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 February 2019 – March 2019

Here is the Sepik Prayer Calendar February 2019 – March 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.

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