Unplugging Wells

Adam Speaking to a Crowd of Enga Villagers

Story By Rachel Greco

Like removing rocks which block a well, fluency in reading and speaking can open up the glorious goodness of God’s Word to people in Papua New Guinea.

During Adam and Martha Boyd’s last visit to their village of Immi, they had the opportunity to visit the area surrounding their home. One day their family crossed the long suspension bridge over the Lai River and headed along a path up the mountain. Just as they were about to turn around and go home, they came upon a small market area. As the family arrived, Adam was quickly ushered into the center of the market area and told that he needed to speak to the people.

Extemporaneous speaking in Enga is not his strength. Fortunately, however, he was able to recall some of the things he had said in the sermon that he had recently delivered in the Enga language, and did his best to share about the Kingdom of God with the people at the market. He also played for them a small audio sample from the Gospel of Matthew over his phone.

This unexpected occurrence made him realize that God has given him a tremendous opportunity. Because people are so excited to hear a foreigner speak Enga, he has the possibility of going almost anywhere in the province and drawing a crowd just by speaking. Possessing an increased fluency in the Enga language would enable him to share the deep truths of God’s Word.

Becoming comfortable with reading a language can also help un-stopper the plug of God’s truth. In June, Martin Harty, one of the Enga Bible translation team members, came to Ukarumpa and recorded the book of Luke. Because of Martin’s fluency, they were able to complete the recording in just five and a half days. They now have three gospels recorded in the Enga language. Three openings of wells that the people who are not yet fluent in reading Enga can come and drink from.


The Color Purple


Tree with Purple Fruit

Story by Rachel Greco

The Kasua people of Western Province have no word for the color purple. They have words for many other colors: black, red, white, yellow, green, and blue, but not for the color of royalty.

About nine New Testament passages mention people placing a purple robe on Jesus. The Kasua translation team always wanted to use the word ‘red,’ or ‘keyalo,’ to describe the robe. Tommy, one of the translation team helpers, disagreed because this is not historically accurate or signifies the royalty of Jesus.

One of the main rules of translation is that the team must stick to the historical facts when they translate a passage. If they don’t, then how can the readers trust what they’re reading is true? Other questions about truth could bubble in the reader’s minds about the Scriptures. For this reason, Tommy was not willing to change the word purple. So the team hung up the problem, hoping to revisit it later with more inspiration.

God did not disappoint.

Years later, Tommy hiked with some of the men near their village. They saw a tree that possessed bulbous growths growing on the side of it like fruit. These growths were “the most beautiful color of purple I’d ever seen,” explained Tommy.

“What is the name of this tree?” Tommy asked the men.

“This is an Okani tree,” they replied.

Tommy suggested, “Why don’t you, in those passages where we’ve been struggling to translate the color purple, use ‘they put a robe on Jesus the color of the fruit of the Okani tree’?

“Yeah. We know exactly what color that is,” the men said enthusiastically.

Everyone in their village would also visualize this phrase accurately, as the Okani tree is the only tree in that area that produces this kind of purple growth. So now, among the Kasua people, in his royal purple robe, Jesus is shown to be the king that he is.

Puzzle Piece

By Rachel Greco

Hundreds of language groups without Scripture in their language lay scattered throughout Papua New Guinea like clusters of stars. How does a translator know which people group to work with?

One young woman, Joy*, from a farm in Montana, read a story in 2010 about a language group in Papua New Guinea called the Nama. One of the Nama people said, “Having the Bible in English is like having a cold glass of water we can’t drink because we can’t understand it,” which splashed Joy’s heart.

While Joy attended the Pacific Orientation Course (POC) in 2011, the survey team took a trip out to the Blafe language area to see where they could begin a new translation. After POC, Joy heard about this trip and said, “I was very excited. It brought back all my memories of the Nama,” but she still planned on visiting other locations.

Joy wanted to visit the Blafe language group first, because that’s where she felt God was leading her. Before she went, she gathered some input about the ministry side from friends and compiled a list.

Joy was blown away by how God checked off everything on her list as she visited this language group. The people’s spiritual hunger was evident, as was their desire for truth and growth. Joy saw the things that would be difficult about living in this area, such as the travel, but God showed her ways around each challenge. On a more practical side, since she had grown up on a farm, the remote setting and rural life of the area thrilled her.

As Joy prayed about working among the Blafe people, the first verse in 1 Thessalonians 2 stuck out to her: “Our visit to you is not a failure.” Many of the themes in the following passage fit the needs of the area, such as new beliefs sneaking into the community and how to keep following the Truth.

God tugged Joy all the way from rural Montana to Papua New Guinea, snapping her together like a puzzle piece with the Nama people, her new family.

*The name has been changed for the anonymity of the speaker.