Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Micronesia, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Polynesia

I got interested and excited when I read this strategy from the Pacific Islands group!  Yes, the need is great and the workers are few so how to reach all the languages of these Pacific Islands?  They hope to engage local Christians and empower them by training and consultant help so that they can be involved in Bible translation. Read on to learn more about it!  Perhaps you’d like to be involved?

Here's a link to their website.

                SIL Pacific Group Isles of the Sea Strategy

The execution of this strategy assumes that God, the Creator of the universe, wants to communicate with all people groups in Micronesia, Polynesia, Fiji and New Caledonia, and that He wants to do this in a language they can understand well enough to grasp the outrageous concept that He Himself has died to pay for their sins.

Ideally, all language groups should have all of the Scriptures available to them in their heart language,
along with hymn books, concordances, and other helps to foster the reading of the Scriptures, regardless of the size of the language group. 

We believe that Translation is Revision, in other words, the task in any given language group will continue in coming generations.

We, as members of the Pacific Group, cannot even get close to achieving the ideal, even if we could attract many new recruits to help us in this task.  We acknowledge that we are few in number and that the task is huge, far beyond what we can hope to achieve.

If it is true that God wants to communicate clearly with the people of all language groups, then there must be a solution to this problem.

These language groups have long been evanglized and churches exist in all of the communities. We believe that the responsibility for Bible translation lies with the local communities themselves. In all of these communities there are some people who can understand the Scriptures well in a language or languages not their own.

How should these communities be involved in Bible translation work?

This responsibility includes:
- Responsibility to initiate a translation project

- Responsibility to determine the scope of the project
  (one Gospel, the New Testament, the entire Bible, etc.)

- Responsibility for the running of the project
  (i.e. funding, appointment of translators, etc)

- Responsibility for the style and the quality of the translation

How are we involved with these communities in Bible translation?

These communities lack various skills that are needed to accomplish a good quality translation of the Bible.

These skills exist in the current and future members of the Pacific Group.

It is our responsibility to share our resources and skills with the language groups of the Pacific.

Our responsibilities include:

Responsibility to make church and community leaders aware that they can have the Scriptures in their own language

Responsibility to encourage and challenge them to initiate a translation project and to take the responsibility for that project

Responsibility to serve those language groups that begin Bible translation by helping supply the skills that they are lacking

Responsibility to help them achieve a translation of good quality

Responsibility to train the members of the translation teams to the highest possible level in the skills required to achieve a good quality translation

Responsibility to continue supplying skills and training local translation teams, as necessary

Isles of the Sea a comprehensive project
The Isles of the Sea project is a truly multi-dimensional comprehensive project:

1. Comprehensive in the number of languages involved

We endeavour to assist ALL the languages of New Caledonia, Fiji, Polynesia and Micronesia that have shown a clear commitment to do Bible translation in their language.

2. Comprehensive in the scope of each translation project

We endeavour to assist each language group that has shown clear commitment to do Bible translation ,
to achieve WHATEVER translation goal they would like to achieve.

3. The Isles of the Sea project is comprehensive in the people involved in these projects

We endeavour to motivate, recruit, train and mentor WHOEVER the Lord calls to this task so that language groups that have shown commitment to a translation project can do their work well.

Current need: translation advisor team in Micronesia

Vanuatu: International Literacy Day: Dictionaries and literacy materials in the Solomon Islands

September 2010

In recognition of UNESCO-designated International Literacy Day, 8 September, SIL participated in celebrations in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

SIL Vanuatu and the University of the South Pacific (USP) held a dictionary-making workshop on 9 September at the USP Port Vila campus. Led by SIL Director Ross Webb, 17 participants learned to use the WeSay computer program.

WeSay helps people who do not have linguistic training to build a dictionary in their own language. SIL field advisors helped speakers of 12 different Vanuatu languages start work on dictionaries by entering a selection of words from their respective languages. Participants took home the WeSay program to load onto their own computers. They will then be ready to proceed with compiling full dictionaries.

