The air was filled with excited voices as the Waskia people gathered to celebrate the arrival of the revised Bible in their own language. The event included singing, dancing, and gift-giving. One of the speakers, Andrew Kwimberi, reminded the people that this was not just another book, but a book that could change their lives. He encouraged them to drink in its sweetness, to read it every day, and to apply it in practical contexts.
As the dedication ceremony drew to a close, rain began to fall and people filled the tent, clamoring to buy a copy of the Bible in their own language. There were so many Waskia speakers wanting a Bible that the boxes quickly emptied so twenty more were brought and sales continued.
The celebration was the culmination of a translation journey that began in 1976, when Fay Barker and Janet Lee joined the Waskia people on Karkar Island. Janet, Fay and their Waskia co-translators completed the Waskia New Testament in 1985. Fay returned to the small island in Madang Province in 2007 to help the Waskia co-translators revise the New Testament translation and complete the translation of Old Testament books as well.
One of the Waskia co-translators was Pastor Lavong, who arrived at the celebration adorned with seashells and a traditional headdress. As drumbeats rolled and people danced, he related the story of his frustration in his early years of preaching. When he saw the blank faces of his congregation he realized, “God’s book must be translated into the words of the people for them to really understand what the Lord wants them to do.” Pastor Lavong spent the subsequent years of his life as part of the Waskia translation team. Now, holding the Waskia Bible close to his heart, he shared, “When I sat down to help with translation, I thought it would only change others’ lives…but it changed my life too.” Grinning, he exclaimed, “Now this translation will bring meaning and change to the lives of the people of Karkar Island.”