Posts Tagged ‘Papua New Guinea’


“Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth.” – Psalm 57:5 (NLT)

This verse wasn’t just the theme for this year’s Scripture Celebration –– it was also the prayer and longing of the hearts of everyone in attendance.

On September 30, a Scripture Celebration took place not only at Wycliffe USA Headquarters, but all around the world, thanks to live-stream! (If you missed the celebration, you can watch it here.). It was a morning filled with rejoicing through worship, video testimonials, photos and stories as we celebrated with sixteen different language communities around the world who have recently received Scripture. On a vibrant display at the front of the stage were copies of Scriptures from each language community — some now have access to the Psalms or the Book of Luke, while others have complete Old or New Testaments. And some now have the entire Bible in their own language!

Testimonies from a few of the language communities represented were shared throughout the morning as well. There were stories from the Culina in Peru –– a group who waited 60 years from the time translation began until the time the New Testament was delivered into their hands in July of 2015. One Wycliffe couple, Dick and Nadine Clark, have been praying for this particular translation project for 40 years!

“I hope I have the opportunity to pray for something for that long,” Hannah Weiand expressed as she talked about the Culina from the stage. “Be it just one translation project or be it this work in general, I want prayer to be part of my legacy. … We need to continue praying, because the work is not done. And at the same time we’re praying, we can rejoice because of all of the translations we have today.”

There were also stories from the Kandawo in Papua New Guinea, a relatively small language community who number around 5,000. In a video, the Kandawo expressed their joy at receiving the Scriptures in their own language through a skit. This skit depicted what it feels like to receive God’s Word in a language that is not your own and doesn’t speak to your heart. But then, the Kandawo exemplified, through the acting of the skit, what happened when they received the Bible in the language that spoke to their heart: joy, hope, thanksgiving and defeat over their spiritual enemy. It was a beautiful display of what God’s Word truly means to those who receive it in their language for the first time.

Amid worship songs, testimonials and beautiful photographs, the Scripture Celebration reminded everyone in attendance of the reason the lives and hearts of so many have been changed –– prayer. The event was rooted in prayer for language communities around the world –– both those who have already received the gospel in their own language, and especially those who haven’t.

Praise God for events like the Scripture Celebration that remind us to pause and take time to be thankful for how he continues to work in the lives of people around the world. May his glory shine over all the earth!

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We are thrilled and honored that Wycliffe USA’s film, “Arop: Sacrifice, Tragedy, Transformation” placed third at the International Christian Film Festival last weekend! The documentary chronicles how God used a devastating tsunami to change the face of Bible translation in Papua New Guinea.

On July 17, 1998, three massive tidal waves struck the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, killing more than 2,000 people and destroying Arop and other coastal villages in a matter of seconds.

“Arop” is based on the book “Sleeping Coconuts,” the true account of Wycliffe translators John and Bonnie Nystrom, who had lived among the Arop people for 10 years before the tsunami hit. In the aftermath, the Nystroms and the Arop translation team members saw an opportunity to transform their approach to Bible translation. The new method involved local translators from 11 language groups working together on simultaneous projects.

“We don’t have enough translators like us to go around,” Bonnie explains in the film. “God is raising up local people to do translations in multiple languages so the expertise that we can bring can be multiplied.”

The full 30-minute film is available at www.wycliffe.org/arop. There you’ll also find an opportunity to receive related discussion questions for your family or small group.

3rd place Best Documentary award

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Highlands Landscape

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. —Mark 10:45 (NLT)

Bible translator Neil Anderson and six Folopa men were working hard translating the Gospel of Mark in the Folopa language. But when they came to Mark 10:45, where it says that the Son of Man came to “give his life as a ransom,” they hit a roadblock. How could they translate “ransom”?

Neil explained to the men that a ransom is a price that must be paid before a captive, whose life hung in the balance, can go free. As he explained, Neil could see they understood.

“We need to ransom people all the time,” one of the Folopa men said. “When a man is felling a tree and it falls the wrong way and kills someone, the clansmen of the dead person demand payment. If the relatives of the offender’s clansmen don’t pay, the relatives of the dead person demand the life of the offender. To save his life, we make an exchange. Pigs, shell money and other things of value are given to the relatives in exchange for the life of the offender.”

Bursting with excitement, Neil used their phrase to help him translate Mark 10:45 into Folopa. When he was done, he read it aloud. Translated back into English, the finished verse read, Jesus came to affect an exchange whereby He took the punishment of the evil deeds of many people. He came so that many people could go free and He died.

When they heard these words, the men were deeply moved.

“We give a lot to make an exchange for a wrong,” one man said. “But we have never given a person for the exchange price. Jesus did a great work for us.”

Isn’t it staggering to know that Christ gave his life in exchange for yours?

