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Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you‌ Luke 1:1-3a

The PNG Experience Highlighting Papua New Guinea Bible Translation and Language Development Stories

Everyone has a story to tell AND . . .

Everyone should have their story heard. This second edition of The PNG Experience draws from over 85 stories of experiences, events and activities that highlight the language development and Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea by the people who lived them. Their stories – the amazing things that are happening in language development and Bible translation – deserve to be heard far and wide. This book is only a glimpse of the big picture. Papua New Guinea is home to over 800 languages and the highest concentration of linguistic and Bible translation activities in the world. New Testament translation is already complete in nearly 200 languages, and another 400 languages enjoy at least some portions of translated Scripture. But much remains to be done – many stories are yet to be told. ­– Tim Scott

Volume 2

“Goodbye old friend” “Like saying farewell to a good friend…” After serving SIL aviation well for ten years, the twelve passenger twin turboprop Beechcraft King Air aeroplane was sold. It had flown over 2445 hours in flights all over PNG but primarily to Port Moresby and Cairns, Australia. It was the principal aircraft used for medical evacuations, making over 65 such flights to Australia. While the aeroplane had been on the market for several months, the sale was accelerated near the end of 2012, when TropicAir decided that it was a good match for their needs. TropicAir is based out of Port Moresby. The sale of the King Air reduces the SIL Aviation fleet only temporarily. Due to a sudden opportunity, SIL Aviation received a fourth Kodiak aeroplane n mid-2013.

SIL Aviation expects to maintain its high standard of service with its fleet consisting of two Bell Longranger helicopters and four Kodiak aeroplanes. Aviation needs will be met more efficiently and effectively by having only two types of aircraft, requiring a smaller parts inventory. Pilot training will focus on the Kodiak, reducing the training hours spent previously

on other aircraft. Other benefits of the change in the fleet include fewer challenges in maintaining certified mechanics, flight scheduling and fuel reserves. These changes will help SIL meet the continuing needs of language development and Bible translation in Papua New Guinea.

Pre-conference release: The Second National Tokples Scripture Conference begins on Monday, January 14th and concludes on Thursday, January 17th. The conference will focus on facilitating the development and use of Tokples Scriptures. Church leaders from multiple denominations throughout PNG are coming to Ukarumpa, Eastern Highlands Province to discuss strategies to promote vernacular Scriptures and to share experiences relating to their use. Participants will discuss the church’s involvement in language development and translation efforts. The conference begins by laying a foundation on the importance of local languages with seminar topics entitled, “Language and the Plan of God” and “The Worldwide History of Translation”. David Gela, Executive Director of the Bible Translation Association of PNG (BTA), will present on BTA’s activities and how to take advantage of opportunities to get involved. Another seminar topic is “Revising the Tok Pisin Bible”. Tim Lithgow, Director of SIL-PNG will address the assembly and hold discussions on SILPNG’s language development strategies. Andrew Kwimberi, Chairman of BTA board, principal of Kwimberi Lawyers, President of PNG Christian Lawyers Fellowship Inc., member of the Judicial Committee on Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) and provisionally accredited mediator with the National Court of Justice in PNG, will deliver a speech entitled, “Role of Bible Translation in Nation Building”. Later in the week participants will discuss how churches can partner effectively with the Bible translation associations within PNG. These associations are seeking the churches’ help to meet the challenge of over 300 remaining languages without translated Scripture. Several churches in PNG are already partnering and supporting the language development and translation effort. During the conference, participants will enjoy interacting with other church leaders and Bible translation workers. Times of worship and discussion are scheduled throughout the conference to promote interaction on issues and challenges individual church leaders are facing. Participants at the previous conference valued the opportunity to form crossdenominational relationships and to network with others from outside their area. This conference hopes to build on the success of the first conference held in 2010.

The 2nd national tokples conference

Prayer is the incubator for progress Tom and Sharon Puaria were among the first to bring the gospel to their Polynesian island in the 1970s. Along with other young adults returning from studies in Buka they founded a Christian fellowship, which grew steadily through the late 1970s and 80s, despite difficulties. Tom realised that his people needed the Word of God in their own language, or it would always be foreign. ‘I knew that the Lord was saying, “They will only accept my Word if they understand it. How can they understand, unless someone explains it?”’ In 2000 Tom joined the Takuu translation project, which had been started by Rev. Abraham Vaelani and American translator Sue Andersen in the 1990s. He brought to the team an aptitude for translation checking, and the Takuu New Testament was dedicated in December 2010. Since then, Tom has taken further training in translation in Australia, and Greek and Hebrew courses in PNG. He now works as an advisor to two translators adapting from Takuu into Nukuria, spoken on neighbouring Fead Atoll, and to his wife, Sharon, who is continuing with the Takuu Old Testament translation. Tom also serves as Principal of the Translators’ Training courses run by the Bougainville Bible Translation Organisation in Buka town. Tom admits that there have been difficult times, but says, ‘I like to think positively about achieving things in God. Prayer is the incubator for progress.’ He has a vision for seeing Pacific Islanders be more independent in the Bible Translation movement. Though stressing his gratitude for the support of overseas donors who have made Bible translations possible, he believes that Pacific Islanders need to take full ownership themselves. ’It is my dream that the church and the community will take over, the funding and everything, and… Pacific Islanders [will] complete the New Testament in areas where it has never been translated.’

Fun with a purpose

What do 600 children, 110 adult helpers, 600 doughnuts and 200 loaves of banana bread have in common? These are just some of the numbers that help describe the Tok Pisin Vacation Bible School held in Ukarumpa, EHP. Children from all over Aiyura Valley attended the five day event. Over 110 adults assisted in the programme, many of them from twelve local churches. The theme of the week was the “Armour of God”, which was taken from Ephesians 6:11-18. Bible lessons each day highlighted a different aspect of the verses. Many of the children memorized the entire Scripture section. Although there was a lot of rain during the week and some of the children had difficulty coming due to swollen rivers and flooded conditions, the weather didn’t dampen any of the children’s excitement. Besides the Bible lesson, the programme included times of enthusiastic singing, and the children were fascinated by the puppet and drama teams which stimulated much laughter. There was plenty of time leftover for activities and games which rounded out the mornings. Forty-eight Ukarumpa International School students were involved in the Vacation Bible School. They participated in all aspects of the programme, including the worship band, teaching and assistant teaching, photography, videography, technical services and general help. Their help was especially needed during snack time as over 3500 servings were distributed during the week. Overall, the Vacation Bible School was considered a huge success. Over seventy children talked to teachers specifically about salvation or their spiritual growth. Plans are being made for 2014 when the organisers are hoping to hold three simultaneous Vacation Bible Schools in various parts of Aiyura Valley.

“It is bringing the whole body of Christ together, that is the thing that we need to build on… I think it lays a foundation for all of the churches.” – Denny Guka, Chairman of the PNG Council of Churches, Port Moresby Approximately seventy leaders of churches and parachurch organisations met together in Ukarumpa, Eastern Highlands Province for four days to discuss the “Tokples” language development and translation effort in Papua New Guinea. The pastors and leaders spoke with passion about the need for mother-tongue translation throughout the country, including some of their own communities. It was the first time that some leaders heard how they could get involved in the process of developing their own languages and the enormity of the task in PNG. Nearly 300 language groups are still waiting to have some work done in their language. One aspect of the conference that many commented on was the “unity of the churches and organisations” regarding the need to complete the task. “The word of God is the uniting factor… We are all working together, referring to the word of God as a way of uniting us.” – John Ribat, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Port Moresby “[Christianity] is an indigenised religion. It is embedded in the lives and the places of the people who are members of this community.” – Paul Minter, Conference Presenter “Many of us have been praying for the transformation of this nation, and the only way this nation can be changed is not through government projects, not through any other initiative but by the Word of God” – Kario Veneo, Chairman, Madang Minister’s Fraternal “The work that we are involved in is very important. It preserves cultures, it preserves the language and it identifies where we belong in our multi-lingual society.” – John Ribat “I am really excited that we can become engaged with these organisations in language development and Bible translations… It is possible that the 829 languages (in PNG) can be translated… And translation will bring about major, both individual and even community changes, and I believe it is the answer to bring changes and transformation to the nation of Papua New Guinea.” – Lenden Butuna, Senior Pastor, Christian Life Centre, Milne Bay

Translation creates unity in PNG churches

Old words...

“Languages change. The language you speak now is different than twenty years ago. The language will change again over the next twenty years.” – National Tokples Conference participant The Ono New Testament had portions of the New Testament as early as 1980 and the New Testament was completed in 1991. In 1999, Tom Phinnemore, part of the original translation project, returned to the Ono language group because the community had a growing desire to see the language of the Scriptures updated. The Bakesu Revival Church, working with PNG BTA and original Ono translators, started the revision which was completed in 2012. This process culminated with a celebration where over 4000 people attended. Local dignitaries and church leaders hailed the New Testament revision as easy to read and challenged the Ono speakers to invest time in reading and studying the Scriptures. At the dedication of the revision it was noted, “Even though the New Testament has been revised, the work doesn’t stop. The translation committee continues to work on portions of the Old Testament, literacy materials and a song book.”

bring new meaning

Revision work requires individuals with an in-depth knowledge of the current language as well as a historical perspective of what the language was before. It also requires a proper understanding of the grammar, vocabulary and language structure of the language being revised. Recent developments in software have enabled computers to facilitate and accelerate the process. John Bruner, Translation Consultant, notes that “Revisions are a normal and necessary part of the language development process. As people from one language interact with each other and people from other languages, new ideas and concepts are introduced and this results in changes to the language. This change over time creates the need to periodically update written material.� Papua New Guinea has over 800 languages. Some languages, like Ono, are already benefitting from the revision process.

Amazing access anywhere

Joe, a member of the Arapesh language group, wanted a copy of the New Testament in his language (tokples) but when he tried to find a printed copy, he couldn’t find one. The Arapesh New Testament had been completed for many years. The work had started with four mother tongue translators who were chosen by the churches, and the people. Only one mother tongue translator persevered to the end, working with Bob and JoAnn Conrad who were designated by SIL-PNG as advisors. On April 24th, 2004, the Arapesh New testament was dedicated. But now, almost nine years later, Joe was not able to find the printed text. So at the 2nd National Tokples Scripture conference, he asked one of the SIL translator consultants, Mack Graham, where he could get a copy. The two of them pursued several different ways of finding it but when they went to the web-site, they found the entire New Testament, ready to download. Joe did not have a mobile phone to use, but they were able to download it onto a memory stick. The text was complete and when viewed offline with an internet browser the user could still interact with the text and go from book to book or chapter to chapter as normal. This made the electronic form highly usable (on a computer, smart-phone, or tablet). provides readable access to 221 translations of the Holy Bible or portions thereof in Papua New Guinean languages and dialects, and 3 in audio format. This site is sponsored by the PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA), which is a national organisation in Papua New Guinea committed to translating the Bible into the languages of the country. A Tok Pisin version is also available. Joe now has the scriptures in his own “tokples”. How about you? Is your “tokples” available online?

Rain rattled over the tarp roof, and the church leaders leaned forward to catch the muffled words. It was the closing evening of the Markham Tokples Bible Conference, where nearly 40 delegates from numerous denominations had gathered to discuss church involvement in Bible translation. Despite the noisy downpour, they each stood and shared their excitement about translation; now an elderly man in a white collared shirt took the microphone. “When I received the invitation to the conference, I didn’t know where it was or how I’d get there, but I knew I wanted to attend. So, this past Monday, I went to the market outside town where I was told to hop on a PMV named FGG. I searched the town and couldn’t find it, but, when I went back to the market, I saw FGG leaving to go back to town! Immediately I began a chase—back to town, missed it, then back to market again, where it again left just as I got there! So, I ran to wait at the crossroads where I finally flagged it down. When I got to the end of its route, I again pulled out my letter and asked one of the local young men if he knew of any buses going to the conference site. “Yes,” he responded, “the one that just pulled up!” I scrambled into the last open seat, and headed north. When I finally climbed out of the bus, I was amazed to see two of my friends standing at the PMV stop! Now I knew I was in the right place, and I praised God for bringing me all the way here!” His voice competing with the clattering rain, he shared passionately the need for the Bible to be translated into his language, Wampar. He looked around at his fellow church leaders and cried, “We can’t wait any longer! Let’s go and do it!”

Catching the right ride

Fun leads to funds International School raises money for Lae Mission The Ukarumpa International School (UIS) is located in the Aiyura valley, Eastern Highland Province and serves a student body of approximately 150 in Kindergarten through grade 6 and approximately 110 in grades 7-12. There are 15 nationalities represented in the school with the majority being international students whose parents work in the language development and Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea. The students elect officers from the school body that forms a student council. The Student Council is given the responsibility to organize events and activities for all the students. Each year they organize a carnival or “fun fair”. This event is held in October and raises funds for a variety of worthy activities and ministries. This year, the students raised 3750 kina which was donated to the Lae City Mission New Life Plantation. The New Life Plantation provides support for up to 150 young men, ages 16-24, who work on the plantation to help pay for their board. Earlier this week, 83 young men showed up, but there was only room for 10 additional residents. The rest had to be turned away due to lack of space. There is also a Children’s Crisis Centre, “Haus Clare”, which provides assistance to up to fifteen child victims of sexual abuse and children whose parents have died of AIDS. Executive Director, Larry George visited the Ukarumpa International School and received a check for K3750 from student officers Hannah Hansen and Andi Voss and Student Council President Seong Eun Jung. Larry George expressed his gratitude to all the students, saying, “Profits from the plantation only pay a small portion of the expenses needed to support the work, and the mission relies on donations such as this. Thank you for your help. ” With this additional funding the Lae City Mission can continue to meet the needs of the young men in the city.

Success in small things

The lead translator and two directors of SIL-PNG spent a weekend in Mebu, reluctantly announcing that the translation and language development effort in the Karo language group was being discontinued. This is always a hard and carefully made decision but sometimes, a necessity. The Karo people knew now that they were responsible for their language, and that, for a variety of reasons, outside help was no longer available. While Bible translation dedications are celebrated and literacy advances are promoted, some language groups have struggling projects. Mark Taber, SIL Pacific Area Director notes, “Out of the 2075 active Bible translation projects in progress globally, 349 are located in the Pacific region (16%). Out of the 1964 remaining Bible translation needs globally, 404 are in the Pacific (20%). With many of these projects in Papua New Guinea, it is reasonable to expect that some of them will face major challenges.” There are many reasons why a project might be terminated. Village priorities change, language groups move, interest fades, health and family issues impact the ability of full-time workers to continue; all these and more are possible constraints to finishing a project. It is easy to think that the project has failed, but in reality, usually much has been accomplished. Perhaps a dictionary or grammar study was drafted, small books or literacy aids were published, or literacy courses encouraged interested readers. Ceased or halted projects can create desire or passion within a church or community, inspiring local ownership of a project. According to Tim Lithgow, Director of SIL-PNG, “Sometimes when a project has ceased, this has been the impetus needed for the local community to take responsibility, inject new enthusiasm and change the priorities in order to ‘restart’ a translation project.” The Mebu community met together the day the project was closed. The departing team was pleasantly surprised at the positive things that were said about the project. One woman said that when she was young she cried because her brothers went to school, but as the only girl, she didn’t. Because she couldn’t read and write, she felt she couldn’t participate in Christian ministry. However, as the result of adult literacy classes and women’s Bible study, she could now read and understand. She stood up and exclaimed, “the crying time is over.” Success isn’t measured by the completion of a project; instead it is determined by seeing the simple small steps that improve the lives of individual people.

