Every Tribe, Language, People and Nation


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)


Healing From Past Hurts

Story by Karen Weavertrauma_healing

How can a person find healing from deep hurts he or she has carried for years?

Trauma Healing Workshops seek to address these hurts, help people understand their consequences,  and to bring them to the cross. In one of these workshops, men and women from multiple villages in the West Sepik gathered to find healing from their painful past. In all, this course drew 71 participants from 10 language groups over three weeks.

As people listened, shared, and participated in skits, they learned how to process painful events in their lives and how to find healing from old emotional wounds. They worked through trauma that had resulted from tribal fighting, from devastation during the tsunami, and from family conflicts.

Participants identified their pain, talked about it in small groups, and wrote out their feelings in laments, following the example of the book of Lamentations in the Bible. After individuals expressed their pain, the leaders helped them move on from there and not remain trapped in grief. They were encouraged to bring their burdens to the cross, which they did symbolically by writing on paper and then burning that paper at the base of a wooden cross.  As they laid aside their bitterness they found new freedom in forgiveness.

One participant summed up his feelings by saying, “I have great joy to be in this course and I feel that there is a way to be slowly healed from this burden that I have been carrying for a long time now. After it is healed I will be able to help my brothers and sisters. Now I feel I have lots of work to help others to carry their pain and burdens to the cross.”

In fact, many are already doing that. Several people who attended the Trauma Healing Workshop went home and started teaching the lessons to others. For example, one man told his village that he would teach one topic each Monday. On the first day, 80 people from his village came to learn!

Pray that God would continue to work in people’s hearts and minds as they seek to live out forgiveness and to find healing in Christ.


Overcoming Obstacles to Translation

by Karen Weaver

1/3/15 09:11:39(img: Public Transportation (PMV) in PNG)

Unganing and Hatayanga had to travel deep into the bush to dig out wild yams for their hungry families. Drought was gripping the country and the normally prolific gardens were bare.

Even with this pressing need to find food for their families, Unganing and Hatayanga responded to an even greater need: the need for spiritual food in their heart language. For 19 years, Unganing and Hatayanga have been helping with the translation of the Scriputres into their language of Mato. They knew Scot Stober was traveling from the United States to meet them to draft about half the remaining books in the New Testament.

Leaving their families wasn’t the only challenge they faced. Boat troubles delayed them and they had to spend several nights in another village praying about what to do. Finally they were able to make the trip by boat to the neighboring provincial capital, only to find out the Public Motor Vehicles weren’t transporting people to where Scot was waiting in the port city of Lae, due to street protests going on there. Thankfully, the upheaval quieted down sufficiently for buses to get through and they arrived in Lae, nearly a week overdue.

God abundantly blessed their sacrifice and commitment and they were able to make tremendous progress on the translation in the time that they had. Though street protests continued in the city around them, they were in a safe place and able to work in relative peace. Not only were they able to reach their goal of drafting 11 books, they also revised four other books and updated the glossary! This included going back to the earliest chapters they had translated and bringing them up to date with key terms and making some subtle grammatical improvements. As a result, the entire New Testament is now in draft form or better.

Four weeks later, Scot, Unganing and Hatayanga returned to their families, grateful to have had a part in bringing the Mato New Testament a bit closer to completion. They look forward to the day when they can meet again to continue the work. Each one is committed to doing his part to get the complete Mato New Testament into the hands of the people.

A Reading Community

boy, Papua New Guinea, reading, smile, literacy

It was the end of this year’s reading competition, a contest designed to encourage literacy in the Seimat language of the Ninigo Islands, when little Jaspa stood for his turn. The event organizers had allowed Jaspa to join at the urging of his grandparents who had been reading to him at home, though they were unsure of how an elementary student would do in competition against older children.

The other participants had done their best, but when Jaspa confidently picked up the book, he had the attention of the whole community. He read the story fluently, and the audience erupted in cheers. One little boy had shown everyone that reading was no longer a stumbling block to education.

Watching Jaspa’s success was a highlight of consultant Theresa Wilson’s year. “It’s shown to the community themselves that when they read, when they help each other, when they help their children, that they can become a reading community.”

Written by Beth Matheson, told by Theresa Wilson

Community, children, Papua New Guinea, palm tree
A reading community – By: Sarah Halferty

To learn more about literacy in Papua New Guinea and how you can be apart of the work click here!

Giving Life to Translation Work

Israel, Camel, Papua New Guinean, Trip, Desert
Photo By: Josh Kitchen

“A great adventure! Fantastic! Amazing! Interesting!”

These words and more were used by ten Papua New Guinean men and women involved in Bible translation to describe their recent two-week trip to Israel. As they journeyed around the country, visiting places like Jerusalem, Bethsaida, Gethsemane, Bethlehem, and Masada, they saw the Bible come to life. Suddenly climate, distances, locations and events in history were tangible and understandable, and many words that they have to translate (like cistern) finally made sense.

