Traversing the roads, navigating the mountains…

Beautiful view looking out from Libuat village

Beautiful view looking out from Libuat village

Last Monday morning before sunrise Gary, Sam, and Amos set their sights on Nuku Station located in the Sandaun province.  Trips have been taken to this area previously, but they were headed to new outlying areas around Nuku Station.  After a couple of stops along the way, they arrived mid afternoon.  A meeting with an older Christian Brotherhood Church (CBC) missionary proved helpful as he linked local PNG men with the team to guide them to the other language groups.

The road goes up to the next village

The road goes up to the next village

They designed a plan of action.  Both groups needed to drive and then hike to different parts of the area.  Hiking in other areas has been challenging in the past, but this hiking seemed to take things to a new level.  Some trails were narrow with significant drop offs on each side.  Others were steep – here they call them “hand leg” mountains.  Using your hands and legs, you just keep moving up the mountain.  Going down those mountains is a different challenge all of its own.

Rain and dirt lead to excitement

Rain and dirt lead to excitement

Some roads exist in this area, although a few partial days of rain made the mud packed roads very slick.  Before the trip, we asked people to pray for dry weather because we knew the rain could make the road impassable.  Instead of answering our prayers for dry weather, God chose to increase our prayer lives and our faith.  As they returned to Wewak on Saturday, the trip was anything but quiet.  However, after many prayers and some anxious moments, the weary travelers arrived home safely late Saturday night.

Community meeting in Wonum

Community meeting in Wonum

Heading in two different directions, the group was able to visit eleven different villages during the week.  Many of the villages were excited to hear about the work happening in the Sepik region.  Some of the communities have been asking for help for many years.  Plans were shared regarding the upcoming Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshops to begin in 2017.  They discussed logistics and who would be the best people to come and get the training.  Usually a Bible story similar to what is taught in an OBS workshop was shared so they could get a picture of what could be learned.

Still more villages need to be contacted in December.  Pray that the people who came to the meetings would choose the right participants for the workshops.  Pray that they have a real hunger for knowing God more as they begin to hear Bible stories in their heart language.  Pray that God’s Word would go out through clear teaching and be well understood.

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Carriers

It was a hour hike from the airstrip to the canal. Everything had to be carried by hand.

Actually, it was planes, feet, and canoes that carried us to and from the most recent Oral Bible Story Telling Workshop in Yabru. Tuesday, we returned to Wewak after nearly three weeks in the village. The small Kodiak plane flew us one hour to the Green River airstrip. Yabru airstrip was closed due to excessive amounts of water, so Green River was the next closest option. Along with many men, women, and children, we trekked and carried the cargo from the airstrip for nearly an hour to the canal where we caught a small canoe that took us to Yabru. After another hour and a half, we arrived at the Abau Training Center in Yabru.

The team welcomed us and showed us where each person would sleep during our stay. The staff and trainers were situated among three houses. When the participants arrived, they would then be allocated to another three houses. It is highly advised for each person to sleep under a mosquito net as the mosquitoes are prevalent day and night. We began giving the participants mosquito coils to burn in the evening while they worked by light from the kerosene lamps. Without screen on the windows, mosquitoes can be vicious.

Firewood and Pots

A pile of firewood is stacked and ready to heat the stove or these two big metal pots.

Each day four ladies came to cook for those in the course. Stoves heated by firewood were used to heat the water for tea and dishes, as well as other cooking needs. Due to frequent rains that destroyed gardens, there was little variety in the food, but there was always food to eat. The staple of those in the Yabru area is saksak. Saksak comes from the pulp of the sago tree and can be mixed with water to make a gelatin like substance or can be fried like a fat tortilla. Greens harvested from a variety of trees and bushes are also used as their main vegetable. This was eaten every evening along with either fresh fish or tin meat. They have both small ‘bone’ fish as well as a much larger ‘bolt cutter’ fish. The bolt cutter has a lovely flavor to it. In the morning, rice, greens, and tin meat were the fare of choice. Some days we also had some variety of crackers and other days, fresh buns were served. As there are no stores nearby, we carried in the store goods including rice, flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, oil, crackers, and a few other things.

Although it was a much different scenario, we were so thankful that God allowed us to be there and to begin to give training to language groups where no work has been done before. We are excited to hear reports in the future of how the stories from OBS have been shared and the impact they are having.

Written by Deb Smucker, Photos by Gary Abbas

Impact of Storytelling

JulieJulie Joel is a talented storyteller and trainer. Originally Julie is from Milne Bay from the Maiwala language group. As a young child she was adopted by her grandfather (who was her dad’s uncle) because they were barren. Later her grandfather also adopted his wife’s brother’s two young daughters because their mother died. Julie and her sisters grew up learning the Suau language. When Julie was 28 years old she rejoined her birth mother and had to learn the Maiwala language. During that time she met and married her husband. Julie became a Sunday school teacher and enjoyed teaching Bible stories to children. The Maiwala language group started some translation work with the Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association (BTA). The gospel of Mark is translated and waiting to be checked. One of the Bible translators, Doreka, invited Julie to join the Oral Bible Storying (OBS) training because she saw Julie’s potential as a storyteller. In 2009 Julie took the four module OBS in Alotou, Milne bay. Julie enjoyed the course and eagerly started sharing the stories she learned. Since then she has been a trainer four times in the OBS courses offered at SIL in Wewak, East Sepik province. She has faced some challenges as a trainer because she has to learn more stories, participate well with the students, and learn even more so she can give the students the help they need to become good storytellers.