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By Tim Lithgow with Richard Gretsky

In the early 1980s, Barbara Hardin and Linda Weisenburger settled on the Papua New Guinean coast, a few hours’ drive north of Madang, where they planned to study the Maia—the local language—and translate the Bible into it. But they soon discovered that the local people weren’t very interested in their own language, content to converse in English and the trade language of Pigin. Discouraged, it wasn’t long before the two women seriously considering giving up.

Then one day some people from a neighboring village, who also spoke Maia, came and asked the women to help translate their language. Barbara and Linda were reserved because of their previous attempts with the language group, but encouraged enough that the people reached out to them, that they agreed to help, moving their work to the new village. However, despite the fervent support of a few Maia people, many others were not interested in the language program. Logistical challenges, like having to be helicoptered in during the wet season due to a deteriorating road, added to the emotional difficulty of pouring themselves into the project with many setbacks, struggles, and low interest from the community.

New Sounds in the Night—Dusk

Year in, year out, they worked for many years—facing the challenges inherent to rural Bible translation.

Finally, their work came to an end, and they were ready to hold a Scripture celebration to dedicate portions of the Bible in Maia. Genesis, Ruth, Matthew, Mark, Acts, and a few epistles (in print form and on Audibibles*) were to be presented. In the midst of preparations, Barbara and Linda were encouraged that the community worked together to prepare for the ceremony.

On the dedication day, the people’s excitement showed, as dancers escorted visitors into the village, actors presented dramas depicting the truth of God’s Word protecting people from evil, and public speakers reminded the community of the importance of having Scripture in their own language.

As the sun set over the jungle, the nightly noise of the cicadas and other tropical creatures was mixed with the sound of Maia Scriptures being played on the Audibibles*. Groups of people throughout the village were finally listening to the life-changing message of God’s Word in their mother tongue.

*Audibibles are pre-recorded mp3 players with portions of Scripture stored on them.

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By Catherine Rivard and Richard Gretsky

Early in life, Kristina lost two of her three children during childbirth. The emotional pain devastated her, but she was also very physically wounded. In the attempts to save the children and repair her ravaged body, Kristina underwent four agonizing surgeries. The trauma from these events lingered in her life for many years.

Later on, she was introduced to Christianity. And though the hurts from her life persisted, after a time, she placed her faith in Christ and began to follow Him.

Soon after that, she and twenty-nine other participants from seven languages were given the opportunity to attend an Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop in Wewak, Papua New Guinea.

The courses at the workshop—divided into four modules that took place throughout the year—were designed to teach Papua New Guineans how to memorize and retell Scripture in a way that’s familiar in their culture where storytelling is an art.

After the first module, Kristina returned home and shared the Bible stories she had learned, but her husband was extremely unsupportive. He wouldn’t let her share the stories publically or attend the next training session. Kristina was disappointed, but instead of becoming angry, she humbly submitted to her husband and began praying that the Lord would transform his heart. Over time, God did soften her husband and, this past April, he allowed Kristina to attend the next phase of training.

In this phase, the participants listened to a recording of the Bible stories in the local trade language and then were recorded saying it back in their own. Kristina gently closed her eyes as the recorder played. As she listened to the story of Moses and the burning bush, she softly repeated what she heard into a second recorder—this time in her mother tongue.

Comforted by Story - Kristina and Friends

Kristina (left) and colleagues take part in an oral Bible storytelling session.

But Kristina was not just repeating those stories; she was uplifted by them.

“Listening to these stories about the Israelites has really encouraged me,” she said. “They were in difficult times, but God was bigger than that and rescued them. I know He’ll bring me through my Red Sea as well.”

Retelling Biblical stories has provided great comfort to Kristina, who now knows that God was with her during the loss of her children, her rough childbirths, and even during the period she had to wait for her husband’s blessing to attend the training.
That is why Kristina is dedicated to teaching Scripture, because she knows that hearing Bible stories can help change other people’s lives—no matter how deep their hurt.

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When Luke Elliott graduated high school, he didn’t know what he wanted to study in college, but he had a strong interest in missions. So after talking with his pastor, he decided to spend a year working with Wycliffe missionaries in Papua New Guinea, learning more about overseas missions and discovering his own strengths and interests.

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In the late 1980s, John and Bonnie Nystrom came alongside several men from Arop village in Papua New Guinea to translate the Bible into the local language. But a decade later, a massive tsunami took the lives of many in Arop village, including one of the translators.

Wycliffe Bible Translators is proud to present this short film about the Nystrom family and the sacrifice, teamwork and faith of the Aitape West Translation Project team in the face of tragedy. We encourage you to set aside an evening to watch it with your family, or share it with your church and other members of your community. Grab a cup of coffee or some popcorn and enjoy this film together! And don’t forget to download the accompanying discussion questions so your group can further engage with the Arop story.

Visit wycliffe.org/arop for more information about the film and translation project.

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