Freed from Lies

Four trainers ready to board the Kodiak

Four trainers ready to board the Kodiak

For the team of four trainers, most of the last two weeks was spent at the Abau Training Centre in Sandaun province running a Culture meets Scripture workshop. Leading up to the course, there were significant hurdles that had to be overcome for the course to take place. Even a few days before, the training centre was under water from so much rain, but many around the world prayed and the waters receded. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were short of the number of needed trainers, but God again came through in a specific way for us. There was concern about not having enough food, but no one went hungry during the course.

Discussing the armor of God

Discussing the armor of God and our identity in Christ

Early on in the course, it was quite evident that there was a battle raging for the hearts and minds of the participants. God brought together this group of trainers with different giftings to lead these men in understanding more of God’s truth. Each day was filled with teaching sessions as well as practical sessions where they looked critically at their cultural practices. Teaching times included understanding the three realms (people, angels, and God), strongholds,who I am in Christ, and dreams. Dreams are a huge part of this culture. Dreams are always to be followed and never questioned. So this teaching time proved eye-opening as they began to understand that not all dreams are from God nor should they be followed. The teaching times continually took the participants back to God’s Word to discover what God had to say about a given topic. They looked at cultural practices related to hunting, gardening, the mourning haus (how people respond after someone dies), as well as specific topics related to how they view women.

Throughout the course, conversations amongst participants were overheard.   “We have been believing lies all our lives. What we have followed in our culture is not true. Now we understand what God says about these things.” “This teaching has been so helpful for us. We need more of it.”

Talking about cultural practices

Talking about cultural practices

After the course ended, the trainers met a man from Samanai who had previously come to the Oral Bible Storytelling workshops. He planned to come to this course, but then a young man died in his village. They suspected a woman of sorcery related to the death, so they killed her the same day the young man died. These very topics were discussed at the workshop. Had they known the truth of God’s Word, it could have removed their fears and the results could have been different. How tragic as these people are still in bondage to the lies of the evil one. As one of the course participants was returning home, he learned that his older brother had just died. Please pray that the truths the man has learned at the course will make for a very different outcome in Miarfai. Pray that God’s talk will continue to go out not only in the participants’ villages, but also in the surrounding areas and that people would be freed from lies they have believed for so long.


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

Culture Meets Scripture

How do you know if the things you do for burials are pleasing to God or not? Are the cultural things that happen at weddings, fattening of the bride, or rites of passage fully in line with Scripture? The things we learned at this workshop will help to evaluate what happens at cultural events from a Biblical perspective and make changes where needed.

Drama about Pressure

We need to find the cause of death.

We’ve just finished our Culture Meets Scripture workshop hosted by SIL and the Pastor’s Fraternal in Wewak. Amy West and Jo Shetler were the teachers and we grappled with some of these issues. We had leaders from fourteen different denominations and forty-three participants.

Amy and Jo taught us that it isn’t just the actions that need to be evaluated, but more importantly the reasons for the actions and the consequences if the actions are not done. Only by verbalizing, evaluating, and addressing the underlying reasons can real change be accomplished. Participants took a look at the death rituals, the underlying reasons and consequences if they are not done, compared them to Scripture, and chose to modify, keep, or reject the ritual. Then they made an action plan for how to take the things they learned and teach others. Some are already teaching the things they learned this week!

August-September 2013 Prayer Calendar

Here is the August-September 2013 prayer calendar. We have two workshops during these two months. The Culture meets Scripture workshop will happen August 12-16 and an Oral Bible Storying workshop will be held September 11-25. Thanks for praying!

H.O.L.D – Holistic Oral Language Documentation

HOLD, or Holistic Oral Language Documentation, is an approach to documenting the language and expressive arts of a language group. This is done by sending a small group of people to a language area for a few weeks to record stories, traditional dance and music, traditional architecture, and traditional objects or art forms. People from the language group then provide a recorded commentary on each item documented in the language of wider communication (Melanesian Pidgin or English).

The documentation process may also include participatory methods of survey. Participatory methods utilize a trained facilitator to explore a topic with a group resulting in group discussion and often a visual representation of the answer. Both the discussion and answers are valuable. One example would be to ask the group to make a map of the area (using stones or objects) and identify all the villages where they have relationships (marriage, trading, other). Once that is done, they will be asked to put those relationships in order of importance. This tells much about what they value and various things that are happening between communities.

We hope to utilize short term teams and PNG university students or church designated personnel to do HOLD. If this is something that you may be interested in doing, please contact us for more information.

There are several aims or benefits of HOLD.

Continue reading