Translating the Doromu-Koki Scriptures

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Story by Karen Weaver

As a child, Joseph and other Doromu-Koki boys learned to hunt wild pigs in the bush and fish in the rivers.  Meanwhile, the village girls worked in the gardens, growing greens, yams and sweet potatoes. Even though there was a church in their area, these children and their parents still practiced traditional animistic beliefs in gardening, hunting, and getting help for illnesses. They had no Scriptures available in their language to teach them the truth and help them gain freedom from the bondage of submission to spirits.

That began to change when Joseph and some other young men met Rob Bradshaw. They agreed to go with him to the Eastern Highlands to learn translation principles and to begin translating the Bible into their language. While there, Joseph attended a Bible study and understood God’s truth for the first time in his life.

Joseph continued to grow in Christ as he worked on the New Testament translation. Its words gave him perseverance as he dealt with village problems, such as a drought and hunger. It also gave him joy and purpose as he hiked with Robert over arduous mountain trails to and from the village.

By 2015, the team had made great progress on the translation. They did village checking of a few books to ensure that they sounded clear and natural. It was encouraging for Joseph and the other translators to see that people did indeed want to be involved in the translation and to hear God’s Word in their own language!

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The people’s appreciation for God’s Word was even more evident on the glorious day in September 2018 when they were able to see, hold, and own a copy of the completed New Testament for the first time. Men, women and children danced, sang, and played traditional instruments as they ushered in visitors who had come from as far away as the United States to share in the celebration. Some of these guests had been praying specifically for these people for many years and were now able to share in the joy of answered prayer.

Joseph stood before a crowd of Doromu-Koki speakers at the dedication ceremony. Holding up a copy of the New Testament, he was overcome with emotion at the joy and wonder of having God’s book in his own language after all the years of sacrifice and perseverance.

Like his namesake in the Old Testament, Joseph has dreams of his own. His desire is to also translate the Old Testament so that future generations of Doromu-Koki people can read the story of creation, see the faith of the Patriarchs, and share the words of the Psalms as they face the struggles and joys of life.

My Father and the Crazy White People

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I was 15 years old when my father first met that crazy white man and his wife.  It was a formative age, when I was really beginning to differentiate bad from good.

My father would meet the white couple, Robbie and Debbie Petterson, in one of the vacant rooms at the hospital.  He would come home with stories that they had written in our own language, Mouwase.  The stories were fun and easy for me to understand.  Sometimes I would read them out loud and my family would laugh and enjoy hearing them.

They were translating the Word of God into our dialect, and it was lovely to hear.  Whenever dad finished translating a portion from the book of Luke, he would read it to us.   Our people still don’t understand the story of Jesus, because it is written in a foreign language.  I thank our Father in heaven that He brought these two crazy white people to translate the Gospel message from Luke into our dialect.  When I read it, it is easy to understand, and I really feel that Jesus speaks my language too.

 

Technology is Revolutionizing Access to God’s Word

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Story by Adam Boyd, photo by Newbreak Church

Since Engan people are largely an oral culture, the translation team is creating audio recordings of each book of the New Testament as they are completed. Those audio records are then distributed in two main ways.

The first way is on solar-powered MP3 players. These audio players allow people to listen to God’s Word in Enga for hours at a time, and when the battery dies, they simply place the player in the sun to charge. We’ve heard stories of people saying, “When we read the Bible in Tok Pisin, we never read a whole chapter at a time. But we can listen to an entire book of the Enga Bible in one sitting without getting tired!”

Once people start listening to the Bible, there is a tendency for those with basic literacy skills to want to read along with a printed copy as they listen to the recording. In the process of doing so they teach themselves how to read their own language. As a result, we are also releasing audio recordings of the Enga Bible as an Android phone app that highlights the text sentence-by-sentence as the audio recording plays.

Even among people who live with no electricity or running water, Android phones are starting to become more and more common. And while an Engan may be reluctant to read a printed copy of the Bible in Enga, they will quite readily sit down and try to read along with the Android phone app. The other benefit of the Android phone app is that the distribution is completely free for anyone who has an Android phone. Technology is truly revolutionizing the way Engan people access God’s Word!

