One Life at a Time

Story by Stephanie Ernandes, Photos by Jenny LeMahieu

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The Goroka Show is the largest cultural festival in Papua New Guinea (PNG).  Around 100 people groups gather to display their traditional dress, music and dancing for all to see.  This event is unique in its brilliant displays of the roots of a culture unmatchable in diversity.  It draws many from both inside and outside of PNG.

Two Bible translation organizations joined forces this year and set up a display table/booth at the Goroka show to share and make known the many resources available to Papua New Guineans to access the Scriptures in their own languages.  With over 800 languages spoken in PNG and a population of over eight million people, any of which may show up at the festival, this was a prime opportunity to share the Good News!

They brought printed New Testaments (NT) and audio Bibles in five nearby/local languages. They put out coloring pages with Matthew 19:14 written on them in over 50 different languages along with colored pencils so kids could color them.  There were printouts on how to get involved with Bible translation as well as Gospel tracts in the local trade language.

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The effort made was well received.  At least 25 people were able to download free New Testaments in their language onto their phones!

“It was fun to see people’s faces light up when they recognized their language on the coloring page with the Matthew Scripture.  Even high school boys were so excited they laughed when they read in their own language!” shared one of the group.

One young man from the Dano language group shared about finding a Dano New Testament in a local bookstore, but it was too expensive for him to buy.  The group had one available at a much lower cost. He quickly got out his money and bought one.  He’d been wanting one for quite some time.

An older man they spoke with was discouraged that the children in his village were not using their language, Kamano Kafe, very much anymore.  Julie Mare, one of those helping with the booth, was able to share some ideas about how to encourage the youth to use their language again.  In response the man purchased a New Testament and an Audio recording to help teach his grandchildren their language. His joy was evident!  Julie reminded him that he is imparting life into the next generation and they won’t easily forget what he is doing for them as they grow up.

What a beautiful thing to be able to spread the Word and make a difference, one life at a time!

 

 

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My Father and the Crazy White People

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I was 15 years old when my father first met that crazy white man and his wife.  It was a formative age, when I was really beginning to differentiate bad from good.

My father would meet the white couple, Robbie and Debbie Petterson, in one of the vacant rooms at the hospital.  He would come home with stories that they had written in our own language, Mouwase.  The stories were fun and easy for me to understand.  Sometimes I would read them out loud and my family would laugh and enjoy hearing them.

They were translating the Word of God into our dialect, and it was lovely to hear.  Whenever dad finished translating a portion from the book of Luke, he would read it to us.   Our people still don’t understand the story of Jesus, because it is written in a foreign language.  I thank our Father in heaven that He brought these two crazy white people to translate the Gospel message from Luke into our dialect.  When I read it, it is easy to understand, and I really feel that Jesus speaks my language too.

 

Technology is Revolutionizing Access to God’s Word

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Story by Adam Boyd, photo by Newbreak Church

Since Engan people are largely an oral culture, the translation team is creating audio recordings of each book of the New Testament as they are completed. Those audio records are then distributed in two main ways.

The first way is on solar-powered MP3 players. These audio players allow people to listen to God’s Word in Enga for hours at a time, and when the battery dies, they simply place the player in the sun to charge. We’ve heard stories of people saying, “When we read the Bible in Tok Pisin, we never read a whole chapter at a time. But we can listen to an entire book of the Enga Bible in one sitting without getting tired!”

Once people start listening to the Bible, there is a tendency for those with basic literacy skills to want to read along with a printed copy as they listen to the recording. In the process of doing so they teach themselves how to read their own language. As a result, we are also releasing audio recordings of the Enga Bible as an Android phone app that highlights the text sentence-by-sentence as the audio recording plays.

Even among people who live with no electricity or running water, Android phones are starting to become more and more common. And while an Engan may be reluctant to read a printed copy of the Bible in Enga, they will quite readily sit down and try to read along with the Android phone app. The other benefit of the Android phone app is that the distribution is completely free for anyone who has an Android phone. Technology is truly revolutionizing the way Engan people access God’s Word!

Scripture Storytelling

 

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“These men aren’t telling us the truth!” Lazarus scowled when Gary shared that he and others would soon be teaching anyone who wanted to learn techniques of telling Bible stories in a dynamic and accurate way.

Although Lazarus was more interested in stirring up trouble and taking drugs than he was in story-telling, his curiosity compelled him to find out more. When the team arrived in his village to teach, Lazarus hung around to listen. As he sat on the wooden benches and heard the Bible stories, he was drawn to their message.

Instead of the dry boring teaching he expected, he discovered interesting visuals and live dramas which often involved the course participants. The stories were told with inflection, enthusiasm, and sincerity, all of which captivated Lazarus.

By the time the workshop concluded, Lazarus was a new man. He testified, “Now God has completely changed my thinking.” Others also noticed the changes in Lazarus. At the beginning of the training, he rarely spoke during discussion times. But after the stories impacted his heart, he happily joined in the class discussions and dramas and contributed his thoughts during the morning devotions.

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He also became a very talented story-teller. Because of this, he was one of the people the teachers asked to become a trainer, to which he eagerly agreed. Lazarus is happy to pass on his new story-telling skills, and his new life in Christ, to others.

