28 June, 2013 – Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea – Written by Tim Lithgow with Tim Scott
In the early 1980s, Barbara Hardin and Linda Weisenburger settled on the coast a few hours’ drive north of Madang to learn the local language and translate the scriptures. Those first years were very discouraging as the local community showed little interest in their own language. But when Hardin and Weisenburger were seriously considering whether or not to continue, Maia language speakers from Wagedev village asked them to come and work with them. The following decades continued to be a struggle as, apart from a few key people, there was limited interest in the program. Logistic challenges emerged as the road to the village deteriorated to the point where it was only passable in dry season. The helicopter became their preferred mode of travel, and they persevered in the work.
Recently, a dedication was held for the scriptures that have been translated: portions of Genesis, Ruth, Matthew, Mark, Acts, and a few epistles, in printed form and on Audibibles*. Encouragingly, the community worked together on repairing the road into Wagadev. But one week before the celebration a torrential downpour caused a landslide that completely cut off the road. As only God could orchestrate, a helicopter was going to be in the area the day before the dedication, so the visitors were shuttled in.
On the dedication day, dancers escorted visitors into the village, actors presented dramas depicting the truth of God’s Word protecting from evil, and speakers reminded the community of the importance of this event – God now can speak to them in their own mother tongue: Maia! The local Lutheran pastor, not a Maia speaker, spoke passionately, promising the people that the scripture readings in church would now be in Maia. True to his word, at church the next morning ALL the scripture readings were in the Maia language.
As the sun set over the tropical jungle, the nightly noise of the cicadas and other tropical creatures was mixed with the sound of Maia scriptures being played on the Audibibles as groups of people listened to God’s Word in their mother tongue.
* Audibibles are pre-recorded, dedicated mp3 players with portions of heart language scriptures stored on them.