In a world where change exists at a blistering pace, the pace may be at light speed in Papua New Guinea. Technology usage is exploding as the country rushes to embrace mobile phone technology. Did you know that the language development and Bible translation effort in PNG is putting portions of Scriptures on the internet and SD cards, both accessible by mobile phones? This enables people in some of the remotest parts of PNG to have access to Scriptures in the language they know the best – the one they learned at birth, their heart language.
The language development and Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea would screech to a halt if it was up to one person. It takes a team. Some go, some stay, some give, some encourage and most importantly, some pray. Will you pray today that the team would continue to grow?
You are probably familiar with the saying…. Without rain, there couldn’t be a rainbow. Well, sometimes the things we encounter are not so bright and sunny. They come with a little bit of rain (or a lot of rain like during the rainy season in Papua New Guinea.) But without the difficulties and stresses of life, we would miss the blessings that we experience when they are overcome. Bible translation and language development are long-term projects. Workers in these projects need to persevere through the storms and keep an eye out for the rainbows. Pray for endurance for the language development and Bible translation workers in PNG.
Carrying a passage of Scripture written in her own heart language, Abu Daniels approached the rectangular foundation of the building being constructed at the Ukarumpa Training Center. She joined other teachers, students and community members in dedicating the new structure to God.
Principal Max Sahl explained that the building would have a classroom at one end, administrative offices at the other, and a conference room with book storage and a library in the middle. Although Mr. Sahl is happy that the center hosted 43 workshops and courses last year, and is on target for the same this year, he encouraged people, “Remember: this is the Lord’s doing and not our own. We don’t ever what to think we are the ones doing this work.”
Dr. Neil Coulter, Director for Language Services, shared from I Corinthians 3:10 about building a foundation. He emphasized that in erecting this physical building, the important thing is that it be used of God to build a spiritual foundation in people’s lives. He explained, “It is our hope that when students leave here they will be stronger in their faith and understand more clearly their relationship with God.”
As the sun rose over the mountains, men and women stepped forward one by one to lay their heart-language scripture in the foundation. Later the construction team would pour cement over the verses, making them a permanent part of the building. In doing this, they demonstrated that they were building on the firm foundation of the Word of God, for the purpose of training people to translate that Word into the mother tongue languages of Papua New Guinea.
Mrs. Daniels, an elementary school teacher, speaks the Yom Kawac dialect of the Bukawa language. Remembering her children at home, she said, “My language area is in the heart of Lae City, but they go to schools that teach in the vernacular. I want my children to grow up knowing their language.” Reflecting the feelings of most people present that morning, she concluded, “This was a very meaningful event. I am glad my language is written in the foundation of this building.”
The language development and Bible translation movement in Papua New Guinea faces many challenges or should we say opportunities. With almost 300 of the over 830 languages needing a project started, it is easy to pursue these opportunities, full-time. But this full-time pace is not sustainable. Language workers need to take breaks and to find time to focus on family, health and spiritual needs. That is not easy for some. Pray that rest would come to those that need it, perhaps even today.
Not everyone can read the words in the translated Scriptures. While literacy workers encourage students of all ages to learn how to read, some may never learn. That is where the oral Scripture strategies become important. AudiBibles, recorded Scriptures on miniature solar-powered players, bring the Scriptures to those who cannot read. Pray that more Scriptures would be made available in an oral format in Papua New Guinea.
It’s not all about translating. Literacy workers are vital to the language development and Bible Translation effort. Pray that literacy workers would be able to teach Papua New Guinean children and adults how to read the Scriptures in their tokples – their heart language.
These children very well could be the next generation of language development workers in Papua New Guinea. Pray that the children growing up in this generation would love their language so much, that they would want to see the Scriptures in them. Pray for Papua New Guineans who are currently learning how to do translation work so that every generation would be able to read the Scriptures in the language they know best.
Just like a carpenter can do his job more efficiently with the right tools, so can Bible translators. One valuable tool is the notebook computer.
All the various brands of these computers require relatively low power so they can be charged on a small solar system and maintain their energy longer. They are lightweight and less bulky for carrying on narrow trails. In addition, their cost is lower than other computers, making them more affordable to Papua New Guinean Bible translation teams. All these things make notebook computers a great tool for Bible translation.
The Kakabai translation team in Milne Bay Province is part of a multi-language project called VITAL. They rely on their notebook computer to input their adaptation from the already completed Dawawa New Testament. They also use it to input changes after checking passages in the villages. Carrying their computers on their backs, they hike trails and ford rivers in their language area.
The Kakabai team always knew these compact computers were built to withstand more than the usual wear and tear. One day that durability was put to the test as a member of their translation team was returning home over the Owen Stanley Mountains from a village checking session. As he crossed a river, the swift current grabbed his legs and threatened to pull him downstream. Thinking quickly, he tossed his backpack ashore, hoping to save the computer he had been carrying. Though the strong current carried him downstream a bit, it was no match for his muscles and he arrived safely on the other side. When he checked the contents of his backpack, he discovered that although the screen was shattered, his quick actions had saved the priceless contents of the computer.
Alex and Karla Watt at the Alotau Regional Center ordered a new computer screen. A support team in Waxhaw, North Carolina, USA sent the new screen to Alotau via an international delivery service. It arrived just days before the Watts were scheduled to leave for their home in Scotland. Karla installed the new screen and the translation team is once again typing God’s Word in Kakabai on their trusty notebook computer.
Papua New Guinea has great kids! Friendly, enthusiastic, great learners and curious… maybe above all things curious! Nothing brings children from all ages like an airplane landing at their home strip. These children are part of a generation that is looking for the Scriptures in their heart language. But this language group does not have the Scriptures yet. When this plane landed it was one of their questions. When will you start a project here? Every generation deserves to hear the Scriptures in the language they know best. Will you pray that this would happen for these children soon?