Story By Stephanie Ernandes, Photos by Ben Pehrson
“What’s really been on my heart during this season of our project is what’s happening in the hearts and minds of our translators. We have about 20 national translators from 10 different languages in the Aitape West Translation program. Most of them have been with us from the beginning of the project in 2001. They all work together translating the same passages. The process of doing translation work is very much like a Bible and Discipleship school for them,” said Ben Pehrson, a Bible Bible translation consultant/trainer from the United States.
“Every morning for devotions we basically do an inductive Bible study on a short passage from the book that we are translating that month. We open that up for anybody and everybody to make observations about the text. We try to pull out the meaning of the text, by asking ourselves the following questions: What’s the main point of the text? Do we have any questions? Is something confusing? Is something surprising? Are there cross references that we can think of? Or other passages of scripture that relate? What kind of application is there?”
“Years ago, it was almost like pulling teeth to get anyone to contribute. There would often be one or two guys responding, but sometimes you had to sit there in silence for what seemed like forever. In some ways that is just kind of a Melanesian culture thing: be happy with the silence, everyone is thinking about it, in ten minutes somebody will say something. Also, part of it may have been they weren’t always necessarily getting it, they weren’t necessarily understanding the scriptures.”
“However, a few years ago we started noticing that they were all starting to really getting it, starting to understand the truth of God’s Word. And not only getting it but applying the truth to their lives in real key, critical ways. Things like deciding not to do seek revenge, which in their culture was like a no brainer. We have to seek revenge because they harmed our Uncle, now we have to get them back. We had translators making decisions to say, ‘No, in this passage of scripture we are translating this month God is showing us a better way and I am going to lead my family not to pursue revenge.”
“Nowadays when we meet for devotions in the morning, pretty much every single guy wants to contribute and we don’t usually have to wait very long either before people saying things. They are realizing how important, how life giving God’s Word is.”
“…so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
The national translators and local church leaders are now pursuing a strategy to run parallel literacy and language development workshops with the translators so that more people can participate together in these morning devotions. Their desire is for more people to experience the life changing truth of God’s Word so they can return to their communities in greater numbers to spread the impact that God’s Word is making in their lives.