My Heart Will Go Thud

Story by Adam Boyd

One of the thingsthud_pic.jpg I love about Enga is the rich metaphors it employs. Sometimes, however, these metaphors can be difficult to grasp at first. There is one particular metaphor that I have struggled to understand precisely: mona lyuu lenge. I knew that the entire phrase meant something like ‘to be at peace in your heart’. I also knew that mona meant ‘heart’ and that lenge meant ‘produce a sound’, but I really struggled to know what lyuu meant. Usually a word that comes before lenge is some sort of sound or speech, but what sound is produced when your heart is at peace?

As we were translating Philippians 2:19, the team used this phrase to describe how Paul would feel when he received news of how the Philippians were doing. So I asked the team what exactly mona lyuu lenge meant. Often it is hard to get a straightforward answer to such questions, but the team explained that the literal meaning of lyuu lenge is the sound that is made when a large object hits the ground. For example, when a cluster of pandanus nuts hits the ground, it makes such a sound. Finally I realized that the word lyuu literally means ‘thud’ and that lyuu lenge means ‘go thud’ or ‘make a thud sound’.

Well, I was happy to figure out the literal meaning of the word lyuu, but I still couldn’t see what it had to do with being at peace in your heart. The team then further explained that when you feel anxious about something, it is like your heart is hung up on whatever it is that you are anxious about. But when your anxiety is relieved, your heart falls back into place. And when your heart falls back into place, metaphorically speaking, it makes a thud sound just like a cluster of pandanus nuts when it falls to the ground.

So, in the Enga translation of Philippians 2:19, Paul literally writes, “When [Timothy] tells me how you are doing, I will hear and then my heart will go thud.” I think my own heart went thud when I finally realized the meaning of this rich metaphor!

 

For the Glory of the Lord

Story by Stephanie Ernandes, Photo by Marius Taciuc

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It was the first time Marius would get to attend a New Testament Bible dedication.  “I didn’t know what to expect at first.  It turned out to be a very emotional event.”  After arriving in the village where the dedication was to take place, Marius curiously looked at his surroundings. He estimated that there were about 1000 people there in the village.  He was amazed that they all seemed to have the same mindset.  “They were working together, singing together, and cooking food for the dedication together.”

“From time to time there were groups of about 100 or so that were coming out of their houses and singing hymns in their language as well as in Tok Pisin (the local trade language).  That is something you don’t see in the western world.  I was thinking to myself all the time: What would it take to see something like that happen in my home country? An entire village coming out of their houses singing for the glory of the Lord.  That was very emotional for me.  I realized that they were taking it seriously.  They were saying, this celebration of ours is very personal.”

 

 

At The Heart Level

Story by Stephanie Ernandes, Photo by Leah Veil 

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“’Was God trying to kill me?’ the pastor asked a roomful of his fellow earthquake survivors.  The man’s eyes were full of tears, his face haunted by abandonment and betrayal.  ‘What did I do wrong?’ he asked in a voice barely audible before sitting back down on the grass-padded dirt floor of the church building.”

These were some of the questions asked of Leah Veil and her teammates. They had flown to Walagu, Papua New Guinea, to minister to a group of over 40 pastors and their wives (87 people total), all earthquake victims from the surrounding villages, now seeking refuge in Walagu.

Gathered in a small bamboo church, months after the terrors of the earthquakes – yet still quite shaken, many people stood up and shared similar stories and concerns.   The majority of them were desperately trying to figure out answers to questions like:  Is God angry?  Am I being punished? Does God really answer prayers?  Was God not able to help us?

These people had been taken care of physically by the generosity of so many across the world and in PNG.  But Leah and her group came to minister to a different need.  They’d come to walk through their trauma with them by taking them through a trauma healing/disaster response workshop.  They asked them to share their stories, their concerns, and their beliefs about God as a result of the tragedy they were all facing.  After much listening and many tears shed, they gently took them to the Word of God.

“For the next several days of the workshop, we talked about God being love.  About how, when we turn to Him, our sins are completely forgiven, never to be remembered again.  About how He is a loving father to His children.  Then we talked about the process of grieving and how to listen well to others who are in pain,” Leah remembered.  They finished up with an object lesson about how to take their own pain to Christ.

