by Martha Wade
“What does this word ub mean?” I asked the Sob speakers as we checked Luke 3. 5. They quickly explained that it was a “hole” like you find in roads (pothole). It fit perfectly into the context of preparing the road by filling in all of the potholes and everyone was satisfied, but it was wrong. I asked if ub could be used for a valley and they started to say yes and then agreed that that they had a perfectly good way of describing a valley. (Igoi village is located on a small mountaintop surrounded by deep valleys so I thought they might have a word or phrase that refers to a valley). After affirming that, I told them that John was talking about the fact that major changes were being made in preparation for the coming of Jesus – not just filling in potholes, but filling in whole valleys. I then told them that I had seen how God had already changed PNG culture drastically. To affirm that point I said, “If I had come before you had become Christians, what would you have done to me?” In unison a large group of people said, “We would have eaten you!”
God’s Word has drastically changed many cultures of PNG already. Pray for wisdom as we check and correct the translation into Sob and other languages. Pray that the Word will speak clearly to the hearts of the people and bring further changes in their cultures so that they become more Christ-like. Pray too that we translators and translation consultants may be Christ-like as we work here in PNG.
[ Editor’s Note: Though cannibalism is a serious crime in Papua New Guinea and is most likely not practiced in these times, it is nevertheless fertile ground for grim humour. My father fought the Japanese in the Milne Bay area. I can clearly remember him telling stories about his contacts with village people. One story told of their dietary preferences. “The Japanese taste much better. White people smell strange and are too salty.” Foreign soldiers on both sides were not so jokingly referred to as “long pigs.” We have all heard remarks similar to the one in Martha’s story, usually accompanied by much laughter. To this day, local women sometimes frighten their children into obedience by telling them that if they do not behave, they will let the white people eat them. ]