Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar June 2017 – July 2017. Thank you for praying with us for the people of Papua New Guinea.
For several years, a few mission organizations have been collaborating together to create some software that could be used to make oral Bible translation happen. Render is now being trialed in several parts of the world to see how the process works. Since all parts of the process are done orally – translation, team checking and revision, consultant checking, and recording, it is ideal for communities that operate predominantly in an oral realm. As the SPES project has been watching Render develop over the last couple years, we have become very excited about the possibilities that it holds for small language groups in the East Sepik and Sandaun provinces of Papua New Guinea.
However, because Bible translation has been written, rather than oral, almost exclusively for decades, this new approach presents its own challenges. Where will we find people who can come and help us run the Oral Bible Translation (OBT) workshops? Ideally, these would be people who would feel comfortable switching from a written to an oral process or have received training in oral translation. Could it be you or someone you know?
Our current staff does not have all the skill sets needed to lead the training. We continue to pray and trust that God will lead people to us that have the needed skills to help Sepik language groups get God’s Word in a way that clearly speaks to them. A few of these roles are crucial and without people to fill them, OBT cannot move forward. The team in Wewak feels strongly that this is a natural next step for language groups who have already completed their Oral Bible Storytelling workshops. Language groups continue to call and ask when they can begin the next step of translation work. It is a struggle for us to not be able to tell them when the next steps will happen.
Each morning, the Bible passage to be translated will be discussed during devotions. Someone is needed who can help give a good understanding of what is being discussed in the passage from an exegetical perspective. They would need to be able to check specific key terms and help the teams make sure they are translating those key components in an accurate and natural manner.
Another person is needed who can help the teams understand a bit of how their language works linguistically. This is not as in-depth as it would be in a written setting. Some of the details are not needed in the oral realm, like consistency of spelling and punctuation, since it is all recorded rather than written. However, understanding some of how the grammar works, so that the passage can be translated naturally, rather than word-for-word from another translation will help the teams have translation that can be easily understood.
One translation consultant is needed for each language group. In the initial pilot project, the current plan is to include three language groups. The consultants would take the scripture portions that have been translated and go through them with the team to check for consistency of key terms, making sure nothing has been introduced that is not true to the Bible and to make sure that key items have not been omitted. As they go through each passage, changes that are needed will be noted and fixed before the final recording is released for the communities to use.
Will you pray with us that God will provide the people needed to move this work forward? If you or someone you know might be interested, please contact us by email or at our Facebook page.
1 Report from the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization Issue Group “Making Disciples of Oral Learners”, page 4.
The last two weeks were a flurry of activity as we finished the fifth and final Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop for thirteen Lumi area language groups. With forty-eight participants and twelve trainers, the Wewak Regional Center was filled to capacity. Participants were eager to learn three new stories from the New Testament that they have now taken back to share in their villages. We know that God’s Word does not return empty, so we look forward with anticipation to how these stories will impact language communities in the future.
The groups also received some training that they could share with their communities regarding their tok ples (heart language). How strong is the language? Can all the children speak and understand it? What causes communities to move from one language to another? How can they hold on to both languages in the midst of pressures to change? They practiced some participatory activities that they can do in their areas so that everyone can see the vitality or lack of vitality in each language group. Before leaving, they were tasked with raising awareness as they share these activities in their communities.
Friday, 20 January, was the graduation ceremony. The trainers did a great job coordinating and leading this event and making it a meaningful experience. Those who spoke challenged the groups to continue to carry this work and be faithful, even when times get tough. It is a time to act and not just sit and watch others do the work or just think about possibly doing something.
They have now returned to their homes. Pray that they will have many opportunities to share what they have learned. Pray for wisdom for the communities as they discuss what the next steps might be and how those steps could be achieved. Several of the participants were picked to become trainers and continue helping to carry the work of OBS forward in the Sepik. The next group of languages will begin training in February.
Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar December 16 – January 17. Thanks for praying with us!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The most recent Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) course finished for the Lumi cluster participants last week and the participants began the long journey home on Thursday. With forty participants from fifteen language groups, it was a busy time of learning six stories during the course. We purposefully picked stories to do a panorama picture from both the Old and New Testaments so that they can have a better picture of what God has done for us.
Four new stories were introduced this course. These were new not only for the participants, but the trainers had not taught these stories before either. Three of the stories focused on Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. As connections were made between the lambs sacrificed in the Old Testament and Jesus being our sacrificial Lamb, the lights began to come on as people understood more of what Christ did on our behalf. A video was shown to help them understand more of what Jesus endured when he took our punishment. As the men watched, you could hear them whisper, “Enough, enough!” as they saw how much he suffered for us.
Six stories are the most we have attempted during any one course which means the participants had to stay focused and work hard. One of the memory activities that seemed very effective this time was drama. Most of these stories translated had a significant amount of action in them, so they were more conducive to cementing the stories in their minds through drama.