Leah was happy about how God worked in people’s hearts. She recalled, “Afterwards, one man testified that immediately following the earthquake, he’d known that there was no refuge to be found; Not in Walagu, not anywhere.  He said he’d lost his faith.  Yet, through the working of God’s Spirit during the workshop, he now knew that God loved him.  He said, ‘God is our ples hait (refuge).  When we leave here to go back to our village, God will be there, too. He will be our ples hait there as well because He loves us and will always be with us.’”

Prayer Matters!

Story by Stephanie Ernandes, Photos by Denis and Marcela Vargas

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In 2003, language surveyers traveled all the way to Goodenough Island in the Solomon Sea in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG) with the goal of discovering which people groups were in need of and desiring to have the Bible in their language.  One of the people groups surveyed there were the Diodio people.  Since then the Diodio have been greatly desiring that someone would come to help them to translate the Bible into their language.

On the other side of the globe, Costa Rican Bible translators Denis and Marcela Vargas were preparing to serve overseas. Their Bible translation organization had prepared a prayer guide which included 30 different languages across the world without any Scripture. As they shared with others what they were planning to do, they gave it to people they met. Their families, churches, and individuals joined them in praying for people without Scripture, using this prayer guide.

A translation awareness workshop the Diodio people attended in 2012 made the people’s desire grow.  They asked many of the translation organizations in PNG to come help them, but no one had the personnel.  “It was very hard for them to come to the realization that there was no team, no one to support them, no one to advise them or to help them in the translation process,” said Marcela.

Denis and Marcela received notice in 2016 that there was an opportunity for them to be located with the Diodio people.  Denis remembers, “That name started going around in my mind and I said to myself, ‘I’ve heard this name before,’ but I didn’t remember where.  Later, when we were packing to go to PNG, I found a copy of this prayer guide, and I just took a look because I wanted to remember what PNG languages were included. I was surprised to see that of the 30 languages in the world that our churches had been praying for, Diodio was on the list!”

“We brought the prayer guide with us to show them as a testimony. We shared with them the story and we told them we had been praying for them for many years, along with our family, our churches in Costa Rica, and our sending church!  They were amazed and all of us were crying,” shared Marcela.

The Diodio people are very excited that the translation work has been started and they have already seen how important prayer is in the process of this work. After the recent start of the translation process, at the suggestion of the Diodio people, every Thursday evening many people in the village gather together to pray for the translation work.

While We Were Away

Story By Stephanie Ernandes, Photo by Scot Stober

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As a result of a spiritual revival that came about within the Mato people group in 2011 while Bible translators Scot and Cherie Stober were in their home country for a time, the Lord stirred and began to grow a hunger within the Mato people to learn more about the Lord.

“They started to have a healing ministry.  They have healed people. It’s an incredible ministry that they have and they are getting called by different language groups around Madang to come and do healing,” shared Cherie.  “That is what we came back to after our time away. They had asked questions before, but when I started to do Trauma Healing Workshops with them two years ago, that is what opened everything up.  After that, people started asking about things like domestic violence, rape and grief to name a few.  ‘How do we deal with these things?  What do I do when someone has stolen my pig and I am angry with them?’” (Pigs are very highly valued in Papua New Guinean culture).

Because of these things Scot and Cherie were able to teach them on a deeper spiritual level and point them to translated Scriptures that dealt with these kinds of issues.  They have just finished translating the New Testament, as well as recording the audio version, and dubbing the Jesus Film into the Mato language.  The New Testament will be dedicated August of 2019.

As the Mato people rub shoulders with the Scriptures through all of these avenues that God has opened, they are just starting to grasp that there is Scripture that backs up what they do every day in their lives.  Please pray for the Mato people, for continued hunger to know and pursue God, and for a continued desire to understand the Word as they grow in Christ Jesus and walk out His calling for their lives.

Persistence in The Face of Tragedy

Story by Stephanie Ernandes

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In 2012, three Kwomtari speakers attended the first Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshops and learned to tell Bible stories in their mother tongue. Their dramatic presentation of these stories created interest among all ages and into neighbouring language areas. Pastors began asking when they, too, could learn how to engage their people using this storytelling method.

