Friday, October 29, 2010


Did you know there are still Bible translation needs in Australia?
An Aboriginal Bible translator concluded: “When we hear the story in English, it does not transform us. But in our own language, God talks directly to us like a close relative.”

The Australian Society for Indigenous Languages has been serving the Aboriginal and Islander Language Communities in Australia since the early 1960s. In the last 7 years, we have expanded our work to include communities and groups in and around the island of Timor. We specialise in the production of vernacular language materials, as well as linguistic documentation of the many vernacular languages.

Current Needs:

Audio Recordists and Vernacular Media Specialists, Print Publications Manager, Artists including Graphic Design Artists, IT Specialists, Sunday School Curriculum Developer, Linguist/Translators, Office Manager, Finance Manager, Administrative Assistants, Bible School/Seminary Trainer, Scripture Use Workers, Web Master, Events Coordinator, Photo Journalist and more!

Contact me if you'd like more information.

    AuSIL signs MOU with Indigenous Presbytery (NRCC)

        and Uniting Church in Australia, Northern Synod

On Monday evening, 27 September 2010, a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the translation of Scriptures into indigenous languages was signed by leaders of AuSIL, the Northern Regional Council of Congress (NRCC – an indigenous presbytery and regional committee of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander
Christian Congress) and the Uniting Church in Australia Northern Synod. The signing was witnessed by Synod and surrounded by indigenous translators and advisors representing teams from eight languages in Arnhem Land who have recently started working on translation.

The partnership will be carried out through Coordinating Support for Indigenous Scriptures (CSIS), a Uniting Church initiative to support people who are involved in indigenous Scripture and resource work in the ministry areas of the NRCC. For more information see and


The Book in the Bush

by David Strickland

Papunya. Mutitjulu. Titjikala. Irrwelty. Areyonga. Kiwirrkurra. The names roll off the lips after a while, but most Australians have never heard of them. Some of them you would be hard put to find on a map. The names evoke an Aboriginal world that almost seems to operate in parallel to the white Australian world, and can be almost invisible to it. Yet these worlds momentarily mesh together for a meeting of minds and fellowship at the pastors’ training courses, held by the Finke River Mission (FRM).

The names are all places where these courses are held. They are held three times per year, and when you consider that the area covered by these Lutheran communities straddles two states as well as the Northern Territory, you have some idea of the distance travelled to attend the courses, sometimes up to 1500 kilometres. These distances are often beyond the reach of the average sedan car, so those with four-wheel-drive vehicles (including the missionaries) are usually required to pick up people.

The courses are held at bush camps, within easy range of a local community. Usually an area is cleared for this purpose. Having the camp away from the community means that there are fewer distractions to the Bible studies. Holding courses in the bush near where the people live seems far preferable to bringing them to a town like Alice Springs, where there are too many unwelcome distractions.

The course itself may be a study of a book or a wider theme such as parables. A visiting speaker conducts the teaching in English, then the teaching is interpreted in various languages by the missionaries.

The available languages include Pintupi/Luritja, Pitjantjatjara, Western Arrarnta and Alyawarr. Where the translation work has already been done, the Scriptures are read in these languages. More translation is being produced including in Anmatyerr, a new project, and work is continuing in the Alyawarr project. This mode of teaching means that the course moves more slowly, but it also means that everybody should be able to understand what is said. FRM has always had a policy of working in the people’s own languages and translating the Scriptures. This involves a huge investment in time spent in learning the culture and language, but it yields results with pastors and churches established throughout Central Australia.

Imagine having a week’s Bible study in full view of Uluru! Or, in a creek bed fringed by ghost gums! We can often enjoy God’s creation when attending the course, uncluttered by classrooms or desks! Normally we need to find shade, so there is a lot of jockeying for position. We are vulnerable too to wind, rain or dust, so there can be interruptions. Whenever there is rain, people get nervous about driving home on the dirt roads, so it can be a hard job to keep the troops in the barracks!

FRM has an efficient ordinance system perfected after years of practice. A food trailer and a water trailer are brought. The food trailer has a generator and a freezer to keep the food supplies for a week. The local community usually pitches in by providing firewood. There is a cook who lights the fires and cooks vegetables and billies of tea. However the overwhelming preference is for meat, and there is plenty of it! The men cook their own meat on the fires provided.

