As we reflect on Christmas and all that means for us, we are reminded of why we are in Papua New Guinea. Hundreds of language groups have never heard the Christmas story in the language that speaks best to their hearts. How can they intimately know the Savior if they don’t understand who He is or that He came to this earth for each of them individually? Some have access to God’s Word in another language, but a second language doesn’t always speak clearly to them. It would be similar to a native English speaker trying to read a Spanish Bible and only getting pieces of it.
We have had God’s Word in our mother tongue for hundreds of years. We may have several versions in our home in our heart language. We long for Papua New Guineans across the Sepik region to have God’s Word in a language and format they can use and will make a difference in their lives. Many of the groups we are engaging with are small languages, but God cares for them just the same. Nestled in remote villages on mountain tops or in valleys, they have been hidden in hard to access areas. God is now opening doors to head down these narrow winding paths to meet and engage with these people.
What will this look like? We don’t fully know. The groups who have been doing Oral Bible Storytelling in 2014 will be able to tell Christmas stories in their heart language for the first time this Christmas. People will be able to dialogue about Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, Simeon and others in those stories and find various applications for their own lives. Those we have just met in the Lumi area will begin this process later in 2015.
The Wewak and Yabru Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) clusters that began courses in 2014 should finish by mid to late 2015 and will begin looking at what comes after OBS. Will we continue down a written path for translation or literacy, or will we go with oral work on SD cards, smartphones, or other small audio players? With the way technology is advancing, more and more options are becoming available even in the remote corners of PNG. We wait expectantly to see where God will lead the SPES team and the language groups of the Sepik in 2015.
Photos by Sam Smucker