Every Tribe, Language, People and Nation

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Story and photographs by Stephanie Ernandes

I received an email a couple of months ago asking me if I would photograph and video an upcoming partial Bible dedication for the Odoodee people group in Western Province, Papua New Guinea. I am a support worker here in Papua New Guinea. I live here to provide support for the work of Bible Translation throughout this country. One of the ways I do this is by writing. This was my first opportunity to offer my services of photography and videography. Very excited, I accepted.

As the time for the dedication grew closer and this being the first time I’d done anything like this, I grew more and more intimidated by the task before me. What had I gotten myself into? It was an incredible opportunity, but could I pull it off? Then I remembered that Papa God loves to work through His people! It’s through our weaknesses that He is shown strong. I prayed. A lot. Then jumped. God carried me through the rest.

When I stepped off the little ten-seater plane with translator Darrell Hays and the other attendees into this tiny village it was like stepping into a live National Geographic magazine. We were greeted by women elaborately decorated with paint, beads, and striking feathers, their grass skirts gracefully swishing in the wind as they surrounded the plane singing and dancing. Men equally as decorated in war paint danced with bows and spears, some beating drums – a deep base beat resonated. The movement of colors and sound, the smells and the heat overwhelmed my senses. I stood stunned, shakily trying to point the videorecorder and camera in every direction at once.

In the midst all of the chaotic beauty surrounding me, the most amazing part – the part I will never forget – was the moment during the dedication when I heard, out of the mouth of a Papua New Guinean man speaking over a loud speaker, the verse from Revelations 5:9 describing representatives from every tribe, language, people and nation standing before the Lord in worship. I have heard that verse many times and imagined and rejoiced at the thought. I have even shared that passage as I stood in front of churches describing the importance of Bible Translation. But to hear it out of the mouth of a Papua New Guinean man from a small tribe in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, it came alive. As I watched and listened, that prophesy was coming to fruition before my very eyes.

Much like a translator discovers the first time he or she steps into a village planning to spend the next years of their life translating the Bible into a language needing one, I experienced that God shows up. He works in and through us in spectacular ways. What I witnessed was just that, God accomplishing His purposes through us, his weak but fervent children, trying our best to follow Him.

“I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it.” Isa 46:11b (ESV)

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Banana Leaf Bible

Woman, Papua New Guinea, Bible, Bible Dedication, Kimano-Kafe, Bible Translation“Before, I couldn’t read the Bible. But now, my eyes have been opened, and I can read it!”

A group of 34 women, most of whom had never attended school before, just finished the first Kamano-Kafe adult literacy class in the village of Kinkio. For six months, these mamas gathered together, hungry to learn how to read their language, so they in turn could read their recently translated New Testament.

Several members of the Kamano-Kafe translation team were able to attend the graduation, as each of the participants received a copy of the Kamano-Kafe New Testament. The translators were able to share during the graduation about the process of translation, the vital role that the Kamano-Kafe churches had played in support, and about the ongoing work of Old Testament translation.

Finally, Tuas stood in front of the crowd and held up one of the Kamano-Kafe New Testaments. He pointed to the cover, which looked like a banana leaf. “The banana leaf does lots of work in our villages. When it is raining, the banana leaf covers you and keeps you dry. It shelters over you when you sleep and can be your bed on the ground. It’s your plate for food and your pot for cooking. It can be bilas [decoration] for celebrations, and it’s your material for building houses. When it’s the hungry time and all the other food like kaukau [sweet potatoes] and kumu [greens] have dried up, the banana is still there and will give food to your family.”

As he spoke, the crowd nodded and whispered in agreement. “The Bible is just like the banana,” Tuas continued, “God’s Word is everything to us—it covers us and shelters us and feeds us, even when everything else is gone. And so, that’s why there is a banana leaf on the cover of each New Testament that you are holding, to remind all of us of the important work the Word of God has in our daily lives.”

Banana Leaf, Papua New Guinea, Green, Abstract

Not Finished Yet!

Singsing, Madang, Bible Dedication, Dedication, PNG, Papua New Guinea, Drum, Traditional Dress

The Anjam language group located close to Madang, Papua New Guinea had its revised Scripture and audio recording dedication on August 14, 2015. The first New Testament was dedicated in 2001 by Robert and Diane Rucker. The couple attended the second dedication with their two daughters, son-in-law and family friend Kris. The Anjam people were so excited to see them that they even built a brand new house painted bright yellow for them to stay in while they attended the dedication.

As Robert and Diane’s family and Kris began to dress for the occasion, donning colorful leaves and red paint on their skin, laughter was heard in the air as the Ruckers remembered their work on the New Testament all those years ago. They first began the translation project in 1980 and began living in the village and learning the language. Then in 2001 they finished the New Testament and moved back to the U.S. with their family. Twelve years went by and they began to see that improvements could make the New Testament clearer and more precise, so they began to think about doing a revision. So in 2012 Robert came to the village with Kris for a couple of months and he worked with church leader Sobu Waga and others. At the dedication, Sobu urged his fellow Anjam speakers to step up and help him work on the Old Testament. He said, “This isn’t the end of the translation project! We still have to finish the Old Testament.”

Many of the village men partnered with Sam Kenny of Faith Comes By Hearing to make an audio recording of the New Testament in the Anjam language. On dedication day Sam passed out “Proclaimers,” solar powered devices that contain the recorded New Testament, for free to many of the families with the promise that he would hear back about their use of these recorders. Sobu expressed his joy to have these audio recordings, “I was worried that many of the children who don’t yet know how to read won’t understand the full meaning of God’s Word. But now if their parents have these recorders they can hear the Word of God and know Him.” He said, “My stomach is happy that all of the Anjam people can now hear with their ears, look with their eyes and read the Word of God.”

Bible, Woman, Bible Translation, Papua New Guinea, Traditional Dress