Reaching the Nukna by Helicopter

Story by Karen Weaver, photos by Gavin Jones

In Morobe Province, rugged mountains ascend more than 13,000 feet above sea level within just a few miles of the ocean. Those mountains, laced with countless rivers and waterfalls, mean that the homeland of the Nukna people is accessible only by steep, narrow foot paths or by helicopter.

Pilot Gavin Jones has been well trained in navigating a helicopter over and through these mountain chains. As he approaches, he must take into consideration not only the steadfast mountains, but also the ever-changing wind and cloud conditions.

In May, he flew seven people to the Nukna language area for the weekend. Even though the Taylor family has arrived by helicopter many times over the past 13 years, each time is a cause for excitement in the tiny village of Hamelengan. On this particular occasion, the passengers came for a special celebration, the dedication of Luke and Acts in the Nukna language.

As the festivities began early the next morning, Gavin looked around on a crowd of several hundred people who had hiked over the mountains to celebrate the recently completed Scriptures. They listened attentively to the speeches and tapped their feet to the rhythm of the music as worship leaders adorned in strings of small shells sang and beat their drums. However, the event that evoked the most response was when translator Matt Taylor rose to address the crowd. The Nukna people yelled out with enthusiastic voices as they listened to Matt speaking their language.

Following the ceremony, Gavin had the privilege of uploading audio Scriptures for those who requested it. Some people already owned Audibibles with the previously recorded books of Mark and Ruth on them. As they handed their well-worn players to Gavin, he updated them to include Luke and Acts. Some of the young people purchased SD cards with the audio Scriptures that could be played on their phones. Nearby, written versions of these Scriptures were available as well.

As the blades whirled and the helicopter rose above Hamelengan village the following morning, Gavin circled the aircraft past cascades of water falling from sheer rock cliffs. He was thankful that his years of training and experience as a helicopter pilot had allowed him be part of bringing the life-giving message of the gospel to people hidden within these mountain ranges.

The Right Man for the Job

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Story by Karen Weaver, Photo by Karen Weaver

In 2006, audio recording specialist Dan Bauman accompanied translator Alan Canavan to the Bwanabwana Islands in Milne Bay Province. On the day they planned to record Mark’s gospel, Alan gathered people together to read the passages. His plan was to have a different person read each chapter, but he was one person short.

Along came a youth in his late teens who was eager to participate. Knowing this young man pronounced his V’s as W’s, Alan was hesitant to use him. Could this be the right person for the recording? Alan looked to the left and to the right, hoping to see someone else approaching. There was no one. He consented to let John read.

Happy to have a part, John read his chapter while Dan pushed buttons on the computer to record his voice. Although John had worked hard on getting the pronunciation right, afterwards Alan wondered if it was smooth enough. Maybe he should find someone else and record that chapter again. In the end he decided to leave it.

A decade later, in 2016, Alan was visiting the islands, checking some Old Testament passages and encouraging reading of the New Testament. A young man in his late 20’s approached him and asked, “Do you remember when Dan came out and we did that recording of Mark?” Alan remembered.

John continued, “That day changed my life.” Now he had Alan’s rapt attention. John explained, “Ever since the day of that Scripture recording, I started thinking hard about my whole life. From then on I started reading the New Testament. Now I read it all the time.”

Knowing this man had had some struggles with drunkenness in his past, Alan was skeptical. However, his trusted friend and co-translator confirmed, “It’s true. Ever since he read that chapter of Mark for the recording his life has turned around and now he is one of our best churchmen.”

Alan finally understood why no one else had appeared to read Mark that day. Seeing how participating in the recording had changed John’s life, Alan was convinced that John had indeed been the right man for the job.

Celebrating Completed Scriptures

 

Story and Photos by Karen WeaverVersion 2

In recognition of the International Day of the Bible, translators and support workers gathered to celebrate language groups receiving God’s Word in this country.  In the past twelve months, Papua New Guineans received completed New Testaments in five languages, printed Scripture portions in 14 languages, and audio and video Scriptures in 13 languages. The room was filled with rejoicing as men and women walked, skipped, and even danced to the front of the church carrying copies of these newly published Scriptures.

Even as they celebrated what has been done, the group prayed for those who are still laboring to bring God’s Word to others. They know that getting the Scriptures in the hands of the people doesn’t come easily or without cost. With the Scriptures dedicated this year, the teams faced challenges right to the end. When the Uram translator arrived for the dedication, there was tribal fighting and the helicopter could not land. When the Alotau teams planned to send the mini-bibles to language groups on the islands, the boat they had reserved was not available. Travel in other places was postponed by rain and mudslides. However, through it all God’s people persevered and saw God provide alternative means of transportation.

A highlight of the morning of Scripture celebration was hearing a testimony about one of the groups who received printed Scriptures this year, the Dedua people. They are so eager for God’s Word that in a recent Bible teaching course people walked for hours over mountain paths to study the Scriptures. When they arrived and the church was already filled to capacity, they listened through the open windows.

Like the Dedua people, many people in PNG receive the Scriptures with great joy. Sadly, in other places people have had the New Testament in their mother tongue for several years but show little interest in reading it. Please pray that the language groups who received the Scriptures this year would cherish God’s word and allow it to transform their lives and communities.

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