By Rachel Greco
When mission organizations first landed in an area in Papua New Guinea, they were faced with about fifty languages. The organizations decided to find a dominant language and translate the Bible into that language as well as songbooks, materials for schools, etc. When the mission traveled to a neighboring language, they taught the people this dominant language, so that they became bilingual.
In the Rabaul area, the dominant language, or language of wider communication, was Kuanua. Wherever the church traveled in these first days, they took Kuanua with them. Now, several generations later, no one has been schooled in Kuanua, however it is still used in some churches because there are a few people from that language group still scattered throughout this part of Papua New Guinea.
The churchgoers in this area are reverent and quiet in the services. But when the Baining people are able to use their language, Ure, in the service instead of Kuanau, the difference is as huge as the ocean. “It’s electric, like someone has turned on the lights,” one of the language helpers for the Baining people said.
People will clap, kneel, raise their hands in the air, confess sins, praise God, and dance. No one came in and taught the Baining people how to do these things; it is all spontaneous, a rush of joy and delight in their God bursting out of their hearts as they’re able to worship Him in their own language.
Sometimes if an outsider is at one of these church services, they prefer to listen to the service in the language of the Baining people because of the passionate atmosphere, even though they can’t understand the words. The people’s spontaneous worship contrasts so sharply with the usual quiet, reserved behavior of the Baining people, and reveals that their love for the Lord is real.