Don’t Label Yourself

seija

In 1999 Seija left Finland and traveled to SIL’s base of operations in Ukarumpa to serve for two years in the high school for missionary kids as a teacher of math and physics. At that time she had no idea she would end up working with a group of people in a tropical rainforest of the Sepik.

During the two years she was teaching at the high school, she heard about groups of people throughout the country still waiting for the New Testament to be translated into their language. Although she felt God pulling her heart in that direction, she pushed it aside, thinking she was too old to get involved in Bible translation. One Sunday morning she heard the preacher admonish the congregation, “Don’t give yourself labels that the Lord hasn’t given you.” She knew God was speaking to her. In obedience, she went to England for training and then returned to Papua New Guinea.

Pirkko Luoma, also from Finland, had been working in the Sepik for a number of years and in November 2004 she joined Seija on a preallocation visit to see if the Kalpm dialect of the Urim language group would be a good fit for her. The path to the village followed a narrow ridge, went straight down, crossed river, and went straight up again. The weather was rainy and the path slippery, but these two Finnish ladies weren’t about to be deterred by a little water and mud.

Since Pirkko had already been living in the area she understood the language. As they walked along with a group of people guiding them, one local lady asked of another, “What are these two old white skinned ladies doing walking up and down our mountains when it’s so difficult for them?” The other replied, “It must be from the Lord. There could be no other explanation!”

Seija did feel the trip and the village allocation were from the Lord. She committed to settle there, learn the language, and embark on translation. The next time she took that path it was to come live among the people. It was her 52nd birthday.

In all, she made that walk over the mountains 13 times before she was granted permission to use the helicopter regularly to travel to her village allocation. Although the paths were slippery, Seija testifies, “The walk was very good for teaching me to humbly depend on others. They held my hands, carried my bags, and sometimes even washed my feet.” She says with a smile, “In all those 13 treks across the mountain ridges, I never fell down once!”

Seija has been blessed from living among the Urim-Kalpm people, learning their language, and helping them translate God’s Word. She says, “Don’t label yourself unless you know that label is from the Lord. If you do, you might just miss out on your opportunity to be part of God’s plan for the nations!”

A Warm Welcome

Story AWarmWelcome_inSivaonaVillage_WadeBlog by Karen Weaver

They landed on a gravel airstrip on New Britain Island’s southeastern coast, caught a ride in a truck, and then traveled in an off-duty ambulance. Finally, they hiked the last several miles through the Central Mountain Range to Aona Village, sometimes trudging through mud up to their knees, but surrounded by breath-taking scenery. Aaron and Rebekah Wade had come to the Mamusi language group to see if this might be the place where God was calling and them and their five young children to live and begin Bible translation.

Upon arriving in the village, they were greeted by crowds of people, especially very young ones with eager faces and friendly smiles. Since the Wades were the first outsiders to visit the area in several years, many of the youngest children had never before seen people with such light colored skin. Even though this group is a bit isolated, living in the center of their island at 3,700 feet above sea level, they nevertheless proved to be kind, generous and hospitable.AWarmWelcome_LoteNT_WadeBlog

On two occasions Aaron and Rebekah spoke at community meetings, presenting the possibility of starting Bible translation in their language. The response at both meetings was extremely positive. Despite the fact that they are one of the last languages in Papua New Guinea with no official alphabet, many of the Mamusi are hungry for the Word of God to be written in their language. They solemnly listened as the Wades presented an overview of what translation would involve. When Aaron and Rebekah offered to serve as a resource to train and equip them, with the community taking primary ownership of the translation work, the local leaders gladly accepted the challenge.

Enthusiasm for the project mounted when a young lady began to read aloud from a precious book she held fondly in her hands. She was a Mamusi speaker, but had been educated in the neighboring language of Lote. As villagers watched, she read with passion from the Lote New Testament. She showed the book to her friends and talked about how sweet it would be when, one day, they too could read God’s message to them in their own heart language.

Reaping With Joy

Urat Children

(Photos and Story by Karen Weaver)

When Hilkka agreed to join the Urat translation team, she did so in response to God’s call, not knowing what lay ahead.

Initially, three Urat men were translating the New Testament into their mother tongue language. They faced the challenges of working on their own in the village setting, having the responsibility of providing for their families, and having limited English skills for understanding advanced study helps. During those seven years, one of the translators realized at this rate he would not live enough years to see the New Testament completed. He contacted SIL several times, asking them to send someone to help.

That person was Hilkka Arminen. In her late 30’s Hilkka had taken training at SIL, wanting to do something more with her life than continuing to work for European businesses whose primary goal was to make money. After seeking a language allocation for nearly four years, she learned about the Urat’s need for a co-translator, and accepted the challenge.

Though she was well trained and the people had invited her, the assignment still had its difficulties. There were challenges with relationships in the village caused by jealousy and unmet expectations. Getting to the village required travel on an SIL plane, then a five to ten hour ride in a truck, sometimes with unsafe drivers. Once she arrived, she had to keep herself protected from insects. She said, “At home in Finland we have even more mosquitoes than in the Sepik, but they don’t carry malaria!”