Smack that fly!

The fly was larger than her hand, but it didn’t faze the nurse. She slapped the illustrated poster once more and then turned to her audience. “Flies carry disease, polluted water carries disease, and uncontained rubbish and faeces carry disease. This is why your children get diarrhoea.” She paused, looking hard at each of the students. “This is why your children die.” Twenty national teachers from eight different languages were seated in the shade, listening intently to the health lecture and furiously scribbling notes. They had gathered for an intense, monthlong training led by SIL and national staff, to better equip rural teachers in using the local language in education, through topics

like principles and practices of literacy, fluency, story writing, book production, and curriculum and material creation as well as personal development, leadership, finances, and health. And today, they were talking about the causes, prevention, and cure of diarrhoea, the number one killer of children in Papua New Guinea. Later, they clustered into groups as they pored over their notes and their own languages a story which could communicate this vital information to their communities.

“Did we get all the meaning?” they asked each other. “Read it again!” The next evening, as several of the women students gathered on the cool veranda, a young mother from a local hamlet approached them, clutching a crying infant to her chest. As they visited, the students realized that the baby was dehydrated and suffering from diarrhoea. Without hesitation, the women flew into action, sending for a staff member while advising the mother and offering rehydrating fruit according to their training. But when the staff member arrived, there was nothing she could do but smile. “You’ve done everything right,” she told them. “You now know how to protect your children!”

Two are better than one… a cord of three strands is not easily broken. The truth from this ancient proverb reflects the value of partnerships. Any time there is a great need, partnerships enhance the possibility that the need will be met. The Bible Translation Partnership meeting held in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea focused on the need to build a cooperative partnership in PNG to meet the linguistic needs of the country. Members from a variety of organisations and church denominations discussed needs, challenges, solutions and strategies for three days. In the end, a covenant was created acknowledging the need and desire to work together in partnership. This partnership was deemed necessary in order to accomplish the task of encouraging ongoing, community-driven language development processes throughout the entire country. While the conference centered on the theme of partnerships, specific topics were presented highlighting training, literacy development and church engagement. YWAM (Youth With A Mission) presented a new orthography development entitled “Uniskript”. Participants toured the training facilities in Ukarumpa. There were multiple opportunities for participants to network and learn what other organisations were accomplishing in the language development effort. “The conference delegates drafted a call to action: “The Bilum Covenant.” The use of the bilum, or woven string bag, unites PNG, and is a fitting symbol for the work of language development. Bilums are used to carry food, firewood, and valuables; babies sleep peacefully inside them. But they are not just practical: each bilum is a unique work of art, the result of hours of labour. Brightly coloured twisted strands are woven together to create designs that symbolise the community in which the bilum was made. Like the different coloured strands of bilum yarn, unified in one artistic creation, PNG is a diverse, multilingual country. The conference delegates hope to use this multi-faceted symbol to motivate others to get involved in the translation and language development effort.” – A conference participant The ultimate goal of The Bilum Covenant is “A Bible in every bilum”. This can only happen if many individuals, organisations and churches bind together in order to partner effectively to meet the need.

A Bible in every bilum

“There has been too much rain. We’ll have to spend the night here in Gaugadi hamlet.” The survey team sighed and then nodded. They were on a twoweek walkabout to learn about the dialects in the Kakabai mountains, and rain delays were inevitable. “But,” one of the national translators grinned, “tomorrow is Sunday, and you can give testimonies in the service!” John was intrigued. A Kakabai speaker, he had already spent much of Saturday night asking questions of the team, and now as they shared, his interest only grew. “Why not join them as a porter and hear more about this God?” he thought. After all, he could easily postpone his trip to Alotau where he was planning a hold-up with his friends. Besides, he reasoned, this was an opportunity to do something good for foreigners. His six years in the Giligili prison for stabbing an expatriate man and engaging in other criminal activities was fresh in his mind. As the team fought through the thick jungle and dangerously flooded rivers, John asked questions and talked extensively with the national translators. His eagerness surprised more than the team; at one point, the surveyors walked through an area known to harbor criminals but these locals stopped short when they saw John. What was he, a fellow raskol, doing with a bunch of translators? Curious, they emerged from their houses to ask him but eventually allowed the team to continue on their way without disturbance. When the survey team reached Alotau, John had forgotten his planned hold-ups. Soon, John began stopping by the centre regularly to visit his new friends. One evening, he arrived very distressed; he had been in a fight and needed to talk. As they sat together, a fellow Kakabai speaker, Gabriel, led him in prayer that changed his life. The rain that delayed the survey team ultimately allowed a man to receive the Water of Life.

Delayed by swollen rivers

Celebrating mother tongue languages “Multilingualism is a source of strength and opportunity for humanity. It embodies our cultural diversity and encourages the exchange of views, the renewal of ideas and the broadening of our capacity to imagine.” – Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General In 1999, February 21st was designated as International Mother Language Day (IMLD) and has been celebrated around the world ever since. The focus of the day was to highlight the importance of and promote multilingual education. More and more countries are seeing the value of their linguistic diversity and the importance of mother tongue education. (More information on this day can be found at “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.” quoted from the UN web site, SIL-PNG is involved in many efforts across the country with language communities and relevant institutions in order to increase their capacity to carry out sustainable language-based development for the benefit of those communities.

There is great value in the use of vernacular which creates opportunity for language and culture preservation, so that the unique contributions of Papua New Guinean languages to community identity and well-being will not be lost. SIL-PNG recognises its role in increasing the capacity of language communities to carry out sustainable language-based development and in contributing to the ever-expanding body of knowledge regarding the world’s languages and cultures. Language development in Papua New Guinea is seen as a means to increase the level of education, the standard of living for rural people and the wider economic development of the nation. However, many language communities have not had the opportunity to develop orthographies or document language analysis. SIL-PNG seeks to work with such communities on language development, strengthening their use of vernacular and promoting a positive view of their cultures.

Recording words of life

“Ready? Go!” Chad pressed the recording button as Menseng, an Ura speaker, glanced once more at his script, and began reading. Outside the booth, Chad glanced at the computer waveform of Mengseng’s voice while a second screen flashed the accompanying crucifixion scenes from the Luke Video. Boas, the Ura voice coach, along with half a dozen others, crowded close. Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with [Jesus] to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him. (Luke 23:32-33a) The room was silent. Not a man moved, each choking back tears as they watched a bloodied Jesus hang on a cross and whisper to them in Ura, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” For nearly ten days, the recording team had gathered in Gaulim village to dub the Luke Video series into the Ura language. With 15 episodes, a summation, and an audio-only version to create, it was a gigantic undertaking, and the team wondered if they would be able to complete it in three weeks. But, it was soon obvious their worries were unfounded. Excited, well-prepared actors, minimal technical difficulties, and a team of language experts resulted in a record-setting pace! “Is this normal?” Chad asked, worried, “Are we doing something wrong?” “No!” The others laughed incredulously, “this is just a miraculously good recording session!” Energized by their progress, the team spent the extra days refining the material until it was ready to show to the community—an extraordinarily early release! After the showing, one man approached Chad, wringing his hands enthusiastically, “I’m very happy about this video! I’m very pleased with the work that has gone into it, and it is a good film!” “Ready? Go!” With God preparing the way, the Ura people could now see and hear His truth in their own language through the Luke Video!

Singing songs from the heart All over the world, communities are exchanging their local traditions for ‘global’ ones. Ethnomusicologists fear that later generations will feel poorer, not having the opportunity to enjoy their own musical heritage. But this might not be the case for the Urim people of the East Sepik Province. The Urim recently hosted a 7-day songwriting workshop. After hearing teaching about a biblical perspective on music, people began composing new songs. Many were especially excited to compose new Christian songs in indigenous Urim music styles, accompanied by kundu drums and bamboo trumpets. Dr. Neil R. Coulter led the workshop, assisted by the Urim translation and literacy team and SIL translator Paula Akerson. Coulter is an ethnomusicologist with SIL-PNG. One of his roles is working with Papua New Guineans to create new Christian songs in vernacular languages and music styles.

Kundu Participants composed over 60 new songs! After the group heard each new song, making suggestions for improvement, songs were recorded. They will later be collected into songbooks and loaded onto music players. The workshop’s final event was the graduation. Cornelias, an enthusiastic workshop participant, was one of the graduation speakers. Walking to the front of the classroom, holding his kundu, he set it down and said, “When I became a Christian, I put down the kundu. I didn’t play kundu, bamboo, or garamut. I turned my back on all of it. I thought our traditions were sinful.” Then, smiling, he picked up the kundu and said, “But now we’ve finally learned that we can use anything to praise God­­­— even our traditions! When we use only guitars in church, not many people come. The sound of the guitar just doesn’t make us feel happy. However, now that we’re going to be using our own instruments, church will be packed! Everyone will want to come!”

The Pouye Translation Committee had translated several books of the Bible and Scripture portions, including much of Genesis and Exodus, Jonah, Ruth, Mark, Luke, Acts and Titus (all in various stages, some are published, others need checking and revision). Even after several years of literacy training the strong oral culture remains vital and thriving, while literacy in vernacular has yet to take hold. This has affected the use of the written vernacular Scripture portions in circulation. In May 2012, four Pouye speakers (including two from the Translation Committee) went to Wewak for the first module of Oral Bible Storytelling. They learned the Creation Story, The Fall of Humankind, Cain & Abel, Abraham & Sarah (the Three Visitors), and Abraham & Isaac (the sacrifice). Each of the four men learned to tell one of these stories as their “signature story”, and also learned the other four. They enjoyed the course and were excited to go back and tell these stories in the seven villages nestled in the rugged, jungle-covered hills of the Pouye language area. Their first experience telling the stories was in their home village of Yukilau, central to the area. The church was filled and many people were standing outside. Even several elderly “big men” who did not regularly attend church came to hear these “Bible stories in Tokples”. The first storyteller introduced the story in fluent vernacular and soon was full-swing into the story. His gestures, facial expressions, and dramatic telling pulled the crowd in, and when he finished there was silence. Then someone yelled out, “Namii naratwarku!” (Tell us the story again!), and there was a buzz of agreement. After he finished the second time, they wanted him to tell it a third time! This time he invited another storyteller to tell the same story again. When they had finished, the crowd erupted with positive comments about this experience, going well over the allotted time. One of the elderly “bikmen” was so enthusiastic that he said, “If church was like this every Sunday, I would be here every Sunday morning AND evening!”

Namii naratwarku! Tell us the story again!

Changing leadership offers opportunities & challenges Changing leadership provides opportunities and challenges. The Bible Translation Association of PNG (BTA) is currently facing a time of leadership change. BTA Board Chairman Andrew Kwimberi says, “David Gela has served BTA faithfully as Executive Director for over 32 years and has laid a strong foundation for the ministry to continue to serve our people in PNG as it works together with its partners. He has led the organisation from its fledgling roots to its current status as the leading indigenous Bible translation organisation in PNG. We wish him well as he transitions to this new role with Wycliffe Global Alliance and look forward to see what God has in store for BTA.� David was born in the West New Britain Province of PNG. His parents were pioneer missionaries working with the Methodist Overseas Mission. In 1979, as he was completing his undergraduate studies at the University of PNG, he was chosen to become the first director of the newly formed Bible Translation Association. David and his wife Sineina have been faithfully encouraging Papua New Guineans to become committed to translating the Bible into the languages of their country and to be involved in literacy and Scripture engagement work.

Over the past two years, David and Sineina have been serving part-time as Wycliffe Global Alliance’s Director of Pacific Island Affairs (PIA) which involves promoting the cause of Bible translation within the Pacific Island countries. The Gelas are excited about expanding this role to a fulltime position which will lead to broader responsibilities and a more strategic influence on Bible translation regionally. As David states, “The PIA goal is to serve the leadership of Pacific Islanders so that the Bible translation movement can be developed and sustained in their islands and regionally.” The BTA board is looking for a new director who would continue to cast the vision for the Bible translation movement in PNG while leading the organisation and its members in achieving their goals. This role would involve developing and maintaining networks and partnerships with churches and other organisations.

Changed plans On Sunday, Pastor Ben planned to preach and distribute Bola New Testaments in a remote village, but heavy rains made the trip impossible. Reluctantly, he went to Patanga village instead, where the services were usually held in English. Not anticipating a great reception, he went ahead with his planned sermon, speaking in Bola, and using one of the posters from the Scripture Application and Leadership Training (SALT) course that teaches about the attributes of a Christian life. After the service, several youths came up to him and said that normally they didn’t understand the messages in church because they were delivered in English. They were impressed at how clear the message was in Bola and how they understood so much more of the Scriptural truths. They asked for copies of the Bola Bible, so they could read them. But Pastor Ben only had four copies with him as he was told that the area was not interested in them because the church usually conducted services in English. The youths immediately bought all four Bibles and asked him to come back the following Monday with a whole carton! Last week, Pastor Ben was returning from town when he passed a girl carrying the Bola Bible balanced on her head. He asked her about it and she replied, “I am carrying it around with me in case I have time to read it today.� That was all the encouragement that Pastor Ben needed for the day. Pastor Ben now realised that the circumstances that prevented him from visiting the original village were actually a blessing. The changed plans resulted in an unforeseen opportunity. Furthermore, unless plans change again, the original village will soon get their visit and Scripture distribution.

