By Delaina Johnson
During the month of July 2013, I had the privilege of leading a weekly Bible study for our Papua New Guinean coworkers who were in town for the Teacher Training Course. This Wednesday night Bible study was initiated by Norm Weatherhead earlier this year as a great opportunity to disciple our national coworkers as they are in and out of town for literacy and translation work. However, Norm was out of country this summer, and there was no plan in place to hold the Bible study with the current group of men and women staying in our National Coworker House.
On the first day that these teachers were in town, I was over at the “Nat House” (as we affectionately call it) helping set up the room for the course. Anna, a teacher from the Akukem language group who had been in town earlier this year, mentioned the Bible study and asked if it was happening again this time. I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge and decided to volunteer to lead it.
It seemed like every Wednesday evening when the time came for the Bible study, I was fighting simply to stay awake after a long busy day. In those moments, there was definitely a part of me that just wanted to stay home and relax, but I knew that God had other plans. Each week I prayed for the energy and clear thinking to communicate well and that the Holy Spirit would speak through His word.
In the end, I was always blessed and encouraged by the time spent with anywhere between eight and twelve teachers from four different language groups, reading God’s Word together and discussing how it applies to our lives and to the Papua New Guinean culture.
Most of the Bible readings and almost all of our discussions were conducted in Tok Pisin, the trade language of Papua New Guinea, but sometimes I would ask the participants to read the verses in their own vernacular languages as well to help them grasp the meaning in a deeper way. The Aruamu and Lao languages both have a complete New Testament translation, but the Akukem and Mborena Kam only have small portions of the Bible published in their language.
One Wednesday evening, Anna, the Akukem teacher who first requested that we begin the Bible study, was holding a slim copy of the Akukem Bible and trying to look up the verses to read along with us. Over and over again I saw her frustration as she attempted to turn to a certain book of the Bible only to realize that her Bible did not yet contain that book. She opened her right hand with her palm down and rotated it side-to-side in the gesture that in PNG means, “It’s not here” or “I don’t have it.”
That simple gesture gripped my heart and remains a vivid image in my mind of the need for vernacular translations for these dear people who desire to hear God speaking their language. Please pray for the Akukem translation team as they work with Mike Herchenroeder in checking their translation of the gospel of John, as well as for the Mborena Kam translation team, who are entering the final stages of their New Testament translation and will begin typesetting next year.
Delaina is a Bible translator.