The ceremony and workshop in recognition of International Literacy Day was organized by a small literacy stakeholders committee from USP and SIL. USP Campus Director Mr. Peter McFarlane and USP librarian Ms. Charlotte Pitts were presented with a six-language dictionary. The dictionary is a compilation of nearly 2,000 words that SIL advisor Dr. Ken Nehrbass gathered over the many years he has lived on Tanna Island. The languages in the dictionary are the six main languages spoken on Tanna. Dr. Nehrbass commented that a vernacular dictionary contains entries that reflect the "unique cultural knowledge of that community of speakers." Mr. McFarlane said that the dictionary would complement the language collection in the USP library and gladly received the dictionary.

SIL International designed WeSay in partnership with Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The software is available under the SIL Open Source License that encourages participation in the development of applications. SIL has developed more than 60 pieces of software to support the work of field workers. Like many other SIL software products, WeSay is available to the public for free download.

Literature in languages of the Solomons

The Solomon Islands celebrated International Literacy Day, 8 September, in the capital, Honiara, where the theme of the day was “The Power of Women’s Literacy.” Celebrations included testimonies highlighting the impact of literacy in the lives of Solomon Islands women and the unveiling of literacy materials in Solomon Islands Pijin and four local languages. Some of the testimonies were presented by students attending women’s literacy classes taught by an SIL advisor.

The Literacy Association of Solomon Islands (LASI) produced six books in this installment, its second. Other contributing agencies were the Literacy Network Solomon Islands, Mothers Union and the Solomon Islands Translation and Advisory Group (SITAG, an operating name for SIL). Two of the books are in Solomon Islands Pijin and the other four are in local languages.

Of the two books in Pijin, one is about women’s reproductive health and the other is a guide to learning to read the Pijin language.

Two books are for learning to read in two different languages of Guadalcanal Province.

The other two books are for learning to read in languages of Malaita and Makira Provinces.

LASI National Coordinator Priscilla Maeniata said the books are the next level to LASI's first literacy installment that was produced in 2009. She said the literacy books will be used in schools around the country. The books for learning the Solomon Islands Pijin language are available from the LASI office.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education Mylyn Kuve delivered the official speech of the day, speaking about the importance of women’s literacy. She also introduced the new books, thanking LASI for their effort to produce them. She said the country needs these kinds of books to support women who cannot read and write.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

SIL-PNG: For the Next Three Years and Onwards

SIL’s Vision Statement is ‘Papua New Guinea: Empowered through the Written Word.’ As an organization, SIL volunteers provide not only linguistic research and language development through Bible translation, but SIL translation and literacy teams endeavour to engage in a holistic ministry - addressing health and literacy, nutrition and community development needs in the rural sector of PNG. A majority of the population is located outside of the urban setting and cannot access much of the printed material that is available in PNG concerning these issues. One cause is lack of physical access due to cost or availability. Another major cause is that the rural population speaks a local language and not English or Tok Pisin. SIL desires to provide local access to this vital information and to provide it in the languages of the people.

HIV/AIDS AWARENESS: Of recent note is the assistance SIL has been to the AIDS Council in providing ongoing translation of HIV/AIDS Awareness materials, both written and video, into the local languages of PNG. SIL personnel will continue to conduct HIV/AIDS Awareness seminars in local communities, churches and schools. SIL values the need to raise awareness of this growing concern, such that SIL medical personnel are asked to lead an HIV/AIDS Awareness session even in non-health related courses, such as Translator’s Training Course, or Strengthening Tok Ples Education in PNG. Although the main focus is on the rural communities, SIL language teams do also address the needs of the displaced language communities in the urban setting. [Reference: HIV/AIDS Awareness Impact by SIL to Date]

OTHER SOCIAL CONCERNS: A major threat to family and community life and stability is the growing concern over the sale and use of marijuana. SIL translators have produced helpful booklets clearly outlining the problems caused to PNG by the use of marijuana and will continue to produce such helpful booklets and books to inform the people of PNG of these threats to themselves and their communities.

