Jimmy’s Story

Jimmy and Lucy.jpg

(photo: Jimmy and his daughter)

by Rachel Greco

Jimmy’s father and brother had served on Jim and Joan’s translation team for years, but Jimmy never wanted anything to do with God. Then, the unthinkable happened.

A hunting spear that Jimmy stored in the rafters jiggled loose and fell, piercing the skull of his eight-year-old daughter. She was his firstborn, and he was worried. She did not die, but neither did the injury heal. Instead she developed a high fever, and Jimmy knew he had to do something. He asked the local church leader, Johnstead (who is also a leader of the translation team), to pray for her.

Jimmy said, “I’ll do anything for my daughter, anything at all!”

Jimmy was able to get the money together for the expensive two-day trip to the nearest hospital, where he and his daughter stayed for over two months. The girl’s wound slowly healed, but she was also diagnosed with tuberculosis and malaria.

One day a local woman came to the hospital to pray for the sick children. She said to them, “I am sure that at least seven of you will be released from the hospital tomorrow.” And sure enough, not seven, but eleven children were released—and Jimmy’s daughter was one of them.

Jimmy’s rebellion against God had shattered. Jimmy’s first Sunday back spent at church and requested to meet with the Bible translation team to thank them for their prayers. One team member after another shared their thoughts and Baruga scripture with Jimmy. Several of them spoke with shaking voices, obviously deeply moved to see the change in Jimmy. Jimmy himself looked close to tears several times.

One person said, “We church leaders saw your bad behavior for nine years, but we didn’t talk to you about it. We took all our heaviness to God. And here you are.” God has the longing and power to bring people to Him—even through the means of pain and sorrow.


Commitment and Creativity

Story and photos by Stephanie Ernandes

(Jose at work)

“Due to Kerttu’s cancer treatments we are no longer able to be in Papua New Guinea full time… We need to be based in Finland for her ongoing treatments,” shared Darrell Hays, Kerttu’s husband. “Since our future is so uncertain, we have no idea when we will ever be able to complete the entire New Testament.”

Knowing this delima, the Odoodee people made an important decision. Darrell explained, “The Odoodee people decided that it was a great idea if all of the Scriptures that have been consultant checked (75% of the New Testament) would be printed into one volume.  That way they can use them rather than wait for some uncertain time in the future when the entire translation of the New Testament is finished.”

As the Odoodee people prepared to celebrate the much-anticipated arrival of this portion of God’s Word, Darrell sent all the books that had been consultant checked to be printed in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea where the cost of printing would be most economical.

“When we turned in the ‘copy ready’ (typeset) materials to the Printshop, we found that they had a major problem,” explained Andy Grosh, a fellow translator who was helping to facilitate the process. The only viable option for printing these books was to use the Risograph. However, it had a worn-out drum that needed to be replaced before they could print anything.  “The Printshop had ordered a new drum from Australia, but when it arrived,” Andy shared, “we found out that although the model numbers were the same, the models from the Southern Hemisphere required different parts from those which were sold in the Northern Hemisphere, and our unit had been sourced in the Northern Hemisphere many years ago.”

Jose Bena, an office machine technician, thought heavily on this.  He strongly desired that the Odoodee people receive their partial New Testament in time for their celebration.  One night as he contemplated what to do he came up with an idea. He would try to create one drum out of both the worn-out drum and the replacement drum by taking them apart and combining parts from each.

Andy expressed his joy in God’s provision, “Jose created a functional drum that would work in our Risograph… It was truly God’s gift to us so that His Words could be printed and distributed in the Odoodee language.”

As they thanked God for his Book at the dedication, they also were thankful for Jose, whose perseverance, creativity, and commitment to the task was a crucial step in making the celebration possible.

Powerful Perseverance

Story by: Rachel Greco

How far would you go to translate the Bible into your language?

Philip, Leo, and Joe set off on a journey one Thursday to reach the nearest town and airstrip so they could arrive at Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea. Due to heavy rains, it took them six and a half days to cross the mountains guarding the way to their destination. These men traversed through mud—sometimes as deep as their knees—up and down the mountains. Some rivers had flooded so much that the men had to sit and wait for hours to cross them, then carried on through pouring rain.

