Starving for Literacy

Story by Rachel Greco

If someone holds a New Testament written in his own language, but doesn’t know how to read the words, it’s like a starving person holding a fishing net without the knowledge of how to use it.

Although Ezekiel of the Menya people was not a prophet like his namesake, God used him to open his people’s eyes to the value of literacy.

Ezekiel was chosen by a committee to attend a STEP (Strengthening Tokples Education in Papua New Guinea) course. This course taught adults how to teach and establish preschools in their villages so that the kids could learn their own language before learning English in the government-run schools.

During the STEP program, Ezekiel realized that the Whiteheads, who were helping translate the Bible into the Menya language, wouldn’t be with them forever. He said, “If anything’s going to happen in our language, we have to do it.”

After the five-module course held over 18 months, Ezekiel returned to his village and spoke with his relatives. Inspired, one of his relatives donated a plot of ground for coffee; the proceeds were allocated for literacy so their people could learn to read and write, including the Bible someday.

The people in Ezekiel’s village donated the first fruits of their first coffee harvest to local churches who’d helped plant and harvest the coffee. Five TokPles preschools were eventually established in the area with help from the money of the coffee garden. The Elementary school teachers noticed that the children who attended the Tokples preschools first before entering English-taught schools did much better in school than those who had not.

Ezekiel trained other adults as teachers of the Tokples preschools. Some of these teachers, now literate in their mother tongue, later helped check the flow and fluency of the Menya New Testament translation.”

Because God used one man to impart a desire to read and write to his people, the Menya now have readers who can record the New Testament so those who cannot or will not read God’s Word can hear it and no longer starve.







Hard Work

story Rachel Greco

Photo by: Rachel Greco: Two translators working diligently in TTC 1

Inside dozens of heads, brains busily transform language into the words of their home and heart. These translators have traveled many miles to study at the Translator Training Courses (TTC) 1&2. There they study Bible history, culture, and grammar. They learn how to translate so their people can see the full beauty of His Word, clear and precise in their own language.

Each of these translators has a unique story of how God led him or her into this important work. Kika Rava, from the Kalo language group in Central Province, shared a little bit of her testimony of how she became a translator: “I had been teaching in our church children’s ministry for more than 27 years. So I thought that this was my ministry, but what I didn’t know was that God would call me to a new thing at this stage of my life.”

“I had a dream in 2006 where the sky opened and two people came down from heaven, a female and a male. I could feel the presence of God upon on me, and it was a very holy moment. When I woke up I told my husband, ‘I had a vision.’ He said, ‘Maybe God has something to tell you, but it will be very hard.’”

The next year I joined the Kalo Bible translation team doing translation work and it is very hard, as my husband predicted, but here I am, thankful to God for the opportunity to serve my people through the work of Bible translation. Now, as I have worked through TTC 2, it has been very hard for me once again, but I know that the Lord is with me and I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Though the work is difficult for these translators, they know that the Lord himself called them into this work, and he will hold their hands every step of the way. Through training, perseverance, and reliance on God’s strength, they will complete the task of translating God’s Word into their heart language.

Pigs and Sheep

Story by Rachel Greco, photo by Karen Weaver

To the Kasua people of Western Province, every four-legged animal is a pig. They call a horse a pig-horse, a cow, a pig-cow, and a sheep, a pig-sheep, because all of these animals have four legs, which is kopolo, or pig, in their language.

When the translation team would translate the word, ‘sheep’ in the New Testament, they would translate it as ‘pig-sheep’. So when Jesus is referred to as the ‘Lamb,’ (John 1:29; Rev. 12:11; Rev. 17:14), they translated as ‘pig-sheep’ so that in John 1:29 it would read: “Behold, the pig-sheep of God.”

When some members of the translation team attended the Translators Training Course, they had the opportunity to observe and study sheep for the first time. As they watched and learned more about the animals’ behavior, their understanding of these creatures—and God’s Word—rotated on its axis.

Once during the course, Logan and Konni—the translation team’s helpers—were driving with the team to a Bible dedication when Amos, one of the team members, said passionately, “We can’t use the word kopolo in front of the word, ‘sheep’! Pigs know when they’re about to die and squeal and scream.” The team had often watched villagers tie up pigs so they wouldn’t escape.

“But,” Amos said, “Jesus didn’t do that.” The team had learned that sheep are quiet and still when death walks toward them. They had observed, as they translated the New Testament, the words of Isaiah 53 fulfilled: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter, he did not open his mouth.” And now they understood what it meant. For this reason, the team decided not to put pig-sheep in the New Testament for the word ‘sheep,’ but used sheep-animal or, in their language, a:pele sipi.

The Kasua translation team also chose to discard the word ‘pig’ before sheep because pigs are unclean animals to the Jews. The team knew that Jesus was called the ‘Lamb of God’ in the New Testament to show that he is unblemished and clean. Hopefully the Lord will open up the Kasua villagers’ eyes to these same truths about Jesus as they read of Him in their own language.

Into the Light

Story by Rachel Greco

Warm, sultry air blankets the building but twenty-one Papua New Guineans from nine language groups inside are focused on learning about Paratext. This amazing computer program  has the potential to transform their translation projects because it compares Scripture in several parallel languages and enables these translators to create an accurate and reader-friendly translation. Paratext also makes it possible to copy translated Scripture from one language into a closely related one, which greatly speeds up the Bible translation process.

Francisca, a woman from the Suau language group, helps the main translators in her village and wanted to soak up as much information about Paratext as possible to carry back to her translation team. She and the other participants were so eager to practice the skills they learned that they were in no hurry to break for meals.