When “half-half” is not enough When Jino Gideon was young he used to attend his church youth group; however, his faith was not strong. “As a young man, I was a half-half Christian,” says Jino. When Bible translators came to his village and began working in the Dawawa language, he spent time with them in their homes and they shared meals. “When they asked me to help with Bible translation,” Jino says, “I thought I should try. I learned the basics and got even more interested.” In 1994 he married Wendy, another member of the translation team. After attending a National Translators Course at the Ukarumpa Training Centre in the Eastern Highlands, he became fully committed to the Bible translation work. Jino’s faith grew as he helped translate the Scriptures into his own language and worked with other people committed to the translation effort. Jino worked on the translation of the Dawawa New Testament from 1988 until its publication in 2003, then served as chair of the translation committee for the Dawawa Old Testament project from 2004-2012. Since 2005, he has served as a mentor in VITAL, a multi-language translation project in Milne Bay, helping the

Kakabai language team. “Working in another translation allows me to use what I learned from my mistakes the first time!” says Jino. He feels that VITAL has helped him grow as a translator, especially by providing training in computer programs like Paratext, software designed to assist in the translation process. As an experienced translator, gifted in organization, presentation, and computer skills, Jino works in his village using Paratext on a solar-powered netbook. Jino is now taking further training in Biblical Studies, recently completing the “Introduction to New Testament” held at the Ukarumpa Training Centre. He says that this course was very useful. “I always had the words but now I have the understanding of what sits behind the words,” Jino explains. Jino continues to be a big part of the translation effort in the Milne Bay Province. No longer a “half-half” Christian, he is now a full-time translation mentor.

Matt had difficulty believing that Joseph was once one of Immi’s best warriors — Joseph, always kind, gentle and polite, patiently assisting Matt (translation advisor) in learning Engan language and culture. But during the past thirty years of ferocious fighting in the Immi area, Joseph had been a true “cassowary” (hero) who always went to the “teeth of the fight” (front lines), even hiring himself out as a mercenary to fight for other villages, until he was among the few men left alive. But then, three years ago, Marko felt the call of the Lord to pastor a tiny church in Immi. Persevering through low attendance and interest, Pastor Marko began reaching out to people like Joseph. Soon Joseph turned his life over to Christ, and became involved in the church. Before long, he became an assistant pastor… but he didn’t own a Bible. One Sunday, Matt called his good friend Joseph to the front of the church. First, Matt handed him an axe. “Before, your life was based on weapons like this and you used them to hurt and destroy.” Then he gave him a Bible. “Now your life is based on the Word of God. This axe that once was used to create pain and destruction will now be used to give new life and build new homes based on the Word of God.” Joseph gripped his Bible tightly and tried to speak, but tears kept streaming down his face. He couldn’t take his eyes from the book in his hands. “Thank you!” Unfortunately, Joseph and many of his fellow Engans find it difficult to read both the trade language Tok Pisin Bible and the out-dated Engan translation. There are three major dialects among the 300,000 Enga speakers. The newly formed Enga Translation Committee will be working to revise the translation to better meet the needs of the entire language group. Without an updated translation, the hearts of the people are not reached. Many still cling to traditional ways of settling disputes which involve violence. Village fighting continues as thousands wait to hear the Truth and meet their Prince of Peace.

From axes to Bibles

The office door was just up ahead. Anipia relaxed his grip on his bilum (string bag) and exhaled in relief. God had brought him through safely once again! Three days previous, Anipia had left his remote village to hike through the rugged Finisterre Range, catch a PMV, and travel up the winding highway into the Highlands. But this wasn’t the first time he had made the arduous journey. Ever since his village had dedicated their New Testament several years ago, Anipia had come many times, eager to acquire more New Testaments and audio players loaded with the recorded Scriptures to bring back with him. This time, Anipia also brought word that their annual thanksgiving offering would be set aside for Bible translation in other languages. The office door opened, and Anipia smiled as he shook hands with his good friend, John. He couldn’t wait to share what God had done in his village! There was a witch doctor who wronged many people in the area, and everyone, even the police, knew it. I (Anipia) bought one of the audio players for him to listen to. I didn’t know if he would listen to it or not, but he listened to it all the time. When we built a new church building, he came to the dedication and confessed his sorcery. He asked the pastor what he should do to get rid of his witchcraft paraphernalia, because he was afraid the spirits would attack him since he turned away from them. The pastor said the witch doctor should write down all the things he used to do; then they would give it to God, and God would protect him from the spirits. He did so, and now he lives with us in our house. Because many Papua New Guineans rely heavily on oral communication to receive information, these audio players are a valuable way to provide access to the Word of God. In addition, the audio Bibles help people learn to read and promote interest in literacy.

Sustainability is an important concept for any development organisation. Simply defined, sustainability means “having the capacity to endure.” Sustainability is like a seedling. The fragile plant grows and flourishes as it receives the energy and resources it needs. Outside resources (water, soil & sunlight) are critical to the plant’s success, but the plant controls their usage. As the seedling matures, it recreates itself, producing more seedlings long after the initial seedling has matured. A successful seedling eventually results in a thriving forest. Sustainability is important to those involved in language development and Bible translation projects. Like a seedling, a project must eventually be able to maintain and recreate itself. Projects can be measured early to determine if they are moving towards that goal. As language development and Bible translation organisations work toward sustainable language projects, it is possible to measure certain indicators of success. Four markers that have been internationally identified as important in determining growth in sustainability include Motivation, Organisation, Resourcing and Skills. Motivation measures the level of ownership by the community, including a commitment to shared vision and goals. Organisation determines whether structures are in place that enable community members and assisting organisations to work together towards mutual goals. The third marker, Resourcing, looks to see if the local leadership of the project is involved in the planning processes and have access to both local and external resources. The marker for Skills evaluates how much is being done to enable local trainers to pass on skills like consulting and developing material standards and individual competencies. By measuring how well the community-based effort is progressing in these areas, organisations can determine if the process is becoming more sustainable. Andy Grosh, SIL consultant, says “Sustainability needs to be pursued at the earliest stages of a language development project and routinely accessed to see if the trend towards a sustainable project is growing.” A truly successful language project is one where the community has fully engaged and is moving towards local sustainability.

Growing a project

Languages live… and die. When a family member becomes ill it impacts the entire family. In the same way, the decline of a language impacts the entire culture. Languages have varying levels of stability. SIL-PNG uses a scale of language viability called EGIDS (Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale). The EGIDS qualifies language stability by asking questions. Is it a historical or heritage language? How is it being used? Is it a local, regional or national language? Is it used by everyone in the community? Beyond the community? Are parents teaching their children the language? Do the community’s institutions (schools, church, local government) officially participate in the training of the next generation? The answers to these questions allow experts to rate the language on a scale of 0-10. A score of “0” reflects a healthy language that is used internationally with institutional support. A score of “10” is a language that is extinct and no longer used. “Languages are inherently unstable and tend to move down the scale unless steps are taken to strengthen language use.” says Andy Grosh, SIL-PNG. “We need to intentionally develop strategies that help language communities improve sustainable literacy development.” Preliminary analysis has shown that over 400 of PNG’s languages are considered stable or improving. That leaves over 420 that are unstable and potentially in decline. “Without institutional support for vernacular literacy development, language usage declines.” says John Brownie, SIL-PNG, “When parents stop teaching their children their heart language, it is well on its way to death.” SIL-PNG is looking at strategies that will assist communities in addressing means that will help languages remain strong. These include use of audio recordings and other sustainable oral approaches, and institutional training in vernacular education. Language development success depends on understanding the status of the language and what steps could be taken to improve its viability. Thriving tokples usage is at the core of any healthy cultural community. The death of a language leads to the death of that culture.

How does a language die? It’s a common story around the world. Languages are in danger, languages are dying. Some say that it’s a good thing, and we should let languages die so that everyone can speak one of the world languages like English, French or Spanish. Others say that every time a language disappears, some unique cultural knowledge goes with it. Many people in PNG are concerned that their language is dying, and want to know what they can do about it. Sometimes, a language has been declining for a while and then the last, elderly fluent speakers die. But before a language dies, there’s a pattern of decline in the use of the language that shows that it is on its way to death. When a language dies, the people don’t usually die, but they begin to speak a different language. The main question you need to ask is, “What language are children learning first?” If all the children are learning the local language first, that is a very good sign that the language is not dying. If children in the last twenty years or more have not been learning the language, it is well on the way to dying. What makes a strong language? There are three kinds of strong language. One is a language that is used by outsiders, like Enga in Enga Province, Kuman in Simbu, Gogodala in Western, or Misima in Milne Bay. Another is one that is used in education, so that all people in the area are learning to read and write their language, and use it daily both in speech and writing. The third type of strong language is where everyone in the community uses the language in speech for most situations. If the community is not using their language in everyday situations, or is not teaching it to their children, the language is well on its way to dying. Parents must resolve to talk to their children in their language. They need to use it with their spouse at home. Write a letter to a wantok in their language. Pray in their language. Celebrate the language their parents taught them!

Modern day Jonah As an older, single woman, Bettina, had long wished for a husband and family of her own. Last year she got involved in an adult literacy programme, run by SIL-PNG staff, and received training which used the book of Jonah in her local language. Bettina and another woman then ran a literacy course in another village, and were asked to take it to a second village. Many were surprised when they heard that Bettina had left the village, for an arranged marriage to a man in a coastal town. But sometime later Bettina returned to the village, and this is her story: “The man who was supposedly a good marriage prospect was actually an old man. I said I didn’t want to marry him and he got very angry and threatened to take me to court. When he finally gave up, I was on my own. I had no money, no food, no shelter and knew no-one in that town. I had no idea how to return to my village. Then God spoke into my situation and reminded me of the Jonah story. Like Jonah, I ran away from the task God had called me to do. I had the Jonah booklet in my bilum. When I read it, God spoke powerfully to me: “Bettina, you are running from me. I have work for you back in your village.” I confessed my sin and asked God to help me. He heard my prayers and rescued me. A family there took me in, shared their house and food with me, and helped me get home. I’m so glad to be back. God is giving me another chance to serve him, as he did with Jonah.” When the Bible translation team translated the Jonah story, they had no idea that one day this simple Bible story would speak so powerfully into the life of a struggling, despairing woman who had learned to read in her own language.

When he heard the songs in his local language and saw his own people singing with such passion, the bikman (village leader) was truly amazed. “Where did these songs come from and who wrote them?” he asked. He wanted to hear more. Koen den Hartogh, SIL literacy worker with the Gadsup language group explained that he had been working with the people in that village and they had written the songs to sing in church. The leader was so touched by the songs that he began attending church. Eight different Gadsup communities in the Eastern Highlands Province now have DVD recordings of their church music, many filmed in natural settings near their villages. A group of students attending a Christmas Camp saw one of the DVDs and asked if they could record one too… right away! “Here?” exclaimed Koen, “With over 1000 people making noise? No Way!” But the group persuaded him to bring the equipment and follow them to a place “close by”. After an hour and a half of walking through the jungle, the small path disappeared and they weaved their way through the foliage for another half hour. Finally, they came to a clearing. There in the centre stood a very large rock. The young people explained to a tired Koen that this was where their ancestors came to sharpen their stone axes. “We want to record here to show that God’s word sharpens us!” So they recorded their songs and produced a DVD that is significant and meaningful to their village. The Gadsup communities have seen a renewed interest in tokples and the church as a result of the DVDs, especially among the youth. Several churches are now raising funds to purchase equipment, so they can record their own DVDs. The local youth used to view tokples as “old man’s talk” but now they enjoy writing songs to sing in church. The recorded songs have revealed the strength of their language.

Recording village music DVDs

process, storytelling creates a ‘taste’ for the Word of God which often leads to a desire to learn how to read. But even if oral learners become literate, their preferred communication style will still be oral. “The majority of the remaining unreached peoples of the earth cannot read or write, so the Word of God will be most effectively communicated to them through oral means and storytelling.” – Bob Creson, President, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA

“70% of all people in the world are oral communicators, those who can’t, don’t, or won’t learn through literate means.” – Lausanne Conference Orality is the process of gathering, interpreting, remembering and using information that relies on spoken communication rather than on written language. Learners in oral cultures depend mostly on verbal inputs, but it goes deeper than just the communication process. Oral learners process information differently. They observe and engage in order to fully understand the situation, and rely on repetition and interaction to cement their learning. Memorisation is a key element required for recollection, so oral learners appreciate hearing information several times and in different forms in order to assimilate it. In an oral culture, if you don’t remember it, you don’t know it, because there is no physical record. Orality and relationships go hand in hand. Oral learners rely on getting information from people they know, while written learners tend to gather information privately. Oral learners converse, listen and ask questions, participate with information-givers and process out loud. Written learners, on the other hand, rely on independent research to examine, analyse, compare and classify information. It’s not only the delivery and reception of the material that is different. Oral learners view things more holistically while written learners tend to disassemble and compartmentalise information. Using the analogy of a puzzle, oral learners see the picture on the box, written learners analyse and sort the pieces. Storytelling is one of the strategies often used to help oral learners process information. The content is not read, but presented verbally and from memory, in the form of a story. The setting, interaction between speaker and audience, facial expressions, and even the cadence and rhythm, all come together and assist the oral learner to process the information. As part of the Bible translation

Hearing the truth

“This sounds like my language but why do you call it my language? I don’t really understand it.” Languages that are related but have some differences are referred to as “dialects”. Dialects have varying degrees of commonality. Some languages have several dialects. This creates challenges for linguists. In the past, there has been a tendency to do work in the dominant dialect with the expectation that the other dialects in the language group would be willing to use it. The reality is that the differences are often insurmountable for a related dialect to overcome. In some cases, a specific letter may be interchanged. The first dialect may use the letter “F” where the neighbouring dialect may use the letter “V”. While the sound may be minimally different and recognised in hearing, reading becomes nearly impossible. Another challenge linguists face is when a word may have a related but different meaning in a neighbouring dialect. One PNG language group has three dialects, one near the ocean, one deep in the jungle and the third in the mountains. The word for flat means “level area near the ocean” and is used synonymously with “beach” by the coastal dialect. The dialect that lives in the jungle uses the same word for flat but it means “a place in the jungle that has so little contour change that it is unrecognisable and one can easily get lost”. The third dialect, used primarily in the mountain, also uses the same word for flat but it means “the place on a steep path that is level enough to sit down and take a rest”. When the word is used by one dialect while interacting with another, the word creates different understanding in each group and causes confusion. Computer software has helped translate subsequent dialects after an initial dialect has been translated. Using a technique referred to as “Adaptation”, one translation is partially converted into a related dialect after the differences have been determined. SIL-PNG, BTA and other linguistic organisations are working in many dialect projects throughout Papua New Guinea in order to bring the language development and the translated Bible to more communities.

It sounds

like my language!

