By Brian and Hannah Paris
Recently we went on an SIL survey to visit a language group in West New Britain, the Anem, that does not have their own translation of the Bible. Our goal was to see if the community still spoke their language and needed a translation. Beforehand we prayed that God would open the survey team up to understand the spiritual situation among the Anem, this is something that rarely happens on survey because the people tend to keep their traditional beliefs very close. However, one of the few miscommunications (that we knew about) occurred when we arrived in Karaiai village. The church leaders misunderstood one of the questions as “teach us who Jesus is” and began to do just that. We expected their beliefs to be heavily influenced by the Catholic doctrine since that is the only church in the area. What we didn’t expect was the deep-rooted syncretism between the Biblical story of Jesus they are taught in church and a traditional story about a man named Titikolo. We found out that to them, Titikolo and Jesus are the same person. Jesus is the English story and Titikolo is the Anem story. We prayed together as a team for wisdom in how to interact with them on this issue. We tried to combat through logic (there are very extreme differences in the way Jesus interacted with humanity and the way Titikolo interacted with humanity) but the answer was always, “Oh yes, but Jesus and Titikolo are the same”. No amount of Biblical knowledge or facts, no matter how expertly defended, will convince them that their beliefs are a deception craftily designed and orchestrated by the Devil. Only God can change their hearts.
Please pray God will use the academic report we will write, which is the concrete result of this survey, to bring a long-term missionary into the Anem language area. We ask, too, that you would be praying for that person and for God to be softening hearts and preparing the Anem people to hear the truth. We have no idea what His plans are for the people in the Anem area but we feel truly privileged that He opened doors along the way for us to share our faith. Even though we have left the Anem language area, He has not. We are trusting in the promise that He cares more about the Anem and Amara people than we ever could.
Brian and Hannah are language surveyors currently on internship with SIL.