Restoring Colour to a Dark World

Story by Theresa Wilson and Karen Weaver, 1st photo by Theresa Wilson, 2nd by Beata Wozna

Prisila was born into a world of colour. She could gaze at the Pacific waters surrounding her small island home of Patexux and see the coconut palms swaying against the vibrant blue or cloudy skies. She could watch stunning sunsets on the horizon and sailing canoes as they pushed over the breaking waves of the reef edges.

However, through her growing years an undiagnosed eye condition robbed her of this colourful world and eventually Prisila was forced to drop out of school.

Things began to change for her when translation and literacy workshops were started by Beata Wozna and Theresa Wilson. When others attended, Prisila came and listened. As the group was divided up to play literacy games, individuals would say to Theresa, “I malang, i pulaxa,” which means “She can’t, she’s blind.”

With Theresa’s previous experience teaching the visually impaired, she knew that Prisila could in fact do a huge amount and should not be pushed aside.  She invited Prisila to participate and encouraged the others to help her participate too. Prisila’s involvement and learning with the group soon brought back her beautiful smile and her lost confidence.

Prisila quickly found ways to help others in spite of her loss of vision. She encouraged primary school children in reading, contributed stories about village life to make new reading books, and blended her beautiful singing voice in the wonderful harmonies of Seimat Scripture songs composed in recent years. In addition, she rose to the challenge of joining in a puppet drama for Sunday school children.

On the day of the dedication of the Seimat New Testament, Prisila was one of two young people chosen to open the boxes of New Testaments. She wouldn’t be able to remember the sight of the event, but she would remember opening and holding up God’s book.

In the months and years after the dedication, Priscilla listened attentively while adults and school children held reading competitions and while the Scriptures were read aloud during weekly church services. One Sunday she astounded all the listeners as she clearly and fluently recited a long passage of Scripture from memory.

Undeterred by her loss of sight, Prisila continues to show her concern for others and to use her keen mind and musical talent to bring colour to her island community today.

Why Bible Translation Takes Time

Story by Chad A. Owens

The team departed for the village at 5:30 Thursday morning. The first thing the team leader said was, “We can pray that the truck will be there when the plane lands.” Knowing there would be obstacles ahead, the team proceeded forward with prayer and a sense of excitement. As the journey developed they began to gain confidence that they would arrive at their destination and so began sharing stories of times when they nearly did not: stories of river crossings, nearly losing a vehicle, planes being unable to land on the airstrip, and more.

Having arrived safely in the village, the team leader, Ben Pehrson, told his fellow travelers, “I’m hopeful that we can begin the translation workshop by Wednesday.” There was much preparation work to be done before the team of PNG translators and their consultants would arrive. “We can expect resistance from the enemy; it is our experience that he doesn’t like what we do here and tries to interrupt it,” said Ben.

The Aitape West Translation Project was about to begin final checking on I, II, III John and Jude. This is a process of working with the local language speakers and determining how to best translate each verse. When a verse is completed, a group of four languages then have that Bible verse ready for working through the next step in the process. Would all ten of the language teams arrive?

Friday evening a technical problem was discovered that threatened to delay the work. With the desire to start translation on Wednesday, the team worked tirelessly through the long nights, the weekend, the heat, and the frustration, and were ready to begin on schedule.

On Sunday the additional team members began arriving from their villages, each having traveled a long journey to get there, some walking for an entire day to arrive on time. God was clearing obstacles as they surfaced.

Two of the translators came to the team leader on Tuesday and explained that a dear friend and family member (and former translation team member) had died in the night. The men were torn as they felt they needed to return for the funeral, but also knew that their participation in the workshop was very important. They asked Ben what they should do.

While discussing the issue privately, Ben confided to a close friend, “We have a responsibility to a deadline that many people expect us to meet, but we have a deeper responsibility to show the love of Christ to these men. It is not my place to keep them from their families and their responsibilities. They have to make this decision, and so I have told them that our hearts are with them and if they choose to return we will not be angry. I sort of wonder if we should all go to show support, but we have work that needs doing.”