SIL translation and literacy teams can invest as much as 20+ years living in a remote language community, learning the language and culture, identifying gifted and interested PNG co-workers to train in translation and literacy work as well as Scripture Use activities. Each year these volunteers have provided over 600,000 hours of training to local citizens, equipping them to read and write, to gain skills in translation, to become teachers in the local vernacular prep schools, to prepare reading and teaching materials, Scripture Use materials for use in the home and in the local church – training that not only provides skills, but improves the quality of life of the local citizens. SIL commits to continue this language development.


In addition to work in individual or cluster language programmes, SIL continues to actively seek to equip PNG citizens with the skills and experience to move ahead in translation and literacy in their own or neighbouring language communities.


In the 1980’s, Karl and Joice Franklin, SIL translators in PNG, worked closely with a dedicated group of PNG men and women who wanted to be involved in Bible translation in PNG. Through mentoring and encouragement, the PNG Bible Translation Association was formed. Today it has its headquarters in Pt. Moresby, with regional offices in Alotau, Madang and Wewak. SIL’s role has changed from one of teacher and mentor, to that of partner with these dedicated men and women. As a partner, SIL continues to provide BTA members with training in translation and Biblical studies, as well as literacy principles and teacher training.


John and Bonnie Nystrom, SIL translators among the Arop language community in Sandaun Province, were engaged in Bible translation with several local language speakers appointed by the community. In 1997, a devastating tsunami wiped out half of the Arop language community. Several of the translation committee were killed, along with their families. These local translators continue to build translation skills and to move ahead in translation of Scripture with the mentoring and guidance of the Nystroms and several other SIL linguists. [Reference: Aitape West story]


 SIL Translators, Ed and Debi Condra, worked among the Patpatar language community on New Ireland. They and their PNG translation committee completed the New Testament in 1999. Ed had a vision for seeing more language communities accessing the Scriptures in their own language, and he had a vision for training local men and women to do the translation themselves. He developed and raised funds for the construction of the New Ireland Translation Institute. Several times each year, he and other SIL translators travel to New Ireland to lead continuing training sessions, equipping PNG men and women from over 14 languages to do translation work in their own languages.


SIL Translators, Martin and Beate Knauber, worked among the Dawawa language community in Milne Bay Province. They and their local translation team completed the New Testament in 2003. But the Knaubers along with Gino and Kopland, their co-translators, saw that there are still many languages in the Milne Bay Province without any Scripture in their language. So, they developed and raised funds for the Vernacular in Translation and Literacy training approach. Today other SIL consultants have joined the VITAL staff to carry on this training. Three times each year, locally appointed language speakers travel to the training centre near Alotau and work on translation of Scripture, led by SIL consultants and mentors as well as experienced PNG mentors such as Gino and Kopland. Each month-long session is an in-depth hands-on experience of guided translation. After each session, the participants return to their language communities to check the portions they have translated – gathering community input and approval. SIL is committed to continuing this hands-on translation through the VITAL course.


Since its inception in the early 1990’s, SIL literacy specialists and consultants have staffed the STEP course, providing in-depth training in vernacular material production, curriculum development, teacher training, finance management and literacy programme supervision to PNG men and women appointed by their local communities to develop, teach in and supervise local literacy programmes for children and adults. The course consists of (5) 4-week modules over a 2 year period. After each module, participants take what they have learned back to their local community to put it into practice and evaluate how much they have learned and what they need to improve on. The STEP graduates return to their local communities to train other teachers, developing and maintaining a local literacy programme. Children who have completed the local vernacular education have gone on to be successful in the government school programme. In 2011 there will not be an intake of new participants. Rather SIL will hold several in-services for STEP graduates to update their skills and encourage them in their teaching. The STEP staff will continue to evaluate the needs of the local communities and structure their curriculum and course offerings to meet the felt needs.


SIL has provided training for PNG citizens in translation and Biblical studies at its Ukarumpa training centre since the late 1980’s. But the distance and logistics of travel to the Highlands is often a physical and financial hardship for the participants. Courses have been held occasionally in other regions of PNG, but the Buka Training Centre has become a hub of continuous training for PNG translators and literacy personnel. These participants are mentored by SIL and BTA consultants so that they can do independent translation and literacy work in their own language communities.