In response, Murray and Carol Honsberger planned to run a series of four OBS workshops. A team of Godly national men would teach translation principles, give Bible background, and provide Scripture in the form of Bible stories to participants from the Kwomtari and three neighbouring people groups, the Baibai, Nai, and Yale. The first workshop was scheduled to start in late May, 2017.

Carl Campbell was a translator to one of these groups, the Yale, and also a close friend and colleague of Murray and Carol’s. While making the two-day walk to their village to join them for the course, Carl suddenly became very ill.  He died in a Yale village along the way. Murray and Carol recalled, “People hiked to our village to tell us of Carl’s death. They arrived two days before the course was to begin. It was decided that it would be most appropriate to postpone the OBS workshop.”

The workshop was then rescheduled for the end of August, 2017. This time everything went as planned. People who attended were excited about what they learned. A Baibai man who participated said, “I have been chosen to do church work but do not know how to preach. OBS is teaching me how to share God’s Word,” Another man from the Yale language group said, “In this first course, I learned about what is involved in giving something to God, and about being a true friend to my wife.”

The second OBS course was then scheduled for early February, 2018. In late January, the Honsbergers arrived in the village to find that their village brother Alex was very ill. “Although he made it to the hospital, he passed away two days later. It was hard to believe this was happening all over again,” said the Honsbergers. “Following Alex’s death, his immediate family made the difficult decision that the workshop should go ahead as planned. They were united in deciding that Satan should not be victorious. This decision went against all cultural norms.”

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Easter weekend, following the course, Joseph (translation chairmen and brother to Alex), along with other OBS participants, shared the stories they had just learned at the workshop. Joseph, giving his own life as an example, went on to share that the ‘work’ of following Jesus is not easy. Joseph shared with them how he felt the Spirit of God had been at work in all that had happened. Eleven young people responded to the challenge, choose to confess Christ as Lord, and were baptized. Joseph’s heart was full of praise and thanksgiving.

In reflecting on these events, the Honsbergers concluded, “We are conscious of the fact that there is a spiritual battle going on. We believe God desires to do great things through the OBS workshops and it is a privilege to be part of it all.”

 

 

 

 

The Day Ann Rose Smiled

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Story and Photo by Susan Frey

Sylvester would leave home for weeks at a time, traveling to another village hours away to work with the other Baruga translators.  When he returned home at the end of each work session empty-handed, he would see his wife’s frown.  Ann Rose was not pleased that her husband spent so much time working on translation without any material gain to show for it.  She was not a Christian, and did not understand why her husband could not spend his time working for money.  Because of her constant criticism, Sylvester found that he was not able to work on the translation in his own home.

This continued for more than two decades, until a group of Baruga traveled to Ukarumpa in late February 2017 to do an audio recording of the Baruga New Testament.  This time Sylvester brought Ann Rose with him because he wanted her to witness firsthand the work that he had been so dedicated to for so many years.

While at Ukarumpa, Ann Rose began to feel an intense pain in her stomach.  She was rushed to the Ukarumpa clinic, where Dr. Carl Luther diagnosed her with inflammation of the gall bladder.  He recommended that they go immediately to the hospital in the capital city of Port Moresby for emergency surgery.  Sylvester and Ann Rose did not have the money to travel to the city, nor did they know anyone there who could help them out, and so they returned to their village in a remote part of Oro Province instead.

Months of sleepless nights followed as Sylvester dutifully cared for his wife – feeding her, carrying her to the toilet, and tending to her every need.  “She was in so much pain.  All my hope was gone, and I thought she would die,” Sylvester recounted with obvious pain at the memory.  “But on the night of October 5th, she received God’s healing.  Early in the morning, she woke up and said ‘I’m hungry.’”  Sylvester found some sago in the house, boiled it, and brought it to her to eat.  Much to his surprise, Ann Rose greeted him this time with a warm smile.  His astonishment only grew when she said, “We will thank the Lord before I eat.”

From that day forward, Ann Rose has been healthy and pain-free.  The change is not only in her body, but also in her heart.  Instead of criticizing her husband’s work, she has come to believe in it as passionately as he, and they now work together as a team to promote the translation work among the Baruga people.