What is Render?

Recently Gary and Sam attended some meetings in Ukarumpa, in the Eastern Highlands province.  Fred Madden, who works with The Seed Company, came to share about a different medium for doing translation.  Oral Bible Translation allows the translators to translate exclusively in an oral manner.

Using the Render software

Using the Render software

Oral Bible Translation works like this. Initially translators discuss any key words, phrases, or concepts that could be difficult to understand or tricky to translate.  Then they listen to a “chunk” of scripture such as a section of a story or a paragraph.  When they feel comfortable that they understand the portion of scripture, they figure out how to say the section in their heart language.  Speaking into a computer, they will then record the passage using some newly developed Render software that records all that is said. This is repeated until everyone is happy with the translation. Then it goes through a series of checks for accuracy and naturalness.  When the team is satisfied that the rough draft is good, it then goes to a consultant who will also add his or her comments orally on the computer and the team can make the needed corrections.

After all the needed changes have been made and the translators and consultants feel it communicates clearly, the recordings can be finalized.  When the recordings are ready, they can be placed on SD cards that can be inserted into mobile phones or use other electronic devices to listen to and engage with the translated scriptures.

As literacy rates are low in many of the language groups that SPES is engaging with, Oral Bible Translation seems like a good fit for at least some of these groups.  This type of approach would allow more people who know and understand their language, but not necessarily know how to write it, to be involved in the work. It also has a better chance of being used by more people in more places. However, this approach involves potentially more people and therefore more costs.  Pray for wisdom to know if this is the way we are to move forward.

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God Tests Abraham

Class time

Class time for some of the language teams

The story of God testing Abraham, as found in Genesis 22, is one of the Bible stories learned at the most recent Lumi Oral Bible Storytelling course. This powerful story always brings about thought provoking discussions. Some of those discussions come as people begin to realize the picture of the ram being offered in place of Isaac is symbolic of Christ being offered instead of us, as payment for our sins. Another aspect of those talks is when people are challenged to see what type of impact the story will have for them personally. Following a time of singing and sharing the actual story, the presenter usually asks two or three questions to help the audience think more deeply about the story. Sometimes the questions are fairly straight forward like, “What parts of this story made you happy or sad and why?” Other questions go much deeper. “How did this story help or challenge you? What change is God asking you to make in your life based on this story?”

These were some of the thoughts shared during the morning devotions:

  • “I can’t give God excuses when He asks me to do something.”
  • “I must submit to God as Abraham did.”
  • “I can’t be greedy with the things God gives me. I need to share them with others. When I am greedy, God will not continue to give things to me.”
  • “I did not know that God was calling me to come here. Before, in my village, I would get drunk and go around and make trouble, but then God called me to come to this course and I came.”
  • “When God called Abraham, he followed what God asked him to do. I, too, must go back to my village and do the good work that I have learned about here.”
The ram caught in the thicket

The ram caught in the thicket

Abraham prepares to offer Isaac

Abraham prepares to offer Isaac

A part of learning each story includes a memory activity. For the story of God testing Abraham, the trainers chose to have the participants act out a drama so they could remember the sequence of events. Drama is a big part of Papua New Guinea culture so the participants try to put themselves fully into the characters. The bleating of the ram caught in the thicket and Abraham poised to offer Isaac are both pretty convincing. We wondered if the rams might get hurt as they chose to be caught in a low hanging rope. They will remember those parts for sure!

The participants come from thirty different villages. Pray that the stories learned will have an impact in each of these places.

 

New Language Profile page

We are excited to announce a new page on the SPES blog.  We have added a Language Profile page where you can check out some of the language groups that are involved with the SPES project.  Learn more about these groups and how you can be praying specifically for them.  We hope to add more in the months ahead.

The Pig and the Garden

We often use metaphors to relay information in a culturally appropriate manner that can more easily be understood. The story of the Pig and the Garden is an example used to help the small people groups with whom we work to better understand some facts about the languages they use. The discussion usually starts with one of us asking some questions…..

