Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Jesus has called us to make disciples in every nation. Is God calling you to Vanuatu to help make those disciples?

Vanuatu is an island nation with a population of 250,000, spread out over 80 islands and home to over 100 distinct language groups.  Many of these do not have any Scripture in their mother tongue, the language that they use every day, the language of their heart. 

The JOY of Mentoring and Discipleship through Bible Translation

From SIL Vanuatu Director, Greg Carlson and his wife Bethann.

SIL Vanuatu works holistically in partnership with Vanuatu Bible Translation, the fellowship of national translators.  The consistent request of the local churches is to have full-time Bible translation advisors living in their communities, learning their languages and advising them in the Bible translation task.

What a joy to chew through each line of Scripture with them, meditating on its meaning, translating it; and watching them absorb it themselves!  One of the greatest joys in Bible translation is getting “off topic” at the translation desk, discussing the impact these Scriptures must have on our lives and watching people grow as the truths of Scripture are impressed on them.  Many translators go on to become pastors or elders in their church, and are known to be the best Bible teachers and preachers.  The translation checking process itself impacts God’s people and unbelievers in the community, as we read Scriptures and ask comprehension questions that offer further opportunity for discussion and growth.

While we do not take on roles as church leaders in any church, as translation advisors equipped with good understanding of the Bible as well as the language and culture, we are often called upon to have a role in training, teaching and occasional preaching in the local churches. 

Our involvement in the communities brings many opportunities for personal evangelism and one-on-one discipleship, as we help with practical and community development needs.

SIL Vanuatu follows this holistic “traditional model”.  We are encouraged by the fruit that it has produced.  Over the past 34 years, the VBT/SIL partnership has produced 7 New Testament translations.  We expect 2 more translations will be launched in 2016, and another 2 translations in 2017.    We are encouraged by the way that churches and language communities are  “owning” their Bibles, engaging with them, growing in evangelism and discipleship, and wanting more in the way of literacy, Bible study, and translation.  We are encouraged that the people we are working with are becoming true leaders. And we are very encouraged by growing momentum in the Bible translation movement.

Pastor Aman at N. Tanna Bible dedication

Pastor Aman Alang was a pastor in N. Tanna, where
he saw first had the effect of God’s Word in the heart language.  He has been asking for a translation advisor since 2008, and we thank God that an advisor team is on the way in 2016!

Mentoring and Discipleship through Scripture Engagement

With all these New Testaments rolling off the presses in recent years, SIL Vanuatu has really stepped up the Scripture Engagement thrust.  We have one new Scripture Engagement team on the ground and three more who will be arriving before the end of 2015!  After learning the local language, these teams will be equipped to help churches and individuals dig into available Scriptures.

Father Norman

Father Norman Candy, a ni- Vanuatu Bible translator has been working on I Corinthians. As he reads what Paul has to say about the Resurrection in I Corinthians 15, he writes, “You know that many of us rural ni-Vanuatu have very different beliefs about what happens to a person’s spirit at death.  When people hear what the Bible says, may it change their thoughts and hearts, as they put their trust in God and His Word.”


In recent years, we in Vanuatu, like many places in the world have found the power of scriptures in audio format. All of our published New Testaments are in audio on MegaVoice players, as well as in print. We’re also using the audio in the translation and testing process.


Literacy is a crucial part of Bible Translation and Scripture Engagement. Here are some thoughts from our ni-Vanuatu friends:

Pastor Joshua
·         Pastor Kiel, Assemblies of God pastor from Lenakel language: “It is written!  What my people need most is to learn to read God’s Word.”
·         Pastor Joshua, Presbyterian pastor from N. Tanna language:  “We need more literacy work!”

·         Pastor Fiama from Futuna:  “I want to start a Christ-centered school in my language.”
·         “Can you come run a kindergarten workshop?”
·         “Can you help us develop a primer?”


The Vanuatu Group works as a team, even though we are often in different language groups or on different islands. We usually assign one team to on language area. But we are also assigning Scripture Engagement teams to partner with current translation projects to achieve project goals and also to provide fellowship and encouragement. We are also looking at placing new translation teams near current projects in related languages for mutual help and encouragement in their respective projects.

Who are we looking for?
 -well-trained people with a clear sense of God’s calling.

-those with a love for God’s Word and a desire to share this with Ni-Vanuatu people.

-people who are flexible, spiritually hardy, motivated, resourceful and self-starters.

-ability to work together as a country-wide team to get the task done.

-people who would enjoy living amongst Ni-Vanuatu and have a desire learn their language and culture.

-translation teams as well as Scripture Use workers.

Would like to learn more? Contact Wendy at 

More Information and Stories from Vanuatu

Vanuatu Bible  Lots of good information about the ministry there.

