Jumping into the Nuku River

Jumping Into The Nuku River Photo Edited

Story: Stephanie Ernandes
Photo Credit: Deb Smucker

As I stared at this photo shining up on the big white screen in the meeting house I was lost in wonder, “Who are these people? What made them get neck deep into a river? Where are they going? What is so important as to drive someone to ride or hang onto a log for transportation?” I had a hunch it had something to do with God’s Word; I had to find out!

In early 2017 an Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) Workshop was scheduled to happen. This workshop would train those attending to take the Word of God, store it up in their hearts and share it accurately in their own language to their own people. The workshops teach many methods of oral Bible storytelling, both traditional and modern. Those attending would learn to use drama, storyboarding, and symbols, among other things, to help share the Bible stories.

“Some of the Nuku area language groups in the Sandaun province of PNG have been waiting for years for someone to help get God’s Word into their language. So it was with great excitement that we welcomed the arrival of participants from Beli, Pahi, Heyo, Mehek, Yahang, Wanap, Laeko Libuat, Siliput, Yangum Mun, Yangum Dey, and Minidien language groups,” shared Deb Smucker, an OBS trainer in the Sepik, “Due to significant rains in the area, swollen rivers, and muddy roads made the trip to Wewak a challenge for many of the participants.”

These language groups (along with many others) still have no Scripture translated into their language. They come to the OBS Workshops so they can hear, learn and share the Bible with their loved ones, their families, and their people. Having gone without for so long, they understand how very special it is to have and to know the Scriptures. Jumping into a river up to their necks and clinging to a log floating across a river was a small thing for them compared to the opportunity to grab hold of God’s Word and to begin telling the life-changing stories from God’s book.

Jesus is like a Bamboo Torch


Story: Matt Taylor

We’ve been working on the Nukna translation of the book of John, and recently came to Jesus’ famous statement in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” As we discussed how to best translate this metaphor, we realized that there was a problem. There is a Nukna word for light – yam – but it’s not possible to say just yam by itself. Light always has a source, and grammatically that source must be included, either by mentioning the actual source or by using a possessive pronoun – “its light,” “their light,” etc. It would be ungrammatical to just say “light.” ( This grammatical feature is known as “inalienable possession.”) To literally translate “I am the light of the world” into Nukna would lead to an unacceptable Nukna sentence.

One idea we’ve had is to use a common source of light that the Nukna people are familiar with: the bamboo torch. The Nukna people live in a remote area without electricity. To see at night, they often light up a species of bamboo named kup. Kup burns with a blazing brightness, and a long piece can be held as a torch, enabling a person to walk at night around the otherwise pitch black village. So in Nukna, Jesus’ words would read, “I am like a bamboo torch [kup] that shines its light to the world.”

Our translation team needs to do further testing to see if this figure of speech is communicating accurately and powerfully. Please pray for us, that God would guide us as we seek to communicate this concept, as well as many others, into the Nukna language in a dynamic and life-changing way. “It’s like the light of a bamboo torch shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)