God of the impossible

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Power of the Word


God of the impossible. This theme stood out to participants of a Translation Awareness Workshop at two of their morning devotions. The first passage told of God’s miracle of stopping the sun to bring about victory for the people of Israel. The other told of an even greater miracle: Jesus born as the living Word in human flesh.

For five small Tonda language groups in the Morehead District of Western Province, Papua New Guinea, producing a Bible translation is also something solely achievable through the God of the impossible! Currently they have only trial alphabets in the vernacular. Still, they have faith that one day they will have God’s Word in their heart language.

Twenty-six tribal leaders representing four of the five Tonda languages gathered to learn about Bible translation. They did an interactive survey of local languages, learned basic translation principles, and wrote a few phrases in their dialects. Afterwards, the group brainstormed about what genres of literacy books would be appealing to their communities.

Another means of communicating new ideas was drama. In one skit, the group formed a chain of people across the front of the room, demonstrating that many different roles are needed to complete a Scripture translation. Whether by working in the gardens, repairing bicycles for transportation, or praying, everyone in the community can help!

The representatives from the Tonda languages have now returned to their villages to communicate their enthusiasm for mother-tongue Scriptures. They want to see Bible translation happen for the sake of younger generations, and with their help.

The group chose the topic for the next workshop: Culture Meets Scripture. They want to know what the Bible says about marriage practices such as sister exchange, pig feasts, and multiple wives. Other topics that pique their interest are biblical teachings on burial rights, sorcery, and garden magic.

One leader summed up their time together by saying, “We appreciate this good knowledge and we look forward to the next things to be achieved.” Depending on the God of the impossible, the Tonda people are eager to continue on the path to Bible translation.

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Until the setting of the sun


Now I understand

New Understanding
New understanding

When the Scriptures are understood in one’s heart language, there is a breakthrough in understanding. Ideas that had been heard in a second (or maybe third) language suddenly take on new meaning as the familiar words that express these thoughts, now have deep meaning and a clear context. As churches begin to read the heart language Scriptures in the assemblies mother tongue, and teach its meaning, it implants a strong desire to study it more. Pray that the impact of all newly created Papua New Guinean Scriptures have deep and meaningful impact wherever they are read.

New understanding
I want more!


It’s in the book

It’s in the book


For almost 300 language groups in Papua New Guinea, you can’t say “Look in here, it’s in the book!” Why? Because with over 830 languages in the country, there are still language groups that haven’t had a translation project started. To put that in perspective, Madang Province comprises an area about the size of the state of Maryland in the United States. Yet it has has over 160 languages! In the picture above, the Marik Language group from Madang Province has the New Testament completed! Pray for the remaining language groups in the Madang Province still needing a project and praise Him for the Marik New Testament that is changing lives and impacting communities.

Madang_small modified
Language groups in Madang Province

Cultural impact

Weaved together
Weaved together

This Papua New Guinean bilum (string bag) is a great representation of how Scripture and culture can come together in a wonderful way. While culture may have a unique understanding of life, when it meets the Scriptures, it blends together to become a beautiful work of art. Bible translation without an understanding of the culture it is being integrated into, is easily misunderstood or rejected. But when the Scripture is viewed through cultural lenses it becomes real and vibrant. The meaning becomes clear. Pray as translators work in PNG cultures, they can learn the cultural nuances, in order to make the Scriptures come alive.

Translating is not for wimps


Translation is a demanding task. One of the academic requirements is an understanding of Greek and Hebrew. In Ukarumpa, Papua New Guineans begin the process of understanding these languages in order to participate in the translation process. Pray for the training centre as it continues to meet the needs of the translation effort. Pray for Papua New Guineans as they undertake the academic courses required to become effective translators.

Changing times

Dugout canoe
Dugout canoe

Old ways used to be new ways. New ways will soon be old ways. Change happens and it seems to be happening faster with every passing year. How long does it take change to happen? It took 38 years for radio to have 50 million users but it only took TV, thirteen years. The internet took four years to reach 50 million users. Facebook added 200 million users in less than a year  and there were 1 billion iPod downloads in a 9 month period. The rate of change is rapidly increasing. In Papua New Guinea, we are seeing an explosion of cellphone and smartphone usage. Translated scriptures are now downloaded and language groups are reading and hearing the Bible in their heart language in some of the most remote areas of the world. Pray for language development workers and Bible translators as they make strategic decisions on how to best serve the language needs of PNG. Pray that they can embrace the changes necessary to make it happen.

Banana boat
Banana boat with outboard engine

Reaching by teaching

DSC01474FAre you a teacher? Do you want to be a part of the language development and Bible translation process? There is a great need for teachers at the Ukarumpa International School. This school provides an excellent opportunity to teach motivated students in an international setting. The student body has represented as many as 20 different nationalities. The school provides an excellent education for students whose parents are working in the language development and Bible translation process. Without a school for their children, they would either have to home school, slowing down their project, or perhaps not come to PNG at all. What about you? Do you want to teach and help language groups in Papua New Guinea receive the Scriptures in their heart language? Pray for more teachers and watch this video for more information – Faces of translation – teachers

Things are not always the way they appear …

Look into my eyes


Nature has many ways of fooling others. A bird may think twice before attacking this butterfly. Things are not always the way they first appear. Language development and Bible translation projects are often that way. Initially, strategies are developed that seem great for what is known. However, as the project persists, new information may indicate that another way may be better. Two great characteristics that language workers must have are flexibility and adaptability. Those that have these traits can easily change to a new and better direction that will help them complete the task. Pray for language workers throughout Papua New Guinea that they may see the best way to get God’s word in all languages.

Four eyes?


You should read it!

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“You should read it,” a man nudged August. “Yes,” others joined in, “Go on! Try it!”

The group of Tiaang speakers had gathered in the first few pews of the church to read aloud the newly translated story of Gideon to check for naturalness, clarity, and accuracy. August stood up and fingered the paper nervously. Read aloud in his language without any practice?! He cleared his throat and began to pick out the words, slowly picking up speed. Suddenly, a smile broke across his face; he was reading Scripture in his own language!

Fifty Tiaang and Tigak Sunday School teachers from Djaul Island, New Ireland Province had gathered for a two-week Sunday School book translation and teacher training workshop. They worked hard on translating materials and learning topics including children’s learning styles, skits, songs, personal Bible study, lesson planning, and games. Despite not having attended church in a long time, August had been chosen to use the island’s ambulance to chauffeur the translation advisors daily to the workshop location. As he drove back and forth, he began to grow curious. What exactly were they doing all day at the church?

One day, August slipped into a back bench to see for himself and was fascinated! When volunteers were needed to help check the story of Gideon, he hurried to the church—and there he stayed for the rest of the workshop, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the translation task. He offered to check and read Tiaang stories whenever possible, and discussed them with an animation that no one had seen in years.

“I used to attend Sunday School when I was young,” he shared at the end of the course, “but then you sang that song [in the class],” he hummed a few bars of “Love is a Flag Flown High,” a children’s song about God’s love, “and I remembered!”

Now, August has a renewed vision and passion for reaching the children of his community; he’s excited to coordinate a local Sunday School and attend church again.

Someday I will learn to read!
Someday I will learn to read!

Room with a view

Room with a view
Beachfront property

When going on a vacation, getting a room with a view usually comes at a cost. Even more expensive is a home for sale that has beautiful vistas. Well maybe you need to come to Papua New Guinea! There are plenty of languages groups that need a project started that have great views! Whether it be in the mountains or on the beach, there is a place for you in the Bible Translation effort. Why not pray today about what part God might have you play?

Back porch view
Back porch view