At the very top of the Linguistics Library in Ukarumpa, PNG, a decorative pattern accents the end wall. This pattern is a reminder of its designer, Veda Rigden.
Veda was in her mid-fifties when she first went to PNG in 1969 to volunteer her art skills for six months. She had taken early retirement from teaching high school art in Auckland, NZ. She extended her stay and volunteered to not only design the building’s decorative pattern, but also to climb up the scaffolding to complete the original painting.
While working as an illustrator, Veda saw the need for translators and felt called to help. Most people would say that it is way too late for a person in their mid-50’s to think about getting linguistics training and starting a translation programme. Nevertheless, she went to Australia, around age 56, attended the SIL school of linguistics, and returned to PNG equipped to engage in the work.
Partnering with Dorothy Price, Veda worked with the Karkar-Yuri translation project for the better part of the next two decades. This isolated people group in Sandaun Province has about 2000 speakers. Veda continued to work well into her seventies, until she retired (again) in 1990. However, she continued to be involved in the translation program from her home country of New Zealand until the New Testament in the Karkar-Yuri language was published in 1994.
Veda’s original six month stint turned into 21 years. Veda once wrote that after her first retirement, she could have stayed at home, eating cucumber sandwiches and having cups of tea with the vicar, but given that she was still able, she would rather be out somewhere serving God. Now when people look up and see mosaic patterns painted at the top of the Linguistics Center, it reminds them of Veda, and her example that no one is ever too old to obey what God is telling them to do.