Department of Education:

During the history of SIL’s partnership with the Department of Education, SIL consultants have provided mentoring and assistance in vernacular curriculum development for the PNG school system, specifically within the Elementary Education system, but also with regards to bridging into English from the Elementary system into the Primary Education system.

Alphabet Development:

SIL translation and literacy personnel have worked in Bible translation and literacy in over 350 language communities since 1956. Such language work necessitates the development of a workable alphabet. This alphabet then enables local speakers to write their own stories and school materials. In response to a government request in 1999, SIL consultants assisted an additional 100+ local communities in the development of a trial alphabet, using a method developed by SIL consultants that enables local language speakers to design their own writing systems with the guidance of a trained orthography technician. Additional alphabet development assistance has been provided since that initial request in 1999. Orthotech training has been made available to not only SIL language personnel, but also PNG citizens so that they can assist neighbouring language communities in the development of an alphabet where one does not yet exist. The Curriculum Development and Assessment Division, DOE, has asked SIL to help them develop a training track for their own orthography consultants so that these PNG consultants can assist local communities with this development, where there is yet to be an alphabet. The first workshop in that training track is currently scheduled to take place in September 2010.

Tertiary Level Involvement:

SIL is in dialog with the University of Papua New Guinea, University of Goroka and Divine Word University to determine in what way SIL can work alongside these institutions to join our SIL consultants and SIL’s years of experience in vernacular education, vernacular materials production and teacher training with their staff and course curriculum to benefit teacher education in PNG. We look forward to providing what resources we can in these crucial areas.

To support the work SIL is engaged in country-wide, the organization has developed a base of operations in the Highlands of PNG where other SIL volunteers and hundreds of PNG employees provide the services needed to maintain over 180 language projects:

• Ukarumpa International School for the volunteers’ children as well as the children of our PNG employees who desire to attend;

• SIL Aviation Department that enables SIL translation and literacy teams to access the remote regions of PNG where no commercial transport is available. Transport services are also made available to SIL PNG citizen co-workers living in those remote regions of the country, as well as to commercial concerns that require transport into the interior of the country.

Since SIL’s arrival in PNG in 1956, the focus of the administration has been to engage citizen co-workers and to equip them to further the task of Bible translation. As such, SIL has been engaged in national training since their first days in PNG. As the organization grew and the numbers of volunteers increased, the need for additional support services grew. Instead of strictly bringing in expatriate volunteers to meet these infrastructure needs, SIL engaged in intentional national training to equip interested and gifted citizens with the necessary skills to provide the infrastructure needed, but also to equip citizens with skills that could be used outside of the SIL domain, in the economic sector.

Infrastructure that has evolved over the years includes:

• Printshop to provide printed vernacular Scripture portions, church teaching materials, literacy materials, health and community development booklets. The Printshop is now run totally be PNG citizens. An apprenticeship programme, currently administered by John Kenea, the Printshop Manager, has produced gifted and qualified printers and press operators

• Post Office to provide local postal services. The Post Office is now run totally by PNG citizens.

• Auto Repair and Maintenance Department – A small staff of well-qualified expatriate mechanic/trainers oversee a staff of 10 PNG citizen employees who have completed the nationally recognized apprenticeship program, using their skills to support Bible translation through maintaining vehicles and repairing engines. Many employees have since gone on to enter the PNG workforce.

• Construction Department – A small staff of well-qualified expatriate carpenter/trainers oversee a staff of 13 PNG citizen employees. Over the years, a well-recognized apprenticeship programme has provided nationally recognized local training for gifted and interested citizen applicants – training in carpentry, joinery and construction skills. These employees along with the expatriate trainers, build housing in rural villages for our translation and literacy teams, as well as make furniture and fittings for houses and offices at the main support base in Ukarumpa and SIL’s 8 Regional Centres. As with our other departments, over the years, employees have gone on to use their skills in the PNG workforce, often establishing their own companies. SIL continually provides training to available applicants to support the work of SIL, but also to equip citizens with needed experience and training to enhance their skills and enable them to enter the national workforce. [Reference: 2008 Annual Report – Apprentice of the Year Award]

• Industrial Department – Two expatriate men currently oversee a staff of citizen employees in maintaining the physical property at SIL’s main support base at Ukarumpa. Over the years, the employees have gained skills in machine repair, appliance repair, heavy equipment operating, etc. As with other employees, some from this department move on to seek outside employment.

