The timer buzzed, and the four groups leapt to their feet and raced from one corner of the room to another. As the men and women settled into their new chairs, they read the exercise instructions posted on the wall—which told them to take turns reading sentences, paragraphs, and pages of the assigned book. In one corner, a man in a black felt cap opened the reader. “This is a story about a wild pig,” he read slowly in Tok Pisin, Papua New Guinea’s trade language. The others in his group leaned in close, each ready to take his or her turn.
The class had started a little over four months ago. “I’ve always wanted to be able to read the Bible, but I couldn’t read or write,” explained Mama Ruth. “So that’s why I asked Petra to start this class.”
Petra, a teacher, gladly agreed and began to put together a class based on Creative Phonics methods, which helps learners identify and learn sounds in a logical order. Now her classroom is full of over 25 eager students, from grandfathers to young mothers, none of whom could initially read or write and most hadn’t ever attended school.
“I never had a chance to go to school,” a woman named Liwai shared. “But now I’m so happy for this class, because now I am able to read and write.”
Another woman agreed, “I can read the church song books now and can even participate when I visit my sister’s church which has different liturgy.” “Yes, and now I can attend Bible study!” chorused several others.
One man stepped forward. “I am an elder in my church, but I couldn’t read or write,” Sika explained. “Now that I can, I can better serve in ministry!” Jack gave a small smile. “Whenever I saw another person read, I felt a deep hunger and I wanted it desperately. But now I can read too!”