Lasting Impact

 

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Steve & Carol Jean Gallagher

In July 2012, Steve and Carol Jean Gallagher joined the Bariai people in celebrating the arrival of their completed New Testament with Genesis and Exodus. But their joy was turned to shock and distress when their village house was ransacked a few weeks later. The intruders stole most of what was in the house, even the electrical wires and wall switches.

As the Gallaghers processed this turn of events, the question inevitably arose in their minds, “Is God’s Word really having an impact on the people?”

As friends in their home churches prayed, God did what they at first thought was impossible: He enabled them to forgive the offenders and continue practical steps to help the Bariai people engage with the Scriptures.

Carol Jean gave teacher training to Sunday School teachers. She and Steve are thankful that the church leader of the area is encouraging the reading of Scriptures in the local language and even commissioned the Sunday School teachers for their role in instructing the children in Bariai.

God’s Word came alive for the people as they studied biblical truth during a re-teaching of a Scripture application course. Representatives from every village attended and went home better equipped to apply the Scriptures to their daily lives.

Steve and Carol Jean recorded the Bariai Scriptures in audio form. Hearing God’s Word has had a big impact on the people. Some children won’t go to sleep at night until they listen to verses being read on the players. The Scriptures gained more prestige when an influential local leader testified that his life had been changed through listening to them, “Now my life is not all about getting money for this life, but about getting ready for the next.”

With audio players being used in homes daily, the local language Scripture being read in worship services, and children being taught in their mother tongue in elementary school, the outlook is good for the ongoing use of the Bariai translation. The Gallaghers will return to their home country later this year, confident that the Word of God in Bariai will continue to transform lives. Carol Jean said, “The Scriptures we are leaving behind will outlast us, and that’s the key.”

Celebrating the Book of Life: Mussau-Emira NT Series

Story & Photo Credit: Karen Weaver
Part 3 of 3 in the Mussau-Emira NT series. The Mussau-Emira New Testament Dedication was held on 29 May, 2019.

The lively beating of drums signaled the start of the Mussau-Emira New Testament dedication. Excitement and expectations were high as men and women marched in formation around the soccer field. Afterwards, the Brownie family led the line of several hundred people who entered the church building.

The New Testament was dedicated to the glory of God, the honor of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit. The minister reminded the congregation that God had men put his message in writing because he did not want people to forget what he had said. The people were encouraged to use it not only in the worship services, but also in their personal and family devotions. He declared, “It is the study of God’s Word that brings life.”

Time was given during the celebration to recognize each person who had played a part in translating the Mussau-Emira New Testament. They also thanked John and Marjo Brownie who have given nearly 25 years of their lives to this work. Afterwards the minister led the people in presenting the completed Mussau-Emira New Testament and the work it represents as a freewill offering to God.

Computer Takes a Dip in the Ocean: Mussau-Emira NT Series

Author: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: John & Marjo Brownie
Part 2 of 3 in the Mussau-Emira NT series. The Mussau-Emira New Testament Dedication was held yesterday, 29 May, 2019. This is part of the story.

The trusty computer had been well-used during the four weeks on the island. Enduring heat and humidity, its operating system capably stored all the data as John Brownie and his team worked on the advisor check of II Corinthians.

At the end of the month, John gently placed the computer with its priceless data inside a padded, water-proof case, snapped the hinges shut, and carried it to the waiting dinghy. The case was safely wrapped up in a tarpaulin amidst other cargo. The boat pushed off from the shore under sunny skies.

After half an hour the winds grew stronger and the ocean waves increased in size and force, rocking the small boat mercilessly. As two great waves impacted the vessel one after another, the dinghy filled with water and sank. The computer, still in its case, floated away with the other cargo.

It would have been easy for the computer case to sink and become lodged in rocks or clefts on the ocean floor, to become a not-so-tasty snack for a shark, or to be carried by the tides and currents into the vast Pacific Ocean. Instead, God in his mercy kept his hand on it and it drifted toward the nearest island 14 km away.

Amazingly, despite the barrier of the coral reef encircling the land, the case washed ashore on the sandy beach of Emirau Island. There it was found by local residents who were searching for any of the cargo from the boat that had been sunk in the ocean. They took the computer case into their home and kept it safe, along with a few other items that washed ashore.

Two months later, John and his wife Marjo returned to the island. School children left their classes to sing songs of joy and greeting. Afterwards the people who had kept the case safe came forward and presented it to John.