• SIL Store – A small store selling grocery and household items is operated at the Ukarumpa support base to provide a resource for supplies for the SIL staff and PNG employees resident at Ukarumpa, as well as to local citizens. Two expatriate staff supervise the operation of the store and the 25 PNG citizen employees, providing on-the-job training and subsidizing external training as needed.

• Computer and Technical Services Department – With the advent of advanced technology, a need was created to have a strong support department for the maintenance of computers, radios and other electronic equipment that are used in the work of Bible translation and language development. Even in this highly technical area of work, SIL volunteers seek out interested and gifted PNG citizens and provide them with additional on-the-job training as well as further schooling in Information Technology¸ specifically radio repair, computer hardware repair and computer user assistance.

• Finance Department – Although SIL has an in-depth accounting system that is part of the SIL International structure, we employee PNG citizens to assist with the bookkeeping and accounting needs of the local organization. To date we have 5 citizen staff. Over the years other citizens have gone on to seek outside employment using the on-the-job training SIL has provided as well as the tertiary education that SIL has subsidized.

• Regional Centres – To meet the needs of SIL translation and literacy teams throughout PNG, 8 regional centres have been established, that serve as a resource and as a physical location for regional translation or literacy workshops. Each centre has one expatriate manager couple and then a staff of citizen employees to support the resource centre and the training courses.

Establishing the physical infrastructure of SIL has involved the creation of hundreds of jobs for local citizens, as well as citizens who have been recruited from other areas of Papua New Guinea. The training that has taken place and continues to take place builds strong, well-equipped citizens who often enter the PNG workforce in a variety of roles.

In the PNG of the 21st century there are high demands for skilled, qualified tradesmen to support the infrastructure of the country. The LNG project alone has demonstrated to the leaders of this country the need for more and better-resourced vocational training institutions. SIL has consistently provided qualified technical training, through the recognized national government apprenticeship board as well as through ongoing on the job training for well over four decades. Tradesmen who have received their training through SIL have gone on to join the economic sector of PNG and provide solid, quality expertise in needed technical arenas.

A brief list of the types of jobs SIL has provided either apprentice or on-the-job training for would include:

• Welder
• Large equipment operator
• Large and small appliance repair
• Diesel motor mechanic
• Motor mechanic and fitter
• Electrical mechanic and fitter
• Electronics technician
• Computer repair technician
• Radio repairman
• Avionics specialist
• Aircraft engine mechanic
• Aircraft maintenance engineer
• Pilot
• Locksmith
• Printer
• Press operator
• Carpenter
• Joiner

In Summary:


• The Church throughout PNG is being strengthened by vernacular Scriptures and strongly impacting their communities

• Bible Translation and Language Development work is thriving and sustainability is increasing throughout the country due to more Papua New Guineans being trained, resourced and equipped

• SIL-PNG and BTA working in partnership with key stakeholders worldwide advancing Bible translation, Language Development and Scripture Use

• PNG and the wider world are benefiting from increased understanding of the languages and cultures of PNG

• Well-trained, qualified tradesmen are available for employment in the economic sector should they seek outside employment

• Increased partnership with government and tertiary institutions of PNG is taking place¸ providing experience and resources in language development and literacy training to the training institutions of PNG

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Literacy: Strengthing Tokples Education in Papua New Guinea - STEP

What is STEP?

- STEP is a training program for Papua New Guineans that teaches them how to set up and manage community-based literacy programs for children and adults.

- STEP consists of five one-month instructional modules which are completed in less than two years.

- Village assignments provide practical opportunities to apply concepts and skills learned in the formal classroom setting.

For more information: http://www.sil.org/literacy/snapshots/snap_STEP.htm

Mark and Sue Ambrose teach at the STEP course in PNG and recently shared some stories from STEP course graduates. 

