greek to English is what I do.