When Pastor Joshua finished the New Testament translation in his language—North Tanna—in 2008, he began traveling around four of the islands in southern Vanuatu to promote Bible translation and encourage other local translators.
He was visiting the translation office in South Tanna one day, when he suddenly realized a ten-year-old girl, named Alice, was at the door. She looked at him and spoke quickly in her mother tongue. But since Pastor Joshua didn’t speak Nafe, he didn’t understand her.
“Can you say it again?” he asked.
Alice relayed her message again. Only this time she tried to speak slower.
“One more time,” Pastor Joshua urged.
“Can you speak Bislama?” the pastor asked, still unable to catch her meaning.
Alice shook her head. She didn’t know Bislama, the national language of Vanuatu, well enough to speak to this respected man.
“Can you tell me in Whitesands?” he asked, thinking perhaps she knew another neighboring language.
Alice shook her head. Clearly frustrated, tears were forming in her eyes.
When Pastor Joshua saw this, he said, “Ah, let me just come with you.”
The two of them walked out the door of the office and up the hill to Alice’s home. Her mother was seated on the dirt floor in her bamboo-thatch kitchen, holding her arm. In pain, she asked Pastor Joshua to pray for an unknown sickness that had begun to bother her, disturbing her sleep and her ability to work in the garden.
Pastor Joshua did pray for Alice’s mom, and later on she was able to get medicine from the hospital, which has helped.
But the experience struck Pastor Joshua, reminding him of how many people struggle to communicate on these linguistically diverse islands. How could they grasp God’s message of hope if it’s not in a language they can understand?
Fortunately, Alice and her mom won’t have to wait much longer to hear Scripture clearly. If all goes smoothly, the Nafe New Testament will be typeset next spring, and printed by the end of 2013. But these final stages are key times when roadblocks often slow down the translation process.
Please pray for the Nafe translation and for each of the other languages in Vanuatu still waiting for Scripture!
The original version of this story was posted on the Pacific Bible Facebook page on July 27, 2012.
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