The Place of the Word

On September 25, 2009, the first Kodiak aircraft to serve in Papua New Guinea touched down in Aiyura Valley. On August 17, 2018, this Kodiak became the first of its kind in the world to complete 5,000 hours of flying. Below is the story of one very special flight made during its first year in PNG.

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Seven thousand speakers of the Yopno language live in the rugged Finisterre Mountains in a remote corner of Morobe province in Papua New Guinea. For fifteen years the Yopno people worked to build a runway, primarily to bring the Word of God into their community. The name Yopno means “we put down,” describing a people who chose to put down weapons, fighting, and anger, replacing them with the Word. They call the runway “Gen Tamo,” which means “Place of the Word.”

Though most of the Yopno people live at around seven thousand feet elevation, nearby mountain peaks jut up to over twelve thousand. In these steep mountains without roads, people rely on aircraft for their connection to the outside world. When small planes land on this airstrip, they bring food, garden tools, and other supplies. They also carry out the sick and injured when they need medical help beyond what is available in the village. Sometimes they carry cash crops to be sold in other areas.

The Kodiak aircraft is ideally suited for this work. Its climb performance allows it to quickly and safely navigate over the rugged mountains. The Kodiak’s advanced glass panel avionics allow the pilot to “see” the nearby terrain even when clouds obscure the mountain peaks. Large tires and high ground clearance ease the landing on rough and unpaved airstrips.

As pilot Dave Barton approached the Gen Tamo airstrip in August 2010, he could see hundreds of people lining each side of the runway. When he stopped the plane at the top of the slope, a group of men in traditional dress began singing and dancing. He was warmly welcomed with a pig tusk necklace, smiling faces, and strong handshakes.

Next began the joyful task of unloading the cases of translated Scriptures. The people formed a chain, unloading the boxes and then carrying them up the mountainside to the grandstand for the dedication ceremony, the climax of which would be opening the boxes and revealing the much-anticipated New Testament to the Yopno people.

IMG_5257.jpgThe Kodiak is not just a plane; it’s an aircraft designed and built for landing on rough, hand-built runways, with a short distance for take-off and landing. It’s a special servant, sent to deliver God’s life-changing Word to the people of Papua New Guinea.

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Changed Hearts, Changed Lives

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“What’s really been on my heart during this season of our project is what’s happening in the hearts and minds of our translators.  We have about 20 national translators from 10 different languages in the Aitape West Translation program.  Most of them have been with us from the beginning of the project in 2001.  They all work together translating the same passages.  The process of doing translation work is very much like a Bible and Discipleship school for them,” said Ben Pehrson, a Bible Bible translation consultant/trainer from the United States.

“Every morning for devotions we basically do an inductive Bible study on a short passage from the book that we are translating that month.  We open that up for anybody and everybody to make observations about the text.  We try to pull out the meaning of the text, by asking ourselves the following questions:  What’s the main point of the text?  Do we have any questions?  Is something confusing?  Is something surprising? Are there cross references that we can think of? Or other passages of scripture that relate?  What kind of application is there?”

“Years ago, it was almost like pulling teeth to get anyone to contribute.  There would often be one or two guys responding, but sometimes you had to sit there in silence for what seemed like forever.  In some ways that is just kind of a Melanesian culture thing: be happy with the silence, everyone is thinking about it, in ten minutes somebody will say something.  Also, part of it may have been they weren’t always necessarily getting it, they weren’t necessarily understanding the scriptures.”

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“However, a few years ago we started noticing that they were all starting to really getting it, starting to understand the truth of God’s Word.  And not only getting it but applying the truth to their lives in real key, critical ways.  Things like deciding not to do seek revenge, which in their culture was like a no brainer. We have to seek revenge because they harmed our Uncle, now we have to get them back.  We had translators making decisions to say, ‘No, in this passage of scripture we are translating this month God is showing us a better way and I am going to lead my family not to pursue revenge.”

“Nowadays when we meet for devotions in the morning, pretty much every single guy wants to contribute and we don’t usually have to wait very long either before people saying things.  They are realizing how important, how life giving God’s Word is.”

“…so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth;  it shall not return to Me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:11

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The national translators and local church leaders are now pursuing a strategy to run parallel literacy and language development workshops with the translators so that more people can participate together in these morning devotions. Their desire is for more people to experience the life changing truth of God’s Word so they can return to their communities in greater numbers to spread the impact that God’s Word is making in their lives.

 

 

 

 

Translating the Word Grace

Story by Matt Taylor, photo by Christy Taylor

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In February 2018, three of our Nukna co-translators (Muransi, Emson and Tángiliong) came to Ukarumpa to help Matt revise the first drafts of Galatians and Ephesians. God certainly blessed our time together, and guided us through the many passages that were a challenge to translate accurately and clearly into the Nukna language. In his epistles, Paul often speaks of God’s grace, the free gift of his unmerited favor. There is no word for ‘grace’ in the Nukna language, and after much discussion we decided to use a phrase that means “God gave his insides to us.” The ‘insides’ are the seat of emotion in Nukna, like the heart in the English language. To give your insides to someone is to feel love toward them, to want what is best for them, and to do good things for them.

Ephesians 6:24 (translated from Nukna): “May God give his insides to people who never stop loving our Lord Jesus Christ.”