When John opened up the case and pressed the computer’s power button, the laptop made its familiar start-up sound. Within a few minutes it was up and running. John was thankful that his correspondence, photos, and especially his language work had all been miraculously saved.

 

Five years later, school children gathered on a neighboring island to sing songs for another celebration. This time it would be to celebrate the arrival of the printed Mussau Emira New Testament!

Perilous Journey: Mussau-Emira NT Series

Author: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: John Brownie
Part 1 of 3 in the Mussau-Emira NT series. The Mussau-Emira New Testament Dedication is planned for 29 May, 2019. This is part of the story.

When John and Marjo Brownie set out from the island of Mussau on Wednesday morning, 26 February 2014, they had no hint of the challenges that lay ahead. Nor had they any idea of the many ways God would care for them in the events that were about to unfold.

 

John and Marjo have been living on the island of Mussau off and on for the past 18 years, translating the New Testament into the heart language of the people. For most of that time they were able to fly in and out of Mussau, but more recently they have needed to travel by dinghy to the airstrip on a neighboring island and fly to the mainland from there.

Having completed a month of translation work, the Brownies set off at 8:30 a.m. in a 20-foot boat, accompanied by four Papua New Guineans. As they traversed the waters from Mussau to Emirau that Wednesday morning, the winds and waves increased in intensity. Forty-five minutes after departure, two large waves swamped the dinghy, sinking the small craft, and leaving its occupants in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. With the help of the boat driver, John and Marjo were able to free a locator device from the cargo and send off a satellite signal, indicating their need for help.

However, God was already intervening to meet their needs through nature itself. The sky stayed clear enough that they could see the island fourteen kilometers ahead, yet it was overcast enough to offer a bit of protection from the equatorial sun. Though it was not uncommon to see sharks in that area, none came near the group floating on the water. Ocean currents are never stagnant, and this particular morning they were flowing toward the land on an incoming tide, pulling the stranded travelers in the direction they needed to go.

Local people also were an invaluable help in the crisis. Marjo quickly became separated from her husband in the ocean swells. However, three younger men from the boat stayed with her, all offering reassurance through four hours of swimming in the open ocean, “Look, we can see the island. It’s right there. Keep going!”  When Marjo’s strength was depleted, Donny, a faithful friend, encouraged her to hold onto him as he swam the last several kilometers to shore. These men were familiar with the islands and knew the closest point of approach to the land.

Once they reached shore, a kind young mother invited Marjo into her home. Although this was the first time they’d met, this Mussau woman welcomed her unexpected guest with a hot drink, stoked up the fire for warmth, and gave her dry clothes to wear. The men walked across an inlet and one of them borrowed a bicycle to find the driver of the only truck on the island. He came and drove them to the medical aid post.

Meanwhile, at the SIL center in Ukarumpa, the administration was informed of the signal which indicated distress on the water. They mobilized into action. The aviation team prepped a plane for the search and rescue mission. Others studied the winds and tides.  At 2:00 the concern was shared electronically on the group’s internal prayer board and dozens of people began praying.

All this time John was still out on the open ocean, drifting along with Leslie, an older man who had been their faithful friend and co-translator since they first went to Mussau in the mid-1990’s. Having grown up in Australia, John spent many hours of his childhood playing with friends in the ocean waters near Sydney and he was therefore more confident in the sea than his Finnish-born wife. This strength and experience enabled him to support his older friend as the two men floated in the waves, holding onto boards from the wrecked boat. After several hours, John wondered about the time. He looked at his watch, was startled at how late it was, and was jolted into action. He came out of his stupor and became more proactive in swimming toward land. The time on his watch was 2:00.

Later that afternoon, John and his friend Leslie reached an inlet between two islands and were able to climb ashore. Meanwhile, the crew of the dispatched rescue plane was searching for survivors in the choppy waves. Not finding anyone in the water, the pilot landed on Emirau Island just as the sun was setting in the west. There the crew met John and Marjo at the clinic and radioed to their children and co-workers in Ukarumpa the happy news of their safety.

As they flew homeward in the SIL plane the next day, John and Marjo looked down at the ocean waters below. It was obvious the waves were higher, the winds stronger, and the clouds darker than they had been on the day of their mishap. John and Marjo had the unmistakable assurance that it was God who had watched over them and taken care of every detail of their perilous journey.

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)

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