A Sweet Celebration of Reading

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Nete Talian & Martha Boyd

As the excitement grows about progress on the Enga New Testament, the local churches are taking the initiative to hold literacy classes to teach people to read in their own language. In this way the people are prepared to read the Scripture portions as each book is translated into Enga.

Volunteer literacy teachers from the church write letters and words on the chalkboard, and murmurings can be heard around the room as people bravely repeat the sound for each syllable and form them into words. Slowly the words are mastered and put together to make sentences. Smiles light their faces as they become fluent enough to read short stories and then longer passages from the Bible.

During a recent graduation ceremony, more than 40 individuals, representing three churches, gathered to celebrate the completion of the literacy course. Many of the graduates were middle-aged or older and had not had the opportunity to learn to read when they were children. Being able to articulate the words on the printed page for the first time in their lives was certainly a reason for celebration!

Translator Adam Boyd stood before the group and read aloud Psalm 119:103, which in Enga reads, “The sweetness that happens when I read your word surpasses the sweetness that happens when I taste honey.” Next, each graduate came forward to taste a spoonful of honey. They smiled at the delicious taste, and rejoiced to know God’s Word is even sweeter than this!

As they left the ceremony, each graduate held a brand new copy of the Gospel of Matthew printed in the Enga language. With no mother tongue libraries and very limited access to Enga books, this Gospel will be a treasure to each of them and a means for all of the graduates to continue improving their reading skills.

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.”

Translation Takes Time

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Jessica Thiessen

“Zechariah was trying to trick people with his hand motions!”

Several months after the Ranmo translation team had completed the first draft of Luke 1, they invited a local translator who had not been involved in the drafting and asked him to translate the text back into English, called a back translation. When he did this, he concluded that Zechariah was trying to trick people with his hand motions.

This was not the meaning the team intended to communicate. Having the opportunity to see how other Ranmo speakers would understand the passage allowed the team to make some minor changes in the wording that resulted in a major difference in people’s interpretation of the text.

In addition, the back translation will allow a trained consultant from outside the language area to check the literal translation of the passage. In this way, the team can be assured that it is not only understood by the local people, but also true to the original meaning. Doing both of these things for every passage of the Bible takes time but is one of the many invaluable steps in insuring an accurate translation which has the power to speak God’s truth to the hearts of the people.

 

Don’t Take My Life!

Story & Photo Credit: Karen Weaver

Anita cried out in despair in her Kamano Kafe language, “Don’t take my life! Don’t take my life!”

She had just fed her children breakfast and sent them off to school. The sun had peeked over the mountains in the Eastern Highlands and it was time for her to go to her garden. Instead she was desperately searching through her house; sadly, the thing she wanted was nowhere to be found.

Several hours later, Anita’s young children returned home from school. She met them in the doorway and asked, “Do any of you know what happened to my Audibible?” She was referring to the small solar-powered device that played the Scriptures in her heart language. Her son confessed, “I took it school with me this morning.”

His mother swiftly scolded him, “That’s my life! You go to school. You are learning to read and write. I can’t! This is the only way I have to hear God’s book. This Audibible is my life!”

Together Anita and her children listened to the life-giving words around their cooking fire that evening. The next morning she again took it to the garden to charge in the sunshine and to play the Kamano Kafe Scriptures while she planted and weeded and harvested. The food she grew was life for their bodies, and the words she listened to were life for their souls.

History of the Binumarien New Testament

Story: Mitchell Michie
Photo Credit: Janeen Michie

The Binumarien people are a small language group that live in remote villages in Eastern Highlands Province. By the time Wycliffe Bible Translators missionaries, Des and Jenny Oatridge, arrived in 1958, the language group’s population had dropped from a high of 3,000 to only 111 people because of tribal fighting and disease. Des and Jenny developed a writing system for the language and taught the people to read and write. Namondi Unare, the grandson of Tuluo Sisia, Des Oatridges’ chief language consultant, says that his grandfather told him that when the Gospel of John was translated, it was like he could truly see and understand the Christian faith like a man standing on a mountaintop. As more of the New Testament was translated and read by the people, they grew in their understanding of faith in Christ.

God’s Word took a deep hold of the people after the New Testament was dedicated in 1984.  The Lord has done a great transforming work among the people through His Word. Tribal fighting among themselves and with other groups is much less common, and their population has made a dramatic recovery to over 1000 people. They have abandoned animistic beliefs in spirits and the practice of calling on their ancestors for help when they hunt, and trust Jesus Christ to meet their needs.

In the years following the New Testament dedication, Des Oatridge revised Genesis and Exodus and then translated Psalms and Proverbs. The Oatridges left Papua New Guinea in 1998.

