For years, Jennifer prayed that someone would go with her to bring God’s Word to her own people. Slowly, Jennifer has watched that dream unfold.
In 2013, she spent a few nights at a guest house in Kokopo. While there she was happy to learn from Jim and Diana Parker that the guest house had New Testaments available in her heart language. After purchasing a carton of them, she returned to her village and shared the precious books with her extended family. They were grateful to be able to read the scriptures in their heart language. Her mother declared, “God’s Word is much clearer and easier to understand in Mengan than in the trade language!”
Early in 2014, a language development team needed a contact person in the Mengan area and asked the Parkers about Jennifer. Unfortunately, they had neither her cell phone number nor her e-mail address. That door seemed to be closed. However, just two days later they were in a grocery store when they heard someone say their names. They looked up, and there was Jennifer! Both the Parkers and Jennifer were happy to be able to renew their friendship. Jennifer marveled, “I didn’t need to go to the grocery store that day, but my sister asked me to go buy something for her. God sent me in answer to my prayers.”
Through her renewed friendship with the Parkers and other team members, Jennifer learned about a small group who was planning to visit her village. This group wanted to find out the degree to which the local people were using and understanding the Mengan Scriptures. Jennifer was able to help them by recording some portions of the gospel of John, thus once again having a part in bringing God’s Word to her own people.
Although Jennifer works as a nurse in another part of Papua New Guinea, she has not forgotten the people of her own language group. Jennifer looks forward to seeing what will happen in the future as the Mengan people grow spiritually through reading God’s Word in their heart language.
What language did you learn to read in? For most of us, it is the language that we learned first, our heart language. But what if the school in your area didn’t have materials or teachers proficient in your language? In many areas, the result is that students are involved in the difficult task of learning how to read ANDlearning a new language at the same time. Recently, courses taught at the Ukarumpa Training Center as well as around the country, have been training teachers new techniques on how to teach reading in the vernacular (heart language) of the children in their classrooms. Pray that more teachers could have access to these tools.
“That’s my language!” There something innate that causes us to be excited when we see something that identifies us with the culture we grew up in. Language might be one of the greatest cultural identifiers. Even in countries where one language is dominant, peoples still distinguish where someone is from by by accents, certain words or grammar usage. There is pride in one’s cultural identity and it is often displayed by the love for their language. In PNG with its 830+ languages, people love to tell you which language group they are from. Sadly not all the languages have the Scriptures. Pray that resources for a new project would be made available so that a new language group could start a project today.
The need for language development workers and Bible translators is critical to reaching the language groups in Papua New Guinea that need a project started. One of the ways this need is being met is through the Ukarumpa Training Centre. This facility includes fully-equipped classrooms, men’s and women’s dormitories and a dining hall. Currently the training schedule is full and a second classroom building is being built in order to meet the needs of additional training. Pray that the much needed training of Papua New Guineans would be resourced so that the good work of Bible translation can continue.
When you realise that Papua New Guinea has over 830 languages, it would be easy to focus on the function of language and miss its beauty. Some would meet the challenge created by many different languages by saying, “Why not standardise on one language?”. After many generations, this might solve a communications issue but would destroy the rich cultural diversity present in Papua New Guinea. What if creation only had one type of flying insect. Would you choose the butterfly or the bee? Diversity in nature brings out both beauty and function, so it is with languages. Praise God for his creative diversity in all things.
A helping hand, a kind word, and a friendly smile: that’s Rauvarai.
When Alex and Lois Vincent lived in Suwaira Village from the late 1950’s onward, they made many friends among the Tairora people. One of these was Rauvarai, who they knew for the last 15 years of their time in Suwaira. They were impressed by his perseverance in walking uphill though he needed a cane to navigate the uneven road. He usually arrived with an agenda, such as asking a question about a Bible passage so he could understand it more clearly before teaching it to others.
Sadly, in 1997, Rauvarai incurred an illness that left him permanently blind. Even though he cannot see any longer, he trusts God and continues teaching to the children in his community. He enjoys listening to preaching, but cannot read God’s Word for himself.
In early September, he and his daughter came to the Ukarumpa Training Centre to join hundreds of others in celebrating the dedication of the Tairora AudiBible. Now God’s Word in audio format is available to all Tairora speakers. The raised circles on the front of the audio player make it easy for Rauvarai to manipulate. His wrinkled fingers quickly find the button for turning on the recording of the Tairora Scriptures, forwarding to a new chapter or book of the Bible, or playing one of the Tairora Scripture songs that are also on the AudiBible.
Rauvarai no longer needs to ask others to read God’s Word for him. His face alight with a smile, he exclaimed, “Now the children and I can listen together to God’s Word being read aloud on the AudiBible!”
When Alex and Lois said goodbye to their village friends for the last time before retiring in the US, Rauvarai gave them a verse of assurance: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and will carry you; I will sustain you and rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4). Every day Alex, Lois, and Rauvarai find this promise to be true.
Music and culture are important when introducing Scripture in the heart language of a people group. When these eternal words are used in the time-honoured music of the culture, the truths they embody are embraced. Each culture has its own uniqueness that brightens the light of the word of God. Pray as language development workers take the time to understand the culture they are working in, that they would be able to use music to bring the message of redemption to the people of Papua New Guinea.
Time travels quickly. Children become adults who in turn have children. Each generation moves on. Papua New Guineans embrace the need for the Scriptures in all of their heart languages. But the workers are few. Many language groups believe that the next generation of language translators is living within their villages right now. Which one of the children above will be the next translator for this group? Pray that each and every language would have a language development worker advocating for heart language Scriptures.
Enduring the hard times requires perseverance. It also requires shelter and protection. Pray that those on the front lines of the language development and Bible translation effort are able to find shelter from the storm of discouragement and protection from those who wish to cause setbacks to the process of getting Scriptures into every heart language.
When culture meets Scripture it is best incorporated if it can interact within the existing cultural context. Instead of replacing cultural dress, dances or songs with new clothes and music, the culture embraces the concepts with familiar activities. Songs have new meanings and dress reflects the discovery of the joy that the Scriptures can bring. Scriptures then have long term impact and communities are transformed. Pray for transformation today in PNG cultures that have already embraced the “new words” of Scripture.