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)