A Light Passed Before Us

Story and Photos: Karen Weaver

Bennis, an audio technician, noticed the change in the speaker’s voice and pressed the “pause” button. He had been watching the lines on the computer screen as a Siarlak youth read the voice of Jesus for the recording. Looking up, Bennis saw tears in the eyes of the young man. His voice choked as he explained to the recording team, “I can’t read this Jesus part. My heart is not ready for this role. Jesus touches my life too much!”

Others in the recording felt the same way. For some of them it was the first time reading the Bible aloud in their heart language and they were moved to tears at the beauty of the words.

When the Jesus Film recording was finished and Bennis and his teammate had dubbed the voices onto the video, it was time for the Siarlak people to watch the film in their language. As the movie began and they saw men and women on the screen playing the parts from the Gospel of Luke, the crowd was filled with murmurings, asking each other, “When did these foreigners learn our language?” The recording team explained to them that it was actually some of their own people who were speaking the words.

The movie continued under the night sky as men, women, and children sat on the ground and watched the drama unfold on a large portable screen. When they saw Jesus being nailed to the cross, the whole group watching the film fell silent. Bennis, testified, “I could feel the emotion in the crowd and I knew the Holy Spirit was working.”

Afterwards, Bennis asked some of the women, “How was the movie?” They answered, “In our local language the message is so simple and we can understand the meaning much more clearly than before. It was like a light passed before us!”

A Second Generation Translator

Story and Photo: Stephanie Ernandes

Translators Jim and Jaki Parlier came from the US and completed the New Testament in the Ese language in 1976. Taylor Tioja (photo above) was raised as one of their kids while they translated in the village. Taylor went straight into Bible college after finishing High School and studied there for 6 years. Towards the end of school he prayed and asked God what He wanted him to do when he was done with college.

“My people in the Ese language, we love the Ese New Testament so much that we use it in the church every Sunday. We use it for Bible studies and for personal daily readings. My people really wanted to know the Old Testament.  Many were asking when the Old Testament translation would be finished. They wanted to have a complete Bible to study. The people were talking a lot about that during the time that I was praying. The Lord asked me to become involved in the translation work. Now I am the translation project leader and I have been doing translation work for 8 years.”

“The Translator Training Course (TTC) has helped me a lot and now I have been able to train men who’ve gotten involved in the translation work as well. Through the training that I got I was able to go back and teach and mentor them. These teachings enabled them to be mentally equipped and prepared to be able to do accurate translation work. I now have a lot of manpower. They are trained well and are prepared to help me with the translation.”

All of the men that Taylor has recruited to be a part of his team have come to know Jesus because they saw the change in Taylor’s life while he grew in the Lord. “Those that our team has recruited to work with us are people that my life has impacted through the work of translation and the training that I got from the training center. We have recruited people that I have given the Gospel to and showed them the love of Christ; people who have changed from their old way of life and who’ve come to know the Lord.”

“We work independently of any outside organization. Working independently is a great challenge. Back at home, we come from very poor churches in the village.  The only support that our people are able to give to us is food offerings and prayer. The finances to get the translation moving has been a very big challenge for us. Also, the Ese Translation Project doesn’t have computers of its own. If we have computers for our translation work it will make our work much faster.”

Taylor is also a Scripture Use Coordinator for his community. He is a motivational speaker seeking to promote scripture use amidst his people. The Ese language includes around 18,000 people. He loves to promote and encourage people, and to set them on fire to read their scriptures in their mother tongue. “Pray for the scripture use work in the Ese language and pray for revival. Please also pray that the Lord will bring funds for the Ese Old Testament Translation Project.”

Photo from the Mussau-Emira Language group on Mussau Island

For most of his life, this man only had God’s Word available to him in a language not his own. Praise God that his granddaughter will grow up reading and hearing the message of salvation in her own heart language!

The First Scriptures

Story: Karen Weaver

“You expect me to look only? No way! I want to buy a copy right now!”

This was Samo’s enthusiastic response when he saw the first printed Scripture portions in his language. Missy and her co-workers had just arrived in Ramo village, a journey which had included one hour boating across a lagoon and four hours of hiking.

During the initial walk through the village, Missy only intended to show the people what would be available for sale. But when Samo saw the printed copies containing the New Testament books of Titus, Philemon, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Philemon, he couldn’t wait. Samo eagerly handed Missy the coins to purchase the booklets and immediately sat down on his porch to read them.

Samo wasn’t the only one whose life was touched by the Scriptures. Others crowded around to see this novelty in their village. Many of them also bought the booklets and read them in their homes and with their families.

People who didn’t buy a copy still had the opportunity to read them at the Bible studies. As Missy and her friends passed out the booklets, people opened them right away, their eyes and fingers exploring the printed pages.

Missy knew what challenges the translators and others had faced to get these books written, printed, and carried out to the village. Yet as she looked around the group and heard the people quietly reading the words of life in their language for the first time, she knew that it had been worth it all.

Hidden Talk Comes Alive

Story and Photo Credit: Janeen Michie

The Yamap language area spans from Salamaua, to Baini in the Bulolo district, to Lae, and Wau. Some people have relocated to Port Moresby, Mount Hagen, Popondetta, and Rabaul. The Yamap team began translating the Bible into their language in 2011. The New Testament is drafted and the gospel of Luke is ready for a consultant check. They have prepared Sunday reading booklets that contain Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The translation team has a passion for sharing the Scriptures. They travel to different villages and settlements for up to a month. They call their trips, “Yamap Patrols.”  They stay a couple of days or up to a week in each area to teach the people to read the Yamap Scriptures and distribute Sunday reading booklets. During the last trip the team travelled to Lae, Wau-Bulolo, Baini, and Yamap.

Isaac, one of the translators, smiled saying, “Something I’ve seen in Baini is their joy to see the Bible being translated in to the Yamap language. Every time we go, they welcome us, they sing and dance, and we walk through a gate that they hang flowers on as though we were government officials. We then sit and they pray. Then take us to the house where we sleep. They do this every time we visit.”

Another translator, Elias stated, “We give people Bible verses to memorize – whole chapters. Many have already memorized Mark chapter one. Now they are memorizing chapter two. We put on the patrol calendar that they need to recite the verses when we come.”

“What I’ve seen on our patrols is that kids sit still and ‘put their ears’ to hear when someone is reading the Yamap language,” said Isaac. “In church, when they hear Tok Pisin spoken and read, they move around and come and go like butterflies – they don’t sit still. When they hear Yamap, they don’t make a noise and they sit still and listen. The kids grow up with the language and they know it.” Isaac continued, “The adults say that, yes, God’s Word came in Tok Pisin and we read it and know what it says, but when we read in Yamap, the ‘hidden talk’ becomes clear and we understand.”

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?

12/19/11 14:53:50

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


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.”