All the men from that language community left for the funeral the next morning, being unable to leave that evening because the river has crocodiles and it would be unsafe to pass until they were gone. “We don’t expect they’ll be back in less than a week, and will miss out on a lot of work, but we’ll figure that out when they return,” mused language consultant John Nystrom.

On Wednesday translation began and the team leaders were encouraged at the work being done. At the end of the day John reported, “We are working at a rate of 4.5 verses per hour.” On Thursday John reported, “Today was a great day, we are currently at 8.5 verses per hour. At this rate we can finish I John on Friday. But you never know when you’re going to run into something that gives you more trouble than you expect.”

Thursday evening the men who had departed for the funeral returned more quickly than expected. However, that same evening another translator, Petrus, visited Ben and asked for prayer. The team staff assembled to pray for him. To come do this work, he had to leave his wife alone in the village. His brother was away and so was he, so there were no men there to protect her. An issue had come up that made her feel threatened and she was asking for him to return to resolve the problem. Petrus was distraught because he knew his departure would slow down translation work, but he also had family duties and responsibilities.

The team prayed with Petrus and asked God to give him wisdom in making the decision. He decided to stay until the weekend, during which time they finished I and II John and half of III John.

Another man fell sick during this time, temporarily leaving one more gap in the translation team.

For those laboring in Bible translation, each day reveals new obstacles and surprises, any one of which can halt or slow the translation process. The team leaders have come to expect this style of living and working, and adapt where they can, knowing God is in control.

“What astounds me is that through all the surprises, the Lord is faithful to keep progress moving on the translation and providing us with the strength to continue,” John said as he reflected on the workshop.

Ben agreed, “We see the truth of God taking root in the people’s hearts and that gives us hope and encouragement to keep moving forward. Even when translation is slowed, we see God’s word bearing fruit.”

 

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.

Culture Meets Scripture

Story by Karen Weaver, Photos by Luke Aubrey

In many parts of Papua New Guinea, people have gathered in villages to attend Culture Meets Scripture workshops. Through drama, small group discussions, in depth research, and Bible study, they seek God’s truth regarding many traditional practices. Often it brings about changes in specific areas of their lives.

Following the workshop on an island in eastern PNG, the translator for that group testified, “We were encouraged to see particular attention given to the traditional practice of compelling a newly-widowed woman to stop eating many types of nicer food for a period of time, along with other ways she is expected to live uncomfortably.” From examining the Scriptures, the people themselves concluded, “Nothing in Scripture agrees with how we treat our widows.” Now they plan to treat widows with more compassion and dignity.

In another place, a teen girl died unexpectedly shortly after a Culture Meets Scripture workshop had been held in her village.  Rather than engaging in the usual culturally accepted practices of blaming people and acquiring wealth following the death of an individual, her parents chose to live out the biblical principles they had just learned. The way they handled the death made a positive impact on others in their community.

At a different time, a Culture Meets Scripture team member shared, “We used to fear a certain bird call because our ancestors taught us that it was an evil messenger of death. But after taking time to examine this belief in light of Scripture, we realized these birds have been created by God and we don’t have to fear when we hear their song. Instead, we are to sing along with them and trust and praise God.”

Understanding Scripture more clearly has helped many Papua New Guineans to live a life that is more filled with peace and hope. Like the group that learned about the bird, many leave with a greater trust in God, singing His praises as they go.

One Family Impacting Eternity

Story and photos by Karen Weaver

One Family Impacting Eternity

The Tobiana family has been involved with Bible translation for the past half a century.

In the late 1970’s Tobiana Ao’ye began working with Ed and Loretta Loving to translate the Awa New Testament of the Eastern Highlands. Together they complete the first draft. When he became employed in Construction and Maintenance in Ukarumpa, his wife Nino took on the role of helping the Lovings revise the New Testament and it was dedicated in 1997.

Their sons, Ken and Emos, watched their parents’ work with interest. When they became young men, they, too, became a part of getting God’s Word to Papua New Guineans in their heart language. Emos explains, “My work will have an impact on people’s lives not only here but in eternity. It is fulfilling to see lives changed because of Bible translation.”

Ken serves SIL through working at the member store, where he now is the assistant manager. He also participated in church engagement teams, speaking about the importance of Bible translation and encouraging the PNG churches to catch the vision of using Scriptures in the heart language. Ken’s wife, Grace, serves as the secretary at the primary campus of Ukarumpa International School.

