As many of you read here or on Facebook, the end of our most recent village time (and our last trip before returning to the States for a year) was marked by Rebekah being medically evacuated and the kids leaving early to live with our friends at the Kokopo center. This left me (Aaron) alone in the village for about two weeks, saying our goodbyes and preparing the house to sit empty for a long time. Being apart was difficult for all of us, but we were constantly encouraged by the outpouring of love and support for Rebekah in Ukarumpa, for the kids in Kokopo, and for me in Sivauna. We were blessed by the amazing work the Lord did in the Mamusi translation program, especially in those last two weeks, and we’re excited now to share some of it with you.
For nearly two years, all the work in the translation program has been located exclusively in our village of Sivauna. While this time has been a good foundation to start from, we had a burden to begin to expand to other nearby villages, and eventually throughout the whole Mamusi-speaking area (estimated 7,000 speakers spread out over about 1,300 square miles of mostly mountainous terrain). We’ve been discussing it among the translation team for some time, and we recently started the first phase of our expansion plan.
On three separate weekends in January and February, I was able to travel with the translation team to visit our three closest neighboring villages: Lekempuna, Lile, and Pepeng. In each village we held a full-community awareness meeting to share about the program (what we are doing and why), our progress so far (distributing text and audio of the first 12 chapters of Luke), and how they could be involved (fundraising and sending a representative to the new translation committee). In each case we were met with great enthusiasm; people eagerly devoured the newly-translated Scripture, contributed great ideas, and asked thoughtful questions.
When we called the first meeting of the Mamusi translation committee in Sivauna the first week of March, we weren’t sure what to expect. In addition to the three villages we visited, we sent letters to three others we were unable to get to, inviting them to send a representative to the meeting. While all the reactions had been positive, we know that logistical challenges and family and community obligations make it difficult for anyone (especially community leaders) to be away from home.
So we were overjoyed when two men from other villages showed up in Sivauna Monday morning, eager to get started. I was thrilled to be able to host these men in the bunkroom we built in the house just for this very purpose, and we were joined every morning by two of the translators (Oscar was ill at that time) and two representatives from Sivauna, a provisional committee of six plus myself. We spent Monday discussing how the translation process works, how the committee would be involved, what the future of the program would look like, and what kind of extra-Biblical activities we would engage in to support the program – producing vernacular literacy materials, publishing a local story anthology, creating a dictionary, etc. We then spent Tuesday through Thursday doing community testing of Luke 13-19, which the translation team had recently drafted and team-checked. We also mixed in very profitable discussions on key Biblical terms such as faith, resolving some issues of vocabulary, usage, and spelling. Amazingly, despite their relative proximity, the three villages represented lie in three separate dialect areas, so we could begin important discussions on how to deal with the small but significant variations.
This meeting was an opportunity for the new committee members to actively engage in the translation process and get a taste of the challenges involved, and they worked tirelessly and energetically. I was thrilled to mostly just sit in the room and watch the discussions and work happen around me, making notes and chiming in occasionally where I could help. In Bible translation it is extremely important for the community to be engaged in the process, taking ownership and supporting the work from the beginning. We always have in the back of our minds the idea of working ourselves out of a job, eventually handing over all the responsibility to the local people and just standing by to help resource and equip as needed. I was blessed to see this process beginning so early in our program, and I was constantly recognizing the fingerprints of many of YOU, our prayer and financial partners, who faithfully ask God to bless us and the work here through your prayers and gifts. Thank you for your continued partnership and encouragement!
Right now, two of our translators (Jack and Oscar) are with us in Kokopo for the fifth workshop of the Luke Partnership Project. Please pray for Nick, who is still recovering in Sivauna from illness. In just two more weeks, we should have the last five chapters of Luke (20-24) drafted and ready to be checked in the village, so please pray for the many logistics involved in this. These workshops are always accompanied by spiritual warfare.
Following the workshop, our family will be headed to the United States for 15 months of stateside assignment! We are thrilled and excited to be returning to TN. These past three years in Papua New Guinea have been wonderful, yet we are ready to be with our families and churches to be refreshed. God has been faithful and marvelous! We cannot wait to share stories with you face to face.