It’s great to be back with my family in Ukarumpa! From October 12 to November 6, I led a four-week workshop called Translators Training Course at the Mamusi Translation Center in Sivauna village. Fourteen participants came from four different local villages to receive this training, which included instruction in four different areas: Study Skills, Bible Backgrounds, Language Discovery, and Translation Principles. It was a ton of exhausting work, but we had a great time living, learning, laughing, and growing together.
Along the way, we learned some invaluable insights, including:
- how each story and teaching in the whole Bible contributes to the big, overarching story of God redeeming mankind.
- how the words, patterns, and figures of speech available in the Mamusi language can be used to communicate God’s truth in an accurate, clear, and natural way.
- how the work of Bible translation cannot be adequately done by an outsider (me), but must be led by mother-tongue Mamusi speakers and fully supported by the church and community.
One of the biggest blessings of the course was when we were joined by two dear friends, Steven and Stanley. Steven, a third-generation Papua New Guinean Bible translator, has taught TTC courses in Ukarumpa for many years, and has a huge amount of wisdom and experience to share with the Mamusi translators. He taught the last week of Translation lessons, which was a great relief and help to me, but even more valuable than that was the time the participants got to spend with him outside of class. He was incredibly encouraging to them (and to me!), and he was able to connect and communicate with them as a fellow Papua New Guinean at a much deeper level than I can.
Stanley is also a Bible translator, and as a trained Scripture Media technician he came to record Mamusi voices for the JESUS Film. Gracious, humble, and generous with his time, Stanley is such a blessing to be around, and such a godly and wise influence. It is truly a blessing for him to give of his time to help us get the JESUS Film produced in Mamusi. Stanley stayed on after Steven and I left, and will be in Sivauna until the recording work is finished.
Near the end of the course, we all discussed how best to move forward with the translation project. 14 is too big a group to work altogether effectively, so we decided to break into 3 working teams. The Mamusi language committee (a group of Mamusi advocates for Bible translation program) decided a few months ago that the next book we translate should be John’s Gospel, so we have broken up its 21 chapters for the three teams to share the load over the next 11 months. Each team is organizing its own work schedule and logistics, and we’re praying that communication lines stay open so we can all stay in touch and aware of how everyone is doing. If you’re interested in receiving specific information and praying in a very intentional way for one of these teams, please let me know.
While the teams are hard at work on John, the committee and I will be working on planning two more training events for next March or April: a Vernacular Creative Phonics course, led by two Papua New Guinean literacy specialists from Ukarumpa, and a Guitar and Songwriting for Worship course, led by me. Each of these workshops is being tailored to meet specific community needs expressed by the committee a few months ago and will serve to support Bible translation
Culture Meets Scripture
I have to share one of my favorite stories from my village time. While we were preparing to translate the Mt. Moriah story in Genesis 22, I was struggling to find a way to explain the key concept of sacrifice, that the innocent takes the punishment deserved by the guilty. The word we were using was tunung, ‘gift,’ which doesn’t capture the meaning. After I talked about it for a while, suddenly the room erupted into rapid excited conversation that I couldn’t follow. Finally, smiling, Manuel stood up and told me that what I was explaining reminded them of a well-known story that really happened in the Mamusi area a few generations ago:
There were two sisters, the elder that already had children, and the younger that had no children yet. The childless sister committed a serious crime, and some people from another village were on their way to put her to death. Before they arrived, not able to bear the idea of her beloved sister dying childless, the elder sister decided she had to intervene. She said, “You look after my children and have some of your own. I will die today in your place.” So the guilty sister was able to live because of the mercy of the innocent sister.
Everyone was smiling; they now understood. God had put a picture of His redemptive story in their culture, and that picture is now helping Mamusi people understand not only the Hebrew sacrificial system, but the monumental significance of Christ’s death on our behalf.
Thanks so much for praying for our family and for everyone involved in the Sivauna TTC1. We are so blessed by your partnership and commitment to walk this amazing journey together with us!