A bell rings, and Regina, a Kamano-Kafe speaker, glances up from her desk at the man standing at the help window. Before he can say anything, she disappears into corridors of shelving in a back room, suddenly reappearing with several packages. “Just sign here,” she says, pushing a form at him alongside the boxes. “Enjoy!”
Although at first glance a post office might not seem to be critical to Bible translation, it plays a significant role here in Papua New Guinea (PNG). When translators in remote villages find themselves in need of something, Regina, the post office manager, works hard to track down the item and send it in a timely manner, often requiring her to interface with everything from aviation schedules to regional centres to the PNG postal system. Fortunately, she loves all the detailed bookkeeping. “But, I don’t have peace until it’s actually on the plane!” she laughs. She also enjoys seeing people encouraged by packages sent from their home countries.
Regina has been working at the post office in Ukarumpa for almost three years. “I’m a very shy person. I don’t talk a lot or very loudly. So when I first came, I was really challenged to talk with customers and such. But I learned God was with me during this time, and He gave me courage.” Regina worked her way up from a postal clerk and now finds herself running the entire office, with an uncanny ability to remember hundreds of names and faces, matching them instantly to pieces of mail piled up in canvas bags. “God is the one who gives me strength to take care of this big place—I’m not afraid anymore!”
Regina also works part time recording and filing translated materials. “When I see all these [translated] books, I think about all the men and women who have given their time to do this work, and how I in the post office can support them all [and be a part of Bible translation].”
Samson was doing his best. He had a deep desire to see his people transformed by God’s Word, so after a Scripture Application and Leadership Training (SALT) course in a neighboring language, he had undertaken the task of translating the course materials into Amele. It was a huge project, and Samson struggled along with little training and almost no support.
The completed Amele New Testament had been sitting in storage for over a decade, but few people owned a copy, and many Amele did not even know that the translation existed. When a group arrived to research the reasons behind the lack of use of the New Testament, leaders from the area’s main denomination started asking, “Why don’t we use this Bible?”
As they talked, they began to catch Samson’s vision for the Amele to grasp God’s Word in a deeper way, until the entire denomination threw its support behind his efforts. A team formed, with Samson at its head, and for the next year they pushed through discouragement and hardship to translate the twenty SALT lessons. It became a community project as women cooked for the team and children even pitched in by bringing firewood. Excitement built, with other denominations coming on board, and as the project neared completion and registrations poured in for the Amele’s own SALT course, leaders realized they would need to run two back-to-back programs to accommodate all 480 participants.
During the two courses, almost 450 New Testaments made their way out of storage and into the hands and hearts of people, like one man who said, “I thought that going to church and playing the part of a Christian on the outside was a means of getting something from God. Now I see that there is so much more to Christianity than this. God wants me to be transformed on the inside.”
It was the end of this year’s reading competition, a contest designed to encourage literacy in the Seimat language of the Ninigo Islands, when little Jaspa stood for his turn. The event organizers had allowed Jaspa to join at the urging of his grandparents who had been reading to him at home, though they were unsure of how an elementary student would do in competition against older children.
The other participants had done their best, but when Jaspa confidently picked up the book, he had the attention of the whole community. He read the story fluently, and the audience erupted in cheers. One little boy had shown everyone that reading was no longer a stumbling block to education.
Watching Jaspa’s success was a highlight of consultant Theresa Wilson’s year. “It’s shown to the community themselves that when they read, when they help each other, when they help their children, that they can become a reading community.”
Written by Beth Matheson, told by Theresa Wilson
To learn more about literacy in Papua New Guinea and how you can be apart of the work click here!