Tesli is a committed young lady eager to see
the youth in her area become rooted in God’s
Word. She holds religious instruction classes in
the local school, as well as coordinates the
Sunday School classes for her area. The Lord
has blessed her with musical talent which she
puts to good use in her youth work. We were
very saddened to hear that her fellow STEP
graduate recently died from an apparent stroke.

Jeffrey & Hauwo from the Onabasulu language in Southern Highlands Province graduated from STEP in 2001. They have been teaching children in their own language since then, as well as rained many new teachers (above), developed a curriculum and produced many materials for the schools. The children who learned to read and write in their ‘mother tongue’ have progressed more quickly in higher grades. The Scriptures are being translated into Onabasulu, and Jeffrey and Hauwo’s efforts will mean more readers
for God’s Word.
Ezekiel from Menyamya says STEP was a life changing experience for him. He has held fluency classes, helping adults to read more easily and with more
understanding (R). Ezekiel’s uncle donated this new coffee garden to help fund literacy in the area. Here they are dedicating it to the Lord’s work (L).

Carson Evari (2nd from L) finished in
2003. He is now mentoring 3 men from
neighbouring dialects, as well as
continuing work in his own area.
Throughout the Oro Province he has
helped in several language groups,
running teacher training courses and
literacy workshops, and part of an
AIDS awareness team for his province.

Torom's Testimony
by Yohana Hynum

From beneath a furrowed and troubled brow, Torom peered at me with sullen eyes. Strange young man. Why had Samuel chosen him to join us for training at the Wycliffe center? Had I known his background, I would have protested. Wife beater; heavy drinker; temper... But I didn’t know, so Torom stayed.

The first six week long module of the STEP course for training literacy supervisors proved difficult for Torom. In addition to his personal problems, Torom labored under a curse put on him by young people from his village who were jealous of his education. He nearly gave up and returned home. But Samuel persisted in counseling him and before the year was over, God’s work in his life became more and more obvious. Two years later, at the end of the course, Torom penned a powerful testimony.

”I have a vision to help my people back home to read God’s word in our own language. I’ll encourage and train teachers to teach adult and child literacy classes because Jesus came down to earth and healed the blind and the deaf (John 9:1-6). In the same way, God has called me to go out and open the eyes of the people who cannot read His words. I’ve got a job that God has assigned me to do and that is to go out and open the eyes of the people both physically and spiritually so that they may know Him and receive Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.”
True to his word, Torom started a school in his village to teach the children to read Numanggang. It wasn’t easy. He struggled with the load of teaching for little or no pay while still providing for a growing family. At times he would quit teaching and we wondered if he was growing in his relationship with the Lord.

Then recently two encounters with Torom assured us of God’s work in his life. First, because of Torom’s fluency in reading Numanggang, we asked him to dub the voice of Luke for the Jesus Film. Not only did he amaze everyone with superb ability to read in a dialect other than his own, but his passion and commitment to the task revealed his heart.

Then in September, at a teachers’ training course in our home, Torom led the other teachers as they read the entire book of Colossians in Numanggang. After finishing, he proceeded to exhort them powerfully from the Word! It was an awesome thing to hear!

Torom dubbing the JESUS film
A few months later, the Jesus Film was carried to Torom’s distant village, and Torom’s recorded voice rang loudly and clearly across the mountains. After seeing the film, a group of youth from a nearby village approached Torom. “We observed you before and you were a drunken, angry man who hit his wife,” they said. “But now you have really changed. You don’t hit your wife and you are not cross. On the contrary, you are a man of peace. We have watched you and we want to leave our old habits of sin and follow Christ like you do. Now we understand that Jesus really did die for our sins. We’ve been following the old ways, but now we have to repent!” Filled with eager questions, they met together with David and Torom for several hours.

Torom’s words of joy to me the following day were the fulfillment of his written testimony five years ago. “They used to be spiritually blind, but when they saw the film, they understood the story of Jesus for the first time and could now understand the Scripture. They were deeply touched by the film because Jesus spoke in their own language. The children in Mumbang, Sadau and Bisit told their parents that they wanted to buy the New Testament in Numanggang. They bought their own copies and are really happy, going around smiling, hugging the Scriptures to their chests.”

