Is It Worth It?

Sometimes when discouragement and weariness rear their ugly heads, it is easy to ask the question, “Is this really worth it?”  This question may come regarding one’s work, ministry, raising a family, or a myriad of other topics.  In the Sepik region, taking time to hear the testimonies of lives changed and see how God’s Word is having an impact is usually enough to say, “Yes, this is all worth it.”

Graduates with their certificates

The final Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop for ten Nuku area language groups finished with graduation on July 16.  Over the last five workshops, it has been encouraging to see some rather dramatic changes in these men’s lives.  Men who before were prone to heated discussions and always having to be right, have become more submissive and are willing to seek out answers in a reasonable way.  People are searching for truth in God’s Word to the many questions they are facing.

There has been more of a spirit of working together to make a difference in their communities.  An OBS Awareness day is being planned for August 10.  Representatives from several of the language groups will be telling about the work of OBS, sharing one of the stories learned, asking discussion questions, and trying to help people better understand how OBS can make a difference in each of the communities.  This meeting was initiated by the participants and the SPES team is excited to see how God uses this in the communities.

Lazarus receives his certificate

Lazarus, from the Pahi language group, shared a testimony during graduation.  When Gary, the SPES team leader, came to his language group to do awareness about the upcoming OBS courses, he was very cynical and thought Gary was not telling the truth about what they were going to do.  When it came time for the course, the community had not marked anyone else to come, so he decided he would come and see what all the talk was about.  Up until that time, he was doing drugs and up to no good.  He came to the course and as he sat there and began to listen to the Bible stories, God began to get a hold of his thinking and he became a Christian.  At this last workshop, he said, “Now God has completely changed my thinking.”  Thinking back to the first course, he never really said anything during the discussion times; but at the final course, it was amazing to see how involved he was during the devotions and other interaction times.  His smile is huge and he appears like a completely different person now.

Yes, it is worth it.  Thank you, God, that your talk does not return empty.

Photos by Faith Halverson

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Sepik Prayer Calendar August – September 2018

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar August 18 – September 18.  Thanks for continuing to pray with us for the people of Papua New Guinea.  Your prayers make a difference in many lives.

Oral Bible Translation – What Does It Take?

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.

Could this be you?

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.

Lumi Oral Bible Storytelling completion

Devotion time

Devotion time

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.

Learning how to teach about language and how it shifts in communities

Learning how to teach about language and how it shifts in communities

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.

Group photo of participants, trainers, and other staff

Group photo of participants, trainers, and other staff

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.