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.