As staff we are excited to see many of the participants growing in their abilities to tell Bible stories. After each course they are becoming more effective as they go back and share their stories in the village. During this course nine participants had the opportunity to “student teach” part of the class material. They were pared with seasoned trainers who coached them, gave them pointers, and helped out when they found it difficult.
At the end of each teaching day, all the trainers and whoever had taught during the day gathered together for a time of debrief to see what went well and what needed to be changed. Debrief is always a good time to connect as a team and figure out how to prepare for the days ahead. Some of these participants will have the opportunity to become trainers after the final course is completed in January 2017. Some of them seemed very natural standing in front of fifty people teaching. What a blessing that could be, to have incoming trainers with these gifts! Mentoring is one way that OBS works to train up new workers to continue to help carry this work into more parts of the Sepik and Papua New Guinea. We look forward to seeing how God will use these trainers in the future.
Pray for the participants and trainers as they go back and share these stories in their village. Christmas will soon be approaching and this may be the first time some of these groups hear the Christmas story in their own language. As they share the stories surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, pray that God’s Word will impact lives and people will come to know Christ as Savior. Isaiah 55:10-11 promises us that “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty.” (NIV)
Last week was an exciting time for the Urat people of the East Sepik province. They had been waiting nearly forty years for God’s Word to come in their heart language. Three different missionary families or singles have been part of the program over the decades, along with PNG co-translators David, Enoch, and others. July 30 was the big day. Hundreds from the surrounding communities as well as nearly forty visitors from outside the language area came to witness the event. Commercial flights from the US, Finland, Thailand, and various parts of PNG, as well as two SIL Kodiaks from Ukarumpa carried the visitors to Wewak. Then everyone boarded a large PMV (public motor vehicle) and two other rental trucks to make the six hour drive over pretty rough roads. We were very grateful that the roads were dry or there would have been additional challenges.
In the beginning, the sky was fairly overcast giving the crowd a respite from the heat. The event began with a singsing group leading the procession to the grandstand area. Behind the singsing group and in front of the visitors were five women from various denominations carrying traditional bags holding some of the newly printed New Testaments. After arriving at the grandstand area, the visitors were shown to their respective seats and everyone settled in to enjoy the ceremony. Many speeches by denominational leaders, mission representatives, community leaders, and translation committee personnel challenged the people to take God’s Word and read it in their homes and churches.
The communities were also challenged to work as a team, whether in their villages or across denominations. Two of our experienced Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) trainers come from the Urat language group. They shared a drama about the man who was paralyzed and his four friends picked him up and carried him to meet Jesus. Upon realizing they couldn’t get him near Jesus, they made a hole in the roof and let their friend down in front of Jesus. Jesus then healed the man. However, had the four men not worked together, the cripple would have never gotten to see Jesus. As believers from a variety of denominations, part of what needs to be seen by the outside world, is unity amongst them. After the speeches, there was a time of laying hands on the Bibles and praying over them by the pastors in the area.
All of the languages that the SPES project is working with have translated Scripture in an oral format, not in a written form like the Urat language. We have already begun to see the effects of God’s talk making a difference in their lives. Pray that people will hunger to read God’s Word for themselves. As they experience God’s Word in a way that communicates clearly to them, it can truly change their lives and the lives of others in their communities.
Through sickness, hardship, pain and struggles, it has been worth it all. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!
Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar Aug16-Sep16. Thanks for praying with us!
Recently Gary headed to a new area of the Sepik on a discovery trip. Carl, a CBC leader in the Sepik, accompanied him. The Nuku area, south of the Sepik River, is not an area where SPES has previously worked. Different language groups in the area have been asking for someone to come and help with translation in their area, in some cases for many years. Although SPES cannot send a missionary to each area, we would like to provide opportunities for them to receive training so that they can help spread God’s Word in their heart language.
The purpose of the trip was to explore how many languages are there, what their viability is, how many people are in the language groups, and other preliminary information. The trip to the area took about seven hours on very rough roads in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Gary was able to visit a couple villages as well as have a group meeting at the Nuku station with representatives from eight different languages. As Gary passed through the area headed to one of the villages, he left a message that he would be back to hold a meeting with interested language groups a couple days later. One of the church leaders took it upon himself to contact all the surrounding language groups about the meeting and representatives from all but one of the groups arrived for the meeting. They were very interested to hear what was shared and excited to think that translation work may happen in their area. Those who attended the meeting were mostly community and church leaders which was helpful as well. They can now share what they have heard at the meeting with others in their communities.
Their enthusiasm was encouraging. With larger villages than we have seen in most areas, more people may have an opportunity to hear God’s talk in their language. These eleven language groups represent nearly fifty villages, so further exploratory visits will take some time. However, we have found that making trips to as many of the villages as possible is a necessary part of establishing relationships so that everyone feels included. Fortunately there is cell phone coverage in much of the area, so communicating with these groups will be easier than some of the other groups we have worked with in the past. We are hoping that a project proposal can be put into place to begin Oral Bible Storytelling with these groups later this year or early in 2017. Please be praying with us that these groups can begin to receive training soon.
Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar Apr16-May16. Thanks for praying with us!