These are the same children Torom has been teaching to read in Numanggang! If the angels rejoice over one changed life, what a celebration there must be!

A co-worker recently reported, “Torom has been working with the New Apostolic Church [a group that originally rejected the New Testament] and is promoting Scripture use. He has been helping them to understand...and the people in that church are happy about it. The relationship with that church has improved and the churches are coming together!”
Let’s give the Lord a thunderous round of applause!

All photos by the author, Yohana Hynum.

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!

Solomon Islands Bible Translation Stamp Launches Today!

“Celebrating Bible Translation in the Solomon Islands”

To view a news clip of the day, click here.

Excerpts from a speech given by the Governor General, Sir Frank 0 Kabui:

"Bible translation in Solomon Islands has been going on for many years. It is said that it began about forty years ago. There are now Bibles written in twenty-two local languages, including my own the Toambaita language. The Pigin English translation of the Bibles is the most recent one. launched in Solomon Islands. We have heard the brief remarks by Dr. Zobule about the translation work being done by the Bible Society in Solomon Islands. It is a great work. We must all give it our support.

Katie Zartman of the Colorado State University has said that until people can read the Bible in their own language, God is a foreign concept. Similarly. Pio Osifera. a Wala speaker in Solomon Islands has said that reading the Bible in English is like going into a house built on stilts. Whereas, reading it in Wala is like going into a house built on the ground. In other words, it is easy to read and understand the Bible in one's own language than reading and understanding it in English.....In my view, the Bible translation work in Solomon Islands should continue as it is. It is a worthwhile cause for Christians all over the world. It is the only way the Bible can be understood and appreciated by millions throughout the world. It is not easy though. It costs money, time. commitment and continuous focus. Above all, training is a must. The undertaking itself is technical because knowledge, skill and accuracy are required....What remains for me to say now is to say. "Long Live Bible Translation in Solomon Islands". Thank you.

The story behind the commemorative stamp block

Following the declaration of 2008 as the Year of the Bible and recognizing the Bible translation efforts of more than thirty years, the Solomon Islands Philatelic Bureau proudly issues this stamp “Celebrating Bible Translation.” In the words of former Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua, “There is no greater place to build the character of our people than from Biblical foundations and values.”

These beautiful watercolour illustrations tell the story of the arduous task of translating the Word of God (upper right) and after many years of hard work, the arrival of the printed Bibles.

Symbolically representing the arrival of the Gospel to the islands (upper left), the Bible is carried into the church on a ceremonial canoe. Following a thanksgiving service, the people rush to purchase the treasured Bibles (lower left). As the people read the Word of God in their heart language, it brings understanding and joy and refreshment (lower right).

The open Bible in the center of the stamp block features two Bible verses, Hebrews 4:12 (The Word of God is alive) and John 17:17 (Your Word is true), taken from the Solomon Islands Pijin Bible which was launched in 2008.

A Pijin Bible on a ceremonial canoe was presented to then Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua on the 30th Anniversary of Independence. It is now part of a Solomon Islands Bible Display and is housed permanently at the National Parliament in Honiara.

From Varisi in Choiseul Province to Natqgu in Temotu Province, Solomon Islanders rejoice in having God’s Word in their heart language. The names on the perimeter of these stamps represent the languages which now have a New Testament or Bible. With more than 65 languages spoken in the Solomon Islands, church and government leaders are committed to seeing translations completed in each one.
Jan Gossner, Solomon Islands director of our Bible translation work with the head of state, His Excellency the Governor General Sir Frank O Kabui. The Governor General had to approve the stamp design.

These are the executive members of the Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Program with  Dr. Alphaeus Zobule of the United Bible Societies (second from left) and The Governor General Sir Frank O Kabui (third from left).

Would you like to be involved in Bible translation in the Solomon Islands? They do need linguist/translation workers, literacy workers, Scripture use workers, managers and trainers. Opportunities exist for linguist/translators to work in traditional programs with one language, in adaptation programs and in cluster programs. Contact Wendy @ pacificbible@hotmail.com for more information.