Sometimes the trio crafted rafts out of hunks of wood to get their bags across the swollen rivers. There were no vehicles where they had hoped to catch a truck, so they simply trekked on through the day and night. At one point in the middle of the night they were so tired that they stopped and fell asleep for a few short intervals. Despite all of these travails, the men pressed on in order to complete translating a few more portions of the New Testament into their heart language of Lote.

This trio was made of truly extraordinary men. Leo, the chief Bible translator for the group, had been translating the New Testament for over fifteen years and had become skilled at expressing God’s Word in a meaningful way to his people. He could also write songs and sing them, led youth, and the choir. Philip, an elderly man with impaired feet, felt passionate about God’s Word coming across clearly and sounding sweet and genuine to his Lote ears.

Finally, after many hardships, the trio reached their goal. And not long after, because of their perseverance, these men were able to see the fruit of their sore feet and anxious waiting when the Lote New Testaments were unveiled and received joyfully by the Lote people.(Leo reading the Lote New Testament)




The War on Sorcery

Story by Rachel Greco

Sorcery chokes numerous parts of Papua New Guinea, negatively effecting many people. The Kamano-Kafe Bible translation team has recently written and filmed a sorcery movie with the encouragement of a local member of parliament to help fight this evil.

Kossack, a member of the Kamano-Kafe team, wrote the sorcery movie script based on the death of his mother-in-law’s, Afuri’s, husband in a surprise village attack over sorcery accusations. When he was running away from his attackers, he was shot in the back with an arrow. He fell over a ditch, protecting his young son under his dying body.

In the aftermath of the raid, when Afuri returned to her village looking for her family, she found her son alive, hiding in the ditch under her husband’s body. The movie shows their suffering through flash-back scenes told by her grown son. He tells the story, including the sorcerer’s trickery, to his sons, challenging them to stop the group of young men who are stirring up another village fight over new sorcery accusations following another villager’s death.

“We are in a war to save lives,” Rich Mattocks, the Kamano team’s language advisor, said. “As we made multiple trips to filming locations, we drove past a newly burned-down house where the occupant had been accused of doing sorcery. He was murdered less than two weeks before we started filming in May.”

After the Kamano team watched both the Kamano-Kafe and the Tok Pisin draft version of the movie, they asked older villagers to see the film. One of the older men could not stop talking about how good it was and that it was going to, “pull the pants down on the men doing this sorcery practice.” The cultural translation of this word picture is that the video is going to expose and shame these men, thus stopping them from what they are doing.

The team also showed the draft version to fourteen people from six different languages around Papua New Guinea. Most of them were in tears and said their people will understand it. They wanted their own copies…to start showing it NOW!

As Rich said, “Sorcery is an epidemic. We have seen film have a large impact on education for the AIDS epidemic, and hope that God will bless this film to have a large impact on sorcery.”



The film has been released in the Kamano-Kafe language and has already contributed to the saving of one life.  It is in the process of being translated into Tok Pisin to be released soon.  An English translation is being considered.


Finding Nema

Story by Karen Weaver

As the helicopter touched down on the lush green mountainside, Garrett looked out at a sea of eager faces and wondered if these might be the people for him.

Having completed his pre-field training, Garret was ready to focus on a specific people group, a daunting task with more than 300 languages in PNG still waiting for God’s Word. He was grateful to receive a list of a half dozen “high priority” language groups to help him narrow his search.

Two months previous, Garrett had visited one of these high priority language groups, located in a flat, watery delta along the south coast. Now he was visiting a group living high in a mountainous region that was not accessible to the outside world by roads, airstrips, or rivers. The only way in had been by helicopter.

In this isolated area Garrett found a thriving community. On his second day there, he enjoyed watching field games and traditional dances. Two men sat with him, explaining the origins of the dances and what the costumes represented, such as birds or bats.