*Reference “Hidden People: How a Remote New Guinea Culture Was Brought Back from the Brink of Extinction” by Lynette Oates

Auto Mechanic Mentoring on Manus

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Jerry & Sue Pfaff

Manus is an island close to the equator where people are friendly, Bible translation needs are great, roads are rugged, and fully-trained auto mechanics are hard to find. This is where Jerry and Sue Pfaff work, helping to translate God’s Word into the Nali language, and serving as encouragers and trainers for numerous other language groups as well.

When their four-wheel-drive vehicle needed repair, Jerry and Sue contacted the auto shop at their main base in the highlands. They were very grateful when Jeremy Lott, an experienced auto mechanic, agreed to fly out to spend a week with them. With Jeremy’s expertise, their vehicle was soon back on the road, ready to tackle the pot holes and muddy conditions which required the four-wheel-drive capabilities of the vehicle.

A few months later a drunk person smashed the front windshield of this same vehicle. God worked out all the details for a replacement to be flown out to the island and Jeremy again came to their rescue. Not only did he replace the shattered windshield, he also upgraded the badly sagging rear suspension, which had become weakened by the rough roads on the island.

While there, Jeremy took advantage of the opportunity to mentor a few others. A local driver of a Public Motor Vehicle was grateful when Jeremy volunteered to give his large vehicle a quick check-up. Thanks to Jeremy’s expert advice, he was able to grease some bearings which were showing signs of wear, and his vehicle will now run much longer, allowing him to continue serving others and supporting his family.

During these trips, Jeremy, a father of four sons, was happy to have several young men observing him. They came alongside him and watch closely as he adjusted and replaced essential parts of the vehicle. Maybe one day they will be the auto mechanics on the island and the Pfaffs won’t need to fly in someone from the highlands.

In 2016, Jerry and Sue helped to conduct an introductory-level Translator Training Course on Manus Island, where 42 people learned to use new skills and translation principles to produce what was, for some of them, the first-ever translated scriptures in their languages. A number of them are eager to come back this year for the second-level course so they can continue to “turn God’s talk” into multiple languages in Manus Province. Perhaps in the future there will be more Bible translators living on the island and its near outliers, and there might be a few more auto mechanics as well.

Of Sweet Things

Story & Photo Credit: Debbie McEvoy

We hit the ‘trail’ running in the village. It was wonderful to be with our Migabac friends. Our biggest goal during this stay was to read through the entire Migabac New Testament as part of the process of final edits and checks. Based on past experience, we expected 20-25 people, on average, to work with us on this read-through.

The day after we arrived and were ready to break into groups to read the New Testament, we found that between 60-70 people were present to be involved, ranging from young teens to older men and women. This group read Scripture all day long for five days!

We provided coffee, sugar, and biscuits once a day. Our supplies quickly diminished since we had over triple the amount of people we expected. With no stores around to buy more, we were concerned about how this was going to work. While trying to make a plan and desperately wanting to provide this small daily treat for our friends, God reminded us that this was a GOOD problem to have – so many people eagerly reading HIS Word day after day! We left the food in God’s hands and are thankful to say that every single day we not only had enough to share with every person, but the supplies never ran out!

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!

No More Fighting

by Karen Weaver

“There will be fighting among us this afternoon!” This was the warning a church leader gave his visitor.

This district church president and others had just been reading the printed New Testament and listening to the audio recording of it. Even though it was in a related language and not their own dialect, it was close enough that they were transfixed on the message. Their interest was so keen that their eyes didn’t want to leave the printed page and their ears didn’t want to stop listening to the audio playing on the solar-powered MP3 player. When Jeff D’Jernes, the visiting translator, would pause the player, the people listening would look up and say, “Let’s hear more!”

Seeing their interest, Jeff asked if they would like an adaptation of the book into their own dialect. However, the church leader declared, “The Long Islanders do not speak the same as we do, but our ears can hear it. Just give us copies of what you have.” That’s when he learned Jeff had only brought six copies and predicted there would be a fight among his people for the books. The dilemma was solved by sending a boat to Long Island to bring back several cases of New Testaments and AudiBible players.

Several years have passed since that visit. After many hours of listening to and reading God’s Word in this neighboring language, the Lokep people have realized there are parts of the message that aren’t totally clear to them. There are some words they don’t understand which obscure the meaning. Now they have a new request, “Could you write an adaptation into our dialect so that we can understand God’s Book clearly?”

Jeff and his PNG co-translators will soon begin work on this important project. In the process, Jeff will train a national translator in the skills needed to do an adaptation of the New Testament into even more languages.

Their dream is that one day everyone in the area from any language group will be able to own a copy in the words they understand best. There will be no more fighting for books!