Listening to God’s Word

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Story by Karen Weaver, Photos by Kathy Husk

As the coastal residents wandered around the town of Alotau awaiting the start of the annual boat races, they visited booths where vendors were selling food or local handicrafts. Many were drawn to a booth where videos about Bible translation were playing. While they chatted with the people there, many took advantage of the opportunity to download both audio and printed Scriptures onto their phones at no cost.

When they heard God’s Word speaking from their phones in their language for the first time, often their faces lit up into big smiles. God was speaking to them! Some also purchased printed Scripture portions. Many accepted the free gift of a lanyard which said, “God’s Word in every language.”

One person who was especially grateful for the audio scriptures was a young man named Singh. That’s because Singh is blind. He was excited to hear God’s book spoken in his heart language of Wedau. He exclaimed in English, “This gives me goose bumps!”

When his father bought him a solar-powered audio player, Singh happily carried it home. The next day he returned to tell his new friends, “Last night I fell asleep listening to the Audibible.”

For some visitors to Aloutau that week, the highlight was seeing the boats with their colorful sails race across the bay. For others, like Singh, the highlight was discovering a way to listen to God’s word in their own homes in their own language.

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God Has the Answers

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Story by Karen Weaver

“What will we do if we ever lose Tomas?” This was a question Brad and Toni Guderian asked themselves many times during their 23 years of working in Milne Bay Province in southeast Papua New Guinea. Tomas was their closest friend and ally in the language program, their main language helper, and a liaison between them and the Koluwawa community.

Then the worst happened…Tomas left the community and was no longer able to work on the translation. Questions swirled through the Guderians’ minds, “How will we complete the translation?” “Who will help the community understand what we are doing?” “Will there be anyone to look after our house while we are away?” “Does anyone else understand translation principles like Tomas did?”

Although Brad and Toni didn’t have any answers, God did. In his perfect timing, he brought not just one person to replace Tomas, but a team of people. Some help translate. Others help watch over their village house when they are away from Fergusson Island. In general, Brad and Toni are now much more connected to and cared for by the community as a whole. They have experienced what Joseph did when he said, “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

However, even as they give thanks for the current situation, Brad and Toni know there are many obstacles that still lie ahead. The boat they have used for transportation is being sold and they will have to find other means to get to Fergusson Island. The person who has typeset many New Testaments is retiring and will not be available when the Koluwawa New Testament is ready. Their finance office is short-staffed, which may mean they will have to find a new way of acquiring cash within the country. Though the Guderians don’t know a solution for these problems, they trust the Lord to solve these and every future challenge, just as he has in the past.

No More Hymnbooks

“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 42:10

Since the days of the ancient Hebrews, men and women have been expressing their praise to God through songs of worship.

Like the Hebrew people of the Old Testament, the Usarufa people of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea express feelings of great joy and deep sorrow through their music. They like to sing and have always included songs in their worship services. However, though they weren’t sure why, there seemed to be something missing in the quality and depth of meaning of their hymns. Although they sang the songs every week, they still could not remember the words and relied heavily on the hymnbook.

This began to change last Christmas when churches from many villages gathered for their annual Christmas Camp. They had this in common: They were all mother tongue speakers of the Usarufa language. At the camp, they worked together to translate some hymns and choruses into the language that communicated from their deepest being, the Usarufa language. As more and more songs were translated, the excitement grew. Around the camp, people began singing the songs of praise to the Lord in their heart language.

For the past six months, the Usarufa churches have been singing the songs that were translated during the camp. Now their voices ring out with a new gusto and a new sense of awe and worship of their Lord. One community leader, Waks, testified, “Previously we could never remember the songs. They just didn’t stick in our heads. But now that we can sing them in our own language, the people memorize the songs very quickly. No one needs the hymnbooks anymore!”

AIDS Awareness DVD

opapagod11-10-16by Karen Weaver

“This is powerful! We need this in our language! Our people need to see this!”

What had evoked such a response from the Kamano-Kafe translation team? It was the DVD produced by a church in Papua New Guinea several years ago depicting the devastation of AIDS. The story focuses on one family in which the parents contract the disease through the husband’s unfaithfulness. The story goes on to show the tragic effects on the wife and children.