Pig and garden

Question:        You have pigs here in the village don’t you? Do they have value to you?

Answer:          Yes, they are used as a bride price… they are protein for our diet… we can sell them for money…

Question:        You have gardens don’t you? And are they valuable to you?

Answer:          Yes, we have many gardens and they provide food. Life would be very difficult without pigs or gardens.

Question:        What happens when the pig gets into the garden?

Answer:          Not Good! The pig destroys the garden.

Question:        But you said you need both the garden and the pig; so how can you have both?

Answer:          We put a fence around the pig or we put a fence around the garden if there are wild pigs. We sometimes blind the pig or tie a rope to its leg.

This simple discussion then leads to a discussion about the languages they use. The Sepik languages we work with have not had any previous translation activity, and the languages they use are the trade language of Melanesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin), their mother tongue vernacular language, and a little bit of English used in the schools (if they have a functioning government-run school). In all of the 28 Sepik language groups that we are currently working with, the vernacular has by far the highest value because it identifies who they are and it is strongly tied to their culture. And in all cases, it is in jeopardy and rapidly being taken over by the trade language of Tok Pisin. The people know that Tok Pisin is gaining in usage, but they have not yet fully realized how much jeopardy their mother tongue language is in. We start showing them that if their children are not learning and using the vernacular language, then they are only one or two generations away from it not being used at all and possibly forgotten. They then start to see the true picture, and many times we have people in tears, mourning for what they now realize is the beginning of the loss of their language and identity. Their first reaction is to believe that the trade language is bad and they need to get rid of it.

The pig and the garden story can help them. We explain how the garden is their vernacular language and the pig is the trade language. Just like the pig and the garden, they both have value and it is hard to live without either one. Actually, in their current society it is important that they are multilingual. Their mother tongue is so closely tied to who they are and has such a high value to them that they need to find ways for the trade language and the vernacular to co-exist. They will need to treat their language like the garden and put a fence around it, protecting it from the trade language that will destroy it.

Part of our work is helping these small language communities develop an awareness of what is happening to their vernacular and culture in a rapidly changing world. Their living environment has changed from the stone-age to the introduction of the modern 21st century in a mere 50 to 70 years. Many of the old traditions and customs are dying, many times without new positive practices being introduced to replace them. This is just one of the reasons why it is so important to have them firmly grounded in Christian faith and why we need God’s Word to speak to them in the form that they can understand best.

by Gary Abbas

Graduation

A crazy moment for the entire group on the last day

A crazy moment for the entire group on the last day

The fifth Oral Bible Storytelling workshop for the Wewak cluster of languages finished the beginning of July. The participants worked hard over the course of the five workshops to learn nearly twenty Bible stories to tell in their communities. Some have struggled to learn the stories well, so we watched with grateful hearts as they experienced a breakthrough during the last course and were able to get a better grasp on telling and remembering the stories.

Antonia shares one of the stories she learned.

Antonia shares one of the stories she learned.

At the end of each course, participants are encouraged to go and share their stories in a variety of venues. This exercise has met with mixed results. Some have gone back and tried to share at their churches, but because of specific ways that things are done, the doors haven’t opened for that. For some, this has resulted in stories not being told much. For others, they have been challenged to find other options. One young man shared how he told a story on one of the local transport vehicles that took him home from the course. Others are able to tell the stories in a variety of school settings. This has brought much enthusiasm from the kids. Still others have been able to share it in wider denominational gatherings or multi denomination meetings within a community. Pray that they will continue to find ways to share the things they have learned.

Jacob receives his completion certificate.

Jacob receives his completion certificate.

As this was course five, graduation was coming quickly. Excitement grew as the day approached. Could they go to town and buy a new pair of shoes or pants for the ceremony? How many people could they invite to come? The chairs were neatly aligned, flowers were picked and arranged from the bounty that surround the guest house, speeches were prepared, and guests were invited. It was a special time to recognize what the participants have learned and to see how they have grown over the course of the workshops. After stories and testimonies were shared, speeches made, certificates given, one of the pastors commissioned them to carry God’s Word back and use it in their communities. The day ended with yummy food shared by all who were present.