Pacific Bible  on Facebook has many short posts about the work in Vanuatu.

North Tanna NT Dedication

Blog Post: Lewo Bible Dedication

Blog post: Translation Need: How much longer will they have to wait?

Blog post: South Tanna NT Dedication

Blog post:
"JESUS" DVD in the North Tanna

Blog post:
Vanuatu Women find meaning in the Bible

Blog post:
International Literacy Day

Blog post:
Critical thinking skills for National Translators

Blog post: Overcoming Obstacles: Audio Bibles

Until 1980, when it achieved independence, Vanuatu was called New Hebrides, and ruled jointly by Great Britain and France. Vanuatu means “the land stands” or “exists.” People born in Vanuatu are called “Ni-Vanuatu.”
The islands of Vanuatu are part of Melanesia, a large archipelago that includes Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The country’s population of around 250,000 is scattered over 82 islands totaling about 13,000 sq. km. of land. From top to bottom the islands stretch across 875 kilometers (about 550 miles) of Pacific waters.

Traditionally these communities were oriented to the land as gardeners rather than to the sea as fishermen. Their diet primarily consists of root crops such as yams and manioc, plus lush tropical fruits – bananas, pineapples and citrus fruits.
Almost all Ni-Vanuatu have had some contact with Christianity for well over 100 years through different missionary and church agencies. Early missionary work included attempts at Bible translation. About 38 language groups have some Scripture, but most were done in the late 1800s and are no longer understood.


A Ni-Vanuatu lady encourages Lewo speakers to 'go inside' God's Word.

"A Bible in a language you can't understand is like a locked door. Now that it’s been translated into your language the door is open for you to go inside."

And Serah Markton, the secretary of Vanuatu Bible Translation (VBT), continued by encouraging the speakers of the Lewo language on Epi island to really go inside God's Word, reading it well, asking many questions to better understand its meaning.

Serah has worked alongside SIL for over 20 years and during those years, has developed a passion for Bible translation and a growing love for God's Word, which she now communicates well to her ni-Vanuatu audience.

At the recent Literacy-Scripture use workshop on Epi, Serah also pointed out to the communities their responsibility to support their mother tongue translators: "Perhaps you don't have money to give him, but put a hand of bananas in his kitchen or a pile of fire wood at his door." She knows just what to say!

VBT’s role includes helping to make the people of Vanuatu more aware of what Bible translation is all about and also to spur on projects at the grass-roots level. Serah performed those roles well and provided a great foundation for the Literacy-type activities covered in the workshop.

Where There Wasn't One Before
by Ken and Mendy Nehrbass

SIL leaders hiked around Southwest Tanna, Vanuatu, (formerly New Hebrides) in 2002, looking for a suitable village where Mendy and I could begin advising a translation of the New Testament. They looked at a couple of other villages, in addition to Yanemilen. Chiefs of Yanepkasu, another large village in the Southwest Tanna language group met together and decided that they would not allow an SIL advisor to work in their village. They didn’t want a church, or a missionary or a white person (who would represent the West and the church to them) to live in their village.

But last week I went to Yanepkasu with a group of pastors and mission workers to witness the opening of the village’s first church.

In the early 20th Century people in Southwest Tanna were either attending or at least aware of the Presbyterian Church, but in the 1940's, the Jon Frum Cargo cult swept through the language group. Virtually all of the congregations in SW Tanna fell apart.

This cult taught that Christianity would cause sickness and disasters, and would impede the “cargo” from coming. Men in Yanemilen and Yanepkasu villages took an oath sealed in pig's blood that they would never send their children to church, school, or the hospitals, lest they become Christians.

That covenant lasted until 2000, when Elder Eliud, a Tannese believer from another language group, came to plant a church in Yanemilen. By 2002, several families had joined the church, opening the door for an SIL project there. Mendy and I moved in to Yanemilen in February, 2003 to begin Bible translation.

As the church in Yanemilen grew in Christ, they became concerned for the spiritual welfare of their relatives across the mountain in Yanepkasu. A handful of people in Yanepkasu had become Christians and began attending churches in nearby villages.

In 2004, the church in Yanemilen sent one of their elders to live in Yanepkasu and plant a church. Two years later, they had enough people attending services to construct their own building. Now Yanepkasu has its own church. (The other two villages that would not allow SIL workers -- Yematukwa and Yenfitana -- also have churches now!)

But there’s work to be done. Only a handful of people in Yanepkasu attend the new church and even those have not really had a chance to become clear about what the Good News of Jesus is.

And how could they? They have heard very little of the Scripture in their own language—but help is on the way! They now have 90% of the New Testament completed and only have I Corinthians and Romans left!

Praise God for the new church in Yanepkasu and pray they will grow in their faith and knowledge of God, and that they will be full of the joy that come

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