After obtaining permission to reproduce the 80-minute film in minority languages, the team faced technical challenges. In the USA, media specialist Lauren Runia utilized new technology to pull the video from a DVD and prepare it for recording. Then he and his wife Connie spent a month in PNG training five highly capable men to record the voices, dub the sound onto the film, and create the DVDs.

As part of their training, they recorded and produced the film in the Kamano-Kafe language.

The Kamano-Kafe version was completed by the end of the training. It will be sold on SD cards and on DVDs at their annual Christmas Camp in late December.

In the future, these trainees will work closely with the PNG churches to make this powerful tool available to local communities in their heart language. In fact, it is already having an impact on the people who helped produce it. One of the church elders who served as a voice on the recording was very excited as he told the team, “There are many places I want to show this video!” A woman who played the voice of the mother on the film was so touched by the plight of the children in the story that she was genuinely crying as she read her lines.

The first case of AIDS in PNG appeared in 1987 and since then has been spreading rapidly. The film is needed to teach the causes and effects of this devastating illness. Zach, one of the video trainees, declared, “Many men and women will change their lives by watching this video.” He explained, “Because it is in their own language it talks straight to the heart!”

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Celebrating Completed Scriptures

 

Story and Photos by Karen WeaverVersion 2

In recognition of the International Day of the Bible, translators and support workers gathered to celebrate language groups receiving God’s Word in this country.  In the past twelve months, Papua New Guineans received completed New Testaments in five languages, printed Scripture portions in 14 languages, and audio and video Scriptures in 13 languages. The room was filled with rejoicing as men and women walked, skipped, and even danced to the front of the church carrying copies of these newly published Scriptures.

Even as they celebrated what has been done, the group prayed for those who are still laboring to bring God’s Word to others. They know that getting the Scriptures in the hands of the people doesn’t come easily or without cost. With the Scriptures dedicated this year, the teams faced challenges right to the end. When the Uram translator arrived for the dedication, there was tribal fighting and the helicopter could not land. When the Alotau teams planned to send the mini-bibles to language groups on the islands, the boat they had reserved was not available. Travel in other places was postponed by rain and mudslides. However, through it all God’s people persevered and saw God provide alternative means of transportation.

A highlight of the morning of Scripture celebration was hearing a testimony about one of the groups who received printed Scriptures this year, the Dedua people. They are so eager for God’s Word that in a recent Bible teaching course people walked for hours over mountain paths to study the Scriptures. When they arrived and the church was already filled to capacity, they listened through the open windows.

Like the Dedua people, many people in PNG receive the Scriptures with great joy. Sadly, in other places people have had the New Testament in their mother tongue for several years but show little interest in reading it. Please pray that the language groups who received the Scriptures this year would cherish God’s word and allow it to transform their lives and communities.

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Behind the Scenes

 

 

 

behind_the_scenes_kodiakwork1Story by Karen Weaver; Photo by Stephen Parker

Papua New Guinea has people groups that speak more than 800 distinct languages. Many of those are inaccessible to land travel, being located in high mountain ranges or on remote islands. Kodiak airplanes with their short take off and landing capabilities are essential in reaching these destinations. But sometimes no piece of land is available that is long enough to build an airstrip. In those cases, language and literacy workers arrive and depart by helicopter.

These aircraft are intricate machines which must be tuned to precision to make safe passage to distant places where there are no alternative landing strips are available. Pilots and their passengers must arrive at their destinations safely. Working quietly behind the scenes to make this happen are the mechanics of the aviation department.

The first Kodiak arrived in PNG in 2010 and since its engine recently reached its lifetime limit of 4000 hours of flying, it rolled into the hanger for servicing. Expert mechanics took it apart, removed the well-used engine, and installed a new overhauled one in its place.

Since they have operated this aircraft for six years in a fairly harsh environment, the aviation team continued their probe by looking deeper into the airframe than they normally would during a routine 100 hour inspection. This evaluation of the Kodiak involved removing the landing gear and all the flight controls for detailed inspections. Several significant issues were discovered and corrected during the process so it was time well spent.

Soon this Kodiak will rejoin the other three airplanes and two helicopters, flying the skies of Papua New Guinea, carrying translators and literacy workers to all parts of the country. As translations are completed, these planes transport the Scriptures in print and audio form, bringing God’s life-changing message of hope to every language, and people group, and hamlet.