Discover

The word brings images of things, new and different; experiences not known before; people with unique and beautiful contributions to make; and vision and missions not yet explored. In the last couple weeks, the Wewak regional center has been privileged to host a twelve day orientation for a Wycliffe US Discover team. These young ladies came to explore what mission work looks like in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and how it could possibly fit with their future goals for work and ministry. They all came with unique skills and abilities acquired in life. This allowed them to see PNG from their own individual perspectives.

Preparing coconut milk for the evening meal

Preparing coconut milk for the evening meal

A portion of each day was spent learning Tok Pisin, the local trade language. Following the lecture time, the participants spent time with a Papua New Guinean teacher hearing and putting into practice what they had learned. Several hours were devoted to looking at culture and other aspects of anthropology, learning about many of the nuances of the culture. Then there were the questions of how do you maintain a vital spiritual life while living overseas where there are fewer opportunities for others to feed you? What does it look like to work on a team with people from other cultures whose values might differ from what you have known before? Even as there is a certain amount of risk living in the home culture, what are the risks of living in this culture and how are those risks managed?

Enjoying a few minutes in the cool water before continuing on the rigorous hike

Enjoying a few minutes in the cool water before continuing on the rigorous hike

Outside the classroom, hands-on experiences enriched their learning. Experiencing hikes in the rugged terrain and seeing unique plants and creatures filled a couple afternoons. Time was spent on several afternoons learning to cook PNG foods in traditional ways. Scraping coconuts to make coconut milk, cleaning and fixing a variety of greens to mix with the coconut milk, and cooking over an open fire were all part of the experience. A trip to town to buy market food and other goods gave a new perspective to going shopping.

The girls decorated and ready to join in the festivities.

The girls decorated and ready to join in the festivities.

Two different villages each welcomed some of the participants along with their host family for an overnight in their villages. Some were decorated with leis and welcomed with a traditional singsing. One young lady shared how worshiping with the people was so touching as she realized how God is here to bring us together. They saw how the people grow their food, harvest their gardens and sago, and prepare their fish. The warm hospitality of each village was felt by the whole team. We are thankful for the relationships that God is forging as we work with different language groups. Both villages have been involved with recent Oral Bible Storytelling workshops held in Wewak.

Pray for these ladies as they have now moved on to the next phase of their training in different parts of PNG. Pray for great learning experiences, good health, and opportunities to be able to serve. Pray that they will be able to discern the Lord’s leading for their futures.

God’s Word is going out

Lots of food was shared.  The green leaves each hold a portion of their staple food, sago.

Lots of food was shared. The green leaves each hold a portion of their staple food, sago.

Recently four SPES team members were privileged to be part of a Scripture portion dedication among the Urim Kukwo language communities in the Sandaun province. The team started out early on a Saturday morning and navigated a six and a half hour drive by truck followed by a three hour hike. They were all happy to reach their destination that night. Hospitable village people gladly opened their homes and shared what they had with the outsiders including food and a place to stay. Lots of activity led up to the event including making a grand stand and gathering food from the gardens and fish from the river.

Dancers prepare for the processional

Dancers prepare for the processional

Wycliffe member, Seija Meinander has been working among the Urim Kukwo people for more than ten years, along with Joyce Wood who joined the project more recently. Many people came and joined in the festivities to celebrate the coming of four New Testament books to the people. Singsing dancers adorned with scores of white bird feathers and traditional body paint led the procession to the gathering. Kundu drums hammered out the beat for the music. Speeches were given, a prayer of blessing was shared and a challenge was given. All the books of Scripture were sold in about forty-five minutes. Pray that they would take this challenge to heart. God’s Word is like a packet of seeds. If the seeds sit on the shelf in the house, they have no value to anyone. It is only when they are taken from the packet, planted in the ground, watered, and begin to produce a crop, that their value increases. God’s Word is the same. If the book sits on the table and never gets opened, it gives no benefit to anyone. Only when God’s book is opened and applied to lives can the difference really be seen. How much value does God’s Word have to us?

