Standing on God’s Truth

Cecilia Pani stands no more than a couple inches above five feet tall, but her wisdom far exceeds any expectations. Quick to laugh and as humble as she is compassionate, Cecilia exudes an incredible peace that is deeply rooted in the Word of God.

Born along the Sepik river in Kambot, she explained her people were carvers of storyboards. Having moved to Wewak many years ago, she was attending a church with her family when SPES invited representatives of churches across the area to observe a Culture Meets Scripture course, with the hope that they would take the trainings back to their respective denominations. Cecilia’s church leadership, particularly her bishop, urged her to observe the course and later take an Oral Bible Storytelling course.

Cecilia recalls attending the first OBS course with a conviction that she was already aware of everything being taught. She assumed she knew the points that would be made and would return to life after the course unchanged. Upon hearing the trainer speak, however, she realized the talent, dedication and power that the trainers invested in the stories. “I thought I knew everything, but I realized that I don’t have that talent [of storytelling]. I wanted to tell the story, to know it in my heart. You could see in the trainer’s face as he was telling the story, and hear it in his voice, [that his purpose was] to touch other’s hearts,” she remembers. “In my heart I said, I want to come to the training. I want to know the Word of God.” Soon after, she joined the course.  Later she was asked to become a trainer.

“In the beginning, I controlled my tongue and I didn’t know how to pray – I only had my own prayer.” Her journey through OBS was one of God revealing Himself through scripture, showing her His grace through the other trainers and coming to each course with the intent of serving God. She explained she would come with her weaknesses, the trainers and leaders at SPES would support and walk with her through them and she would go home encouraged before coming again to learn more at the next course. “I thought I had to be one of them in the beginning. I thought I had to know their language,” Cecilia stated, recalling the many times she would take the teachings home to her children, writing them out on charts and telling them that it was in the Word of God that they would find all the strength they needed to overcome anything in life. As time passed, she realized she was training to simply stand upon the Word of God, to pray, and was called to take the Word back to the villages and families she knew.

“This is God’s Word, not a pastor’s, not a preacher’s, not a bishop’s,” Cecilia reiterated,  “So when I talk with church members I don’t tell them ‘do this’, I let the Lord tell them.” Her emphasis rests solely in her love of Scripture and her belief that when the truth of the Gospel is presented, as it is at SIL, and individuals remain neutral in the Word, God will teach us many things. Having taught at the pastoral center of her church, she stands on the truth that the Lord is her teacher and that His name will ultimately be honored through her work as a trainer. “I am not the same person that I was when I came. I leave different,” Cecilia said, reflecting both dreams for the future of SPES and for her own family, church and village.

Story and photos by Youth With a Mission

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Sepik Prayer Calendar for April – May 2019

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar April 2019 – May 2019.  Thank you for praying for the language communities in the Sepik.  God is continuing to work in the lives of these people.

Sepik Prayer Calendar December 2018 – January 2019

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar December 2018 – January 2019.  Thank you for your continued prayers for the people of Papua New Guinea.  They truly make a difference.

Translation efforts grow

OBT participants and staff

The third Oral Bible Translation workshop took place in Wewak for Bungain, Juwal, and Urimo language participants in August.  As it was the third workshop, the participants were keen to put into practice the things they had learned in the previous workshops.  Nearly all the stories for this workshop were taken from the Old Testament.  For those participants who had already completed Oral Bible Storytelling workshops, many of these passages had already been learned in story form.  As a result, they were able to finish more stories than in previous workshops because they had already learned the foundation of these passages.

Hilkka (right) consultant checks one of the Urimo stories.

The number of passages each group has translated has grown significantly over the course of the past year.  We are thankful for all of the completed recordings and look forward to how they will be distributed in the future.  The area of distribution is still in process.  What is the best way to share the recordings in each of these language groups?  Could it be different for some of the language groups?  Could it look different for different generations of listeners?  The SPES team looks forward to growing in knowledge in the coming months as they assess the various situations and seeks to find sustainable ways to help the communities more easily access the recorded scriptures.

Gilbert (left) works with the Juwal translators

The advisors also grew in their knowledge and abilities.  All of our advisors have been trainers for storytelling workshops before, but they only began using computers when the translation workshops started last November.  Through some extra training and time “trying out” the computers, they have grown in confidence that they can help others learn to use the computers.  They continue to learn new translation principles and are excited to put them into practice with future courses.

Bungain translators and community checkers work on creating a well translated passage.

Community checkers come and listen to the translated stories to see if they are clear and natural and convey the meaning of the passage.  The checkers who have been at all three courses have grown in their understanding of their job, as well as in their ability to give useful feedback.  Giving constructive feedback is not something that comes naturally, but they learned this skill so they could better the translation work.

Patrick works diligently to back translate one of the recorded passages.

Sometimes roles within a team change.  At this workshop, we had a couple of changes that needed to take place.  We had one new back translator, whose job it is to take the translated text and translate it back into a common language so that it can be consultant checked for accuracy.  Back translating can be difficult to learn, but Patrick came and understood well the task at hand.  He was able to learn how to work the computer and do the back translation and was a big asset to his team.

We are thankful for eager learners who come expecting to learn and who want to find ways to use what they have learned in the future.  May God’s Word continue to go out as these recordings are shared in communities.

Meet Betty Nawe

Betty Nawe was sent by the women’s ministry at her church to take the Healing the Wounds of Trauma course in 2015. Deeply compassionate and gifted to work with all ages and individuals, Betty was already counseling and walking with individuals through difficult journeys they did not feel comfortable bringing to a pastor. Her empathy and stability within the church drew many women in difficult situations to share with her and seek counsel for a variety of issues.

Before taking the course, she assumed she was emotionally healthy, and was simply there to gain knowledge in order to assist others. Once the week long training began, however, she realized God could bring healing to her past as well. Through family deaths and difficulties throughout her life, she realized the bondage that came from a dual standard within the church of adhering to ancestral beliefs while attempting to follow God. “When we’re afraid of those spirits we are not ready to meet God, and sin is holding us captive.” She was determined to follow the Word in every scenario and would advocate for it to be referred to always when in doubt.

Betty teaching at the course.

Approximately a year after her training in Healing the Wounds of Trauma, Sam invited Betty to accompany a three-week SIL initiative to teach in remote villages with pastors and leaders from multiple locations. “I started out fearful,” she remembers, “some were very confrontational! I couldn’t even stand the first time I taught [because I was so nervous].” When individuals would question the teaching or her own authority, Betty simply replied that this course was a school for learning and if they did not wish to learn interactively with the class, they were welcome to find more training elsewhere. “Many [were] confused because they don’t know how to interpret Scripture,” especially with regards to difficult and traumatic experiences. Betty witnessed elders and pastors weeping freely as the powerful application of Scripture, discussion and case studies imparted life-changing understanding to each of them. The men who had originally confronted her with questions returned and apologized, thanking her for teaching and discussing it with them. “Now God gives me strength and boldness to talk in front of many men and many pastors.”

Betty continues to impact many lives through her counseling, teaching and courageous gift of hope to men and women across Papua New Guinea. “Many times they might hear this in church, but it is easy to forget,” until application of the Word creates healing in their lives. Betty reflected, “I changed through the course to begin to forgive more easily. That is the key to healing. I know God is with me.”

As shared with a Youth With a Mission interviewer