God is Not Finished

12/19/11 14:47:21

Story and Photo Credit: Karen Weaver

For generations the Pinai-Hagahai people have lived in small villages nestled among the high mountains of Papua New Guinea.  When surveyors visited the language area, they found a people group with no schools, no cash crops, no airstrips, no roads to the rest of PNG, and very little use of any outside languages.

It was to this people group that Markus and Liisa Melliger allocated in 1994. After months of prayer for God’s direction as to where to build their house, they settled in the one village that had a fledgling church. Their excitement at the beginning of their work was crushed a few months later when criminals entered the village, looting their house and using violence against the local people. Eventually the whole village was destroyed and the entire population was forced to leave.

But God was not finished with the Pinai-Hagahai people. The villagers fled to safety across the river. They went to a region of the language area where there had been virtually no knowledge of the Lord. Through the work of these refugees, some members of the host village came to know the Lord. Five years later the displaced people were able to return to their home area. In the village where they had lived for half a decade, there was now a small but thriving church, as a result of their testimony.

12/19/11 14:44:03 - Version 2By 2008 the Melligers had completed the translation of the four Gospels and Acts. However, with no schools in the area there were only a few people who knew how to read. Although illiteracy was an obstacle, God was not finished with the Pinai-Hagahai people. The five translated books of Scripture were not only printed but also recorded and strategically distributed to all the villages on MegaVoice players before the Melligers left for an extended time in their home country of Switzerland. While they were away, these MegaVoice players were used frequently. In villages all across the language area small groups of people listened to the Scriptures on the audio players and the lives of many were changed: some committed themselves to Christ for the first time, others started going to church, and others became deacons and church leaders.

Five years after their departure to Switzerland, the Melligers returned to the Pinai-Hagahai people. Sadly, when they returned they found that practically their entire team of co-workers had dissolved. Some had died, others had moved away or gone their separate ways. How would they translate more Scripture without a team of people to help them?

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Once again, God was not finished with the Pinai-Hagahai people. Markus and Liisa were able to find new co-workers and used the five books that had already been translated to disciple these young people.  As a result, they are not only able to help translate more books of the New Testament, they are also growing in their faith in Christ, in their understanding of the Scriptures, and are becoming leaders in the local churches.

As he shares about God’s faithfulness, Markus likes to remind others, “God was not finished with the Pinai-Hagahai people, and he’s not finished with any of us. Whatever your situation, God is still at work. Perhaps a few years from now you will look back and see how God worked through the hard things in your life, just as he has done for the Pinai-Hagahai people.”

Translator Transformed

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Story: Karen Weaver

When Naki was a child, he left the village and went to live with a cousin who was working for a big company. He became a town guy. Unfortunately, he also learned the ways of the town and fell into bad behavior. In the end, he was put in prison for seven years for killing a man.

After he left prison he wanted to change. Because he also wanted to provide for his family, he went to Lihir to work in the gold mines. At the end of a year there, his young daughter died and he went back to the village to attend her funeral. But he was sad to go empty-handed; he had spent all the money he had earned, most of it on drinking. This was a “wake up call” for him. He realized that as much as he had wanted to change and provide for his family, he had not.

About that time he met Miskum David, who was the team leader of the Tigak translation team. Miskum David looked beyond Naki’s troubled past, saw the potential in him, and invited him to join the translation team.

At first, Naki doubted his own ability to stick with the translation work. He knew his faith was weak and he still struggled with anger. But Naki had some computer skills and good English. The translation team was in need of such a person to join them. Naki attended the seven modules of Luke Partnership Islands project and has been working faithfully with the other two Tigak mother tongue translators. The team is nearing the completion of the Gospel of Luke, their first Bible portion in Tigak.

Naki himself testifies, “When I joined the translation team I did not know if people would approve. Everyone saw me as an angry, violent, short-tempered man. But interacting with God’s Word daily has changed me. I am no longer a slave of anger or a dangerous man. Now my wife is happy and people come to us for marriage counseling. I know this Bible translation has really changed my life as I have studied God’s Word.”