Lara and Joyce work with the ladies on their language assessment.

Lara and Joyce work with the ladies on their language assessment.

The day after the dedication, the team was asked to address a smaller crowd regarding the vitality of the Urim Kukwo language and what they want to do with their language in the future. Male leaders from each of the three villages came as well as a group of women. Through a couple hands-on activities they were able to visualize some of what is happening in their language community. Already some of the children do not know the language. What does that mean for the future of the language? Are there things they can do to help those children begin to understand more of the language? Pray for direction for these language communities as they decide what their next steps should be.

Healing our heart wounds

Group discussions about daily topics

Group discussions about daily topics

Certain subjects stir the passion of our hearts to the point they just have to be shared. Those things include seeing Papua New Guineans with access to God’s Word in ways that speak to their hearts. Having access to God’s Word and impacting lives can take many shapes depending on where we find ourselves. One of the recent ways we have been privileged to help people apply God’s Word to their everyday lives is through the Healing the Wounds of Trauma workshop. The workshop was offered to pastors and lay leaders in Wewak area churches. Men and women came from six different denominations to participate in the workshop.

Spending time in worship

Spending time in worship

Over a period of five days, fifteen participants grappled with theological subjects like why do bad things happen to good people and the journey of grief. They looked at much deeper things like how do we heal the wounds of our hearts and forgiving those who have caused us trauma. These traumatic events might include domestic abuse, rape, and HIV. Repeatedly, the class went back to Scripture to see what God’s Word had to say about so many aspects of these topics. However, more than just a Bible study, they were encouraged to apply and internalize the truths of God’s Word and begin the healing process where pain had once resided.  They began each day with worship and additional worship times along the way. God brought a young man to be part of the workshop who was gifted to lead those times. Even with no prompting beforehand, he focused on the materials and leading us to the cross with appropriate songs.

Burning the papers signified giving the pain to God.

Burning the papers signified giving the pain to God.

One of the most powerful parts of the workshop is when participants are encouraged to take their pain to the cross. Some had been struggling with this pain and trauma for many years and as the week unfolded, they began to deal with that pain. As the tears flowed and they wrote those memories on paper and attached them to the cross, it was a physical picture of what God wanted to do in their lives as they gave those hurts and pain to Him. Then they actually burned the papers as a token of releasing that pain in their lives. Please pray for each participant as they continue to grapple with all they have heard and learned. For some, these are only the first steps to having real freedom in Christ. Pray that they would allow Christ to continue to heal them so that they can live abundant Christian lives.

Many of these participants are now facilitators-in-training so they will begin to share the material that they have learned with other groups who need to experience the same healing and freedom Christ can give.  Pray that God will lead them to those who need to hear these truths.

Rejoice with us!

Group photo from OBS #3 in Yabru

Group photo from OBS #3 in Yabru

 

Having arrived back from Yabru late last week, the team is filled with excitement over the time spent at the most recent Oral Bible Storytelling course. Heading into the trip, we knew there were possibilities for the unexpected. Having been told in October that January and February were high water times, we didn’t know what to expect. We did know that we had been praying for God to send just the right amount of rain for our stay. School starts in February in Papua New Guinea, so there was also a possibility that people would not come to the course because they were busily arranging school fees for their kids who were going away to school.

Learning The Call of Moses through pictures.

Learning The Call of Moses through pictures.

With less than two days from our arrival to the start of the course, trainers researched and prepared lessons for the teaching sessions. The first five participants arrived the same day as the team that flew in from Wewak. This was a surprise, but a pleasant one. The next day, we eagerly awaited the arrival of the rest of the participants. By the end of the day, our hearts were heavy as only a very few more participants had arrived. Now what? The team was ready and waiting to teach, but where were the participants? As we looked at those that had come, we wondered where God was in the midst of this. A number of them present had really struggled in the past to learn even one story when there was a team of four to share the load. Now if teams consisted of one, two, or three, how would they get all five stories learned?

