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.

Songs from God’s Book

Story: Karen Weaver
Photo Credit: Dan Bauman

“Traditionally we sang war songs, but when God’s Word came it freed us,” one Wampar singer said, explaining the liberty they have in Christ to create worship music.

Another person elaborated, “When we were introduced to God’s Word, we felt like God came inside our lives and now we feel more close to him.” Thus they are happy to have a means of expressing their gratitude to the Lord.

The Wampar people have always sung melodies as they worked in their gardens. The words for these traditional songs of their ancestors came from stones, trees, and dreams. But now the words they sing when they go to the garden come from God’s book, the Bible. As they till the ground and harvest crops they are using traditional tunes with new words of worship and praise to the Lord.

Producing music in their language has been a process. First, they studied the Scriptures in their language. Next, they wrote the words to the tunes they knew and practiced singing them. Finally, they recorded the songs when a team of three audio specialists visited seven villages in the Wampar language area. Soon they will be able to download the recorded music onto their phones and other devices so they can listen to it whenever they want.

singingIn the past, the fight songs were used to fuel their anger. The songs they now sing using Scripture have a very different effect. They explained, “Now when we have a singsing, it makes us happy and makes us feel like God is with us.”

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.

 

SALT Brings Light

Story & Photo Credit: Luke Aubrey

In June 2018, the people of Binumaria celebrated the dedication of the New Testament revision and several Old Testament books in their language. The translation team wanted Binumariens to dig into this new Bible together as a community. Upon hearing about the Scripture Application and Leadership training (SALT) course, they along with local church leaders decided to host the two weeks of Bible training.

The course had 109 participants from different churches: Lutheran, SDA (Seventh Day Adventist), Renewal, CLC (Christian Life Centres) and A.O.G (Assemblies of God). Many of them were pastors, evangelists, deacons and church leaders.

During the lesson on forgiveness many in the class repented of wrongdoings, asked for forgiveness and reconciled with God and others. One church leader was so moved by the teaching from God’s Word that he brought his family to the front and they all repented of how they had been living a double life, walking in darkness and light. He said, “God has gripped me and shown me my need to repent.”

One pastor shared, “I now see how I have been trapped in fear by Satan. This is a big weapon of his to keep me from trusting God. I am always afraid to do God’s work because of fear of what others might think. I am afraid to go to the garden alone because of fear of sorcerers who might hurt me when I am by myself. And I am afraid to travel at night by myself because of fear of spirits of dead people who might hold me on the path and harm me. Through the Word I have learned that God doesn’t call us to fear but sets us free from it!”

Another pastor said, “I have been challenged about the teaching on pride. Pride was the downfall of Satan and also of mankind. Often I find myself putting the word “I or me” first. In ministry and in my own life I find myself boasting. This pride I have now learned opens the door wide for all sorts of other sins to come creeping in.”

A mother stated, “As a Christian, whenever trials come I don’t need to retreat. I have learned that I can ask God for His peace. The peace talked about in Philippians 4:4-7.”

An older man declared, “God’s Word, this alone will set me free. I have learned that two men are at war within me. God’s Spirit and my sinful nature. I need to daily feed the Spirit with the Word to be truly set free.”

Others spoke about how the training from the Word in Binumarien was giving them confidence to know how to hold devotions with their own families. Many of the pastors and evangelists shared, “Even though we have been to all sorts of training, this course was a huge blessing. It raised us to the next level.”

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.