Thursday, September 2, 2010

PNG Bible Dedication Stories

I've attended 2 Bible dedications in Papua New Guinea and I wish everyone could attend one.  To see  and experience the excitement and joy of the people receiving the Word of God in their own language makes me realize what a precious gift it is and what a privilege and blessing it is to us who have it in our own language.

Video of the Folopa Bible Dedication: click here.

"God is a Miniafia Man"
by David Wakefield

“God is a Miniafia Man,” the loincloth-clad speaker exulted! “Before He was English, and American, and Australian. But today He has become Miniafia!”

The steady beat of drums and trumpeting of conch shells gave voice to the excitement that everyone felt as the 1st of the Miniafia-Oyan New Testaments was carried into the village on a model canoe. Traditionally dressed dancers proceeded and followed the bark cloth wrapped New Testament, their voices thundering praise: “Orokaiwa, Regah Keriso! O a merar ayiy! (Greetings, Lord Christ! We greet You!)”

Walking in front of the “canoe,” Fran and I laughed and cried our way up from the water’s edge, through Utukwaf village, to the especially prepared veranda and speakers’ platform where the Dedication service would take place. We laughed with joy over the obviously enthusiastic reception of the Scripture: 750 copies of the 1000 printed had been purchased before this first had even arrived in the village. We cried in memory of our friends who had died without seeing the Book we were now celebrating. Among them was Utukwaf village chief Gideon Yowen. Not long before he died he said, “My son, you have lived with us now for many years. I love the stories you have translated, but I am now an old man. Soon I will die. My heart is most sad about this: I will never hold the finished Book in my hands.”

The Book that Gideon Yowen died longing for, his children and grandchildren now hold in their hands. It was a day we sometimes despaired of ever seeing. We had begun the project on December 7, 1973, but had to leave it barely half done in 1993. Thanks to the perseverance of national translators Stanley Oyabuwa and Josiah Javeve, translation was finally done and we were able to return to the project and help complete final editing and typesetting early last year.

Miniafia Church leaders, though, were anxious about one thing. “David,” they said. “When you speak, please be sure to let the people know that our work is not finished. As soon as we have rested from this celebration, we need to finish the Old Testament, and we need their continuing support.” Indeed, Stanley Oyabuwa has drafted 70 chapters in Psalms already. He and his wife, Ethyl, have committed to finishing the Old Testament.

Even before the echo of celebrating voices and drumbeats had faded from the air that weekend, the Translation Committee reported that the 900th copy of the New Testament had been sold. “How can we get more?” they asked in alarm. I couldn’t help but smile. What a wonderful problem with which to end a most memorable weekend!

Video of Kuman New Testament Dedication, click here.

A Dream Fulfilled: Kuman New Testament Dedication

by Karen Weaver

Two decades ago, a man in the Kuman language group in Simbu Province (Papua New Guinea) had a vision for having a Bible in his own language. He went to the head of the Lutheran church in the port town of Lae with a very rough draft of the New Testament in Kuman, which had been translated by an early missionary. He said, "I will finish this work if you will provide the money to get it printed." The church leader replied, "I do think it needs to be done, but I don't think you should do it by yourself. People in SIL are trained to do this kind of work. We should ask them and wait and until they can send someone."

Two years of waiting passed and nothing happened. The man was a pastor of a church in his home area, and he was then transferred to teach in a Bible school on the coast. But before he left his village in the highlands, he built a sturdy house out of bush materials.

Two months after he had moved away to the coast, he returned to his home town for a visit. He saw a white skinned lady in the market, which was quite uncommon. How surprised he was to hear that not only were she and her husband SIL* members who had come to translate God's book into their language, but that they were also living in the house he had built!

Peter Kagl Gola eventually became chairman of the Kuman Bible translation committee and guided the translation work until he died of cancer a few years later.

Dunc and Mary Pfantz were the couple whom God had sent to the Kuman language area to translate the New Testament. They first went to there in 1991. Seventeen years later, the Book was ready to present to the people.

On Friday, June 27, 2008, people lined the streets of Kundiawa to hear a lively band playing hymns as it marched through town. A truck carrying boxes of Kuman New Testaments took up the rear, behind the band and other walkers. The procession ended at Dickson Field, where the group gathered to celebrate the arrival of the completed New Testament in the Kuman language.

During the ceremony, certificates were given to each of the Kuman men who had helped with the translation. One was also given to the family of Peter Gola, in rememberance and appreciation of his early involvement in the work.

SIL director Jan Gossner read John 1:1 in Greek, Spanish, Indonesian and Edolo, none of which were understandable to the people. Next he read the verse in English and in Tok Pisin, the trade language of Papua New Guinea. Finally he said, "I am not a Kuman speaker, but I am going to try to read John 1:1 in your language." After they heard him read the words in Kuman, the people stood up, clapping and cheering. How beautiful are God's words in one's own heart language!

At the end of the ceremony, the New Testaments were unloaded from the truck and placed on tables for the people to buy. The Kuman people crowded around the tables, waiting for a turn to buy a New Testament. Many people also bought a DVD of the Jesus Film in the Kuman langauge.

As people gathered in small groups around the field to look at their New Testaments, the band began to play again. One song they played several times that day was, "Onward Christian Soldiers." The last verse of that hymn was a fitting message for the Believers there to take out to the rest of the Kuman people as they departed with their New Testaments in hand:

Onward then you people, join our happy throng.
Blend with ours your voices, in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor, unto Christ our King.
This through countless ages men and angels sing!

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