Some men find the course a bit daunting. They may be reluctant to travel into unknown areas. Tradition and folklore may need to be overcome, or they may just get homesick being away from their homelands. Perhaps they experience ‘culture shock’ or even are convicted by the teaching. Others relish the opportunity to mix with other groups, and one man seems to be known from the West Australian coast right across to Queensland! When camping, they tend to camp and eat with their own group. At night camp fires light up the night sky, especially if it is cold. It is a great opportunity to sit around the fire just chatting with the men, and building up strong friendships. They appreciate it when the missionaries sleep alongside the others, ‘just like one of us.’

During the course of the teaching, issues may arise pertinent to the current life of the churches. These and other church matters may be discussed at a meeting, usually held during an afternoon session. The last course was studying the book of 1 Peter, which has a theme of perseverance under persecution. While there is no state persecution in Australia, the men agreed that they sometimes get ‘pressure’ or ‘persecution’ from their families or community to compromise their faith. Although Aboriginal people appear to be passively listening to the messages, without much comment, these meetings give indication that the teaching is ‘getting through’. The real response is probably best expressed in their love of sing-alongs, held at night and preferably with a full electric band. A Western Desert Gospel band was formed several years ago and has produced several cassettes. They have taken an entourage of a bus and several vehicles on bush tours, recently travelling north as far as Katherine.

You can learn more about the work in Australia by reading their newsletter,

Monday, October 25, 2010

PNG: Stories

Closed Door…Opened Window

by Chad Owens, Dawn Kruger

Arrested because a revival among the people upset the religious leaders.
Three days in an unlocked cell because he promised he would not try to escape.
Reading God’s Word, singing, praying and praising God.
A second revival – this time among the prisoners.

It reads like the biblical story of Paul and Silas but it’s not – it’s the story of Mumure, a gentle pastor living in a small village of Papua New Guinea.

Mumure Ttopoqogo began working with linguist Ernie Richert because he wanted to learn English. Soon he added Hebrew and Greek to his language repertoire as together the two men translated the New Testament into the Guhu Samane language. News of their work spread throughout the area. By the time they finished the translation, the Guhu Samane people were so anxious for God’s Word that the initial printing of 1200 New Testaments sold out almost immediately and a second printing of 1600 copies sold out in just two weeks. Even those who didn’t read purchased a copy of the Bible to save for their children or grandchildren. The people believed in the power of that Word.

And the Word didn’t disappoint them. Revival broke out. The people turned from witchcraft and previous forms of worship, burning their idols and other spiritual relics. They sang the Psalms back to God in their own language, and even learned to play the guitar to enhance their worship. They used scripture songs as tools for spreading the Word among those who couldn’t read. In fact every verse of the Guhu Samane New Testament and all the Psalms were set to music. They did all this to the glory of God and the consternation of several church leaders, who condemned such practices.

The Guhu Samane people began to embrace even deeper forms of personal worship, and the church leaders became more and more displeased with this new group of believers. When this new, united body of believers began to grow exponentially, the displeased leaders conspired with the police to arrest Mumure and six of his friends, hoping to put an end to what they considered a cult. But prison walls cannot restrain the power of God’s Word.

While in prison, Mumure read aloud from an English Bible, translating the words into Guhu Samane as he read. Fellow prisoners listened to God’s Word in their own language and responded from their heart. Almost immediately, twenty men in that jail gave their lives to Christ and joined Mumure and his friends in singing, praying and praising God.

After three days, a government official came and ordered Mumure and his friends to leave, saying, “You must not go back to your home. Instead, you must go around and preach in all the remote places where we cannot go.” Like the Apostle Paul, Mumure left that prison commissioned by God to preach the Good News to people everywhere; but unlike Paul, Mumure had the blessing of the local government official to do that work.

Mumure’s son Steven outside the Translator Training Centre classrooms

Soon thousands of people turned to the Christ of the Guhu Samane Bible. Today, 35 years later, this body of believers has sent more than 50 pastors to preach the Good News throughout Papua New Guinea.

The revival never died out: it continues to reach a new generation. The vernacular Psalms and songs are still being sung in churches today. Youth and literacy programs promote the on-going study of the Guhu Samane Scriptures. Mumure and his son Steven have shifted from training pastors to training translators, encouraging Papua New Guineans to assist in translating the Word into other languages of that nation. Their desire is to see more and more people changed by the power of God’s Word in their own language.

Written by Chad Owens & Dawn Kruger

Jesus and the spirits

by Phil Carr

As told by Phil and Chris Carr, linguist-translators working with the Bamu people in PNG.

“You mean … the spirits here know of Jesus!!??”