In every spare moment, Davidson, a participant from the ARE language group, worked feverishly entering his Bible translation work into Paratext. His willingness to spend every evening typing up his translation, even after immersing himself in new knowledge all day, blew Jenny LeMahieu, manager of the two-week course, away.

Jenny also gave the participants half hour lessons every day on how to use the Scriptures so that the translations these participants spend years working on will squirm their way into people’s hearts and bear a harvest instead of just sitting on shelves gathering dust.

Some of the participants were already using the translated Scriptures in their villages either by telling them in a story format, as Betty and Amy were doing, acting them out, or weaving them into songs, as three different language groups routinely did. After Jenny raised the question of where you can read the Scriptures, Mathaiyas decided it was a good idea to read them at home for family devotions.

Vivian, from Ferguson Island, was so excited about the many possibilities of using the Scriptures that he couldn’t decide which form to choose during their graduation ceremony: “I’ll do a drama. Oh, but I want to do a hymn too.” He decided to do both, and his drama he illustrated that he was in the dark before he went to the Paratext course, just as his language group was in the dark without the Scripture.

Thankfully, due to programs like Paratext and lessons about how to move God’s Word from the page into people’s hearts, more and more Papua New Guineans walk into the light every day.


Set Free!

Story by Karen Weaver

In the past, Angam allowed sin to rule his life. His actions were displeasing to God and to his wife, and in his heart he was angry and wanted nothing to do with worshipping God.

In May 2016, Angam’s wife, Aikiba, attended a three-part women’s Bible study led by translator Annie Colich. After the first study, Aikiba showed him the Bible verse paper, but her husband just shoved it aside and wasn’t interested. After the second study, she again showed him the Bible verse paper and this time he accepted it. Reading God’s Word in his heart language for the first time touched him so deeply that he asked Aikiba if he could attend the third Bible study.

He did come, but sat quietly in the back of the church. When Annie explained to the ladies about God’s mercy, tears began to trickle down Angam’s face as he understood the forgiveness Christ offers. Later he had a vision of evil wound tightly around his heart, and God breaking those chains and setting him free.

A church elder heard about Angam’s new faith and asked him to preach from Luke 8. It was a passage about a demon possessed man who roamed the hills, naked, crazy, sleeping in the graveyard, held captive by Satan until Jesus Himself came and rescued him from evil.  When Angam read that story he was deeply touched. He felt that he was just like that man, once held prisoner by the evil one and now set free by Jesus.

Because of the changes in Angam’s life, the community elected him as the new translation committee chairman. Angam now travels to the island villages in his language area, telling what God has done for him. Because he represents the translation committee, the island congregations are now strongly supporting the translation work.

Angam is eager for those who have been trained to continue translating the Word into their own language where it will speak clearly and do its work in the lives of others, as it did in his life. He tells the team, “We MUST make this translation our number one priority, helping Kim and Annie to finish this work!”

Recording Technicians: Committed to the Task

Story by Karen Weaver, photo by Andy Weaver

Deeply believing in what they do, Papua New Guinean audio technicians are volunteers willing to endure heat, challenging travel, and time away from their families just to get God’s Word recorded in the languages of the Islands Region.

Pacific Area Media Trainers began with six trainees in 2013. Over the next two years, the number of trainees tripled as others heard about the work and wanted to learn the techniques of recording the New Testament and making it available on portable solar audio players and SD cards.

The communities they serve are heavily involved in the process. The local community chooses and organizes the readers. They provide food and housing for the recording technicians while they are in the village. When the recording and production are completed, the community itself organizes the dedication celebration and the distribution of the audio Scriptures.

The recording technicians have demonstrated their commitment by their willingness to travel in hazardous situations. Often they traverse oceans and rivers on small dinghies. One recording technician, Stanley, was on a boat that ran out of fuel and drifted on the open seas for 7 hours. When the craft was rescued and taken to shore, he searched until he found someone willing to transport him on another boat to his destination.

When he arrived, tired but determined, he and his co-workers were able to complete the recording of the entire Sursurunga New Testament. Later, when the team leader asked if he had thought about turning back after the boating incident, Stanley replied, “No. I had to go on because I knew that God saved me and others on the boat for a reason. I knew that God wanted me to do His work.”

You Are Needed

Story by Karen Weaver, photos by Sam Nutter and Jamie Derringer

“I don’t think you can use me. I’m not a carpenter. I’m not handy in any sort of way. I can only do one thing. I’m an accountant.” When Gil Turley spoke these words on the phone, he did not expect the overwhelmingly positive response he received.

Less than a year previous to this conversation, Gil and his wife Kara had been preparing a program for young children at their church. For a fishing game, they needed the names of people who had served overseas. An online search not only gave the needed information for the game, but it subsequently led Gil and Kara to reading many missionary biographies. The more they read, the more their interest grew.

After nine months, they realized they needed to act on this newfound interest. They called an old friend who directed them to a person who knew of the great need for accountants and was enthusiastic about Gil’s potential for service overseas. This representative from the personnel office was even more excited when he learned that Gil’s wife, Kara, had many years of experience in teaching middle school English, another much-needed role.

Recently Gil and Kara completed the last bit of their training and orientation and they are happy to begin their roles in Papua New Guinea, helping in any way they can. Gil explained, “I wasn’t motivated to sell my house and move around the world just to do accounting. I already had a good accounting job in America. What motivated me was the opportunity to support Bible translators, literacy workers, and church planters. They are my heroes.”

Gil is just one of many who have thought, “My skills certainly can’t be used overseas.” But he found out that he was greatly needed. Maybe the talent you think is not useful could be an area where someone overseas is waiting for help. Perhaps God has a wonderful surprise in store for you, too.

If you would like to explore how your gifts and abilities can be used in Papua New Guinea, contact: email or click this link