It takes a long time to translate a Bible, and there are many communities where there is no access to Scripture, either because nothing has been translated or because there isn’t adequate literacy to read what’s there. It’s a big problem in Papua New Guinea, where there are still hundreds of language communities without the Scriptures.
In this account of an unexpected supplement to a literacy course in Papua New Guinea, we get a glimpse of the hunger for knowledge that the Scriptures bring:
Cross-legged on the veranda, Andrea leaned against the cinderblock as incense from the smouldering mosquito repellent coil drifted upward. Dark draped over the other seated women and toddlers until all she could see were flashes of teeth and eyes. Please, they asked again, how do we pray?
It was the start of the last week of a month-long literacy course held in Saidor village, Papua New Guinea, where twenty-one participants from eight languages were learning skills including curriculum development, storytelling, leadership, health, and Bible study methods. And now, at the shy request of Betty, Andrea, one of the literacy course staff, joined the women participants outside their room.
‘She’s here to answer our questions!’ Lillian announced, dropping next to her. Immediately, the five women eagerly unfolded scribbled lists and began firing questions. How does the Holy Spirit enter my life? Explain baptism. What did Jesus mean by ‘it is finished’? Why do bad things happen? If I try to follow God and fail, will God still punish me? Did the Bible stories really happen? How do I share about God with others? Can I pray in my own language?
Every night that last week, Andrea opened her Bible and prayed fervently for words to respond to their hunger. Without God’s word in their own languages, their questions had long remained unanswered.
Later, Betty touched Andrea’s arm and asked, ‘I know that courses like this are really expensive, so how could I come? Who paid my school fee?’ As Andrea explained about the churches and individuals in other countries who financially support Bible translation, Betty suddenly bent forward, grasping Andrea’s hands. ‘Please, please thank them for me!’ Laughter burst from her, and she couldn’t stop grinning. ‘This course has helped me so much!’
This account was told by Catherine Rivard and Tim Scott. If you’d like to see more about the Bible translation work of Wycliffe’s partners in Papua New Guinea, why not follow their YouTube channel, The PNG Experience.