The Bible Translation Association of Papua New Guinea (BTA) National Conference was held in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea (PNG) from June 28-July 5. During the conference, David Gela, one of the original members of BTA, stepped down after 35 years of leadership as BTA director and handed the position to the newly elected director, Tony Kotauga. During the ceremony, leaders anointed Tony with oil, and then David and his wife Sineina knelt down and washed the feet of Tony and his wife. As a symbol of stepping into his new role, Tony and his family walked across the stage into the arms of the Board of BTA. Then together with David and Sineina, they walked to the opposite side of the stage into the arms of Kirk Franklin to symbolize David accepting his new role as Wycliffe Global Alliance’s Pacific Area Director. It was a great day of celebration and energy as two local groups from Tony’s church in Lae and David’s village in West New Britain sang songs and danced in celebration.
Throughout the week, this new leadership was known as the “Joshua Leadership” as many people compared David’s hand off to Tony with Moses’s commissioning Joshua. Many guest speakers came to share their support including Kirk Franklin, Executive Director of Wycliffe International, John Watters, President of SIL International, and Freddy Boswell, Executive Director of SIL International. SIL-PNG’s Director David Tute signed a new partnership covenant with BTA during this time, declaring that SIL-PNG would support BTA in all of their endeavours.
Members were excited to begin a new chapter, saying that this conference was “renewing and a great time of repentance.” David Beleyeme, a translator in the East Sepik region of PNG, said, “[I am] excited about this new leadership change. [After this conference,] I have a renewed passion to begin translation again.” Many people expressed their excitement for the years to come and their sincere thankfulness to David for his time at BTA.