 JulieThe story she told that impacted her life was the story of Abraham offering Isaac to God on an altar. She realized that if you believe and trust God he will provide for you. She was encouraged by this story as she learned the Maiwala language and started storying. It was challenging for her to story tell in the Maiwala language because she couldn’t yet communicate well with the people. She said, “Nothing is impossible to God, He provides any time. So that changed my life because I thought that it was hard for me to bring stories to my people in my mother’s language because I was adopted in another tok ples but I know that the Lord can provide if I still believe in him and I trust him, he can provide for me. Nothing is impossible with God. I just believe that God can do anything.” Later she spent two years learning the language and now is comfortable storying in the language. During the workshop in February 2014 she taught the participants the Bible story about Cain and Abel.

Two stories about the impact of storytelling

Golden calf-

JulieA group of young Maiwala boys gathered in Julie’s house to talk. One of the boys was involved in a cult. The other boys were interested in learning about cult worship. So they asked him to tell them about it. He told them how he involved himself in cult worship. Meanwhile Julie was in the kitchen cooking dinner and was listening in on the conversation. When dinner was ready Julie went to the boys and said she heard the story and she wanted to tell them a story too. Then she told the story about the golden calf from the Bible. She did no story application with them and after, they joined her for dinner. Another day a different group of boys asked the boy involved in cult worship to tell them about it but he told them, “I knew but then I’ve decided to stop.” When asked why, the boy replied that he had heard a story from the Bible about a golden calf and that the story struck his heart. He said, “I knew that there is no other God’s just God himself”. He continued, “The story is still in me and I can still remember the story. When I go to do other things I feel like God is speaking to me since I heard this story.” Two weeks later Julie heard that the boy had changed and that he was no longer doing the same activities he was doing before.

Easter story-

JulieIn 2012 during an Easter camp in a Maiwala village Julie and Doreka (a Bible translator) shared three stories over three days about Jesus’ life starting with trial of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. After telling the final story Julie related that people began to cry and soon everyone in the Church was crying, Julie says, “People were convicted because God spoke to them in their own language.” One woman told Julie that when she heard the story about the resurrection she was so excited “I almost got up to shout hallelujah because I knew that my Lord was not dead forever; he was risen”.

During that Easter week, Julie says God showed her that Bible storytelling is not only a story to tell but is something that has power to change people’s lives. Julie is also involved in a ministry visiting people’s homes to help them deal with family problems. In this ministry Julie & Doreka pray with people and encourage them and continue to see God working in people’s lives.

Stories and photos by Janeen Michie

Trip to Bungain

Orchid

We found this beautiful orchid at Forok. PNG has thousands of orchid species.

On Tuesday, Gary and I (Sam) traveled to Forok to see if the Bungain language is being used or if it is dying and to see if they want to become the last group for the Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop starting in February. We arrived unannounced at the home of Nevil, a pastor in Forok. We traveled on together to see the community leader, but he had gone to town and was not available. We will try to set up a meeting with the Forok community early next week. We were told that the children no longer use the language and even the parents’ generation has trouble with extended conversation in their language.

Bungain village

This is a house in Bungain.

The Bungain language has over 3000 speakers and at least a dozen villages. Since Forok was the closest to town and on the edge of the language area, we decided to drive through the area and see what the language use was like in the rest of the language group.

Shortcut

This was a shortcut we drove through. I don’t think cars normally come this way!

We stopped at the villages of Waibab, Kandai, and Duguwat and again the community leader was gone and the children did not speak the Bungain language. We traveled on to the village of Balik and Bungain. We were able to speak to several people there including some leaders. They again told us that the children do not speak Bungain, but they do understand it. We did observe some people using Bungain on occasion. We will meet with them again on Tuesday to see if they would like to come to OBS as well and to learn more information. We were told that Forok had their own language and was not part of Bungain (we do not know if it is a dialect or sufficiently different to be a different language).

The people at Bungain were excited about the possibilities of learning more about the Bible. They explained that they talk to the gods when they cut trees or plant gardens to assure the gods that they are acting properly and so the gods will bless them. They would like to know more about God and what the Bible says about God and the spirits so they know how they should behave and live in harmony with them.

SIL’s Dictionary-Making Workshop is Empowering Locals to do Language and Cultural Preservation Work

The 2012 Dictionary Workshop

Language Workers and SIL Missionaries getting a glimpse of the kinds of information that goes in the initial pages of a dictionary.

The 25th of April was the end of an SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) run Dictionary-Making workshop here in Wewak, Papua New Guinea. Participants were Papua New Guinean language workers from 11 different languages in the East and West Sepik provinces. These language workers are locals who assist the SIL missionaries in vernacular literacy as well as Bible translation.

Certain language workers were computer ‘illiterate’ so they had the opportunity to attend a week long computer course prior to the Dictionary-Making workshop. This workshop was centered around an SIL international Dictionary-Making software called “WeSay”. This software allows the user to insert all the necessary information that needs to be included in a dictionary including pictures and extra cultural information. After this workshop each language will leave with a printed trial dictionary of their language from which they can expand on.

In the past, the work on language development was entirely dependent on the expertise of SIL missionaries. However, this trend is changing. Today SIL is more focused on building the capacity of locals so they can carry the work in their own hands. With the advancement of technology and language work in the hands of locals, there is a potential for sustainable language and cultural preservation work.

The SPES team was humbled to assist in the process; from computer literacy through mentoring, editing and publication of trial dictionaries. To God be praised for this achievement.

 

The Course Facilitator, Correna Janzen, pointing out the essential details to her students.