Through it all, Hilkka has known God’s presence and encouragement. She says, “If I had gone in my own strength I would have left long ago. God has kept me there.” One way the Lord encouraged her was by giving her glimpses of how He is working in people’s lives through the translated Scriptures. One significant time was when a co-translator was attacked but asked his family not to follow the traditional pay-back revenge system.

It was with deep joy that the team signed off on the completed Urat New Testament in December 2015. The entire community joined them in the celebration on July 30th, the day the printed Urat New Testament was presented to the people.

Of the Urat translation team, the Psalmist’s words ring true, “Those who sow in tears, will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5.Old Lady

Naomi

Naomi with Nali Genesis - reducedby Karen Weaver

“I am very happy to work in Bible translation because the Bible is the Word of God and the foundation of life,” Naomi testified. Although she had made some poor choices in life, God called her to himself at a women’s conference. Five years later she had the privilege of joining the Nali translation team. She was thrilled to study God’s book during translation because it opened her mind to things she had never understood about how the Bible relates to daily life.

In November, Naomi and her co-translators checked the book of Luke with local speakers of the language. The people would read a section of Luke and then answer questions about it to help the translators see if the meaning of the passage was communicating clearly. In one passage they evaluated, Jesus told a parable about building in a way that pleases the Lord.  When one church elder read this passage during the checking session, he was convicted by the Scriptures that he should not demand extra money for the church building and then use it to benefit himself.

Like this church elder, Naomi is also quick to apply God’s Word to her life. She testifies, “The more I translate, the more it translates me. It gives me understanding of how to be wise as a young single lady. I am blessed to work in Bible translation.”

Although Naomi firmly believes that being involved in translation is the best thing she could do, not everyone on her island shares this conviction. In fact, some taunt her for spending her days at the translation desk and wrongly accuse her of doing it for profit. She didn’t know how to handle these accusations until she helped translate the book of Acts. In this book she learned how the apostles faced persecution and it changed her perspective. She tells, “Peter was stoned with rocks, but I am stoned with words. Translating Acts encouraged me greatly. I saw Peter’s faithfulness to God through persecution.”

Naomi looks to the future with hope. She says, “It is my heart’s cry that God will change the way people think and help them understand that the Bible is the Word of Life.”

Learning to Read God’s Word

The Obura people are being changed by the Word of God

video by Janeen Michie

 

I Can Read!

ICanRead04_KWeaverPhoto and Story by Karen Weaver
Education is important to Nora*, which is why she made sure that all of her first four children attended school, and she anticipates sending the fifth one soon. However, Nora has always been a bit sad that when she was a child she did not have that opportunity.

Things began to change for Nora nine months ago, when she joined a new literacy class. The students learned t

Before they knew it, their nine months together were drawing to a close and the students each chose or was assigned a passage of Scripture to read aloud at the upcoming graduation ceremony. Some chose only one or two verses. Others chose longer passages.  Nora wanted to read John 15:1-4.

For the next three classes, the students practiced the reading they would do for the graduation. Unfortunately, Nora did not come to any of these classes, even though she had attended faithfully up to this point. Susan, her teacher, wondered what had happened.

The day of graduation dawned grey and drizzly. A friend with a truck went to Nora’s house and found that she was feeling very poorly and her illness was the reason she had been absent. Nevertheless, she climbed in the vehicle, accompanied by her youngest daughter, and went to the graduation.

When it was her turn to read, Nora’s poor health required her to read while sitting in a chair. Nevertheless, her voice was steady as she confidently read through each verse. Seated in the audience, her young daughter silently mouthed the words as her mother read to the audience. It was obvious Nora had practiced reading the Scripture out loud so many times that this preschooler had memorized it.

Afterwards, Nora smiled as she quietly declared, “Now I can read the Bible, too, just like my children!”
ICanRead03_KWeaver
*Name has been changed.

God is With Me

 

GodIs_MVI_0144.00_01_53_19_Still003_ePhoto by Amy Evers          Story By Beth Matheson

“What’s wrong?” Gesikhouwa’s friend called out.

Gesikhouwa had been harvesting bananas when she fell suddenly as something moved beneath her foot.

“I stepped on a Papuan black snake,” she replied.

“Did it bite you?”

“No, I just stepped on it.”

Shaken, Gesikhouwa stood, picked up her knife, and continued her work, cutting a final bunch of bananas before starting down the path to where the canoes were banked. One foot behaved as normal, following the path, but she couldn’t keep the other from stepping into the jungle. Then her vision began to cloud, and she fell, staying conscious just long enough to yell for help to the woman walking in front of her.

Her neighbors loaded her into a canoe and paddled quickly towards home. In the middle of the lake, as the powerful venom worked its way through her body, Gesikhouwa had a vision of woman coming to her, calling her by name, and telling her she would not die.

Over the next few days, while she was recovering in the hospital, person after person tried to convince Gesikhouwa that the snake bite was a result of someone placing a magic curse on her.

“No,” she told them repeatedly, “God is with me. God knows our death, our end day. Only God knows, not us. I believe only God.”

Gesikhouwa now owns a copy of the New Testament in her own language, Kuni. As she reads God’s Word, teaching it to her children and grandchildren, her own faith is strengthened, and she says confidently, “When you have hard testing, don’t leave God.”

On the day of the Kuni New Testament dedication, Gesikhouwa held her copy proudly and grinned broadly, spilling joy that showed that God truly is with her.

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