“Too right they do! And they’re afraid of him!”


“Yes, they all know him and are afraid of him.”

We sat in silence as Domai tried to take in the enormity of what we’d told her.

She sat there almost dazed, working out the implications and thinking back on her experiences in the past. She’d been a Christian for years, had taught Sunday School for most of that time, and had been a pillar of the area’s only church. For the first time, she began to connect her understanding of Christian teaching with the spiritual realities she had grown up with, of an all-pervasive fear of sorcery and evil spirits.

Why hadn’t she known this before?

Up to now, she had never heard the Scriptures in her own language. All that she and the others had to go on was what they could observe in church meetings, and the little bits of meaning they could squeeze out of the foreign language Bibles* that were occasionally available. So they faithfully copied the ‘church actions’ like singing a few songs and getting someone who could read to read out loud from these foreign Bibles. And she soon realised that being a Christian meant that you were not allowed to drink, smoke or gamble. Then you were a good person, because other people said you were, and that’s what being a Christian was all about really.

But the old beliefs and practices didn’t go away. They weren’t even challenged. Lots of people still went to the church meeting on Sunday, and called out to the spirits to help them catch fish on all the other days without thinking twice about it... Syncretism: Christian form without Christian content.

Now things are starting to change. God’s Word has now started to come into the Bamu language for the first time. Some people are drawing closer and closer to that lamp, and others are trying to hide from it. Plenty of surprises there! But the light has started to shine, because “The unfolding of your words gives light.” Psalm 119:130.

* English and Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin)

"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!”

A 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!

PNG: Quotes

“In the past the Bible was like a piece of pork wrapped in banana leaves.  I tried many ways to explain how good it was, but the people just could not understand.  Now, when I read the Book of Jonah in Malinguat, it was like opening the banana leaves.  I saw the village people open their eyes wide with big smiles on their faces. Wow!  They saw the delicious pork!  They wanted to learn more about reading and about the contents of this Book.”

Malinguat Pastor

“I thought translation was about turning God’s Word into our languages. However, our goal is not translation, but transformation – a tool for taking the Gospel to our people. If people don’t change – our translation is not working.”

Nafian Saremo, Papua New Guinean advisor for the Madi Language Group and translation trainer.

“I have a large family spread throughout the village. If I work for money I can feed them all. But if I translate the Word, it is the best thing I can give them.”

Ismael Samuel, Angaataha Old Testament Translator, and participant in 2010 training courses

“Imagine an old illiterate lady who goes to church and the pastor reads the Bible in English…

Imagine going to a house and they give you one banana, and they ask you to live on that banana for a week… This is what got me interested in translation, not just preaching.”

Ken Andi, Agarabi translator and Ukarumpa translation teaching staff

“We are not well-educated, and we don’t speak English well. But we believe in God, and faith alone will make this work happen. Where we don’t have the knowledge, God provides it.”

Wabele Fuga, Onabasulu, translator and participant in Ukarumpa training course

Thursday, October 21, 2010

PNG: 3 Critical Managerial roles need to be filled

"We (PNG Branch) are launched to do great things, and follow up great opportunities, but without the personnel, we can do nothing. The money/funding will come, but we need the people to use the money and implement the ideas.  We have a really critical shortage."   PNG Director of Language Programs and Services

I just received word from Papua New Guinea that there are 3 critical roles that support Bible translation  that need to be filled ASAP.

The first two roles are critical for the training that SIL is able to offer to national translators and these roles will be vacated in June 2011.

Training Centre Manager – responsible for managing a team of employees to maintain grounds and facilities (dormitories, classrooms, kitchen and dining room) at the Ukarumpa training centre; responsible for managing bookings of the facilities and managing the facilities budget.

Training Administrator – responsible for registering participants for courses; plus administering their funding, helping arrange travel and accommodation, purchasing and administering supplies and resources for courses.

LCORE Manager (Language, Collaboration, Opportunities, Resources, Encouragement) – responsible for LCORE facilities and for managing LCORE employees.  LCORE basically offers support to translators in technical areas and helps in managing their programs. As it says above, the LCORE manager needs very little knowledge of language work but "...we could REALLY do with a good manager / administrator for LCORE, if there is any chance of finding one!"  Academic Coordinator, PNG

Let's pray that God would fill these roles.  Would you be willing to serve?  If so,  send me an email for more information.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

PNG: Translation

What's Happening in Papua New Guinea?
By Phil King with input from the PNG Strategy Team

SIL has been involved in completing 203 New Testaments in Papua New Guinean languages in the past 50 years and we are currently involved in some 167 further Bible translation programs

We've made great progress but there is still much work to be done!  Requests, like this one from Josek, continually come in:

"Please now, we want to ask for a workman – can you help us or not?... I am praying.”