Cooperating communities Pastor Roy had been struggling for years to translate the Scriptures into the Kapin language, but he found himself challenged by a lack of advice and guidance. And, he wasn’t alone—eight other languages in the Huon Gulf region of Morobe province were without translated Scripture too. Elsewhere in Morobe, the Malei New Testament translation neared completion. But Elisa, the primary translator, felt restless. He knew that the Malei Scriptures were already impacting people, such as Pastor Jacob who was excited that he could now prepare sermons and preach in Malei rather than in Tok Pisin, PNG’s trade language. But Elisa couldn’t stop thinking about the surrounding language groups. What about his brothers and sisters there who were still waiting for translation help? Burdened by their need, in 2010 Elisa and the Malei translation advisors, John and Amy Lindström, began the Huon Gulf Cluster Project. Now, three years on, translators from four of those languages gather regularly in Lae city for two-week workshops where they work together, guided by experienced translators and linguists from the PNG Bible Translation Association and SIL. After each workshop participants take copies of their work home to get feedback in the village. Recently, Pastor Roy took translated portions of Exodus to Kapin speakers living near Lae, including the story of how God protected the Israelites from the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea. When Kapin speaker Mack, a magistrate whose job often puts him into dangerous situations, read the story, he was amazed. He told Pastor Roy, “I’ve read that story in Tok Pisin and English, but reading it in Kapin makes me realize in a new way what a mighty work God did for his people. It makes me confident that if God looks after his people like that, then He will look after me too when I do my work.”

Restoring documents In a small office at SIL’s centre in the Eastern Highlands, Rudy Yawiro gives new life to valuable data which has lain untouched in dusty filing cabinets for decades. Working with linguistic papers and translated documents dating as far back as the 1950s, she takes pages of previously unpublished handwritten or typed material, and through a process of scanning and editing converts it into an electronic format. Then these documents are uploaded to the internet, accessible across the world to people interested in studying Papua New Guinea’s more than 800 languages. Rudy started working for SIL in 2007, as a radio operator. Her attention to detail and ability to learn were quickly noticed and in 2008 she moved into Academic and Web Publishing. She enjoys keeping abreast of developments in copyright law and the specialised software she uses. Two years ago she added electronic archiving to her responsibilities, becoming a curator for the Repository for Electronic Archiving and Publishing (REAP), a worldwide digital storehouse for SIL International. In April, Rudy travelled to Manila to represent both SIL-PNG and the SIL Pacific Area at the first Global Conference on Archiving. The conference marked two years of REAP’s existence and provided a forum for the discussion and exchange of ideas between curators from all around the world. Jeremy Nordmoe, the Director of Language and Culture Archives at SIL International, commented that, “Rudy has exhibited an advanced understanding of how REAP works. In the first two years of REAP, she was one of the top five curators in terms of activity, and is a valuable member of both the PNG Staff and the Global Archiving Community of Practice.” Rudy’s dream is to train others in SIL-PNG and the Pacific Area and create helps for those who will follow her in this work.

Peter, a Malinguat speaker, stood before the blackboard and reached for the ground. Picking up an imaginary basket, he cradled it in his arms, a quizzical expression on his face. What could it be? As he slipped off the lid, he jumped in surprise and the audience gasped, then laughed—the daughter of Pharaoh had just discovered baby Moses! It was the second day of the two-week Oral Bible Storytelling workshop held in Wewak, Papua New Guinea, and 30 participants from seven languages were practicing telling the story of Moses’ birth in their own tokples (local language). This April module was the third of four workshops, designed to train Papua New Guineans to memorize the elements of the Bible stories and retell them in their own words, capturing the meaning and details with the eloquence, gestures, and vocabulary of a vibrant master storyteller. Storytelling is an integral part of Papua New Guinean culture, and thus, when God’s Word is spoken, it powerfully impacts a wide cross-section of people— from educated pastors preparing for their weekly sermon to children’s Sunday school to illiterate women visiting in the marketplace to whole language communities who have no access to translated Scripture. “It helps me understand how to preach better,” one pastor explained, and the others nodded

in agreement. Another commented that although he is able to read the Bible in his own language, when he retells the story himself, it impacts him at a whole new level. “Em sutim bel bilong mi,” he explained (literally, it shoots me in the stomach/heart meaning, it impacts me deeply). From describing the frantic search of a shepherd for his lost sheep to the unexpected kindness of a Samaritan, Jesus understood the power of storytelling 2,000 years ago. Whether in the deserts of Israel or the jungles of Papua New Guinea, that impact continues to this day!

Becoming a master storyteller

When his motorcycle hit a large rut in the road, Bruce Hansen knew his day was not going to go according to plan. With 20 kg of Bibles in his backpack he hit the ground hard and pain shot through his shoulder. Those Bibles were not going anywhere today. As a boy in Canada, Bruce honed his riding skills, little knowing that 40 years later he would deliver supplies to Bible translators in a remote Papua New Guinean village – by motorcycle. Alex and Lois Vincent had worked with the Tairora people in the Eastern Highlands since 1958, and although Bruce was a pilot by day, his weekend motorcycle rides often took him to their village, 19 miles over dirt tracks. After the Vincents retired, Bruce and his friends continued to visit the villages, and when the revised Tairora Bibles needed distributing, they were the obvious choice. On Easter Monday, Bruce and two friends loaded up and set off. But now, propped up by the pack of Bibles and in pain, Bruce wondered how he would get home. A passing driver just happened to be heading towards Ukarumpa, with a half empty truck. Within minutes Bruce was on board. But the Bibles were going in the wrong direction. Bruce knew he needed a new plan to get the Bibles out. A week later he discovered that pastors from the area were meeting at a nearby village, including many from Tairora. Despite his broken collarbone, Bruce joined them, and after sharing about the Bibles, he witnessed God’s plan unfold. The head pastor challenged his colleagues to take on the task: “These Bibles don’t have arms or legs, they’re not going to get out there on their own!” Bruce gave boxes of Bibles to seven Tairora pastors and after a short service of dedication, they left. The Bibles were on their way at last! The day of the accident, Bruce’s plan had been to take Bibles to one Tairora village. Now they were travelling with the pastors to villages he hadn’t even known existed. God had a better plan all along!

A better plan

‘Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free’. So began the first day of the meeting of the Bible Bilum Partnership held at Cassowary Road United Church, Lae, from May 7th through the 9th. The Bible Bilum Partnership was born out of discussions in February 2013. The bilum, the woven bag used by people throughout Papua New Guinea, is used to represent the nature of partnership. Just as bilums are found in a multitude of colourful threads and beautiful designs, the partnership reflects the diversity of the body of Christ, bringing glory to our Creator by bringing together the unique skills and gifting of each organisation. Working together, the Bible Bilum Partnership has a vision to see ‘a Bible in every bilum’ across the nation. Now, leaders and representatives from 18 organisations were meeting to discuss how the people of Papua New Guinea can be transformed by the truth of God’s Word. Church leaders representing local denominations meeting with translation organisations and missions, all determined to see their churches taking on more responsibility for the translation of Scripture into tokples – the language spoken by the people of the churches, the language that speaks to those same people’s hearts. Bishop Giegere Wenge of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said, “for too long we [the churches] have expected Bible translation organisations to do the translation … We relied on them. That has to change! It is our problem! When we do this, it will change this nation. When we work together, society will change – will be transformed. The owner of the Talk has the way to make it happen!” This commitment to partnership was later sealed in a great celebration and feast on the evening of May 7th when 13 leaders signed the ‘Bilum Covenant’ on behalf of their churches or organisations. In signing, they were promising to pray for the work of Bible translation, to work together to see the Word of God available in the languages of the people of PNG, to share resources and expertise and to equip those called to the huge task of translation amongst the 300 or so languages of PNG still needing a translation programmes.

It’s our turn now!

Churches unite Ushering in a new era of church unity in Enga Province, eleven denominations are working together to translate the Bible into the Enga language. A celebration in Wabag on 31st May will mark the launch of the Enga Bible translation project. With approximately 300,000 speakers, Enga is the largest vernacular language in Papua New Guinea. While there are nine dialects of Enga, the churches have agreed to translate the Bible into the Central (Wabag) dialect, which all of the other dialects can understand. In preparation for this work nine Enga speakers, representing five denominations, are currently completing five weeks of training in translation methods at SIL’s Ukarumpa Training Centre. After this preparation, translators will begin with the revision of the existing Enga New Testament, which has not been revised since it was first published twenty-five years ago. Because many Enga speakers cannot read, the translation will be made available in both print and audio formats. The audio format will be distributed on solar-powered audio players that people can listen to over and over again without having to buy batteries. It will be the first time that most Enga speakers really have access to the Word of God in their own language. The print format will be published with an English translation and the Enga translation on facing pages so that readers will be able to compare the two versions and gain an even deeper understanding of the Bible. The Bible Translation Association of Papua New Guinea is asking for Engan churches and Enga speakers around the country to support this important work through prayer and financial support.

Dr. Jeff had never seen anyone like this before. Like stewards carrying a royal litter, the men gently lowered the chair onto the floor of the clinic. The elderly man’s eyes hid the pain as his family members bustled around him. “Please, will you help us?” they pleaded. “He can’t walk.” Why isn’t he on a stretcher? Dr. Jeff wondered—then realized the man couldn’t straighten his legs. He was bent in the shape of the chair! Crippled in that position for nearly five years, he had sought help from doctors around the country but without success. The Ukarumpa Health Clinic was his last desperate chance. What could it be? On a hunch, Dr. Jeff ordered a lab test, gave him some medication, prayed with the family, and sent the chair-bound man home. Would it work? Only God knew. Incredibly, when he returned a week later, the pain had decreased! Over the next few months of treatment, the pain subsided completely, and the man regained slight movement in his knees and wrists. With a fierce determination, the man tackled the painful rehabilitation process with unparalleled tenacity. At one point, he lay down on his house floor with a rope tied around his feet. His wife tossed the rope over a roof beam, attached a weight to the other end to pull his legs straight, and then sat on his knees to press them flat! After a year of medication and therapy, he finally was able to stand up and walk. Joy radiated from his face—he had a new life! 2,000 years ago, when a paralysed man was lowered through a roof, Jesus showed Himself to be God by offering new life both physically and spiritually. This holistic testimony continues today in Bible translation and medical care, and the results are the same—“all were amazed and praised God exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”” (Mark 2:12)

Why isn’t he on a stretcher?

A new day is dawning for the people of Rossel Island. They are embracing new technology in the form of solarpowered audio players, which enable them to hear Bible readings and songs in their own language. Jim and Anne Henderson and four Rossel colleagues spent three weeks travelling around the island in the SIL boat, Kwadima, to introduce these players and distribute them. They visited many village communities to lead hands-on learning groups. Many people, especially those who have mobile phones, were quick to learn how to navigate through the recordings and teach others. Many liked to read and listen at the same time, gaining more skill and confidence in reading. One man suggested a good Rossel name for the Audibible – Mtye Tp:oo – because it has lots of talk inside it. Mtye Tp:oo means “Talking Parrot”. Rossel people expressed deep gratitude for the Talking Parrots and for the Christians in Australia who funded them. They showed their gratitude with gifts of beautifully woven baskets, bagi shell necklaces, garden food, bananas, and even a live chicken in a basket!

Talking parrots

The very first Rossel speaker the Hendersons ever met, in 1970, was the father of Titus Philemon, the current Governor of Milne Bay. As they were learning the language and working out an alphabet, Jim and Anne discovered that it was a notoriously difficult language with ninety-four different sounds to represent in the writing system. They continued with literacy materials, grammar analysis, dictionary compilation and Bible translation. One of the Rossel Islanders who made a major contribution in the literacy and translation work is Isidore Yidika, a grade 6 leaver. He has also been helping linguist Stephen Levinson with his research. They both went to the US in 2012, to teach a Language Documentation course at Berkley University, California. To all who want to grow as Christians, Anne says, “Just as the solarpowered audio players need to be exposed to the sun to renew their strength, so do we. Exposing ourselves to what God says gives us new strength for each new day.”

The recent graduation of students from the 2013 Translators Training Course (TTC) was a major event in the Ukarumpa Training Centre (UTC) calendar. The six week course began with a week of English enrichment and computer skills for those students who needed up-skilling in these areas; and then it was on to business with learning how to translate God’s Word into the languages of those who attended the course. Over 50 men and women from ten language groups were represented in teams ranging from two to eight people. Languages represented at this year’s course were Madi (Madang), Amam (Morobe), Kamano-Kafe (E.H.P), Kaugel (W.H.P), Odoodee (Western), Enga (Enga), GuhuSamane (Morobe), Tairuma (Gulf), Kapin (Morobe), and Binumarien (E.H.P). TTC is for people committed to seeing God’s Word, the Bible, translated into the heart language of their people. Topics include: language discovery, Bible background, translation principles, study skills, Scripture in use, Biblical languages and more. Teams are given close support through the help of experienced mentors and have the opportunity to work their way through four levels of translation courses over consecutive years: TTC 1, 2, 3 & 4. This year the Kapin team from Morobe Province successfully completed TTC 3.

Here’s what some of this year’s participants had to say about the experience: “This course has changed my life spiritually and given me a hunger for doing translation work.” – Martin, Odoodee language, Western Province “TTC will make a big difference in all ministries such as teaching, preaching and evangelizing. This course will impact the Great Commission!” – William, Enga language, Enga Province “Language discovery, translation methods and Bible Background were most important to me personally – they will help me to make better translation drafts.” – Nathan, Kamano-Kafe language, E.H.P. The TTC course is run each year using the excellent facilities at the Ukarumpa Training Centre. To find out more about the Ukarumpa Training Centre and the courses available, go to

Honouring students

It’s here!

The much anticipated arrival of the Kodiak aircraft became a reality on June 4th, 2013. This Kodiak joins the other three Kodiak aeroplanes and two helicopters that fly in PNG with SIL Aviation. Late last year, Quest Aircraft Company, the manufacturer of the aircraft, had a change of order and contacted JAARS that a new Kodiak aeroplane was available immediately. Miraculously, through the generosity of God’s people, 12 days later the plane was purchased enabling PNG to receive this plane two years earlier than expected. JAARS is an organisation that invests in practical ways through day-to-day support in order to make language development and translation possible throughout the world. JAARS administrated and procured the aircraft. JAARS worked with Quest Aircraft Company on the price and features, so that it will match the aviation needs of language workers in PNG. Wycliffe Associates, a significant supporter of the language development and translation process here in PNG, was instrumental in the purchase. The plane travelled over 8200 miles and was in the air almost 50 hours in order to fly from Waxhaw, North Carolina in the United States to Aiyura Valley here in Papua New Guinea. It made stops in southern Illinois, Kansas, and southern California before flying over the Pacific Ocean. On the trans-pacific flight, it stopped in Hilo, Hawaii, the Marshall Islands and finally Port Moresby, PNG before it flew to its final destination in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The addition of the fourth Kodiak will provide relief to the current tight maintenance schedule. Besides providing additional flights for language development workers, Bible translators and church leaders, the new aircraft will provide greater community service opportunities for remote areas of Papua New Guinea. The plane only needed a few minor alterations in order to prepare it for the rugged PNG environment.