Emos used his skills in audio production to record the entire Awa New Testament. After the Awa Audibible was completed in 2010, he helped with distribution, encouraging his people to listen to God’s Word. He also recorded Scripture and dubbed Bible videos in several other languages. Today he works as part of a newly formed team recording the AIDS Awareness DVD in the many minority languages in PNG. He is also helping to develop Scripture apps for cell phones and tablets. After hours, he drives the clinic van. His wife Stephanie serves as the secretary in the director’s office.

Between them, Ken and Emos have three young children. Perhaps one day they, too, will play a part in getting God’s Word into the hands and hearts of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Faithful in Prayer

Story by Karen Weaver, B&W photo by Bill Martin, color photo by Alan Hood

Growing up on Manus Island, Samuel Bolaubeu heard the Bible read in English and in the trade language of Tok Pisin. But he never heard it read in Nyindrou because no Bible existed in that language.

When Samuel became a young man, he earned a teaching certificate and went to another province to teach school. There he learned that some people called linguists could translate the words of the Bible into languages with no Scripture, even into languages that currently had no alphabet. Samuel began to dream that something like that might become possible for his own people.

The year was 1970. At that time he started praying for someone to translate the Scriptures into his heart language, Nyindrou. He continued to pray every day. Finally, after 10 years of faithfully praying and waiting, four couples came to Manus Province to train the local people to translate God’s Word for themselves. One of those couples, Bill and Lenore Martin, came to Samuel’s language group.

But the going was tough and the linguists experienced many challenges that prevented them from continuing their work in the Manus area. Within 10 years, three of the couples left. The Martins also considered leaving the work but, thanks to Samuel’s prayers, they persevered. They trained many Nyindrou people, among whom was Charles Kowak, who took up the main translator role on the Nyindrou translation team. After 22 years the book was finished.

In July 2002, the day came for the great celebration of the arrival of God’s Word in Nyindrou. When the boxes of New Testaments were opened, the very first copy was handed to Samuel. This book was the fruit of 32 years of faithful prayers. In all that time Samuel had never lost his vision of having God’s Word in his language.

Today, Nyindrou is one of only three languages in Manus Province that have a completed New Testament. But interest is growing. 44 people from throughout the province gathered for a Translator’s Training Course in August 2016. They represented 15 languages and 3 dialects. Today most of them are translating God’s Word into their own languages.

Samuel and others are still faithfully praying for the task of Bible translation. He believes by faith that one day God’s Word will be available in all 29 languages in Manus.

Please ask the Lord to raise up more people who will faithfully pray for language groups which need the Scriptures, even if it takes decades. Perhaps you will be one of them.

New Friends in a New Place

Story and photo by Karen Weaver

As Omar* walked into the large shopping mall in Port Moresby, the capital of PNG, he noticed people crowded around a booth. Curious, he walked over to find out what was happening. What he saw was a man downloading something onto his tablet, and another downloading onto his smart phone. To one side, a person was handing an Asian lady a DVD. When Omar recognized the name “Jesus,” on the cover of the DVD, his heart leapt.

Cautiously he approached Tim Husk, one of the representatives at the booth. Quietly he asked, “Could we go apart by ourselves and talk?” Off to one side of the busy shopping complex, Omar told Tim his story of leaving the middle east and spending several months detained in a refugee camp on Manus Island, in the far northern part of PNG. While there, he had heard the good news of the gospel and had committed his life to following Jesus. He had only recently been released and arrived in Port Moresby.

Tim reassured him, “In Papua New Guinea you don’t need to be afraid to tell people you are a Christian.” Tim returned to the booth and gave Omar a gift: A DVD of the Jesus Film in multiple languages, including the language he had learned as a young child. Tim also introduced Omar to a Christian who lived nearby who could keep in touch with him.

When Omar left the booth, he was lost in the wonder of owning the story of Jesus in his own language, and knowing that he had new friends who would continue to encourage him in his faith. He determined to follow Tim’s advice to connect with a local church and find others who share his love for Jesus.

*Not his real name.