Our goal is a Bible  for every language in their heart language but the reason for this goal is so that lives can be transformed. Nafian Saremo, Papua New Guinean advisor for the Madi Language Group and translation trainer says it well:

“I thought translation was about turning God’s Word into our languages. However, our goal is not translation, but transformation – a tool for taking the Gospel to our people. If people don’t change – our translation is not working.”

There are still around 300 languages in PNG with no Scripture at all so the PNG Branch is trying to figure out how to reach them all with the resources that God is giving.  With traditional methods, relying on new expatriates allocating to each community,  these 300 programs would not be started until 2160!

What is God showing us to do?

In working through the issues, we feel there are areas that can be strengthened and new ideas are being considered too. These areas are:


In January of 2010, SIL and BTA (the national Bible translation organization in PNG) hosted the first ever PNG Scripture Use Conference. 69 participants came from 35 church and para-church organizations around the country. During the conference and in follow-up visits, we are seeing more and more Papua New Guinean Christians motivated to be a part of getting God’s Word to the remaining people groups.

‘The missionaries had a vision many years ago to carry God's Word to us.   But we (the church) have failed. It is our turn to catch the vision and carry God's Word to our own people.’

Pastor from Evangelical Brotherhood Church, March 20


“Can the expats who are coming here become trainers rather than doers – so that SIL is a mentoring and training institution rather than doers?”

Steven Thomas, PNG BTA Operations Director

Buka Training Center (since 2006)

Offer translation training to the remaining languages in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, as well as other workshops, such as this one about trauma healing.

Project VITAL (Vernacular Initiative in Translation and Literacy, since 2005)

Hands-on training in translation and literacy to twelve languages working together in the East Papua region.

NITI (New Ireland Translation Institute, since 2006)

On-the-job translation training for 14 language communities in New Ireland.

Ukarumpa Training Campus (since 1980s)

The Ukarumpa Training Center offers practical translation and literacy training focusing on the Highlands, Madang and Morobe regions, as well as higher level courses (Biblical studies, literacy, translation and leadership) at a national level.  When complete, there will be capacity to train hundreds more Papua New Guineans to be involved in Bible translation.


Reaching the last 300 cannot be achieved by our working harder or doing more of what we are now doing. So what innovative approaches are we using?

Working Together More

New expat teams are working in teams with clusters of languages, not just a single one, as in VITAL, NITI or the West Erap multi-language translation project (started in 2010).

New Technology and Communications

For example, members of the 11 language groups in the Aitape West Translation Project use solar powered netbooks to translate, communicate with each other, and communicate with consultants in the US via satellite connections.

Engaging the PNG Church

As we share our passion for the Bible in churches in the major cities, new personnel and resources are being discovered.
Revised goals

Starting many smaller scale projects in areas like the Sepik - with still over a hundred Bibleless languages - could help provide them with at least a portion of God’s Word sooner.

even this innovation is not enough to reach the remaining 300 languages.

Will you pray with us as we seek new ideas?

Investing in People...

 through improved, Integrated Human Resource Management.  We want to invest in our team of expatriates and Papua New Guineans, by targeted recruitment from inside and out of PNG; recruited towards a strategic plan.
Appropriately deploying people to match needs with personnel skill-sets 

Mentoring and professional development

           Re-tooling, Retraining, Re-deploying


As we look at the remaining 300 languages across the country, we are beginning to make plans with our partners to complete the languages in one area first – the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

We in PNG are entering a time of dedicated prayer, asking God to show us the way forward.

“I invite you to join me in praying boldly –like you’ve never prayed before - a Joshua marching around the walls of Jericho kind of prayer - asking God to reach the Bibleless peoples in Papua New Guinea so they can have access to His Word.

Ask Him to start a program in each one before 2025.

Tell Him you can’t do it.

Tell Him SIL can’t do it.

Tell Him it is up to Him to make a way.”

Mark Taber, SIL Pacific Area Director

With approximately 300 languages likely still needing translation in PNG, the need for ideas, people, finances and other resources is staggering.

The task before us is humanly impossible.

We need prayer.

Will YOU pray for the Bibleless people of PNG?