Passion for stories For much of the workshop, Susan, a Kwomtari speaker, sat unobtrusively at her table, often resting her chin on her hands as she listened to the lectures. One of 30 participants from seven languages, Susan was attending the third of four workshops on Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS), a course that teaches Papua New Guineans how to memorize and retell Bible stories in a dramatic manner. Quiet and humble, Susan rarely spoke in discussions, and so when she shyly walked to the front of the room, everyone grew silent. She stared at the ground for a moment, and then, breaking into huge grin, Susan dove headfirst into the story of Moses fleeing Egypt. Waving her hands and darting around the room, this tiny woman became a fierce Moses attacking an Egyptian, scolding Hebrews, cowering shepherds, and Jethro’s daughters. As she finished the story, the room roared with laughter and applause; Susan beamed in delight—being illiterate no longer meant she couldn’t share God’s Word. As a pastor’s wife with a deep faith, Susan’s inability to read has long been a great frustration to her, preventing her from leading well her women’s fellowship group or even telling Bible stories to her children. After she attended her first OBS workshop, Susan eagerly began sharing stories, but the other women in the fellowship became angry, accusing Susan of arrogance and not accepting their authority as literate members. But, a chance to clarify OBS came when Susan was asked to share a Bible story for the opening devotional for a regional women’s meeting. “How many of you can read?” 150 women were asked. Only a dozen raised their hands. “OBS helps you learn Bible stories and share them with your families—without needing to read.” Excited, the women listened spellbound as Susan proclaimed Truth in their own language. No longer did Susan face opposition from the fellowship; instead, they were excited about receiving God’s Word through OBS into their own lives!

Learning stories that change lives

Kristina half-closed her eyes, listening intently to the words flowing from one recorder, while at the same time softly translating the story of Moses and the burning bush into Kombio onto a second recorder. After she finished, her three other teammates shifted closer, ready to replay the Kombio recording and begin refining the translation. Kristina and 29 other participants from seven languages were attending an Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop in Wewak. Split into four modules, the OBS course is designed to teach Papua New Guineans to memorize and retell Scripture in a way that is similar to the traditional storytelling methods integral to PNG culture. In this third module, the participants focused on the stories of Moses and the Exodus, reflecting on God’s deliverance through hardship. Hardship was not new to Kristina. Two of her three children had died at birth, and in the attempts to save them and repair her ravaged body, Kristina had undergone four agonizing surgeries. In addition, after she returned from the first workshop and began sharing Bible stories, her husband and his family became extremely unsupportive and embittered, forbidding her to share the stories publically or attend the second module of training. With no surviving siblings or parents and no support from the local church, Kristina was without an advocate. But, instead of becoming angry, she chose to humbly submit to her husband, praying the Lord would transform his heart so she might attend the third module. God did work, and this past April, Kristina soaked up the training, despite leaving several times for the local hospital in an attempt to diagnose reoccurring pain leftover from the failed surgeries. Throughout it all, Kristina remained hopeful. “Listening to these stories about the Israelites has really encouraged me,” she said. “They were in difficult times, but God was bigger than that and rescued them. I know He’ll bring me through my Red Sea as well.”

Spears planted in the sand Traditionally, outsiders arriving on the shores of the Ninigo Islands were greeted by spear-yielding Seimat people with a question: “Why have you come?” If their intent was to fight, battle commenced, but if they came for peaceful purposes, the spears were planted in the sand and a warm welcome was given.

As people arrived on the shores of Patexux Island on Tuesday 21st May 2013, the response to the question was this: Kako kau meng solian ti Jises, Kakai Haeu ti Kakai Seimat (“We bring the Good News of Jesus, God’s Word in the Seimat language”). Spears were planted in the sand and guests were welcomed from seven other countries representing all the people who had been praying for many years for this day to arrive. Seimat people had gathered on Patexux from the eight main island communities, Lorengau on Manus Island (370km east) and other parts of the country to join in this historical event, the third New Testament translation completed in Manus Province.

At the beginning of the main dedication programme on Wednesday the 22nd of May, a team of Seimat men carried in a traditional sailing canoe bearing Beata Wozna (Poland), Theresa Wilson (U.K.), and a box of Seimat New Testaments. Wozna and Wilson have worked with the Seimat people since 2003 to develop mother tongue literacy in the schools and communities and to translate the New Testament with a team of men and women from the two denominations represented in the Islands, all with the support of churches in Poland, Scotland and England.

The arrival of the Seimat New Testament was celebrated with dancing, singing, drama and a huge feast including pork and seafood fresh from the Pacific. There were speeches of acknowledgment, gratitude and above all encouragement to the Seimat sailors to treasure this gift from God as the essential foundation for wise and godly living and the basic nourishment for the Christian’s daily walk.

Leading the way Recently SIL-PNG held its biennial conference and elected new leaders to lead the organisation as it moves forward in the language development and Bible translation effort. The PNG organisation is led by a director who oversees the day-to-day operations and reports to an executive committee which meets periodically to assure compliance to the goals and ends of the organisation.

Paul Minter, SIL-PNG Director Paul Minter is the newly elected Director. He is a translator and translation consultant. He and his wife, Jennie, have worked among the Iyo people of Madang Province for 17 years, seeing the Iyo NT dedicated in 2009. Since then he has served in administrative roles both in PNG and in the SIL Pacific Area. He agreed to stand for Branch Director in order to see the Branch move in new directions which would revitalize SIL-PNG recruitment and retention and effectively engage Papua New Guineans for the remaining translation task in the country. About his Multi-Language Initiative (MLI), he says, “I want the Branch to develop a method by which we as an organisation can design, implement and resource multi-language projects in PNG.�

“These are exciting days to be part of the Bible translation and language development task here in PNG.” – Jeff D’Jernes

Jeff D’Jernes, Executive Committee Chairman Jeff D’Jernes was elected to chair the Executive Committee. Jeff and his wife, Sissie, first came to Papua New Guinea in 1981. Since 1987 they have been working among the Arop-Lokep people on Long Island & Crown Island of Madang Province, and Tolokiwa Island & Umboi Island of Morobe Province. The entire New Testament has now been translated into the Arop dialect of the Arop-Lokep language and a dedication ceremony is planned for June 2014. They have trained 2 literacy supervisors and 45 local teachers and launched 14 vernacular language prep schools for the children of Long Island. They have also facilitated adult literacy classes in several villages. As PNG undergoes rapid technological and cultural changes, SIL-PNG is responding by developing fresh strategies and trying new methods for reaching the last 300 language groups needing a translation. Both leaders expressed their appreciation to outgoing Director, Tim Lithgow, and Executive Chairperson, Alan Brown, for their significant accomplishments over the past four years.

Sounds in the night

In the early 1980s, Barbara Hardin and Linda Weisenburger settled on the coast a few hours’ drive north of Madang to learn the local language and translate the scriptures. Those first years were very discouraging as the local community showed little interest in their own language. But when Hardin and Weisenburger were seriously considering whether or not to continue, Maia language speakers from Wagedev village asked them to come and work with them. The following decades continued to be a struggle as, apart from a few key people, there was limited interest in the programme. Logistic challenges emerged as the road to the village deteriorated to the point where it was only passable in dry season. The helicopter became their preferred mode of travel, and they persevered in the work. Recently, a dedication was held for the scriptures that have been translated: portions of Genesis, Ruth, Matthew, Mark, Acts, and a few epistles, in printed form and on Audibibles. Encouragingly, the community worked together on repairing the road into Wagadev. But one week before the celebration a torrential downpour caused a landslide that completely cut off the road. As only God could orchestrate, a helicopter was going to be in the area the day before the dedication, so the visitors were shuttled in. On the dedication day, dancers escorted visitors into the village, actors presented dramas depicting the truth of God’s Word protecting from evil, and speakers reminded the community of the importance of this event – God now can speak to them in their own mother tongue: Maia! The local Lutheran pastor, not a Maia speaker, spoke passionately, promising the people that the scripture readings in church would now be in Maia. True to his word, at church the next morning ALL the scripture readings were in the Maia language. As the sun set over the tropical jungle, the nightly noise of the cicadas and other tropical creatures was mixed with the sound of Maia scriptures being played on the Audibibles as groups of people listened to God’s Word in their mother tongue.

Learning that lasts ”Now I see how important it is to interact with my learners, to get to know them and to know what motivates them to learn.” – Learning that Lasts participant Learning that Lasts teaches powerful principles for teaching adults based on dialogue education pioneered by Jane Vella. Four teachers came from four continents to work with mostly Papua New Guinean participants in a multicultural learning environment at the Ukarumpa Training Centre. The participants were first taught adult-learning theories, and “learner-centred education” was the central theme. When teaching adults it is important to get to know the learners. This enables connections to be made to their knowledge and interests that facilitate learning. Respect is a big issue. They practised facilitating dialogue with powerful questions, communication skills, observation and giving and receiving feedback. These principles started to come alive after discussions, as they practised teaching self-chosen topics. According to the participant testimonies, the new ideas made a big difference in the way they taught their lessons as well as the way they talked with each other and worked to understand each other’s cultures. People who hadn’t known each other became brothers and sisters by working together in teams and teaching pairs. They were amazed to see how much more can be accomplished with teamwork. At the end of the course there was time to reflect, and several participants shared that this course had really changed them. They were prepared to use these skills, not only in their teaching, but also in their work in church engagement and even in everyday communications. During the daily devotion time, they learned how Jesus used these powerful principles in his teachings. Just as Jesus healed the men who were blind, this course opened up the eyes of the participants. The participants were ready to put into practise what they had learned, which makes their teaching very powerful and will change lives and communities all over the country of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. “I am not only teaching them, but I can also learn a lot from them. That’s a whole other perspective.” – Learning that Lasts participant

Renowned language expert speaks

Dr Bernard Comrie recently visited Papua New Guinea where he lectured at the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Ukarumpa, Eastern Highlands

Province. Comrie is a former professor at Cambridge University in England and the University of Southern California, and is currently Distinguished Professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also the Director of the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

This was not Comrie’s first visit to PNG. He has a long-term relationship with SIL-PNG and this was his third lecture series here. He has been involved in research in several language groups in PNG and has an unparalleled knowledge of the languages of the world. From his expertise and pioneering research of natural languages he can share fascinating insights into how languages can be so very different and at the same time have many features in common. In one of his lectures, Comrie presented the World Atlas of Language Structure (WALS) book and online publication with interactive map tools. He demonstrated how that tool helps in comparing specific features in languages of the world; this tool can be used to compare the features of PNG languages with the rest of the world’s languages. Village language workers attending the Translator Training Course at the Ukarumpa Training Centre also attended some of the lectures. Principles they learned from Comrie will enhance their understanding of the structures in their own vernacular languages. After leaving the Highlands, Comrie lectured at the University of Papua New Guinea, focusing on how the detailed work carried out by linguists in PNG’s indigenous languages has contributed to an overall understanding both of language as a human ability and of the geographical distribution of linguistic phenomena. Comrie showed how the WALS can help identify features of New Guinea languages which have a widespread distribution across the languages of the world versus those that are representative of this linguistically diverse part of the world. PNG’s linguists are looking forward to a return visit from Comrie.

Unite and ignite

The Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association (BTA) held its biennial conference at the Ukarumpa Training Centre. The conference was a time for reviewing and renewing BTA’s vision for the Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea. There were many opportunities for spiritual refreshment, encouragement and learning from each other. The theme of the conference was “Unite and Ignite”, with the goal of inspiring the 130+ participants to come together to complete the humanly impossible task of providing the Word of God in every tokples in PNG. Rev. Min-Yong Jung began the week by bringing Scriptural insights that focused attendees on the conference theme. Rev. Jung previously served as a Bible translator in Papua and as Director of Global Bible Translators (Wycliffe Korea). He is currently serving as Associate Director of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, focusing on church engagement and networking. The conference highlighted the work being done in the 57 language communities that BTA serves. There were presentations on various programmes and projects including advancements in Bible storytelling, SALT (Scripture Application & Leadership Training) and the electronic distribution of Scriptures (, The BTA board met and elected a new chairman, Dominic Sebong, replacing Andrew Kwimberi who has served twelve years on the board and as the chairman for the past 6 years. Dominic has served as vice-chairman of the board for the past two years. He comes from Morobe Province and currently resides in Port Moresby. David Gela announced that after 31 years as Executive Director, this would be his final biennium. He is hoping to transition into a mentoring role for BTA, and into a full-time capacity as Director for Pacific Island Affairs for the Asia Pacific Area of the Wycliffe Global Alliance. His goal for the next two years is to implement BTA’s strategic plan and to define a meaningful course for churches that want to get engaged in the Bible translation process. “My greatest joy has been seeing the churches getting involved and Papua New Guineans taking ownership of the Bible Translation process. It’s our turn now!” – David Gela, Executive Director, BTA

I will bring food but… The new translators were meeting with the Moro villagers. Sadly, the previous translators could no longer stay, but God had graciously provided a second set of translators to continue the work. As the helicopter waited with the previous translators inside ready to return to the base, Paul and his family greeted the many villagers who had gathered to welcome them. As the regional director challenged the people to support Paul and Jennie as they had supported the previous translators, one of the older men stepped forward. Buyuwe, a small man barely over four feet tall, said with a strong voice, “We brought food for the other family, we brought firewood for them, and we have taught them our language. Now they are gone and a new family has come. We will bring food and firewood for this family, too, and teach them our language. But, I am afraid… I am afraid that I will not see God’s Word in my language before I die.” These words stuck with Paul for years, often serving as motivation during tough times. Fifteen years later, Paul has brought the galley proofs of the completed New Testament to Gumbarami village for a final read-through. This will be the last step in the process before sending it off to be printed. When people from Moro came for their turn at reading, Paul recognised Buyuwe and called him over. He said, “Buyuwe, do you remember what you said to me when I first arrived?” With expectant eyes, Buyuwe watched as Paul handed him the entire stack of more than seven hundred pages. Paul exclaimed, “Here. Here is your entire New Testament, God’s Word in your language… and it is in your hands before you die!” With great joy and loud laughter, Buyuwe grabbed Paul’s hand and shook it strongly. In fact, he would not let it go and for several minutes he continued to shake Paul’s hand, his laughter resonating throughout the area. Truly God’s Word had come to the Iyo language.

“This is an important work of God. And thus, it will not be fruitless. You and I must give glory and praise to Him!” – Elisabeth Shelley, Tiang language group, Djaul Island It was the last day of a two-week Sunday School Book Production Workshop in New Ireland. Fourteen members from the Tiang community, a language group located on Djaul Island had gathered in Kavieng for an intense schedule of pondering, discussing, translating, formatting, and producing over a hundred Sunday School books following the life of Christ. The challenges facing the group at the start of the workshop were numerous—no power, no food, no water, no production supplies, and lots of work to do in a limited time! But, God provides for His children, and within the first two days, generous donations came in from local business owners more than covering all their needs! Together, they worked hard discussing the best way to translate the stories and create meaningful activities to help Tiang children understand the Word of God. “Before this workshop, I didn’t read Tiang well or have Tiang resources. But now I feel confident in teaching children Bible stories in Tiang,” Delilah, a teacher, commented. All the intense study also impacted the participants deeply, as many of them read the stories of Christ for the first time in their language. “I have never read the Bible so much before! We read the Bible from morning until evening in the workshop. We read it in English. We read it in Tok Pisin. We read it in Tiang. And when I read the Bible in English or Tok Pisin, I get this much.” Solomon spread his thumb and forefinger apart. “But, when I read it in Tiang, then I get this much.” He stretched one arm above his head and the other below his waist. “Em i bikpela tumas long mi!” It’s very important to me!

