Breaking down the language barrier

Winding River
Winding River

When Youth With A Mission’s medical ship “Pacific Link” traversed the waterways of southwestern Papua New Guinea, SIL member Phil Carr joined the team.  It was a partnership that proved beneficial to both organizations, as well as to the people living along the Fly, Bamu, and Gama Rivers.

YWAM Medical Ships has been dispatching a ship from Australia for the last three years to improve the quality of life for people in remote areas of PNG, both through medical services and through upgrading the skills of the local health workers. Since Phil has worked as a linguist in Papua New Guinea for the past 25 years, primarily in this area, he was able to interpret for the local people in some of the villages. He translated primarily for the optometry team, and occasionally for the doctors and nurses as they evaluated and treated sicknesses ranging from tuberculosis to malaria to malnutrition.  He also helped the team members understand local culture and customs.

Traveling on the YWAM ship was also beneficial for Phil. He was able to reach distant areas that had previously been inaccessible to him. He studied the Bible with pastors, and sold Scripture portions, Bible study books, DVDs and CDs in several local languages. The Kiwai speakers listened attentively as he shared a dramatic reading of a draft of Jonah in their language. In his interactions with people living along the Gama River, Phil was able to confirm that their language is a dialect of Bamu, not a separate language, something he had long wanted to determine.

Some villages they visited were very remote and extremely poor. It was satisfying to bring medical expertise to people who normally can’t access health care services. One elderly man couldn’t see even the biggest letters on the eye chart when he was evaluated, but after the optometrist fitted him with glasses, he could see clearly. Although his eyesight had been too poor even to paddle a canoe, he could now function again as a man in his community. As he departed he exclaimed, “People had to bring me here.  But now I can take them home!”

YWAM's Pacific Link
YWAM’s Pacific Link
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