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.

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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

Thankful for a Team

The Juwal translators discuss some of the new material being presented.

It was with great anticipation on Monday, November 20, that the SPES team waited for participants to arrive for the first Oral Bible Translation workshop in Wewak.  There were many moments in the last several months when the team didn’t think this time would come.  After many prayers, project proposals written, emails, project proposals rewritten, and a flurry of last minute activities, the workshop is moving forward for the Bungain, Juwal, and Urimo language communities.

Teams learn about computers and the new software.

With new people joining some of the participants from earlier Oral Bible Storytelling workshops, these teams will learn some new concepts and then begin to put those ideas into practice.  Using computer software specifically developed for oral translation, these groups will listen to scripture passages and begin to take the text, paragraph by paragraph, and translate it into a natural and understandable format that their communities can understand clearly.  After it is reviewed for accuracy by other community members, it is given to a consultant who will again go through the whole passage to make sure things have been translated correctly.

We are so thankful for the team who have worked hard to make this come together.  The SPES team has written and revised the project proposal multiple times so that it meets the necessary criteria.  They have visited language groups to invite the needed personnel to come to the course.  A myriad of logistics including arranging transportation, food, accommodation, and personnel, have all gone into the process.

We have three consultant checkers who have agreed to help with this project of three workshops – one who has worked in various countries recently, but has significant experience in the Sepik in the past, another who is a current translator in the Sepik, and the third is a Papua New Guinean from another province who wants to help.  As we have not had courses that have utilized computers before, someone has agreed to come just to help make sure the computers and related equipment run well and take care of bugs issues that come up along the way.

Facilitators confer as they prepare to help the teams.

Cooks preparing food for the afternoon meal.

Most of the facilitators who will be working with the individual language groups are from the Sepik and have been working with SPES in other training capacities.  Three ladies will be sharing the duties for making sure this group is well fed.  They are excited to try out some new menus this time.

If we look further, the team grows even more.  There are those who help make sure the project is written correctly and that all guidelines are followed.  These folks are not on location in PNG.  Then there are those who make sure the money is available and get it to where it is needed.  The team of computer programmers who have written the Render software that can now be used are a vital part of making this workshop a reality.

Last, but integral to the workshop, there is a large team of people who are praying that projects like this can move forward around the world.  We thank God for each part of the team that helps to get God’s Word to the people of the Sepik.

Beyond our scope

A Kwomtari man tells his story.

Knowing that the vision of SPES is to work with the last one hundred languages in the East Sepik and Sandaun provinces, we understand that we cannot do that alone.  Sometimes our partnerships include working with other SIL teams in these provinces.  Murray and Carol Honsberger have been working with the Kwomtari people in Sandaun province for twenty-seven years.  They have a desire to use Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) to reach out to some neighboring language groups, to help them get some of God’s stories in a format that can be understood by the communities.

In light of that, they asked if the SPES project would have trainers who could come and lead OBS workshops with four language groups (Kwomtari, Nai, Yade, and Baibai) in the Sandaun province.  We give thanks that, at this point, enough training has been done, that we have several trainers who could go and run these workshops.  What a joy and privilege to be a part of getting God’s Word to even more people.

Nai speakers work on consultant checking their story.

Recently these four groups finished their first workshop and all twenty-one participants would echo the words of one Nai speaker: “The OBS course is a tool to use – pray that God will strengthen us. God is opening our eyes and changing our way of thinking. Pray that God will prepare our villages and the hearts of the people to hear. Pray that we will be able to finish all four courses and that we will see real change in our lives.”

Three Yade men came and are praying that five more will join them for the next course. One Yade man wrote: “In this first course I learned about what is involved in giving something to God, and about being a true friend to my wife.”

Baibai participants work on crafting their story.

A Baibai man at the course wrote: “I have been chosen to do church work but do not know how to preach. OBS is teaching me how to share God’s Word.” Pray that the Baibai group will find one more person to join their group. They really struggled through the course but God enabled them to finish all four stories.

Praise God for the united effort of the Baiberi people who hosted the workshop. They are already talking about the next course in February and the preparations they need to make. One of the Kwomtari participants wrote: “OBS has strengthened my faith. It has taught me how to put a story well into my thoughts and keep it there. I have learned how to tell a story with an opening and closing. I feel OBS is teaching and enabling me to do my work as a church leader.”

Yade speakers find just the right words to make their story clear.

Almost all of the participants were lay pastors – some were relatively new believers who had been sent to start a church – they felt lost. After the two weeks they left feeling like they had something they could share and a way to do so. Many were challenged personally by the stories.

We give praise to God for the impact God’s Word is already having on lives and will continue to have in the weeks and months ahead.  Will you pray for these groups to know God more deeply?

Photos by Carol Honsberger

Meet Amos Dagun

Meet Amos.

Early one morning Amos Dagun had a dream. At that time, he had graduated from school and was looking for work, anxious to build up support for his parents. In his dream, a blue car came to his village of Turubu. Driving the car was a young couple with a baby. Amos assumed in the dream that they had come to speak with his father, but the car stopped outside his own window. Amos knew immediately that the car had come for him and began to gather his things, crying as he went, deeply saddened at the thought of leaving his family but urged by a voice inside him saying, “You go, do not stay in the village.” When he awoke from the dream, his instant reaction was to look for the car outside his window, but he only saw the usual village activity.

Night after night for a week, the dream returned, along with Amos’ questions regarding it – “Will this really happen? Will this come to pass?” Several days passed before Amos heard the noise of a motor passing by his home and stopping at the church, just next door. The car was from SIL and Gary had driven it to Turubu to distribute sign up forms for an Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop. Amos realized that the blue color of the car in his dream stood for the blue logo of SIL. “Whatever happens, I will go and see what happens,” Amos decided.

At the OBS, Amos was the only participant from his Wunabaag tok ples (heart language). This proved incredibly difficult as the course functions with translation and checking, designed for individuals to work together with fellow tok ples speakers and their trainers. Furthermore, Amos continued to feel pressure to find paying work in order to assist his family back in the village. He struggled to understand his tok ples to the extent necessary to translate before finding a fellow speaker to come to the course with him. Amos’ friend was not a regular church attendee, but understood and spoke Wunabaag very well.

Amos teaches the class how to learn an oral Bible story.

As the course continued, Amos’ understanding and appreciation of his tok ples increased while his friend began to feel the true impact of the stories he was translating. The dual effect of Scripture within their lives inspired the entire class. Amos remembers the ability of the OBS course to dig deep into God’s word, “…dealing with me personally,” and “…covering a bigger area,” than a sermon or regular message might.

Amos (right) works with a group during a CMS course.

Simultaneously, the pressure to gain a paying job gradually vanished as the joy and peace of being a part of God’s work began to outweigh the anxiety. As his family witnessed the change in his life, they too began to alter their perspective on doing God’s work. “Thank you for coming, SIL,” he concluded, “we now know more of Jesus and how He changes people.” Amos has taught seven more courses since becoming a trainer and uses the training often in his village, hoping to teach more courses including some Culture Meets Scripture courses.

Written by YWAM (Youth With a Mission) staff from an interview with Amos