Tiang translates for teachers

The class stared in rapt attention as Norbert Wamsi, their teacher, motioned to the whiteboard. “Tell me again the different mathematical functions we learned this morning.” The students quickly called out the answers. “Good! Now, let’s review inserting a picture into a document.” Norbert bent over his computer and gestured emphatically as he talked through the steps. Watching the projected computer screen, some students scribbled notes while others followed along on their own computers, mimicking each click until they too had successfully inserted a photo. Naomi grinned at her accomplishment—she had learned a lot in this course! Norbert was teaching the first Basic Computer Skills course held at the Ukarumpa Training Centre. The one-week course was the first response to the increasing request for computer training for Papua New Guinean Bible translators—and the results were overwhelming. “The computer course is a very important thing,” explained Balai, a Kunimaipa speaker from Morobe. “The computer is an important tool to use in the work of Bible translation and literacy. I’m very happy I was able to receive some training. It’s been a need of mine.” Similarly, Thomas, a Nali speaker and translator from Manus, described how he first learned to use a typewriter, but hadn’t had much experience with a computer. “I’m happy this course happened, because it has given me some good ideas for working with a computer. It’s a good tool for my translation work, and now I can teach my wife how to type too.” The practical, hands-on teaching style of the course worked well for the participants—but all of them wanted more. Temah, an Angataaha speaker from Morobe, commented, “There’s so much to learn and not enough time! We need more courses like this.” Computers and technology are vital to the process of Bible translation—and new training courses like this one equip people with tools to help make God’s Word accessible to every language in Papua New Guinea.

So much to learn‌ so little time

“I was standing in my garden when God called me.” Carson leaned forward on his bench, spreading his hands in excitement. “I was just a subsistence farmer, but when God called me, I immediately dropped my yam seeds in the garden and left my digging stick there. I decided I was going to follow Him.” Carson couldn’t hide his passion as he described his 10-year ministry in book production and HIV/AIDS and gender violence awareness among the languages in Oro province. The challenges and sacrifices were immense, but he remained undaunted: “I believe literacy is the tool that we need to use in this country. Literacy is the key to opening doors. If I help my people learn to read and write in our own language, then they can make a good transition into English and Tok Pisin and become leaders.” Taylor and Lydia nodded in agreement; they had just finished leading a literacy workshop attended by people from 14 language groups. “If we want to bring things into the community, literacy is the only way to bring change. That’s why the LLEAD course is important. It provides tools that are all about life, and life begins in the community.” LLEAD (Leadership, Literacy, Education and Development) is a two-year program created to equip men and women as effective community leaders for literacybased transformational development and for the establishment of community learning and development centers. This past June, the participants had gathered for the third month-long module of instruction. “LLEAD provides holistic training. It meets our needs,” Carson explained. “It addresses all aspects of development from the inside out. Development begins in the village and then goes up to the district, province, and nation.” Carson continued, “Through LLEAD, God has opened a door for me—I haven’t been to other schools. I just use what has been invested in me. But, I keep praying that God will send someone to help me with literacy and development in my community and in my language program.”

Literacy is the key to opening doors

Wonderful words of life The project had been progressing for several years and many dozens of people had contributed—translators, checkers, advisors, typists, artists—but now, the task was almost complete. Miskum, the main translator and editor, couldn’t hold back his smile as he fingered the final draft copy of the Tigaak hymnbook. Over 200 songs were waiting to be sung in his language! In the late 1800s, the first missionaries to New Ireland brought their English Methodist hymnbooks, which have since become a treasured staple of the United Church. The Tigaak language community—over 10,000 people—have been eager to sing their treasured songs in their own language, but have not had a Tigaak translation until now. Hymnbooks are not only powerful tools for literacy and language awareness, but they are extremely effective in communicating memorable Scripture, even before a Scripture translation is available in the local language. Miskum and a team of translators worked tirelessly to translate the hymns, using their old Kuanua hymnbooks, the pages so soft and worn from love and use that they felt like fabric; but due to the lack of outside help, the process of getting the hymnbook ready for printing came to a standstill. However, earlier this year two SIL advisors joined the Tigaak translation team to enter the final edits and finish formatting the hymnbook. It’s hard to be silent while checking a hymnbook, and as they worked they hummed and sang, filling the air with beloved tunes and timeless truths. Now the Tigaak can sing the wonderful words of life in their own language.

A mighty giant A diminutive man, his face framed by grey hair and a full beard, gazed intently at a computer. The screen displayed a Scripture passage in three languages: English, Greek, and his beloved Angaatiha. Ainde smiled as he edited the Angaatiha text, clarifying the meaning and making it easier to understand. Angaatiha was his mother tongue; through this language, the Bible spoke most richly to him. But on August 1st, Ainde Wainzo left this world and may even now be speaking with his Saviour face-to-face. God graciously released Ainde’s fragile body from the chronic asthma that had plagued him for many years. Ainde was a gentle, patient man, diligently focused on the Bible translation task. He had worked for over thirty years as a translator on the Angaatiha New Testament. He had celebrated with his language group, located in Morobe Province, when they joyfully dedicated the completed New Testament in 2004. Now, almost 10 years later, he was working even harder to complete the Old Testament.

goes home Ainde believed that Papua New Guineans were essential participants in the process of translating the Scriptures into their own languages. He was an advocate for learning. Only a few days before his passing, Ainde completed yet another course at the Ukarumpa Training Centre—where he was learning Paratext, a tool to assist him in his translation work. Ainde’s wife, two sons and a daughter survive him. He will be greatly missed by his family, colleagues, teammates and friends, but they are all rejoicing that he is currently being told “Well done” by his closest friend, Jesus. Ainde, small in stature but a giant man of faith. Ainde was a member of the BTA. BTA has established a memorial fund in honour of God’s work in and through Ainde’s life and ministry. Donations to this fund can be sent to PNG Bible Translation Association, Box 350, Waigani, N.C.D. 131, PNG

Uniskript is a writing system that uses picture symbols that represent the parts of the mouth used to make the sounds of language. This makes it good for teaching phonics, and a useful stepping stone towards learning to read in normal letters. It can be applied to any language, including English. Because it is easy to learn, it is of interest to language development and literacy practitioners in countries with many small language groups, and where school children are struggling to acquire literacy through traditional methods. A research team from Youth With A Mission (YWAM) developed the Uniskript method and this year they invited a team from Papua New Guinea to try Uniskript for themselves. Teachers Roy Harai, Nelson Moio, Anna Larupa and Esther Ukia, (teachers from the Urama and Koriki language communities) attended a workshop at the University of the Nations in Hawai'i, along with SIL literacy experts Robbie and Debbie Petterson. The PNG team learned how to use Uniskript symbols to represent language sounds, and then developed symbols for Koriki and Urama. After testing the symbols by writing words and sentences, they looked at cultural icons, designs and artifacts, and used these to adapt the basic symbols to ones that had a real "Urama" or "Koriki" home—grown feel to them. The Koriki teachers called their Uniskript alphabet "Koriki Ere," which means "(growth-giving) water for the Koriki," while the Urama pair called theirs "Urama Hura," meaning "the seeds (of learning) for the Urama." They also worked on basic Uniskripts for Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu. The team later developed teaching materials and games and stories for reading practice, using computer fonts created especially for them. An important final step was planning teaching materials for bridging to the Roman alphabet and to help children learning to read English. The four teachers returned to PNG eager to try out these materials with small classes of children, now that they understand the potential benefits of using Uniskript for teaching literacy skills. If these trials are successful, other language communities may be interested in developing Uniskript systems for teaching phonics-based literacy in their languages, and also for teaching English.

Not your typical ABCs

While the language of choice for speaking to each other is always Ura, many adult Uramät Bainings learned to read and write in Tok Pisin or English not in Ura. This is what is taught in schools in the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain, where they live. Can a person automatically read a book because it is written in their own language? Not without a little practice and some incentive! This is where “Transfer Literacy” comes in – learning to read in the vernacular by reading short heart-language phrases or sentences. The students begin by using only the familiar letters from English or Tok Pisin and then add the letters that are unique to their language. Adult Transfer Literacy was enthusiastically initiated by a group of Uramät Baining people who were auditioning as “actors” for the dubbing of the Luke video in Ura. For the approximately 15 people in Gaulim village who wanted to play the part of John or Peter, studying their “script” was their first experience with reading more than a few sentences in Ura. After trying the lines a few times, they discovered it was fun! From that group, a Literacy Committee was formed. The first Transfer Literacy Workshop was held last year followed by a second one in July of this year. The participants liked reading aloud Ura legends and Bible passages and learning Ura spelling and grammar systems. They enjoyed the spontaneous “acting out” of a valued traditional story as the writer read it. But mostly, they liked laughing at the many funny stories they wrote and reading to each other. Monika Ngari, a grandmother who attended and brought others to both workshops said, “We started having an Ura reading and writing time as part of our family worship group every week. We want to learn to read and write in Solos so we can teach our children. It’s important that our children retain understanding of their own language and culture.”

Going back to school

Media made in PNG “This was the first practical workshop that I have attended that addressed electronic media usage in PNG, especially in the area of video. I am excited to get back and use what I have learned.” – Paula Kari, Communications Officer, World Vision What is needed to conduct an effective media workshop in PNG? This was the question posed to a group of twelve attendees at the UNESCO Media workshop hosted by the Centre for Social and Creative Media (CSCM) at the University of Goroka. The purpose of the workshop was to bring media practitioners together to discuss media production in Papua New Guinea and come up with ideas for media training and media capacity building. They came from several organisations including NBC, Kundu TV, Media for Development Initiative, National Film Institute, World Vision, SIL and University of Goroka (UOG). Workshop leaders Mark Eby and Dr. Verena Thomas (UOG) lead the participants through a series of lectures, activities and discussions. One activity had the participants produce video interviews. Teams of four, using state of the art cameras and sound equipment, conducted individual workshop interviews. Each participant produced a short video using professional editing software. Despite the fact that most of the participants had little post-production editing experience, they successfully completed the videos in just two days. The videos were critiqued and all the participants were encouraged by the work they had completed. A presentation on “Using Social Media” focused on how to create a social media platform. A model was presented by Tim Scott, Chief Communications Officer, SIL-PNG, and participants saw how different social media elements could be integrated to distribute information to a variety of social media users. One participant said, “I use Facebook but I didn’t realise how I could use different types of social media together to get my information out.” Leaders and participants alike agreed that the workshop was a success. The coordinators plan to use information from this workshop to create materials to train Papua New Guineans on how to become effective media producers. “The rural people in Papua New Guinea need access to information, especially information about important social issues. This workshop helped me learn more tools to do my job better.” – Sara Mumugao, Senior Broadcast Editor, NBC.

The Solos people had long worked, waited and prayed for the day when they would translate the Bible into their own vernacular. The 10,000 speakers of this vibrant language, who live mainly on Buka Island, have now taken their first steps toward this exciting goal. The Solos community selected nine men and women to participate in the Translator’s Training Course (TTC) at SIL’s Bougainville Regional Training Centre. TTC is a 4-module course providing training in translation principles, Bible background, study skills and language discovery. TTC1 is the introductory module; at the end, the participants are given an assignment to complete before moving to the next module. The Solos team and their mentor, SIL’s Larry Doyle, successfully completed TTC1 and returned home equipped to begin translating the Bible into their own language. Upon returning to their home villages, eight translators met to begin their assignment: translating Joshua 1-12 into Solos. They formed two groups and divided the work between them, translating the assigned text over the next four days. Others in the two Solos villages watched the work progress and were thrilled to see a passage of the Bible being drafted in their own language. Six weeks later, the team had successfully drafted half of their assignment, well ahead of schedule. People in the villages supported the translation effort by providing meals and a good places to work; others sat in on translation sessions and helped with the drafting. It appears that the team will be ready for the next module of the Translator’s Training Course, and the Solos people are well on their way to reading the Bible in their own language. Ere o toh, o hiring tarih teno. Hahiring, kou tout puo jia harunrut puo, tanasah, i NATOHI, Sunahan teno, na kapean naeno tani pan aobot ka na mao. Joshua 1:9 Solos. The actual word to word translation of this from Solos is – Here say strong my to you be strong don’t fear or discourage because Lord God of you go hold on you at place every which go. English translation – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

So happy to read Solos

How do you say... One of the steps in translating the Bible is discovering the meaning of words through investigation only, and not by asking, “How do you say ’righteousness’ (or ‘sponge,’ or ‘lean’)?” For instance, in a language community with no English speakers, the translator listens to, records and then transcribes a text and then asks further questions about the use of words. Mack Graham, a translator working with the Kandawo people, thought that he could perhaps use the English idiom “to lean on someone” to denote “trust”. When Mack heard the word for leaning a pole against a house he asked the pastor why he’d never heard anyone use this word from the pulpit denoting “trust/lean on Jesus”. It was obvious from his reaction that the pastor had never thought of it before, and he said he didn’t know why they didn’t use the term in that context. Later, Mack was at another village at election time; candidates were speaking and making promises. The local man who was running for office said that though he didn’t want to, he would have to ”lean” on his fellow clansmen. Did he mean that he would “trust” his fellow clansmen? Mack asked someone what the candidate meant by “leaning on” his fellow clansmen; the answer was, “He needs their support: money, food, cooking, housing people…” So the term “leaning on” really meant “leeching off of” others. No wonder no one uses this word to denote trusting in Jesus! “Leeching off of” Jesus doesn’t make much sense. But though the term was not useful to denote “trust/dependence”, it was useful in 1 Corinthians 11:9 where Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has not been a burden to them and he will continue to not be a burden to them. Paul did not eat their food or require them to use their money to look after him; instead, he worked as a tentmaker and supported himself. While searching for just the right Kandawo word for leaning on Jesus, Mack found the perfect word for a completely different context! That’s just part of the adventure of Bible translation.