Krompe, a mother tongue translation consultant for the Kamano-Kafe people, remarked, “When we are in [Papua New Guinea], we preach about these places. We talk about them. But…when I went to Israel and saw all the sights, my faith was strengthened. What the Bible says—it’s true! It’s not lying! And so, this [translation] work that we do isn’t [based on] false teaching. It’s true, and it gives life!” Krompe was amazed when they walked through a tunnel built by King Hezekiah. “This was here before even Jesus’ time, and the water is still flowing!”

“This trip doesn’t just help translation, but it also helps the…faith of the congregations in our villages,” explained Krompe, who is also a pastor. “They ask many questions—places and names. And I can tell them, “Yes, it’s there. The Bible is true!””

The participants encountered many strange and wonderful things, like sandstorms, floating in the Dead Sea, and even riding a camel! But for Korry, another Kamano-Kafe translation consultant, his highlight was visiting Qumran, the home of an ancient community dedicated to making faithful copies of the Bible. “[Now] they are gone, but their deeds are still here,” he said. “They devoted themselves to God, which challenged me to devote myself to God and the work of translation.”

Korry was grateful for the chance to go on the trip. “I praise God… I learned so much spiritually, and it gave me lots of insights that help me as a consultant. I went and felt God spoke to me!”


Bush Road

Road, Path, Bush Path, Papua New Guinea, Green

“As Christians, we walk a narrow road—like a bush path. You climb up and down mountains, you cross lots of ditches, and it’s hard work. But, on the other side…there is blessing.”

When Sakias joined the Agarabi translation team in 2003, he found this road was rather rocky and soon was ready to abandon translation to find a better job. “I was just an [unpaid] volunteer, and I had to support a wife and three young children,” he explained. “But, my wife [Ampiya] encouraged me to stay with it. And so I did, and we dedicated the Agarabi New Testament in 2011.”

A few years later, Sakias began audio recording several New Testaments. But in the middle of his second project, tragedy struck. Ampiya, his beloved wife and strong supporter, became deathly ill. Within a week, she had died.

During her illness, Sakias fasted and prayed and begged God to save his wife’s life, but still she died. Angry and defeated, Sakias turned away from God and left his recording work behind. “I just wanted to give up,” he said.

But, several months later, Sakias had a dream. “God told me, ‘You read Ecclesiastes 3.’” Reluctantly, Sakias opened his Bible, and as he read, he was struck by not only God’s control over life and death, past and future, but that God has given each person a specific work to do. “I read this chapter, and the Lord spoke to me,” Sakias said. In surrender and gratefulness, Sakias returned to the New Testament recordings.

Today, Sakias is encouraged by the many testimonies of those who listen to the recordings. “God has a purpose for my life…because plenty of men and women who can’t read can now know God through these Scripture recordings.”

“My life hasn’t been easy,” Sakias shared, “But I believe God is there with us, despite it all…He showed us the road we were supposed to walk, and now I couldn’t leave it… I am with the Lord, and I’ll die with Him.”

Bluetooth It to My Phone!

Child, Papua New Guinea, Smile, phone, Audio Bible, Bible Translation, Bible

Michael, a sixth grader, pleaded with his friend. “Please, bluetooth it to my phone! I want to watch it, too!”

Shrugging Michael off, his friend stared transfixed at the video of Jesus translated into Kamano-Kafe. “No, I can’t do that. But my cousin Lani* sells these SD cards. You go to her house and buy one of your own like I did.”

Michael craned his neck, “Please, send me just one song! Then I’ll go buy it!”

“No! Get your own!”

Early Monday morning, before school, Michael sprinted across the village to Lani’s house. Lani was sitting by the fire, cooking breakfast when he arrived, panting. “Please,” he begged, “Do you sell these SD cards?”

Lani grinned up at him and laughed, “Yes, I do.”

Michael frowned, “No, I’m not being funny—I really mean it. I want to buy one. I really need one!”

Lani nodded, “Yes, I can sell one to you. But it’s 20 kina [Papua New Guinea currency].” Before she was done speaking, Michael had bolted from her yard, back to his parents’ house to ask for the money. He returned in a rush with the kina and left clutching his precious SD card.

As Michael watched the videos about Jesus and listened to songs, all in his own language, the rest of his classmates began asking questions. Lani soon found herself selling SD cards to many schoolchildren, and was asked to sell them on the school grounds during lunch hour. “You must come!” they said. “There are lots of students from other villages, and they keep asking about these videos about Jesus in our language. They need SD cards, too!”

Later, Lani shared about the importance of the audio and visual recordings. “The young men and women need these SD cards so they can hear God’s Word and worship songs in their own language. When they see the videos about Jesus, they become interested, and they [understand because] it’s in their language.”

*name changed

Papua New Guinea, School, Students, classmates, children, study