Jumping into the Nuku River

Jumping Into The Nuku River Photo Edited

Story: Stephanie Ernandes
Photo Credit: Deb Smucker

As I stared at this photo shining up on the big white screen in the meeting house I was lost in wonder, “Who are these people? What made them get neck deep into a river? Where are they going? What is so important as to drive someone to ride or hang onto a log for transportation?” I had a hunch it had something to do with God’s Word; I had to find out!

In early 2017 an Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) Workshop was scheduled to happen. This workshop would train those attending to take the Word of God, store it up in their hearts and share it accurately in their own language to their own people. The workshops teach many methods of oral Bible storytelling, both traditional and modern. Those attending would learn to use drama, storyboarding, and symbols, among other things, to help share the Bible stories.

“Some of the Nuku area language groups in the Sandaun province of PNG have been waiting for years for someone to help get God’s Word into their language. So it was with great excitement that we welcomed the arrival of participants from Beli, Pahi, Heyo, Mehek, Yahang, Wanap, Laeko Libuat, Siliput, Yangum Mun, Yangum Dey, and Minidien language groups,” shared Deb Smucker, an OBS trainer in the Sepik, “Due to significant rains in the area, swollen rivers, and muddy roads made the trip to Wewak a challenge for many of the participants.”

These language groups (along with many others) still have no Scripture translated into their language. They come to the OBS Workshops so they can hear, learn and share the Bible with their loved ones, their families, and their people. Having gone without for so long, they understand how very special it is to have and to know the Scriptures. Jumping into a river up to their necks and clinging to a log floating across a river was a small thing for them compared to the opportunity to grab hold of God’s Word and to begin telling the life-changing stories from God’s book.

Jesus is like a Bamboo Torch

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Story: Matt Taylor

We’ve been working on the Nukna translation of the book of John, and recently came to Jesus’ famous statement in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” As we discussed how to best translate this metaphor, we realized that there was a problem. There is a Nukna word for light – yam – but it’s not possible to say just yam by itself. Light always has a source, and grammatically that source must be included, either by mentioning the actual source or by using a possessive pronoun – “its light,” “their light,” etc. It would be ungrammatical to just say “light.” ( This grammatical feature is known as “inalienable possession.”) To literally translate “I am the light of the world” into Nukna would lead to an unacceptable Nukna sentence.

One idea we’ve had is to use a common source of light that the Nukna people are familiar with: the bamboo torch. The Nukna people live in a remote area without electricity. To see at night, they often light up a species of bamboo named kup. Kup burns with a blazing brightness, and a long piece can be held as a torch, enabling a person to walk at night around the otherwise pitch black village. So in Nukna, Jesus’ words would read, “I am like a bamboo torch [kup] that shines its light to the world.”

Our translation team needs to do further testing to see if this figure of speech is communicating accurately and powerfully. Please pray for us, that God would guide us as we seek to communicate this concept, as well as many others, into the Nukna language in a dynamic and life-changing way. “It’s like the light of a bamboo torch shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

A Sweet Celebration of Reading

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Nete Talian & Martha Boyd

As the excitement grows about progress on the Enga New Testament, the local churches are taking the initiative to hold literacy classes to teach people to read in their own language. In this way the people are prepared to read the Scripture portions as each book is translated into Enga.

Volunteer literacy teachers from the church write letters and words on the chalkboard, and murmurings can be heard around the room as people bravely repeat the sound for each syllable and form them into words. Slowly the words are mastered and put together to make sentences. Smiles light their faces as they become fluent enough to read short stories and then longer passages from the Bible.

During a recent graduation ceremony, more than 40 individuals, representing three churches, gathered to celebrate the completion of the literacy course. Many of the graduates were middle-aged or older and had not had the opportunity to learn to read when they were children. Being able to articulate the words on the printed page for the first time in their lives was certainly a reason for celebration!

Translator Adam Boyd stood before the group and read aloud Psalm 119:103, which in Enga reads, “The sweetness that happens when I read your word surpasses the sweetness that happens when I taste honey.” Next, each graduate came forward to taste a spoonful of honey. They smiled at the delicious taste, and rejoiced to know God’s Word is even sweeter than this!

As they left the ceremony, each graduate held a brand new copy of the Gospel of Matthew printed in the Enga language. With no mother tongue libraries and very limited access to Enga books, this Gospel will be a treasure to each of them and a means for all of the graduates to continue improving their reading skills.