Learning new words It doesn’t take much more than a log, a pencil, and a notebook to get started, but the adventure of making new discoveries never seems to end. Imagine learning a language without textbooks – because there are none. As “outsiders”, Jerry and Sue Pfaff wanted to help the people who speak the Nali language of Manus Island, PNG, to translate their mother tongue and develop their language. But they had to start like children just learning to speak: hearing, mimicking, repeating – making mistakes and receiving correction. In the early days, it was not uncommon for Jerry to find people, sit down with them on a log, and begin eliciting Nali words and phrases to record phonetically in his notebook. Building a vocabulary from those pages was one thing, but discovering phonetic and grammatical patterns from the lists of data brought greater excitement. The Nali language came alive to them and, like a scientist analyzing new information, Jerry would stare at his notes and discover innate grammatical rules in this language. It has been observed that some of the most common sounds and words in a language are often the easiest to mispronounce and lead to the most embarrassing mistakes! Sue experienced this early in those language-learning days. She thought she said the common farewell expression to a visitor – “You go, okay?” The consonants collided like vehicles in an accident, and the words “You eat dung” escaped from her mouth instead! Fortunately a Nali friend nearby quickly stopped her from embarrassing herself further! The Nali people were gracious during those days of language learning, while translation seemed a distant dream. However, the Pfaffs learned that language learning itself is ministry. By learning Nali, Jerry and Sue demonstrated that not only did they value the Nali language, but ultimately God values these people and their mother tongue too. Many years have passed since they first learned to say “Ndroulang!” (“Good Morning!”) Yet new language discoveries still occur every time they sit down at the translation table. The adventure goes on.

Power in the Word “We (the churches) need to work together. The days of having our own independent ministries and not joining together in ministry are over.” – A Madang Pastor One hundred twenty-six church pastors and leaders from seventeen church denominations came from all over Madang province to attend the “Power in the Word” conference hosted by the Crossroad Baptist Church. The conference was organised by the Madang Pastors Fraternal with help from PNG Bible Translation Association (BTA), Pioneer Bible Translators and SIL-PNG. The conference began with a focus on repentance and a time of prayer for the churches, communities and the nation. The next three days were filled with sessions that encouraged and strengthened the leaders. These sessions helped the leaders to see new ways of using the Scriptures in their churches. Topics such as “Power of the Word”, “Using the Vernacular Scriptures”, “Oral Bible Storytelling” and “Preaching and Praying in Tokples” proved invaluable to the pastors. Other sessions focused on overcoming trials facing the churches. Presentations on “Hindrances to Using the Word”, “Melanesian Spiritism”, “Disunity” and “Western Humanism and Secularism” challenged the leaders to face the issues in their churches with the power of the Word. There were also practical sessions led by representatives from Christian Book Melanesia, Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship, SIL-PNG, Faith Comes by Hearing and Youth with a Mission. Participants were highly interested in the presentation about Scripture Application and Leadership Training (SALT), a program that equips national pastors and leaders in PNG to effectively use translated Scriptures in church ministries. Church leaders in Madang town want to take the training so that they can share it in the rural areas surrounding Madang. The conference generated a feeling of unity among the pastors and leaders as they saw the need to work together. The “Word” was seen as the common denominator for all churches and denominations—and the translated Word was seen as the best way to express God’s truth to the hearts of those in their congregations. “There was a great respect for the vernacular and it was often stated that the power of God’s Word is most accurately expressed in the vernacular.” – Jim Tomlinson

The next generation

At the Church Engagement training course, participants saw the power of God’s Word in the heart language to transform lives and they saw the importance of using the mother tongue Scriptures in the churches. Attending this workshop was a turning point for Hobson. It was the first time he himself caught the vision for using the local language Scriptures. He told the leaders of the course, “This is really important!” The smell of pancakes lured young Hobson into the translation office. There his father Poka and several others were working with Lloyd Milligan to translate the New Testament into their Mangseng language. When Lloyd’s wife, Ruth, prepared a snack for the team, it was likely that young Hobson would show up for a bite or two. That was the 1990s. The New Testament has been completed and on July 1, 2000 it was dedicated by the people in a festive celebration. The 2,500 Mangseng speakers of West New Britain Province now have the New Testament in their heart language. In order to encourage a wider use of the Mangseng New Testament in the local churches, SIL asked Poka to come to a Church Engagement training course in June 2012. His response was, “I’d like to come, but I’m too busy. I’ll send my son instead.”

In July of 2013, Hobson attended a Key Terms Workshop to learn more about translation principles. Together, the representatives of nine language groups considered the best way to express key words in their language. They wrestled with Biblical terms such as forgiveness, love, honour, sin, sacrifice, holiness, and divination. They will return to their people to test the words for meaning and understanding. Each day they also learned creative ways to present the need for local language Scriptures. Hobson is now using those lessons to share his vision of Bible translation with the Mangseng churches. When he was a child, Hobson was lured to the translation office by the smell of pancakes. Today he again wants to return to the translation desk. This time, however, what pulls him there is not the aroma of pancakes, but a desire to translate the Old Testament for his people. Although Poka died in early 2013, Hobson carries on his father’s dream that one day the Mangseng people will have the complete Bible in their language.

It’s sweet to the ears Deep in the night, far from electric lights, coffee tables and comfortable couches, a group of villagers gather to hear the latest translated words. How do they do it? They light the kerosene lamp, pull up a tin drum and gather around for an evening session of village checking. After many weeks translating initial drafts of books of the New Testament, and then checking for its resemblance to the original Scriptures, these Lote (LO-tay) translators are ready for the third step of translation: checking the passages with people in nearby villages to see if the Scriptures are understood and sound like natural Lote. They should sound “sweet to the ears” to be easily understood while remaining true to the original meaning – it’s called “village checking.” Lote men and women listen to Scripture portions read aloud. They offer constructive criticism to ensure clarity and accuracy. They wrestle with the words to find just the right expression to convey the message using the richness of their language. Here are the local leaders and ordinary village folks interacting with God’s word in their own language for the first time—ever! Their reactions are sometimes humorous and sometimes profound. They say things like: “This doesn’t sound like God’s Word because it seems that John sounds truly angry. Is it okay to read this in church?” (True emotions came across in vernacular that weren’t captured in the trade language.) And then there was a special night after two day’s journey to a village deep in the mountains. A few on bikes, but mostly on foot, people gathered to hear God’s Word in their own language for the first time. An elderly man called the children of the village over and said, “Aina kinkino ngana mur! Aiat! Alongo! – Children come! Listen to this! These words are in your language! Before we only had God’s talk in someone else’s words. Now God speaks our language!”

Hearing is believing

Back to school Boom, boom, boom went the sticks on the garamut drum each morning to herald the start of the Sunday School teachers’ workshop. The church leaders in the Sos Kundi language group living in the remote East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea welcomed the new ideas presented in the workshop. They discovered they could use local materials found in nature to make Bible stories come alive. One local material they used was the sago plant. Teachers manipulated its leaves to make the snake in the Garden of Eden, stars for the story of God’s promise to Abraham, and balls for the sling shots in the David and Goliath story. They also dug up clay from the riverbank to create miniature replicas of Noah’s boat, and rolled up banana leaves for trumpets announcing the return of Christ. The Bible stories also came alive through interactive games. Participants thought of Noah as they raced their boats, talked about Abraham as they hunted for stars, and imitated David the shepherd boy as they aimed their sling shots. Their leaf-rocks may not have been strong enough to bring down the giant Goliath, but they did make the story memorable. The thirty-three Sos Kundi teachers learned and practiced the lessons each morning, and in the afternoons taught the lessons to local children. When the trainers left the village, the teachers were filled with new ideas about how to make the Bible relevant and exciting to their students. The Sos Kundi people also gained a fresh enthusiasm for the ongoing translation of God’s Word in their language. At the conclusion of the workshop, the pastor’s wife said, “I was a Sunday school teacher for many years, but I only used a blackboard and chalk. Now I realize that I can use different things to help children learn God’s Word, even games!” One lady from a neighboring village announced, “I want to start a Sunday school in my community.” A young man entreated the staff, “We want you to come back!” His comment reflected the attitude of the entire community, and their gratefulness for the workshop.

Chosen to translate Linguistics captivated Luai during her studies at Keravat National High School. Although she wanted to study advanced linguistics at the university level, she put that dream aside when she got married and began working at a bank. Several years later, Luai’s pastor needed a representative from the Nalik language area to attend the New Ireland Translation Institute (NITI). He encouraged Luai to attend. Going to NITI rekindled Luai’s interest in linguistics and initiated her involvement in translating the Nalik New Testament. Initially, Luai’s husband was pessimistic about her work with the Nalik translation, but he now supports her. This is a great encouragement to Luai. Another encouragement came through an unexpected visitor. A lady came to the village and noticed that Luai’s home was disorderly and that she hadn’t raked the yard. When Luai explained that she spends many hours translating the New Testament and has little time for her own work, this visitor offered to send her daughter to help with housework. Luai testifies, “Her daughter has been a big help to me.” Later, Luai heard that this same woman had become ill, so she went to visit her. While there, a group gathered in the house and Luai used the opportunity to check a portion of the translation with these people to see if the meaning was clear to them and if it sounded natural. As she left, her new friend requested, “Please come back again and check more Scripture in my house.” When Luai asked why, her friend explained, “I don’t have a Bible. I sometimes go to church and listen to sermons, but I have never read the Bible for myself.” Following her request, Luai has returned several times. The group of listeners has expanded to include several students from a local trade school. Luai testifies, “I praise God who chose me to translate the Bible into my own language. As I translate I see God and my eyes are opened. He has given many promises to those who follow him. He is faithful!”

“Yesterday I called my wife and children together and shared lesson 2 of the SALT course: God Loves Us Like a Good Father. I asked them: ‘Have you seen in my behavior what I should have done, being a picture of God? Have I loved you in the same way God loves us?’ They hadn’t seen it. I apologized for how I had been acting, and I asked for their forgiveness. A big change in my life and my family came up because of this SALT course!” This testimony of a participant in the Scripture Application & Leadership Training (SALT) course held in Nobonob, Madang shows how God is at work in people’s hearts, bringing changes in their lives and communities. The SALT course is a two-week intensive Bible course. With the help of local translators, SALT teachers seek to customize teaching topics and discussion times to meet the felt needs of local people, making the curriculum and method as culturally relevant as possible. Practical applications of the material and outreach opportunities are strongly encouraged, with the ultimate goal of changing lives and communities. The SALT course is a tool to draw people closer to God, so the course is conducted after the Scriptures are translated into the local language. Because the SALT materials are also translated into the local language, the teaching shoots straight to the heart, equipping leaders and pastors who have limited access to Biblical training.

One of the participants wrote: ‘The SALT course really helped us leaders of today and tomorrow. It met our needs. All the lessons showed us our downfalls. We must be prepared to help ourselves and, to be in a position to help others, we have to look at ourselves first… It is time now to meet with Jesus Christ and take Him personally as our Lord and Savior – to eat the food He prepares for us, which is the Bible. We must eat until we are full and then feed those who are hungry. This is a great need in our community today.’

A grain of SALT


The group faced a monumental task. Their goal was to write stories, start a library in the Petats language, build awareness, and engage the community to support the translation work being done by Petats translators. Their problem was division about which letters or symbols to use in spelling the Petats language.

For years there had been inconsistent use of letters and symbols in spelling Petats words. Some outsiders had introduced foreign letters, but these were not completely accepted or understood. A much-loved and long-used hymnal utilized some “interesting”, but perhaps inadequate, spelling techniques. English, with its confusing spelling system, also influenced the mix in an unhelpful way. The result was a bit like alphabet soup: no one knew which spelling would come up next. The language committee chairman, Jonathan, had declared that the writers workshop participants, gathered on Petats Island at the eastern end of Papua New Guinea, would be the alphabet committee to make communal decisions about spelling symbols and rules. This group of almost 50 people had four days to work together. The first day of writing stories exposed the major issues…and a straw vote exposed the disunity! To work through their differences, representatives from each “faction” went to the chalkboard. Each wrote a list of dictated words with the problematic issue according to their spelling preference. Next, each participant wrote another story using the symbols they preferred. As they worked through the words by actually using them in writing, it became obvious which spelling they favored. By the time the story-writing session was completed, there was quiet consensus about which symbols they wanted to use to represent each sound in the Petats language, and where those symbols should appear in a word. At the conclusion of their four days together, the group had set much clearer guidelines for the translation committee and their community at large as to which symbols would be included in their alphabet. They now had specific guiding principles—a standard—for writing their language. Each word in their growing library of newly-written stories could be spelled consistently. Gone are the days of “alphabet soup!”

“The earnings from selling three pounds (1.5 kg) of raw coffee beans will buy one Audibible.” – Rich Mattocks, SIL The low clouds and intermittent rain threatened to ground the helicopter. It was a mixed blessing. The Eastern Highlands Province was experiencing a drought and the rain was a welcome sight for those with dry gardens and empty water tanks, but for the team travelling to Mobutasa village it was heartbreaking. The team had worked for weeks to plan the distribution of Audibibles and Awa New Testaments. The Audibibles are solar-powered MP3 players with the New Testament pre-recorded on them in the Awa language. The Awa people were experiencing the same weather in their village. Periodic correspondence by cell phone with Osa, a village resident, confirmed that there were low clouds at the landing site. Suddenly, the cell phone messaging stopped, perhaps because of loss of coverage or a dead battery. The weather began to clear around noon where the team was waiting. Although the helicopter could take off, the pilot was unsure if it would be possible to land in the village. The decision was made to go and pray that the landing pad would be clear of clouds. No one wanted to disappoint the Awa people, some who may have walked more than a day to get to Mobutasa. As the helicopter left the Aiyura valley, the weather cleared and soon the village was in sight. As the helicopter landed and the blades slowly came to a stop, people were singing, heralding the arrival of the Awa Audibibles. The boxes of Audibibles were carried reverently to the decorated house where the distribution would take place. As the day progressed, 171 Audibibles and 78 printed New Testaments were distributed. Because of the late arrival, part of the team did an impromptu overnight. This provided an opportunity to train those who will carry the Audibibles and New Testaments to the other villages. Over the next several days, more Audibibles were distributed and now up to 297 families in the Awa language group can listen to the Scriptures in their heart language. “Not everyone can read here, so the Audibibles are a blessing because all can listen to God’s Word in the Awa language.” – Awa pastor

Rain, rain go away

Second job

School holidays. For high school teachers like Caspar, holidays mean a break from normal routines, a chance to rest and to catch up on schoolrelated work. But over the school holidays, Caspar, a science teacher in Mt. Hagen, met with translator Mack Graham to go over questions he had written down while proofreading the New Testament. During the previous school term, he rose almost every day at 4 a.m. to read the newly drafted Scriptures. He’d read the New Testament in the past, but this time it was special: he was reading—and editing—the draft version of the New Testament in his own mother tongue, Kandawo. Reading is important to Caspar. He reads fluently in both Tok Pisin* and English, and conducts his high school classes in the English language. But despite his fluency in these second and third languages, Caspar marvels at how he never really understood the Bible until he read it in Kandawo. This motivates him to be a part of the team translating the New Testament into Kandawo. The lead translator, Mack Graham (SIL), has known Caspar since he was a boy. Now 34, married and a father of three (he named his third son, Mack Graham!), Caspar is remarkably committed to the translation task—so committed that he sacrificed his entire school holiday to editing the Kandawo New Testament, searching out faults and documenting them with the translation team. Caspar is pleased with how this new translation reads; the language is clear and it flows naturally in his mother tongue. Last week, Caspar was introduced at a church service, and he told of his recent work reading and editing the Kandawo Scriptures. Afterward, many people came up to shake his hand, sharing that they had been encouraged and challenged by his example. Though Caspar is a working man, he gave up his holiday to the second job of editing his own New Testament. One person said, “We, too, are working people, but what have we done for our own Bibles?” Sometimes, it takes a second job to get the job done.