Learning the sequence of the story by using strips of paper with the various events on it.

Learning the sequence of the story by using strips of paper with the various events on it.

The course started as planned on Thursday with those who were present. Considerable time was spent reviewing the process of learning stories as well as thinking through how Papua New Guineans usually learn stories in their communities. For some, it seemed to be a breakthrough moment as they realized they could learn Bible stories the same way they learned stories in the village, through repetition and practice. So they began learning the first Abraham story using these methods rather than some of the ways they had tried in previous courses which really weren’t working. Quickly the first story was completed and they eagerly tried their new method on the second Abraham story. Again, they were making good progress. In addition to using drama and story boards, a couple more teaching tools were implemented along the way that bolstered the way the stories were learned. In the end, all five groups learned all five stories and were finished ahead of schedule. Praise the Lord!

Edward practices one of the stories.

Edward practices one of the stories.

We give thanks to God for answering prayers. For months we have fought to understand why the participants have struggled to learn the stories and we are grateful that God chose to start with the least likely participants to show ways that would work in our context. We also happily report that the training center grounds were never under water in our sixteen days in the village. We had just the right amount to keep the water tanks full and temperatures cooler at night.  In the end, we were pleased with all the participants that made the effort to be there and only a couple of those not present were taking care of school fees. God was right there in the midst of our questions with His answers.

 

With Grateful Hearts

As the SPES team looks back on 2014 and before, our hearts are overflowing with thanksgiving.

SPES became a reality in 2010 after missionaries felt an increasing burden for reaching the last one hundred languages with no scripture in the Sepik region and dared to dream a dream. We are grateful for those who dreamed that dream and for the opportunity to be part of seeing those last hundred languages hear some of God’s talk.

The size of the team has changed several times since 2010, but we are thankful that God can use us, no matter how many or how few, no matter our abilities, to get His Word to others. We are also blessed to have a new couple joining our team in the next couple months. We look forward to seeing how their gifts and abilities can be used to help further kingdom work.

Gary and Sam ready for another hike.

Gary and Sam ready for another hike.

As we have begun to engage with new language groups, we give thanks for good health and safety. We don’t take that for granted. There has been a considerable amount of hiking the jungles and trekking the rivers by canoe as the team seeks to engage with more language groups. After these trips, muscles are tired, bodies are weary, and minds need a little time to recover, but the resolve is there to go back out and do it again.

Our current OBS trainers were selected from this first cluster of students.

Our current OBS trainers were selected from this first cluster of students.

A first step to engaging with new groups is teaching Oral Bible Storytelling.  We are thankful for the Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) trainers who completed their training in September 2013. This was a first as the SPES team began using Papua New Guineans to take on most of the training aspects of the OBS workshops. They have exceeded our expectations and are truly part of our team. Without them, OBS would not be a reality. The trainers from that first cluster have been hard at work in 2014 teaching and mentoring a total of eleven language groups in OBS. One group has completed their first three workshops and the other has finished two workshops.

Cluster two participants and staff who train in Wewak

Cluster two participants and staff who train in Wewak

Cluster three staff and participants who train in Yabru

Cluster three staff and participants who train in Yabru

It has been a blessing to work with the two clusters that are currently doing OBS. In spite of the fact that storytelling is an innate part of their culture, telling Bible stories in this manner is all new. It is often a struggle when they begin to learn the process, but it has been exciting to see participants grow as storytellers, as well as in their walks with the Lord. We never tire of seeing God’s Word change someone’s life.

Hearts are filled with gratitude for those who pray for the SPES team and the language groups of the Sepik and support it in other ways as well. Prayer covering is vital to the work moving ahead. Because of the much wider team, nearly a dozen language groups in the Sepik will hear the Christmas story in a language they understand well for the first time this year. Rejoice with us!