The next day, Saturday, he and a colleague met with the leaders of four villages who had come to participate in a fund raiser event for a local school. Their gathering afforded the perfect opportunity to discuss the need for a translation committee and what would be necessary if a linguist were to stay with them. Garrett was encouraged by the timing of their meeting and by their interest in translation. They even showed him where they could build him a house and a landing pad for the helicopter.

On Sunday, representatives of the women’s group approached him to say they would pray for him at their prayer meeting and asked for his name. They listened as he shared some of his history with them. Garrett felt his heart drawn toward these people who loved the Lord but didn’t have his Book in their language.

The helicopter was scheduled to pick them up on Monday morning. Due to heavy fog and general bad weather, it did not come that day. Or the next. Or the next. On the third day, Garrett’s friend suggested maybe God was keeping them fogged in to allow him the opportunity to share his decision to work among them.

On Thursday morning Garrett gathered the people to announce his decision and was rewarded by loud cheers of enthusiasm. Not long after, the fog lifted and the chopper landed. As he departed through an opening in the clouds, Garrett looked forward to the day he would return to begin living among the Nema people.

God Speaks Our Language

Story by Rachel Greco

A kerosene lamp flickers in the dark as men and women sit on a tin container or palm mat for an evening session of village checking. Leo and Greg have already spent weeks translating the first drafts of several passages of Scripture and then checking their resemblance to the original Scriptures. Now they’re ready for the third step of translation: checking the passages with people in nearby villages, hence the term, “village checking.”

Lote speaking men and women listen to scripture portions read aloud. They offer constructive criticism to ensure clarity and accuracy. They wrestle with the words to find just the right expression to convey the message while preserving the richness of their language. The Lote experts, humble men and women who live off the land and cook by fire, sit in the shadows, now interacting with God’s word in their own language for the first time.

For this people, Scripture is typically reserved for Sundays, read in a trade language that is not necessarily clear or easily understood. The Bible they use is not usually expected to evoke emotional responses. Thus, the people’s reactions ranged from jovial to profound as they interacted with the Scriptures written in their language at one of the checking sessions:

“This doesn’t sound like God’s Word because it seems like John the Baptist is truly angry.” But that’s the way it’s actually supposed to be, because John really was angry, which shows that true emotions come across in the vernacular that weren’t captured in the trade language.

“When we read the trade language, it’s like the words bounce off our skin, but when we hear it in our language, it cuts straight into our hearts and gets into our blood,” one person said at another session.

For one checking session, Greg spent two days traveling to a village deep in the mountains by bike and walking. Gathered around the village that night, an elderly man heard the scriptures read aloud in his language for the first time. He called the children of the village over and said, “Children come! Listen to this. Before we only had God’s talk in someone else’s words. Now God speaks our language!”

Equipped for Translation

Story by Karen Weaver

Papua New Guineans in every province of PNG are dedicated to translating God’s Word into their own heart language. In July and August, eighteen of these faithful men and women, representing six languages, spent five weeks away from their families so they could receive intense training in Bible translation.

Students learned translation principles, grammar, and the art of writing a sentence that flows smoothly and naturally, yet remains true to the original meaning. Through drama and role play they experienced the excitement of crossing the Red Sea, the hope revealed in the Passover meal, and the joy of writing songs of victory.

All six of the language groups represented already have some Scripture in their language, ranging from two books to the entire New Testament. Each of the participants translated some portions of Genesis and Exodus as part of their training. Most of them plan to continue in New Testament translation as well.

One of the participants, named Vetari, told why he was happy to attend the course. He explained, “At this time, most of our pastors are from other language groups so when they preach it is in English or in the Motu language and it is hard for us to understand. It is much better for us to translate the Word of God into our own language so our people can understand it and use it in their lives.”

Although many language groups in PNG do not have trained translators working with them, the Buhutu, Ghayavi, Kaninuwa, Misima, Saisai, Uare languages do, thanks to the dedication of these eighteen men and women.

These participants have now returned to their home provinces better equipped to carry on the task of Bible translation. They are just a few of the many Papua New Guineans who embrace the fact that God’s Word was written for them and was meant to be understood by all people in all languages, including theirs.