Breaking down the language barrier

When YWAM’s (Youth With A Mission) medical ship “Pacific Link” traversed the waterways of southwestern Papua New Guinea, SIL member Phil Carr joined the team. It was a partnership that proved beneficial to both organizations, as well as to the people living along the Fly, Bamu, and Gama Rivers. YWAM Medical Ships has been dispatching a ship from Australia for the last three years to improve the quality of life for people in remote areas of PNG, both through medical services and through upgrading the skills of the local health workers. Since Phil has worked as a linguist in Papua New Guinea for the past 25 years, primarily in this area, he was able to interpret for the local people in some of the villages. He translated primarily for the optometry team, and occasionally for the doctors and nurses as they evaluated and treated sicknesses ranging from tuberculosis to malaria to malnutrition. He also helped the team members understand local culture and customs. Traveling on the YWAM ship was also beneficial for Phil. He was able to reach distant areas that had previously been inaccessible to him. He studied the Bible with pastors, and sold Scripture portions, Bible study books, DVDs and CDs in several local languages. The Kiwai speakers listened attentively as he shared a dramatic reading of a draft of Jonah in their language. In his interactions with people living along the Gama River, Phil was able to confirm that their language is a dialect of Bamu, not a separate language, something he had long wanted to determine. Some villages they visited were very remote and extremely poor. It was satisfying to bring medical expertise to people who normally can’t access health care services. One elderly man couldn’t see even the biggest letters on the eye chart when he was evaluated, but after the optometrist fitted him with glasses, he could see clearly. Although his eyesight had been too poor even to paddle a canoe, he could now function again as a man in his community. As he departed he exclaimed, “People had to bring me here. But now I can take them home!”

Speaking to the heart The spinning of the helicopter rotors stirred up more than just dust as the Bell Ranger helicopter descended into Gambulanglune village. It also stirred up the excitement of hundreds of people who filled the yard overlooking the helipad in anticipation of the Stober family’s arrival. Although Scot and Cherie Stober have worked among the Mato people since 1997, this visit was special because the people had feared Cherie might not ever return. While the Stobers were in the United States the previous year, Cherie had been told her heart was failing. But after many prayers and the implantation of a heart defibrillator, her heart resumed its normal rhythm and the family returned to Papua New Guinea. While Scot focuses on translation, Cherie focuses on literacy. She uses shell books, which are short picture books produced by SIL with the intent of adding the text in minority languages. Scot and his team of Mato helpers recently translated 53 shell books and Cherie input the information into the computer and produced over 300 books for Mato teachers to use in the village schools. The shell books cover many topics such as Bible, health, science, animal stories, basic instruction manuals, etc. Some of the books are printed as diglots, in both Mato and English, to help children transition into English, the national language of education. The books are a much needed resource for the teachers, who teach with very few supplies. An adult literacy program has been started in the language group and the books will help improve their reading skills as well. As the Stobers and the rest of crowd watch the helicopter disappear over the mountains, a family friend, Liwang, stepped forward as the spokesperson for the people. He declared, “We asked God to let you live and to bring you back to us. Now that you are standing here, we feel God has agreed that your work with us is not done yet. We believe we still have a job to do in completing the Mato New Testament and improving our literacy situation. Together holding hands, we will finish this work!�

Passing it on Charles Kowak was one of the co-translators for the Nyindrou New Testament, which was dedicated on Manus Island in northern Papua New Guinea in 2002. Seeing the impact the Scriptures in the heart language have had on his own people, Kowak wants other language groups in Manus Province to have that same privilege. He is now dedicated to seeing the Scriptures translated into other languages in the area. That's why Kowak assisted Bill Martin and a few other SIL members in teaching computer skills to a dozen students from Manus Island in July. The students learned to use a computer program called AdaptIt to translate the Scriptures into their language, starting from a similar Manus Island language that already had some translated Scriptures. When the students arrived at the workshop at the training center in Ukarumpa, nine of them had never even turned on a computer. When they left two weeks later, all of the students were using their new netbook computers with some degree of confidence. However, Kowak wasn't satisfied with only 12 others from his island acquiring the new computer skills. In October, he announced on the local radio station that anyone who wanted to learn translation and computer skills could come to a workshop. The result was that 9 of the 12 people who had been to the workshop in July came for a refresher course, and at the same time began mentoring and teaching 12 others the computer skills they had recently acquired. Ever the visionary, Kowak wanted even more people to get excited about the idea of Bible translation in their heart language. That's why he reserved the grandstand in the Lorengau town market area for the Thursday during the workshop. There the participants read newly translated Scriptures in 12 different Manus languages from Mark 1:16-20 (the calling of the fishermen). Three of those readers were from language groups that had never before been involved in any Bible Translation project. A bystander afterward commented, “This was the first time I ever heard anything like this. When are you going to do it again in other languages?�

Helping out the neighbours

Sometimes answering the call to love thy neighbour creates an opportunity for remarkable teamwork and a chance to achieve what once seemed unthinkable. With only a week left before translators and literacy workers in the East Sepik village of Rom-Bar were set to begin a Scripture Use workshop, the prospect of having printed or recorded Scripture portions to use looked bleak. Various circumstances had prevented the Rom-Bar translators from having the book of Luke approved for publication and printed. Now, instead of having newly translated Scriptures for people to buy and use in the workshop, it looked like the Rom-Bar people wouldn’t be able to hear or read God’s Word in their own language, despite efforts to prepare Luke in time. When word of these difficulties reached translators from related Onnele languages Goiniri and Wolwale, they decided to help their neighbours accomplish the impossible. In the true spirit of Christian brotherhood and teamwork, the Goiniri and Wolwale translators came alongside their Rom-Bar colleagues and worked together to finalize the Easter and Christmas stories. The team was able to ask for feedback from SIL translator Ben Pehrson via satellite, and in just a week they were able to finalize and print the stories into booklets. Amazingly enough, there was even time to record and load the Scriptures onto Audibibles and Sabers* to be sold alongside the printed materials. Every single booklet as well as many Audibibles and Sabers were sold in Rom-Bar during the workshop. SIL Scripture Use Media technician Jerry Walker was in charge of recording and editing Scripture portions for over five different languages involved in the workshops. In relaying his experiences, Jerry said, “My favourite part was the team effort to record and print the Christmas and Easter story for [the] Onnele Rom-Bar language… Through teamwork, we were able to get recorded and printed Scripture ready for them.” Thanks to the camaraderie of the Onnele translators and the efforts of many others, the Rom-Bar people can now read and hear the message of incarnation and redemption in their own language.

Learning to count When a person is learning a new language, one of the first things they learn is how to count. Early in their translation program, Ed and Catherine McGuckin learned the basic Gapapaiwa numbers. Basic Gapapaiwa Numbers 1 = sago 2 = ruwa 3 = aroba 4 = ruwa ma ruwa (2 & 2) 5= miikovi (A contraction that means “hand finished”)

Would you like to decipher the next numbers? How would the Gapapaiwa say “6”? (Hint: It’s literally “one hand finished and one”.) Answer: miikovi ma sago. Now for more complicated numbers. Can you figure out…

• “9”? Answer: miikovi ma ruwa ma ruwa. • “10”? It’s easy. Answer: ima ruwa (literally “two hands”). • “15”? This is more complicated: Answer: ima ruwa ikovi ma kaena sago (“hand two finished and foot one”). • “18”? Answer: ima ruwa ikovi ma kaena sago ma aroba. • Fortunately, 20, like 10, is fairly simple. Answer: tomowa sago (“one man”). • To continue counting, keep adding the “smaller” numbers to multiples of twenty. But let’s stop here! When the Gapapaiwa translators of Milne Bay Province met as a village to check the draft of Matthew’s gospel, they encountered a challenge regarding numbers. Their task was to get input from people in the village who hadn’t been involved in drafting. When they read the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of 5,000 in Matthew 14:21, they read, “Ma nani korotona kamonai tomotomowa kava ivi yavisi na 5 tausan.” The literal translation was, “And in that crowd only the men were counted [to be] 5 thousand.” “Tausan” is the Gapapaiwa adaption of the English word “thousand.” One elderly man objected to the inclusion of foreign numbers. Happy for input from this senior villager, the McGuckins asked how he would communicate it in Gapapaiwa. He began saying 5,000 in the traditional way, but quickly got bogged down in the lengthy number and gave up. The translation team left it as “5 tausan”. Sometimes translation is like unlocking a riddle. But it is a joy when the riddle is solved, the people agree on the best way to express a word or a concept, and translation moves forward!

Ahhh‌ a cup of coffee in the morning is a great way to start the day. Have you ever thought about the origins of that coffee? Papua New Guinea offers some of the finest coffee in the world. Besides being a major export, that coffee also plays a role in developing language projects throughout PNG. So what does coffee have to do with language development and Bible translation? There are many villages throughout Papua New Guinea that have no access to highways. The only alternative means to transport their crops to the nation’s seaports for export to the rest of the world is by air. The small planes that fly language developers and translators to remote villages also carry coffee to towns located on the highways. Language development staff recently flew to Boikoa village in the Eastern Highlands Province. While the guests chatted with local people, grateful farmers helped the pilot load bags of coffee into the plane for the return trip. Each time coffee is delivered, it helps subsidise the work of language development and Bible translation throughout PNG. Some days, the pilots can make eight or nine flights to remote airstrips where appreciative villagers are eager to transport their crop to market. When the visitors departed Boikoa, the pilot accelerated the plane across the grass airstrip, mastering a downhill take off on a strip that has a 15 degree shift to the right. The plane ascended with its full load while satisfied villagers waved goodbye. As the aircraft soared past a magnificent waterfall and proceeded through the Marawaka Gap, the appreciative group on the ground knew their valuable crop was safely on its way to market. Their year of labour was reaping its reward. The income from the coffee would meet the needs of their families and also help keep the airplane flying and transporting language workers to distant areas of PNG. The next time you sip a cup of coffee, savour not only the flavour, but also the satisfaction of knowing it may have been an important part of the language development and Bible translation process in a distant part of the world.

It’s coffee time

The PNG “social media” Experience Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, hashtags, e-Books, vBlogs, Wiki, Tumblr, widgets, RSS, B2B, LOL and BRB… No, this is not an example of one of the remaining 300 languages in PNG where no language development work has occurred. But these terms are important to The PNG Experience as it utilises social media applications. The PNG Experience is a multiplatform approach, committed to communicating the good news about the language development and Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea. The PNG Experience was developed because language development and Bible translation organisations in PNG do not want to see another generation go by without people having an opportunity to read in their own language. In order to see this goal realised, it became apparent that more workers would need to get involved and that many people did not know of the significant effort that was already taking place. One of the exciting places this is being shared is “The PNG Experience” blog. It is filled with stories, pictures and links to videos that enable you to have a front row seat to witness what is happening in PNG. This good news is updated almost daily, providing you with a glimpse of the great things that are occurring in Papua New Guinea. Think of it as a great pick-me-up for your day, almost better than coffee!

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How do you take advantage of this? Glad you asked! For the blog, go to and read the latest update. If you like it, sign up and follow the good news! If you want to see videos go to Or how about receiving these updates through email? Go to bit. ly/Subscribe-PNGexperience. Following on Twitter is as easy as going to and you can always like us on Facebook by logging into Facebook and searching for “The PNG Experience� or go directly to All of these tools are designed to help communicate the amazing stories of what is happening in PNG. Help us get the word out!

Melanesian Pidgin and other Terms: AudiBibles – Solar powered MP3 players with preloaded Scriptures Baibel – Bible Bikmen – Leaders or elders Bilum – String bag carried by men and women in PNG Garamut – Large drum Kundu – Small drum Raskol – Bandit or criminal Sabers – MP3 players with preloaded Scriptures Tok pisin – Common trade language used in PNG Tokples – Language or the place of a specific language Tok save – Information or news Acronyms: BTA – The Bible Translation Association of PNG EHP - Eastern Highlands Province LLEAD – Literacy Leadership Education And Development (Training course) OBS – Oral Bible Storytelling PMV – Public Motor Vehicle - Taxi, Van or Bus SALT – Scripture Application and Leadership Training SIL – An international linguistic and translation organisation. In PNG it is known legally as the “Summer Institute of Linguistics” SIL-PNG – SIL branch in PNG TTC – Translator Training Course UIS – Ukarumpa International School UTC – Ukarumpa Training Centre YWAM – Youth With a Mission

Disclaimers: Pictures do not always reflect the exact people, places or activities featured in the stories. Names are sometimes changed in order to preserve anonymity. Spelling conforms to the Commonwealth English standard. Thanks: There are many people to thank that made this book possible. If anyone was missed, please accept our apology. The following people were contributing writers for these stories (in alphabetical order) John Brownie, Neil Coulter, Rocky Dede, Larry Doyle, Joan Farr, Roland & Irene Fumey, Mack Graham, Jim & Anne Henderson, Kate King, Tim Lithgow, Ed & Catherine McGuckin, Chad Owens, Mary Pearson, Crystal Pennington, Robbie Petterson, Sue Pfaff, Catherine Rivard, Peggy Rosensteel, Max Sahl, Tim Scott, Marjan Sikkema, David Tute, Karen Weaver, Brent & Sandi Wiebe, Theresa Wilson and Beata Wozna. Editing of stories was done by Joyce Coulter, Kate King and Karen Weaver. The following people contributed photos (in alphabetical order) Neil Coulter, Koen den Hartogh, Larry & Christy Doyle, Dilen Doiki, Amy Evers, David & Susan Howard, Tim Husk, Nate Jayne, Paul & Jennie Minter, Chad Owens, Robbie & Debbie Petterson, Jerry & Sue Pfaff, Robin Rempel, Catherine Rivard, Tim Scott, Brent & Sandi Wiebe, Theresa Wilson and YWAM (photographer unidentified). Graphic design input from Amy Evers, Kim Scott and Karen Weaver. Compilation and design completed by Tim Scott. © 2014 Tim Scott

THe PNG Experience Volume 2  

A collection of stories and pictures about the Bible translation and language development effort in PNG in 2013.

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